This time the haunted atmosphere of the official "Sid & Nancy room" was captured by the quick pen and pad of Chelsea Hotel guests,Ian & Jo Dennis. In addition, Ian and Jo have a question for the readers of this blog: Does the wallpaper in the Sid photo (below) match the (still hanging) curtains in the front room? We spotted the similarity while looking for a reference pic for the drawing. Does anyone know? (and does anyone care?) Well, perhaps Sid's ghost influenced the decorator to use a similar theme. Or, maybe Nancy's ghost was more concerned with the decor.
On Sunday’s “Celebrity Ghost Sightings” program on the Bio Channel, Michael Imperioli revealed that he had been visited by a ghost named Mary while staying at the Upon further questioning, our source revealed the location of the ghost as being, “. . .at the west end of the building were the archway is in that hallway -- where the original large apartment's entryway would have been. Supposedly, she was checking her reflection in a mirror next to the original front door.” Although a quick look back at our source’s original report in 2006 reveals that the mirror-gazing ghost was then haunting the fifth floor, like many
Someone who saw the television show about Mary the Chelsea Hotel ghost sent me this question:
"Do you know anything about the young woman named Mary that was living at the Chelsea? She lived on the 8th floor and hung herself when her husband died on the titanic. I guess she has been seen there."
I forwarded it to the friend who visited the Chelsea -the
one who spoke with the spirits there--and asked her whether she recognized this one. Here's her response:
I think yes-
she was in front of a mirror-
checking out herself-
mirror was not in this world-
she in hat with plume-
hair large and gibson girlish-
she seeing if she was looking ok-
and acting like we were disturbing her boring self absorbed nature...
I remember my friend describing this person at the time, on the 8th floor. Then, my friend said she was looking in the mirror forever--never stopping. She described her as very vain.
On Sunday’s “Celebrity Ghost Sightings” program on the Bio Channel, Michael Imperioli revealed that he had been visited by a ghost named Mary while staying at the
Upon further questioning, our source revealed the location of the ghost as being, “. . .at the west end of the building were the archway is in that hallway -- where the original large apartment's entryway would have been. Supposedly, she was checking her reflection in a mirror next to the original front door.” Although a quick look back at our source’s original report in 2006 reveals that the mirror-gazing ghost was then haunting the fifth floor, like many
don’t get you the bugs will. And soon we’ll have further documentary
evidence of the powerful
paranormal propensities of
the Last Outpost of Beelzebub.
Imperioli meets a tormented spirit
at the legendary Chelsea Hotel.”
Hmm, must have been a ghost of
one of the guys he wacked. Maybe it
was that Russian who ran away in the woods. Did he ever turn up?
Or am I confusing fact with fiction?
You be the judge.
Click here for more Chelsea Hotel Ghost Stories
Lost our lease! Everything must go! Stanley was famous for renting the room where Madonna shot her Sex book to Material Girl-worshiping hipsters with stars in their eyes. Lately, however, sex alone has not been paying the bills. In response, general manager Arnold Tamasar has revealed a new marketing strategy: Celebrity Death Tourism. (And maybe a little sex thrown in for good measure.)
For bargain basement prices, you can stay in the room where a drug-addled Sid Vicious killed a drug-befuddled Nancy Spungen—or at least a room with the couple’s infamous bathroom attached. And if you can’t afford to go the whole hog, the hotel now sells Sid dolls at the front desk. (Complete with tiny leather jacket, sure, but how about a tiny hypodermic needle? You’ll have to ask the concierge.) Wear your black fingernail polish and light a candle for the Romeo and Juliet of punk.
Substance-abusing punks not your cup of tea? Ask to stay in the tiny room where Dylan Thomas collapsed after a night of hard drinking at the White Horse tavern. Bet you can’t beat his record of 18 whiskeys! Speaking of lovable alcoholics, Charles Jackson, author of The Lost Weekend bit the big one here as well—a suicide, double the fun! (Don’t try this at home, kids! Though really, don’t try it here either.)If you don’t have time to spend the night (or simply fear for your safety and/or sanity), book a spot on the Big Apple Death tour, as the Chelsea Hotel is now on the itinerary. You’ll travel in style, making the rounds of the city in a decommissioned (we hope) 1967 hearse. The only problem with this option is, you’ll miss the famous ghosts of the Chelsea, who only come out at night! -- Ed Hamilton
During a recent trip to the Big Apple, my friend and I decided to call the Chelsea Hotel home for 4 days. It has always been a secret fantasy of mine to stay here and my friend was just content to get away from home for a while. Upon our arrival, the guy at the front desk put us up in room 124 as it was the “last room available” for the weekend. He could’ve put us up on the roof and I would’ve been just as happy. Its the Chelsea Hotel! I was to meet another guy who worked at the hotel later that evening who informed us that more rooms were available. I didn’t think twice about why they put us in 124. Like I said, we were in the Chelsea freakin’ Hotel!
Our room was quite spacious complete with a kitchenette, 2 large beds, a couple of desks and an old Victorian styled couch which looked like a prop from The Munsters’ TV set. My friend commented on the couch and likened it to a couch old school funeral parlors used to prop dead people up on so they could be photographed. We got to joking around about this and my friend decided to have me pose on the couch as if I had been murdered. A few hours after our impromptu photo session and after having been out to explore the golden secrets Manhattan has to offer, we found ourselves back at the Chelsea shooting the shit. I was sitting on my bed as my friend was relaxing on the couch. All of a sudden, his demeanor took a 360 and he turned pale. He very nonchalantly remarked, “I just saw a ghost.” I laughed. Ghosts aren’t real, they only exist in movies and Joseph Arthur songs. Supposedly he had seen a fuzzy image of a man walk out of our bathroom and disappear.
Afterwards, some dark gloomy cloud of sadness settled over him. “I’ve got to get up off this couch before I start crying,” he said, face red and eyes full of tears. “Something bad happened here, in this room, on this couch. I have to delete those pics we took earlier. It was wrong for us to have joked around about that. I HAVE to delete them now to make things right again.” I agreed with him. We did get carried away. After pressing him for a good 10 minutes about what it was he had seen, a small part of me began to believe him. This guy and I have been friends for our entire lives and our jokes never last longer than a minute or two. I was just finding it hard to wrap my head around such an abstract idea such as ghosts, and I’m the poet, go figure. Anyways, I suggested he call our friend who works at the hotel and see if he could answer some of our questions. As he was on the phone with the front desk trying to get connected to our friend, I made my way to the bathroom to take a leak. Midway through my business, I felt something pulling up 3-4 hairs on my right forearm. It wasn’t just that weird feeling you get like with static. It was something tugging on a few of my arm hairs. I looked down to see if something had gotten stuck on my arm like piece of thread from jeans and nothing was there. I then felt something like cold droplets of water falling on my left forearm. Again, I scanned my surroundings in search of a leak or something that would explain this weird sensation. I could find nothing.
Startled, I emerged from the bathroom and suggested to my friend that we head downstairs and try and get some answers. Half-dazed and in our bed clothes, we made our way to the front desk. The lady smiled at us and we just kind of stood there in a strange stupor. Moments later my friend opened his mouth, “Is this place haunted? We saw something in our room…” The lady behind the front desk just kind of laughed and said that the place wasn’t haunted and, with a fierce look in her eyes, silently asked us to go away. Back at the room, I suggested we Google the hotel to see if it was haunted. To our surprise, we stumbled upon countless stories of run-ins with the paranormal at the Chelsea.
I’m not sure what happened in room 124 of the Hotel Chelsea but both my friend and I experienced something in that room that we’ll never forget. I walked into the Chelsea believing that ghosts were figments of crazy people’s minds to walking out of the Chelsea believing in the paranormal. Life sure is crazy, ain’t it?
A bold psychonaut writes in with his tale of otherworldly adventure at the Chelsea Hotel:
Though I’ve traveled the world in search of the strange and miraculous, the Chelsea hotel is the only building I have yet found that permits such an easygoing communion with the dear departed. (I still live at the Chelsea, of course—where else would have me?—though I’d like to maintain my anonymity.) Everyone knows that the famous lobby is a way station for spirits coming and going between metaphysical realms, so I won’t run that theme into the ground. But one phenomenon that has not been widely reported is that, late at night, the elevators will often deposit the unwary traveler in another temporal realm. I can’t tell you how often I’ve stepped off that creaking, rattling contraption and found myself back in the hotel of the eighties, the place filled with junkies and prostitutes, or the fifties, or even earlier. One evening many years ago, while listening to a Mozart concerto, I ingested a bitter tea which I brewed from some strange seeds that I had found in the woods behind my parents house in New Jersey. After breaking out in a cold sweat, convulsing in a violent paroxysm, and losing control of my bowels, I decided to go out for an ice cream. On the first floor, the elevator landed with a jolt, bouncing in place as the doors opened. As the hallway was lit by fluorescent tubes, and the white walls were bare of art, I knew I had returned to an earlier era.
Before I could get off the elevator and explore, who should bound onto the elevator but Sid Vicious himself, knife in hand, bleeding from slashes he had carved in his chest and arms. He was followed by none other than Nancy, and, as to my surprise the elevator went up rather than down, Sid started bouncing up and down from wall to wall, smearing blood all over the place.
“Sid, get the fuck away from me!” Nancy screamed. “You’re getting blood all over my new outfit!” He was getting blood on me too, but I wasn’t too worried because it was ghostly blood, and presumably fairly easy to get out of most fabrics. With this in mind, I said, “Give the guy a break, Nancy. He’s just trying to have some fun.”
“You stay out of this, you little weasle!” she screamed at me. And then she attacked me, beating me over the head with a purse that felt like it had several cans of hairspray in it. Sid stopped pogoing in order to watch us. And then, chuckling, he let out a long, loud fart. Now, unlike ghostly blood, a ghostly fart is a serious matter, as noxious as the gasses escaping from a bloated corpse. Stale as the grave, it filled the elevator with it’s deathly odor. One whiff of it, and my head reeled and I passed out cold on the elevator floor—only to wake up the next day at St. Vincents.
On another occasion, after cooking up and injecting a gummy, resinous substance that I had found caked in an old pharmaceutical bottle I purchased at the flea market, and subsequently gnashing my teeth, biting off the tip of my tongue, bleeding from my eyeballs, and losing control of my bowels—all to the strains of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony--I decide to go down to the El Quijote for a big pot of seafood paella. Alas, it was not to be, as the elevator jolted to a stop on the 4th floor. Stepping off the temperamental elevator, I noticed that I was once again back in another era. I heard a crash and a tinkling of glass, and so I walked down the hallway to see what was going on. Old man Krauss, the plumber, was busy trashing a stained glass window with his trusty pipe wrench. As I looked on in horror, two men carrying a stretcher came out of one of the smaller rooms. The man on the stretcher was the famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, and when he spied me, he thought he was seeing a ghost. “Oh, my God!” he exclaimed in terror. “You’re dead, aren’t you?! Am I dead too? Is that why you’re here? Are you taking me down to hell?”
Before I could answer, one of the stretcher bearers, who apparently hadn't heard Dylan, said, "This is what he gets for drinking all that liquor.” “It wasn’t that much!” Dylan protested. “Only 18 whiskeys!” He looked to me imploringly, as if for some kind of support. “Never touch the stuff, myself. But maybe if you just puked a little, you’d be okay."
Dylan promptly turned his head, hung it over the side of the stretcher, and let loose with copious flows of vomit—red and yellow, green and brown—pouring out in torrents, filling the halls from wall to wall and sloshing up from the floor toward the ceiling. As the vomit engulfed me, smothering me and stifling my screams, I passed out and woke up in restraints at St. Vincents the next day.
Not long after that, I licked the belly of a toad belonging to a man who checked into the Chelsea claiming to be the Shaman of a primitive Brazilian tribe. My breathing became shallow and my heartbeat slowed to about 3 beats per minute as I entered a deathlike catatonic trance from which I was not to arise for several days. As I floated near the ceiling watching my body lose control of its bowels, the Shaman stole my wallet and busted up all my classical music CDs, so when I came too I popped a Jazzy Jeff CD into my walkman and went out to the ATM machine so I could get money for a fried Oreo from that greasy British fish place on Greenwich Avenue. Of course I never made it. The elevator went up instead of down, stopping with a jolt and the familiar bouncing that I had learned to associate with the passage between dimensions. The elevator hadn’t quite come all the way up, and as I clambered out into the hall on my belly, a huge, bearish man, obviously drunk, lurched through the swinging hall doors, whipped out his penis, and let fly over the wrought iron balcony. Well, I immediately recognized the specter as the great writer Thomas Wolfe. Being a huge fan, I wanted to show my appreciation in some small way, and so I too whipped out my penis and pissed over the railing in solidarity.
Wolfe burst out with a thunderous belly laugh: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Come on up and get me, you sissy!”
You could tell the clerk wanted to come up and settle the score with Wolfe, but as Wolfe was gigantic and intimidating, he apparently thought better of it. Then, just as I was zipping up, the clerk spied me, and said, “Well, I’ll get you, at least, you scrawny little weasel!” And he started up the stairs to carry out his threat.
As I abhor the very thought of violence, the clerks words threw me into a panic; my head reeled and I thought I was going to pitch head first over the railing. Luckily, Wolfe must have pulled me back from the brink just in time. Though I have no knowledge of my subsequent actions, to judge from the mysterious charges which later appeared on my hotel bill, I apparently went on some kind of a rampage. Waking up in the psycho ward at St. Vincent’s, I gnawed through my restraints and wondered the streets of the Village until morning.
Now, a few of you may say I’m crazy, but then again, they called Christopher Columbus crazy too (though, in truth, I don’t think they ever put him in restraints). Anyway, I believe that all eras of history and even prehistory extending back to the big bang and who knows, even beyond, exist simultaneously and that what we call the present is only one of infinite presents ongoing at the same time, and our inability to see this is simply the result the poverty of our perceptual apparatus. The use of mind expanding psychotropic drugs helps open up what Aldous Huxley called the Doors of Perception, allowing us to see these hidden dimensions, and that’s why I take as many and as varied a selection as humanly possible. Presently, I’m trying to break on through to the time of Mark Twain, and with any luck I shall have succeeded and lived to tell the tale in an e-mail to the blog before I embark on the greatest trip of all, that from which there is no returning.
And no e-mail either. Don’t try this at home, kids. Especially not if your home is the Chelsea Hotel
All this week, as part of Halloween celebration we'll be running letters from guests who have had ghostly experiences at the Chelsea Hotel. It's not surprising that this guest experienced a negative energy on the first floor, as that one is the most haunted floor in the hotel:
I stayed last week, was given room 120, although I do not like to nurture it or make it stronger I do have a sensitivity to the spirit or ghost or alternative energy realm, it has been in my family. I find it a nuisance actually but sometimes things are so strong I can't keep them away. I needed to change rooms, not that I knew alot about the Hotel's history- I travel on business and had no other place available- I am open to staying at different places as long as there is a shower and TV and a good location. When the desk clerk told me first floor or room 120 somehow I just knew it was wrong, a pit in my belly. But I had been traveling and thought maybe I am just tired. The room is sad and kind of upset and I don't mean the appearance (obviously nothing to write home about either). There is a sad energy in the back of it near the bathroom, not malevolent or anything but just sad, not able to breath well and a bit lost maybe looking for a bit of help, it won't go outside- I cound not help it. My emotions tend to take on the energy and I physically feel the hurt of the energy (that is the nuisance I was referring to). I had to leave after 10 minutes and was given room 915 which was much nicer both energy wise, feel and aura. Although I was awoken at 4 AM, I was being handed a glow in the dark frisbee by some goofball energy, not scary at all and I was able to get back to sleep. -- Steve Clark
No doubt it was that same negative energy that led Sid (or whoever) to kill Nancy in Room 100 in 1978. Since you seem to be sensitive to that kind of vibe, it's probably best that you got out when you did. (We have also had another report of ghosts in 120.)
When we asked Chelsea Hotel historian Sherill Tippins for a ghost story for Halloween, she sent us this essay by by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Flynn, a labor activist and women's rights advocate who worked for the IWW and helped found the ACLU, was national chairperson of the U.S. Communist Party, while she was at the Chelsea Hotel. Sherill writes:
"...here's an article from Elizabeth Gurley Flynn that you might be able to use on the blog sometimes. It was published in the Daily Worker in 1939, when Flynn had returned to NYC from a retreat of many years to the West Coast. It seems she stayed briefly at the Chelsea around this time while looking for a permanent place to stay. Then she moved back to the Chelsea permanently in the 1960s, where she began writing her memoirs, as she predicts in this essay:"
"I Like a Hotel," Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Sunday Worker, Feb. 19, 1939:
"When a committee puts me up at a hotel, I don't say 'Bourgeois,' scornfully. Not me! I luxuriate, because it doesn't happen often. I think 'Well, this is a sample of the future, what every woman ought to have, a room to herself and release from domestic tasks." I hope to see the day we banish washtubs, kitchen stoves and straw brooms to the museum, as relics of the past.
It's a grand feeling for a woman (I can't speak for the men) to get up in a warm room, no worry about the furnace; get dressed in your street clothes, not in an apron or housedress, go down to a breakfast you didn't cook. I return to a well-stocked desk, pen, ink, writing stationery. This has a little house on it, 'Where Washington refused a crown, 1776' (Newhigh, N.Y.). It inspires me to write.
The telephone doesn't ring incessantly, no doorbell, bill collector, laundryman, grocer, or peddler interrupts my thoughts. No lunch to worry about. (Is there bread in the house? Is the sugar all gone?) The bed is unmade—at home I'd stop to tidy my room before I start to write. My mother used to laugh when I'd clean the apartment, then rush to my desk and say, 'Now I must get to work!'
In a hotel room I read the Daily Worker and the Times thoroughly. I collect my thoughts. I do some neglected reading. I work on a special article. I get an early start on the column. I catch up on my correspondence and surprise my friends with letters. I do my work.
Somebody else will make the bed and wash the dishes. Service in a well-run hotel is professional, not menial. Work in homes is amateur by comparison. You can eat in the restaurant or in your own room. This room is clean, comfortable, yet bare of non-essentials.
I see lots of old ladies in hotels. People pity them. It's quite unnecessary. They enjoy it immensely. It's a sort of 'sit-down strike.' Many say frankly they are tired of households.
They don't want a place where the grandchildren are parked. Lots of grandmothers feel that way. Few can afford to avoid it. These always look happy, like little grey pussy cats, purring with contentment. They read, go to shows, play bridge—all the things they wanted to.
It's the way all old people should be able to live out their last years. Today it's only possible for a few. A comfortable hotel is a glimpse of the future rest homes for the aged and for mothers, when capitalism is no more. How heavenly it would be fore tired, overworked mothers! It gives us another incentive to socialize the world.
If I ever actually write the story of my life I think the publishers will have to stake me to stay at a quiet hotel. Page the International Publishers!"
No, it's not too scary, is it? The scary thing is how many times Flynn was thrown in jail for sticking up for her beliefs. But America (and the Chelsea) wouldn't be the land of freedom it is today without the sacrafices that Flynn and others like her made for us. Where is she in these troubled times when our home is being threatened? Surely Flynn's spirit still walks these halls. Maybe we can hold a seance. Ed Hamilton
Yesterday's interview with "The Ghosts" has encouraged even more people to report ghost sightings. A blog reader writes: I was living in a large apartment with another person for a few months. It was not a good relationship & it was constant fighting & arguing. In the room was a small walk in closet. It had a very high ceiling with a lightbulb at the top & a long string that hung down which you pulled to turn it on. Anyway, one night during one of our usual blowups, I had enough & claimed that I was going to pack my suitcase & leave. I yelled that I was tired of his abusive shit, couldn't stand him anymore, that I hated this fucking hotel & was going to leave. I stormed to the closet (where I kept my suitcase) pulled open the door, stormed in, reached my hand up to pull on the string for the light & as my hand was in mid air, the string moved itself all the way up to the top of the ceiling, on it's own. I froze, with my hand still in mid air. The closet got ice cold & I could feel a very strong presence in there with me. At that moment I knew, whatever it was, was angry that I had cursed the hotel & said that I hated it there. In whatever whisper I could get out I said "I'm sorry", and as soon as I said that, the string dropped & dangled in front of me. I slowly backed out of the closet & the person I was living with was shocked to see that in the matter of 15 seconds, I went from a total angry, fed-up rage to very somber & quiet. The whole thing really shook me up & I will always remember it. I told a few friends most of whom think that in my angry state I must have just imagined it, but I know it happened. A string just doesn't lift up to the ceiling on it's own. And that's my story. It might not be the most exciting, but it did happen.
I was living in a large apartment with another person for a few months. It was not a good relationship & it was constant fighting & arguing. In the room was a small walk in closet. It had a very high ceiling with a lightbulb at the top & a long string that hung down which you pulled to turn it on. Anyway, one night during one of our usual blowups, I had enough & claimed that I was going to pack my suitcase & leave. I yelled that I was tired of his abusive shit, couldn't stand him anymore, that I hated this fucking hotel & was going to leave. I stormed to the closet (where I kept my suitcase) pulled open the door, stormed in, reached my hand up to pull on the string for the light & as my hand was in mid air, the string moved itself all the way up to the top of the ceiling, on it's own. I froze, with my hand still in mid air. The closet got ice cold & I could feel a very strong presence in there with me. At that moment I knew, whatever it was, was angry that I had cursed the hotel & said that I hated it there. In whatever whisper I could get out I said "I'm sorry", and as soon as I said that, the string dropped & dangled in front of me. I slowly backed out of the closet & the person I was living with was shocked to see that in the matter of 15 seconds, I went from a total angry, fed-up rage to very somber & quiet. The whole thing really shook me up & I will always remember it. I told a few friends most of whom think that in my angry state I must have just imagined it, but I know it happened. A string just doesn't lift up to the ceiling on it's own.
And that's my story. It might not be the most exciting, but it did happen.
Regular Legends readers have no doubt encountered the words of the ghosts who regularly leaves mysterious comments on our blog. I'm sure you've all been wondering just who this being was in life, and what he's doing hanging around the hotel when by all right he should have long since passed on to his eternal reward. Well, in this exclusive interview, conducted by an anonymous medium, you can finally get the answers firsthand. What's more, our ghosts also tells us what he thinks of the new regime, and gives us the scoop on how he managers to tap into the Itnernet from his realm:
Q. Who are you and what brought you to the Hotel Chelsea?
A. My name isn't important and actually, I'd prefer to be anonymous. Some of my loved ones are still alive and I don't wish to see them punished for my, or our, opinions.
I arrived at the Hotel Chelsea in 1960 when my wife H. and I separated. I had one quickly packed suitcase and my typewriter case, and that's it. Stanley gave me a room on 8, a tiny place but with a balcony on 23rd street. I was there three years until my death.
Before that I was in Hollywood, rewriting other people's scripts, trying to get my own produced. Bad sci-fi movies all of them, full of big lizards and robots built out of boxes painted silver. I was fed up with it, and decided to write a novel.
Q. How did you die?
A. It's funny, but I have no first hand memory of my own death. What I know comes from eavesdropping on my former neighbors. Apparently, I was at Macy's shopping for a Christmas present for my estranged wife and I had a heart attack. Before that, I never shopped at Macy's, but there was something there I wanted to get for her apparently. I wanted to get back with her.
Q. But you left her?
A. What else could I do when I found her being tied to a bed with pink scarves by a young male ballet dancer? But I still loved her. Go figure.
Q. Did you ever finish your novel?
A. No. It was a piece of crap. It went out with the trash one day. I found a job writing ad copy. You know, 99 out of 100 doctors recommend Bold Gold cigarettes. Hated it. Then I wrote a musical that was well-received and ran for two years. Of course I cannot tell you the name of it, as that would reveal my identity.
Q. You died. And then?
A. I found myself in the back of a taxi with my wife, but she ignored me. The cabdriver was ignoring me too. When the cab stopped a man got in, the ballet dancer, and he ignored me even though I was cursing very loudly at him. When the cab passed the Chelsea I was sucked out of the window and the next thing I knew I was in my room, and Stanley was there, showing it to a young woman. They didn't hear me either. I thought I was dreaming.
Q. When did you realize you were dead?
A. When Stanley told the young woman that the writer who had lived in the room -- and he used my name -- was vacationing in Italy and wouldn't be coming back. As you know, nobody ever dies at the Chelsea Hotel. In Stanley's view of the universe, we haven't died, we've all just gone somewhere nice, like Italy or France for an extended vacation. In a way, he's right.
Q. And you've just hung around since then?
A. Well, I've gone to other places to visit, but I always return here. My home is the Chelsea Hotel. I was at my best here.
Q. You know, there are many people, mostly outside the hotel, who don't believe in ghosts. Explain yourself.
A. Being a ghost doesn't give you omnipotence. We don't know everything. But from what I understand, it is a parallel universe sort of thing. I do believe scientists at Oxford have mathematically proven the concept of an infinite number of parallel universes formed by the infinite possibilities of our choices and the events of our lives. These parallel universes may be just inches away. Ours is the one formed by the act of death. Really, to understand fully you have to completely forget the limited human view of Space and Time and, for that matter, Matter. We consist of emotional, creative and intellectual energy. One day, perhaps, the scientists will prove us wholly, just like the scientist who proved the existence of the anomalon, (a particle which defies the known laws of physics), twenty years after it was first hypothesized.
Q. Oh. Okay. Then how come you are sometimes seen in this universe?
A. Sometimes sensitive people peer through the membrane to the next universe, and sometimes we are in yours. Unlike you we do have the ability to move between realms under the right circumstances. Double sided mirrors and televisions are excellent portals for instance. Pianos, empty canvases and typewriters are also reliable entry points. Also the east elevator is a portal as is the pyramid on the roof. And dogs and cats. They're great channellers.
Q. You have said that ghostly conversation translates in the earthly realm as odor. How are you communicating with me now? I don't smell anything.
A. That's because we are not communicating in physical space but via the internet. If you were here you would smell the scents of good cigars, lasagna in the oven, and cold beer. We used to rely on channeling by living people to express ourselves. This is still the standard. But some of us are able now to access the internet, ever since they put wifi in the lobby. We just hover near the bust of Harry Truman and we are able to put our thoughts on the web. Amazing! But far from perfect.
Q. Let's jump to the current situation. You're the spokesperson for the ghost collective. Were you elected?
A. Yes. It was unanimous. Everyone had something to say about the ouster of the Bards, but nobody else wanted the job. So here I am.
Q. And --
A. And we're very upset about this new regime. It's a travesty, and we do not like these two minority shareholders at all, especially David Elder. It is astonishing that this young man felt he had a right to take over this beloved hotel despite no experience and a small percentage of the stock. And after all the Bards -- and the residents, and the ghosts -- put into this place, physically and spiritually! Who is coming in with the new regime? We don't want to keep company with a bunch of tightass businessmen, excuse my French, or tourists who have never read a book and whose big goal is to shop where Carrie Bradshaw shops or get into some cheesy place like the Star Lounge in hopes of seeing a minor celebrity before getting fish-eyed drunk and vomiting in the gutters. In other words, people who don't appreciate the great history of this hotel, but complain about the lack of coffeemaker in the room. Not our crowd at all. If this isn't resolved, we may all leave and with us goes the peculiar magic of this place.
A recent guest at the hotel writes:
The night after we ran into you in the hall, Joan came running in after using the computer downstairs with tears in her eyes. I'd never seen her look so frightened! I'm the coward not her. She said there was a silhouette of a man in the reflection of the door as she waited for the elevator. She looked away and when she looked back it was still there.
Then in the morning we got a silent phone call. But that could of been anything or anyone.
Just wondering if those sort of things have happened to you or anyone else you knew?
Be safe in your haunted abode!
My money is on Larry the Hipster Ghost. Any other guesses.
It seems that Steven Spielberg is launching a social networking site for people who have encountered ghosts or other manifestations of the super natural. The site ought to get a lot of traffic from this place, that’s for sure. Spielberg once saw a ghost at a hotel called the Excelsior House and fled in terror. Well, not all the ghosts here are quite that scary, so we’d like to invite Spielberg to check in (if he can tolerate the frosty welcome from BD) and see what happens. (Just don’t get a room on the 1st floor, and for God’s sake stay out of the basement!) The accommodations might not be quite up to his standards, but the spirits don’t seem to mind. -- Ed Hamilton
He was the angel-headed hipster who dragged himself through the Negro streets at dawn, looking for an angry fix. He was the man who taught Bill Burroughs how to shoot heroin, and helped him grow marijuana on his farm in Texas. His exploits are recounted in Ginsberg’s Howl, Kerouac’s On the Road, Burroughs’ Junky, and sundry other staples of Beat literature. Con man, junkie, Times Square hustler, jailbird, and muse to the Beats, Herbert Huncke was also a fine writer in his own right, penning, among other works, the autobiographical Guilty of Everything, some of it written in a stall of a Times Square subway station.
Unlike the more famous Beats, Huncke was never able to make a living off his writings, and so his story is, in a sense, one of failed ambition. He felt that he was the real deal, that these other figures were all to some extent poseurs, and that, perhaps due to his lack of an Ivy League education, his own work had never received the attention it deserved. Always a gentleman, Huncke’s old age found him living in a tiny room at the Chelsea Hotel with a bathroom down the hall, struggling to maintain a quiet dignity in the face of failing health and the addiction that had dogged him throughout his life.
Like all junkies, Huncke liked to shoot up in the bathroom and nod off while sitting on the toilet. A private bathroom would, of course, have been ideal, but since his finances didn’t permit the extravagance, Huncke was forced to make do with the shared bathroom. For the most part, however, this arrangement worked out fine, as Huncke’s neighbors and bathroom-mates knew his schedule and were respectful of his privacy and special needs.
That was until the whores moved in. There were usually three of these strumpets, though sometimes up to five, living together in a small room with a shared bathroom—Huncke’s bathroom. They were all really young, teenagers in fact, except for their leader—a girl with one leg, the other cut off at the knee--who may have been twenty or so. The youngest girl, who was fat and had a bad case of acne, looked to be all of about 16 and was no doubt a runaway.
No stranger to the sex trade himself, Huncke had absolutely nothing against such “ladies of the evening,” and at first didn’t give their presence a second thought. Though he did kind of wonder about the one with the stump, he soon learned that she was in great demand, a specialist, it turned out, esteemed for her singular endowment and thereby respected in her field.
However, through some odd coincidence, some ironic quirk of fate, in all his time living in Hell’s Kitchen and Bowery flophouses, Huncke had somehow avoided ever having to share accommodations with such beings. Perhaps if he had been subjected to such an arrangement at an earlier age--say in his twenties—he would have cleaned up his act and gone to dental school, or moved to New Jersey and founded a dry-cleaning dynasty. But as it turned out, this deficit in Huncke’s lived experience would allow Destiny or Providence to exploit what can only be viewed as a sort of tragic flaw in a man who had for so long lived a heroic outlaw existence on the fringe of society.
The whores were, to say the least, heavy bathroom users. They were forever taking long bubble baths or fussing over their hair and makeup, either singly, or in teams. Besides that, Huncke soon noticed that they seemed to own, collectively or not, an incredible amount of lingerie—which makes sense when you think about it—which they rotated strategically, washing the various filmy garments out by hand and draping them to dry over the shower curtain rod, the sink, and the toilet, even hanging some over the mirror.
Even outside of that, it soon turned out that the bathroom was an integral part of their business operation. They were in there constantly, because—barring the occasional twosome or (prohibitively expensive) threesome--when one of them had a john the others had to have somewhere to hang out for the duration, and it would have been rather inconvenient to bother putting their clothes on and heading down to the lobby. Especially since their turn might come next. Nor did they merely idle away their downtime: they took with them their cell phones—huge, clunky things at the time--and appointment books, and transformed the bathroom into their makeshift office. In that way they were able to assure a steady stream of clients, one every half-hour, from afternoon until the early hours of the morning.
The whores ran around in the hallway in their skimpy negligee, and when Huncke knocked on the bathroom door they often answered it fully nude, and though this might have made the whole ordeal bearable for a heterosexual man, Huncke was gay, and so it didn’t do a thing for him. At first Huncke asked them politely if they would mind not staying in the bathroom for so long.
“If you need in, just knock,” said the one-legged leader, cheerfully smacking her gum.
But they would mill around right outside the bathroom door in their faux-silken teddies and polyester nighties while Huncke fumbled nervously with his works. If he took more than a couple of minutes they started banging on the door: “We’re freezing out here! Come on, we’re in our underwear!”
Huncke didn’t really want to get into a nasty argument with the women themselves, because, from experience, he knew that where there are whores, there are inevitably pimps, and he didn’t relish the thought of a rangy, gold-toothed young man lurking in the dark hallways to spring upon him with a knife. At his wits end, he finally could think of only one recourse. Though he’d never been a squealer, not even when it could have saved him from hard time in the can, he sucked it up and went down to complain to the management.
The result--which Huncke knew in retrospect to be inevitable--was that the guys at the front desk acted like he was completely out of his gourd, like they’d never heard anything so crack-brained and loony in all their lives. As they guffawed and rolled their eyes and suggested he check into a mental hospital, Huncke, disheartened, slunk back to his tiny room.
Nevertheless, the management did do something about it: they called the whores and told them that Huncke had complained.
Later that afternoon, dozing in his bed, Huncke was startled by a loud wooden thumping at his door. Opening the door, he found himself confronted by the leader of the whores. “Why do you hate us?!” she demanded, as two of her scantily clad co-workers stood behind her for back-up.
Huncke started to explain that he didn’t hate them at all, that he just needed to use his bathroom sometimes, but she cut him off abruptly. “You’re just jealous because we’re young and beautiful!” she declared, her boob bouncing out of her negligee as she hopped in place on her crutch.
“Yeah, and you’re just a shriveled up old man!” her co-worker with the acne, pointing at Huncke accusingly, added over her leader’s shoulder.
After that, the situation progressed from bad to worse, ten times worse. It may be an overstatement to say that the whores drove Huncke to his grave, but they certainly didn’t help matters, and may have hastened the progression of the illness that would eventually consume him. After the confrontation at Huncke’s door, the whores made it a point of staying in the bathroom round the clock, smoking crack and eating their lunch in there, and, Huncke came to believe, even sleeping curled up on the floor sometimes. Now they wouldn’t come out even if he knocked, but would simply shout back that he should use the sink in his room--or just go in his pants for all they cared.
Thus the poor man’s last days on earth were transformed into a living hell. In his final hour, Huncke had but one simple desire: to get into the bathroom to inject the one blessed substance that would ease the pain of his tortured existence, relax the iron bonds of consciousness, and allow him to slip seamlessly into the next metaphysical realm.
Alas, the whores were laundering their lingerie. Because his longing had been so intense, and because he died agitated and unfulfilled, Huncke was consigned to a Limbo, a lonely, shadow-infested, half-aware state between living and final oblivion—that finds its God-forsaken locus within the crumbling red brick walls of the Chelsea Hotel.
Often the door to Huncke’s old bathroom will be found standing open in the middle of the night, and his old neighbors know that Huncke has been by. Sometimes the door will slam shut, for no apparent reason. The wind? Perhaps. But if you’ve stayed at the Chelsea for long you’ve surely heard the mournful wail, howling up from the black depths of the airshaft in the wee hours of the morning like some forlorn Bohemian banshee: “Get out of my bathroooooooom, you fucking whoooooooooooooores!” -- Ed Hamilton
[Editor’s Note: The preceding story is fictional: ghosts don’t exist; and even if they did, Stanley would never have allowed them—or for that matter whores or junkies—to roam the halls of the Chelsea Hotel.]
Arthur B. Davies, an artist, made "spiritual" paintings--dancing nudes, etc. (See below.) He also traveled the world, collecting both ancient and modern art. By 1928 he had crammed into every available space of his Chelsea Hotel studio more than a dozen Picassos, five Cezannes, four Matisses, and various other valuable works too numerous to mention. In 1928, his collection had grown so large that he expanded into the studio next door. anyway. At the end of his last day of work with Wreath, he escorted her out of the Chelsea, turned to her and said, "I've never wanted anyone else to pose for me. It's been a wonderful fourteen years." Then he lifted his hat to her and walked away. Later that evening, he dined sumptuously with Virginia at a favorite restaurant in the city. The next day, he set sail for Europe, where his second wife, Edna, and their child were waiting.
People considered him shy and reclusive, but in fact Davies concealed a scandalous secret, Along with his wife, Virginia, and many children living on his upstate farm, he had a second wife, Edna, and daughter in the city. His "city" daughter, Ronnie, went to school with the children of Davies' artist acquaintances, but because she lived under the false last name of "Owen," the adults did not know that her father was their friend. Aside from the two families, Davies and his beautiful young model, Wreath McIntyre, had been close since she began posing for him at age 14. By the time he moved into the Chelsea, Davies had shipped Edna and Ronnie to Europe to avoid detection. He spent his time at the Chelsea with Wreath.
One day, Davies, who believed in spirtualism and the life beyond, consulted an astrologer who told him he would soon die abroad. Convinced that one's fate could not be avoided, he planned a trip to Europe
Two months later, he was dead of a heart attack. His last words, Edna claimed, concerned a "great spiritual light which has come to me this night." In his wallet she found a scrap of paper on which were scribbled the words, "That light which never wintry blast / Blows out, nor rain nor snow extinguishes, / That light that shines from loving eyes upon, / Eyes that love back."
Edna had his remains cremated, brought them back to America, and presented them to Virginia--introducing herself and her daughter for the first time. Eventually, Virginia gained access to her husband's treasure trove at the top of the Chelsea Hotel, which she had never seen. After a life of hardship on her upstate farm, Virginia was amazed to find "an Arabian-Nights treasure trove" of abandoned works of art. She auctioned off most of the collection. But she brought much of Davies' own work back to her farmhouse, where she burned a large portion of it, claiming that she considered it "unsuitable." That was quite and expensive bonfire, a New York Times reporter remarked.
Davies' works were included in the original collections for the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum. But thanks largely to his first wife's mishandling of his legacy, his body of work rapidly dropped out of sight and lost much of its value. The strange, sensitive, secretive believer in unseen vibrations and psychic phenomena had been unable to influence his own legacy from beyond the grave. – Sherill Tippins
[Most of this information comes from the book, The Lives, Loves, and Art of Arthur B. Davies, by Bennard B. Perlmann, The State University of New York Press, 1998.]
Arthur B. Davies, an artist, made "spiritual" paintings--dancing nudes, etc. (See below.) He also traveled the world, collecting both ancient and modern art. By 1928 he had crammed into every available space of his Chelsea Hotel studio more than a dozen Picassos, five Cezannes, four Matisses, and various other valuable works too numerous to mention. In 1928, his collection had grown so large that he expanded into the studio next door.
anyway. At the end of his last day of work with Wreath, he escorted her out of the Chelsea, turned to her and said, "I've never wanted anyone else to pose for me. It's been a wonderful fourteen years." Then he lifted his hat to her and walked away. Later that evening, he dined sumptuously with Virginia at a favorite restaurant in the city. The next day, he set sail for Europe, where his second wife, Edna, and their child were waiting.
By 1920, the theatre district had moved uptown to Herald Square, except for a few bawdy houses and burlesque palaces that remained on 23rd Street, and the neighborhood was getting a bit rundown. The Chelsea Hotel, however, was still at or near its peak, the stained glass windows and plate glass mirrors remaining intact, the ornate woodwork not yet obscured by the thick layers of paint that would one day cover it.
Nadia lived in the Chelsea with her well-to-do parents in a large suite of rooms. That’s where she was born, in 1896, where she grew up, spoiled like a princess, where the artistic spirit of the Chelsea grew within her, and where, enlivened by that spirit, she was inspired to learn to paint: delicate work in the Japanese style on sheets of silk cut from bolts her father, a successful silk merchant, sometimes brought home from the warehouse.
And the theatre district, in full bloom while Nadia was a child, was where she met her handsome husband, a playwright and song writer who sold his songs on the old Tin Pan Alley on 27th Street. They struggled for awhile on their own, moving from rooming house to rooming house, but her husband was an alcoholic and, though he managed to avoid serving in the war, could rarely find work. And Nadia’s paintings failed to sell. By the late teens they had two children, and soon no way to feed or cloth or even shelter them.
Her father made Nadia a deal. She and her family could move back into the Chelsea Hotel—there was an extra room for them—in exchange for housework. It was a great deal for everyone except Nadia, but her husband convinced her to accept. Soon she was single-handedly cleaning the large suite, cooking three meals a day for the extended family, and washing out by hand her incontinent and demanding mother’s underwear. All the while her husband sank further into drink, and was soon unable to bring in even the paltry few dollars he previously was able to earn through his songwriting.
Nadia believed that her father, wealthy as he was, could have helped out with the money, but he was a tightwad, and what’s more, he wanted to teach her a lesson. The old man had warned her about marrying that good-for-nothing dandy, and now, like a stern prophet of the Old Testament, he declared from his moral mountaintop that she must reap what she had sewn. Already stretched near to the breaking point, Nadia was forced to take in piece work to made ends meet.
Amazingly, with the brats squalling in the background, the incontinent mother calling for fresh underwear, and the weak-willed husband calling for more drink, Nadia still managed to snatch a few minutes here and there for her intricate art. Unfortunately, far from consoling her, this only served to reinforce her feelings of bitterness and disillusionment, as she found that her hands lacked the power to translate her ideas onto the canvas. Looking at the offending appendages, she saw that the house work had coarsened and calloused her palms, knotted and gnarled her knuckles, aging and discoloring her skin before its time. Flexing her hands, the joints felt tight, stiff, the result of the exacting needlework she so loathed, and Nadia came to believe that she was developing early arthritis. “I’m working my fingers to the bone!” she cried out in anguish.
That was to become her constant refrain. The early twenties are the time of life when mental illness typically first manifests, and at one point Nadia had to be hospitalized for two weeks at a rest facility on Long Island for a nervous disorder akin to hysteria. (No one could see anything wrong with her hands.) But she was much too valuable to the household to be allowed any further leisure, nor was her father willing to part with any more money to pay “those quarks” their “extortionate” fees, and soon Nadia was back at work, and almost immediately her problems returned.
Finally, late one night, the children asleep in their beds, her husband passed out dead drunk on the floor, Nadia was able to tear herself away from the washtub of soiled undergarments long enough to put the finishing touches on what was to be her masterpiece, a scene of cranes cavorting in the Bethesda Fountain. With intense concentration she willed her ravaged hand to put the final subtle stroke to the ambitious silken creation. Stepping back, she surveyed her work critically.
It was crap! Enraged, she seized a huge pair of industrial shears that she used to cut the silk and slashed her painting to shreds. And then, very deliberately, she wedged the sheers into the corner, placed her right wrist between the blades, and fell upon the handles with all her weight, severing her delicate hand.
She hadn’t counted on the pain: searing, unbearable. Howling in agony, and knowing her time was about up anyway, Nadia rushed to the window, threw open the French doors, and flung herself over the balcony, plunging the five floors to her death.
Since that fateful night, Nadia returns to the Chelsea on moonless nights, hovering outside people’s balconies, waving her bloody stump, barred by some infernal power of cosmic retribution from ever again re-entering the hotel. So if you ever see a ghostly shape flit by your window at night, it’s hair and gown billowing though the air, you’ll know it’s Nadia, come to reclaim her hand. -- Ed Hamilton (photo: bluehour)
[Editor’s Note: The names and details have been changed to protect the ectoplasmic. Thanks to Sherrill Tippins for pointing us toward the March 6, 1922 New York Times article that inspired this story: there really was a woman who chopped off her hand and jumped out the window at the Chelsea, and if that won’t make you leave a ghost behind, I don’t know what will.]
Today, our thoughts turn to Halloween. Last year, we published a slew of ghost stories some of which were sent in by guest contributors. We've got even more scary in store for you this year. As Sherill Tippins admits, this isn't much of a ghost story, but it's still kind of scary since everybody in it loses their sanity. (And then at the end the whole country goes bonkers and gives women the right to vote!) It also features a dwarf:
In 1901, the glamorous Mrs. Frank Leslie moved into the Chelsea--probably onto the sixth floor. Born Miriam Florence Follin in 1836 to an old New Orleans family run to seed, she was rumored to be the
illegitimate product of a liason between the debonair, French-born Southerner Charles Follin and one of his slaves. Be that as it may, Miriam was raised by Charles and his wife as a precious flower whose beauty and brilliant intellect might, through a clever marriage, pull the family out of their economic decline. Tutored at home, she learned to speak and read in four languages, to dress to her advantage and charm well-born gentlemen with her quick wit and deceptive submissiveness.
As she approached womanhood, the family moved to to New York, where the marriage market promised the highest return on their investment. They established a boarding house precariously near the slums of the Lower East Side. When 17-year-old Miriam allowed David Peacock, an older jewelry store clerk, to seduce her in exchange for the chance to adorn herself with the shop's diamonds, her parents efficiently arranged a shotgun wedding and then a quick annullment to preserve her reputation. Peacock ended up in an insane asylum, where he died.
Miriam went on to perform onstage with a new mentor, Lola Montez, and then to become the mistress of a retired United States Senator, before finally making the marriage her parents had hoped for--to the famous archeologist and diplomat Ephraim G. Squier. But Squier was much older, and Miriam was bored. When the couple went to work for the even richer and more powerful Frank Leslie, founder of New York's Frank Leslie Illustrated Newspaper publishing empire, she encouraged Leslie's divorce and invited him to move in. For several years, the Squires and Frank Leslie enjoyed the era's most celebrated menage a trois, until Miriam divorced Squire (leaving him to go mad and die alone), married Leslie, and took over Frank Leslie's Illustrated after Leslie's death.
By 1901 Mrs. Frank Leslie had become a multi-millionaire, building her late husband's business into one of New York's most successful publishing houses. She had dabbled in romance--marrying Oscar Wilde's drunken brother Willie and then returning him to his mother and filing for divorce; and engaging in a flirtation with the Marquis Campo Allegre Villaverde, Court Chamberlain to King Alfonso of Spain. But by the time she arrived at the Chelsea, she had decided to simply give herself the royal title she craved, without the bother of another marriage. She checked into the Chelsea as the diamond-bedecked "Frank Leslie, Baroness de Bazus," and began presiding over Thursday evening salons with her coddled Yorkshire terrior, featuring Ella Wheeler Wilcox, the "poetess of passion" ("Laugh and the world laughs with you/ Weep, and you weep alone") and Marshall P. Wilder, the well known hunchback, dwarf vaudeville performer who "broke the ice during dull afternoons" by hiding behind the grand piano and making baby-squalling noises until the others collapsed with laughter.
As the years passed, rumors spread that the Baroness was losing her sanity. She forgot things, they said; her conversation drifted off in directions. The rumors increased dramatically after her death in 1914, when it was learned that she had left her $2 million fortune to the Suffragist movement. Family members sued; reporters sneered, the legal case dragged on. In the end, half of the legacy was wasted on lawyers, administration fees, taxes, and legal settlements. But about $1 million did go to the Suffragists in time for the final push toward ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. -- Sherill Tippins
We've always wanted to learn German, but it just seemed like too much time and effort. Now we find that it wasn't that hard at all. Here we are, speaking fluent German on German Public Radio (download mp3), with nary a trace of an accent at all! Here's a picture of our instructor, Martina Buttler, who taught us all we know of the language in the course of a 25 minute interview. She's the best!
An old Chelsea babysitter writes:
Though I never lived at the Chelsea Hotel myself, I used to babysit for a young couple who lived there back in the early nineties. They were not artists. The man was an engineer and the woman owned a small business and I’m not sure why they chose the Chelsea. Perhaps because they liked to enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle (they had an active social life) or maybe they wanted to be thought of as artistic or daring. Or maybe just because it was cheap. That’s the only thing I can think of. I was a teenager at the time, and since they were gone all the time I babysat for them nearly every day one summer, and they went out a lot at night too.
Their little boy was six or seven years old. They were very protective of the child, and tried to keep him away from the dubious characters that roamed the halls of the Chelsea, and they were always complaining to Stanley about somebody doing something immoral. In fact, that’s probably why they hired me, because I came from outside the hotel.
Now, what I’m going to say is the God’s honest truth, though the couple won’t admit it and they called me a liar to my face, but one night they had gone out to a cocktail party and they came home really late with another couple and they were all talking and joking around out in the stairwell. I wanted to leave and I was waiting to get paid. The cocktail party was in the hotel I think, or at least there was some sort of party on one of the lower floors. All I know is it was really loud. They lived on the tenth floor.
The boy, for obvious reasons I don’t want to say his name, came out in his pajamas. When we noticed him we all said, what are you doing out here, go back to bed, but he wouldn’t. Instead he went to the railing of the stairs and looked up at the skylight. He just kept looking up and finally he said, “Mommy, who is that man up there?” His parents just laughed and said, “Oh, what are you talking about?” But instead of dropping it, the boy became increasingly excited, pointing and screaming: “Mommy, why is that man up there?!” “There’s nobody up there honey,” his mother said. “That man! That gray man up there!” “There’s nobody up there,” his father said sternly. “Get back to bed.”
Then the boy got quiet. He kept staring at the skylight, but he was quiet. I probably should have taken him to bed, but it was late and I really wanted to get paid and go home. “He’s just tired,” the parents said to their friends, who said their goodbyes and got on the elevator and went down. But while we were distracted watching them leave the boy had somehow managed to climb up on the railing and stand there, I don’t know how he did it, balanced on the top rail.
Luckily, they saw him. “Oh my God!” they said. “What are you doing?!” the mother said, and the father grabbed him back down from there before he could jump or fall. The boy started shaking and shivering all over as they both held him, almost having an epileptic fit, and he peed in his pants. The parents were drunk and had been smoking pot I think, but that really sobered them up quick. I didn’t even get my money that night but I guess after that I forgot about it and really just wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as possible.
Like I said, they say I’m a liar about this. But what they can’t deny is that their son changed after this incident. I can’t prove anything but I personally think he was possessed by some kind of spirit that night. He was a really sweet kid before but after that he was either like a zombie or else he would go into a violent rage. They told me to keep sharp objects locked up and not to let him out of my sight and not to go anywhere. They were keeping him locked in his room at night because he would try to sneak out and one time he turned on all the burners on the gas stove and almost killed them all. When you took him out him out you had to hold onto him because he would go for the railing, not rushing for it but like pulled to it in a trance. And he was strong too. A couple of times he got away from me and tried to climb up onto the railing, whether to jump or what I don’t know, but I was able to pull him back down and get him into the elevator thank God. I don’t know if he was trying to get to the man or to throw himself over but it was clear that if he kept doing it he would fall eventually. Darkness was bad, but an overcast day was the worst. He tore his room all up when he went into his violent rages and he graffitied all over the walls in crayons in gibberish or an unknown language.
After a few days of this I wanted to quit but the parents begged me to stay and said they couldn’t get anyone else. These days they would probably say the child had ADD, and they got a doctor and medicated the child and it kept him quiet but he still couldn’t be left alone or he would go out into the hallway and head for the railing. I lasted about two weeks, it was not worth the money even though they agreed to pay me double.
Now I’ve done some research on this issue since then and this type of possession is never straightforward. (Though I was a babysitter then I went on to get a college education and studied psychology and parapsychology.) The boy was smart and he knew what was happening to him in a way though understandably he would often become confused and I think this was the source of his violent rages. Sometimes he thought that adults were trying to lead him to the railing or even to throw him over. He would scream and run away and hide in his room. I guess in these instances he was not possessed and maybe he even thought the adults were the Gray Man. When he was like this then you couldn’t get him out the door for anything.
I mention this because of what happened next. I was trying to take him out to the dentist one day. His parents were stupid for making me do this but they insisted because they wanted to pretend that nothing was wrong. I knew better by this time and I kept a tight grip on the boy and kept my body between him and the railing as I steered him toward the elevator. This time though he didn’t go into a trance like usual and try to make it to the railing. Instead as soon as we got near the railing he started screaming hysterically and struggling against me. I held on and told him to shut up as I pushed the elevator button. But he bit my hand and got free and ran back to the room and started struggling to open the door, turning the handle and pulling and pushing against it. Of course it was locked but he started screaming at me and cursing me, calling me a fucking bitch and every other name in the book, telling me to open the door and let him in or he’d kill me. Alright that’s it, we’re not going anywhere I thought, and I got the key out of my pocket and opened the door. He burst in and before I could get in he grabbed the door and slammed it on me. I got my body in the way and stuck my foot in the door so he couldn’t close it all the way but he was freakishly strong and I couldn’t push it open. He got the chain on somehow and he ran back into the apartment. I couldn’t just leave him in there because who knows what he was going to do so I tried to stick my hand in and get the chain off. When he saw that he ran at the door but I had my foot in it and though it hurt like hell he couldn’t close the door. Where he got the scissors I’ll never know, but the next thing I know he stabs me in the hand! I screamed and pulled my hand out and my foot too, and he slammed the door and threw the dead bolt.
So then I was standing there bleeding and I didn’t know what to do. I was bleeding profusely and I couldn’t even leave to go to the hospital because what if the kid got out and killed himself? Or killed himself in there? I tried calling for him in my confusion, begging him to open the door but of course that did no good. Finally I banged on all the neighbors doors and finally somebody opened up and gave me a rag to wrap my hand in. I told the lady to call the mother at work and she came home and tried to act like it was no big deal and I was the one who was crazy and caused the problem in the first place. I don’t think anybody believed her, but still! I was the one who was trying to help! I had to get five stitches in my hand at the hospital.
There was no way I was going back after that, and I told them they should get the child institutionalized. They didn’t appreciate that one bit but there wasn’t much they could say after the kid had just stabbed me. The man paid me, overpaid me by several times, trying to pay me off I guess, to buy my silence and it’s true I didn’t say anything to anybody for nearly a year after that and by that time they had already left the Chelsea. And New York, I think. The reason I didn’t say anything was not the money but because they made me feel like I was crazy for even mentioning it. I was just seventeen, remember.
They got another babysitter, a girl in her twenties who I knew from school, and the kid drove her crazy. She started taking drugs, maybe she had been taking them before, and eventually she had to get psychiatric help. I think she may have even spent some time in a mental hospital. The couple tried to blame her for their child’s condition, saying she was a junkie, but she had nothing to do with it since like I said the child was like that before. I feel more sorry for her than for anybody to tell you the truth. Except for maybe the child. He was supposed to start school in the fall, but they held him back and I doubt he was ever normal again.
Since then I’ve often thought of the Gray Man, wondered who he was, perhaps the ghost of someone who committed suicide by throwing himself down the stairwell. Or maybe a more elemental spirit, a sort of evil pied piper of children. When I asked the boy one time who the Gray Man was, he said he was smoke. I don’t know whether this makes any sense or not, but this was when the boy was in a good, or rational state of mind. The parents and their child disappeared into middle America and obscurity, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the Chelsea as possible. The boy would be in his early twenties now which is typically when a dormant mental illness manifests. I assume they’ve had him on medication all this time, but now that he’s an adult what if he decides to stop taking it as often happens? There was a powerful attraction working on him, that I know, pulling him toward that railing and that skylight. And so I have to ask, is this paranormal force still drawing him to the Chelsea? Will he return to the scene of his childhood and his lost innocence? And what form will his madness take in adulthood? It seems only time will tell.
Wow, this place is even scarier than I thought. Junkies and schizophrenics are one thing, but elemental spirits are more than I can handle. Almost makes me want to live in the suburbs! And this woman seems pretty authoritative too; after all, she’s studied parapsychology. Keep your doors locked tonight! (Ed Hamilton)
Larry the Ghost is perhaps the Chelsea's most famous resident spirit. Our Anonymous Hotel Chelsea Blogger # 3 interviewed several live residents in order to come to the following conclusions about Larry:
The main thing about Larry is that he never stops talking. This is upsetting to the other ghosts, because they're eager to tell their stories once they find someone who can hear/see them. But Larry always pushes his way to the front and starts lecturing in such a loud voice that the others can't get a word in. What he wants people to know, mainly is:
1) It's what's inside the Chelsea that's real. Everything out there, in the so-called city, is an illusion.
2) There was something there long before the Chelsea was built that is the source of the place's creative power.
3) It's not about the product--the specific art that's created; it's about the life that is led at the Chelsea Hotel. "That's what's important, man," says Larry.
Though skeptics in the world at large might say that the residents who claim to have encountered Larry are a bit on the batty side, we take solace in the wisdom of Larry himself: he would have no doubt as to whom was really crazy. (photo link)
We always knew the Chelsea was filled with ghosts. There's just too many frustrated artists roaming the halls for it to be otherwise, too many lost souls with unfinished business. But leave it to our Anonymous Hotel Chelsea Blogger # 3 to bring a medium to the hotel in order to provide the definitivie proof of this otherworldy infestation. If you've ever felt the hairs on the back of your neck bristle as you've walked these halls late at night, then delve into this terrifying document at your own peril, for you may well see your deepest fears confirmed:
I remembered some more ghostly things that my "medium" friend saw at the Chelsea. We took a tour from first to top floor, so I'll try to remember everything she said was there (provided to you anonymously, of course):
Lobby: There are half a dozen to a dozen spirits hanging around the lobby, hoping every day that someone will notice them, but almost no one ever does. They're lonely and very anxious to be recognized.
Elevator: Definitely someone lurking in there, just watching from the corner.
A room on the 3rd floor, West End: Something terrible--a beating or murder--happened in the bathroom. Best not to go in there. Another friend who was with us ignored this warning and took a shower there, and found deep scratch marks on her chest afterwards.
Writer Sparkle Hayter, who lived for quite a while on the third floor had this to say about these findings: A hard drugs dealer lived there for a while (he was also into bestial porn, we later learned) and the cops came one day to say they had a report he was keeping a woman there against her will. After he left, a lot of star-crossed lovers stayed in that room – had wall-shaking arguments, soul-rattling arguments. When it was empty however, and I was away on a book tour, people would hear someone typing, on a typewriter in my room. I often saw the shadow of a crouched woman in a corner of my room late at night and heard weeping, when I walked towards it, she disappeared. Any connection?
And speaking of ghosts, you know about Sid haunting the east elevator? And about the man in the hat ghost (ask David Bard about the latter.)
Fifth floor, west end, one of the little halls leading north: An 1880s-era woman spirit, elegantly dressed, stands before a non-existent mirror touching up her hair, over and over, eternally. She's anxious about a meeting she's about to have.
One of the middle floors (6th?): A little boy-ghost in Thirties-era clothes kicked my friend in the shins hard enough to make her limp the rest of the way upstairs. She actually had a bruise there later.
A higher floor (7th or 8th), west wing pretty near the elevators: A spirit tried to lure my friend into a "womb-like purple room," telling her soothingly that she just needed to rest. My friend was sure that if she followed the spirit she'd be suffocated.
On one middle floor (I think), at the west end, someone had put up voodoo veves--colorful magic symbols--all over the walls, to counteract bad energy. My friend said the person had an excellent reason to do that, but that the veves weren't working.
Around the 9th floor or so, west end, narrow corridor (I think it was leading north), there was something so upsetting that my friend started crying and ran upstairs to get away from it.
In the cellar--in a corridor leading away from the back (perhaps that tunnel that's supposed to lead to 22nd Street) there's a primal, powerful force too scary for my friend to go near. Maybe that's what inspired DeeDee Ramone to put Sid Vicious' ghost down there in "Chelsea Horror Hotel."
Drifting through the halls is a young girl in a white Victorian-style nightgown, weeping helplessly and desperate to tell her story to someone. She tried to talk to my friend, but Larry, the famous hiptster ghost, kept interrupting.
As you can see, we had a great tour. (Interesting that she didn't mention seeing anything in the east half of the hotel, except in the cellar.) Overall, she said it was the most haunted building she'd visited in New York, except for the New York Public Library on 42nd Street. The list here looks pretty negative, but she said there were a wide range of spirits, good and bad, happy and unhappy. Also, she had the impression that many of them were able to come and go from the hotel. They weren't stuck inside the building. So it's apparently a crossroads for spirits as well as artists.
Anonymous Hotel Chelsea Blogger #3
The Chelsea has a reputation as being a welcoming haven for spirits--of both the living and the dead variety. We asked longtime resident Tim Sullivan what he knew about the ghosts who inhabit the Chelsea.
Tim is a big man, with a gray tuft of beard and brown hair—which you don’t usually notice since he almost always wears a baseball cap. A rock guitarist, Tim comes off as a regular guy, plainspoken, without pretension. When asked about the primal force that is reputed to inhabit the basement, he says, “That wouldn’t surprise me at all. Parts of that basement are like a cave. I’ve seen some really weird stuff down there.” He goes on to add, “This area is the lowest point on the island, marshland. Some people believe the Chelsea may be sitting on top of an ancient Indian burial ground.”
Tim discovered the Chelsea in the early eighties when he was checking out the Guitar store on the ground floor of the building. He looked into the lobby and sensed a weird energy; it drew him to the place, and when, a few years later, he had a chance to move in, he didn’t hesitate. “The Lobby has always had a very sad vibe,” Tim says, when asked of ghost sightings there. “It used to be filled with down-and-outers, drug addicts and punk rockers hanging out. This used to be a very bad neighborhood.” Tim believes that ghosts are just powerful memories. (And he doesn’t intend to leave one!) “It may be that the ghosts come with the guests,” he says, which would explain the more recent lightening of the vibe in the lobby. “Now this neighborhood is like Columbus Avenue,” Tim says. “Once they painted the lobby and brightened it up, it released the bad energy and a lot of the spirits moved on.”
We’re betting there are still more than a few left! Tim had three specific ghost stories to share with us:
In a room on the fourth floor, a tourist awoke late one night, sensing a presence. Getting up, she chanced to glance in an old mirror, and was startled enough to call the front desk and demand another room. “Oh my God!” she said. “Who lived here before? I looked in the mirror and saw an image of a woman who looked like Betty Boop!”
Though the tourist couldn’t have known, the desk clerk she spoke to did, and her words sent a chill down his spine. The room had belonged to an old woman named Tatianna, who had been a prostitute in her prime. She had indeed looked like Betty Boop, wearing the clothes of a flapper, the bobbed hair, and the old 1920s era hats. She had died 16 or 17 years prior to this incident.
“If you live here all the time you get used to the energy, so you may not see it as an apparition,” Tim explains. “Guests, on the other hand, can sometimes see the real spirit behind the energy.”
Tim doesn’t believe that Sid killed Nancy. He thinks instead it was a drug dealer named Rockets Redglare, a notorious bastard, who lived, coincidentally or not, in the room right next to the Betty Boop room. In any event:
After Nancy was killed, Stanley had her apartment split up between two other apartments so punks wouldn’t come around looking for it. He tried to rent the rooms out to people who didn’t know about the tragedy. I was visiting a couple in one of the apartments and I noticed that they had a room closed off, so I asked them what was in there. They said nothing, that they didn’t use the room at all and didn’t keep anything in there. They said that the room had a bad energy, and the wife said she had seen an eerie glow in there. They were Portuguese and had never even heard of Sid and Nancy.
The guy who lived in this apartment next tried to sublet it when he went to stay in France, but the woman he sublet it to called him as soon as he got there and said she absolutely refused to stay there another minute.
This next one doesn’t take place at the Chelsea, but it’s a good one, and it happened to Tim himself, so we include it:
I was at a friend’s house in California. He gave me my own room to sleep in. That night I dreamed that a big, stern-faced old man, dressed in black, was sitting on top of me, pushing down on my chest. I awoke screaming, really terrified. I didn’t mention it to my friend at the time, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. I thought about it for three or four months. When I finally mentioned it, my friend said it sounded like his grandfather, who had been a preacher in life, in a Holy Roller church. The old preacher had been sleeping in that very same room when he died, and I had been there on the anniversary of his death as well, which my friend remembered because it had been Father’s Day.
I’m glad that old preacher isn’t floating around the Chelsea! Although, who knows, maybe he followed Tim here. This is a hotel after all, and ghosts, like guests, seem to be able to check in and out at will. So I don’t know about you, but I still plan to be on the lookout!
Tim Sullivan's latest CD is due out early next year. I don't think it will be about ghosts, but without a doubt it will be influenced by the rockin' supernatural energy of the Chelsea. So stay tuned to the blog, and we'll let you know and maybe even have a snippet for you to play.
Novelist Susan Swan visited the Chelsea last summer, staying in Thomas Wolfe's old room (you remember Thomas: he wrote "You Can't Go Home Again" in room 829). She considers Wolfe a literary father-figure, and, as you can see from the following story, her stay at the Chelsea was for her a profoundly spiritual experience.
Thomas Wolfe doesn’t knock. Why bother? He’s home. I hear his tubercular cough as he lets himself in. He floats through the wood and on down the curving vestibule until he is right where he wanted to be. Of course I scream and clutch the sheets to my chest. "It’s just me…a shade of my former self" His ghastly head inclines back and forth and I realize he is laughing at his own joke. Then he says: "Something feels amiss." I follow his eyes and say, "They divided your rooms in two. A musician lives in the other half. But I’ve got the best section. See? The fireplace still works." "Nothing like a fire." He stares at the silent blaze of my log. "Only those synthetic things give me the willies."
My Feet Hit The Floor with a Smack
I was raised to be the master of any social occasion. My feet hit the floor with a smack. Still clutching my sheets, I throw him a groggy stare: "Do you want a Scotch?" Again in the darksomeness, the silvery head moves back and forth: Yesssss.
Extending My Hospitality
I come back with a drink tray, the ice cubes in the tall glasses, sloshing and jangling. "You’re awfully quiet," I say. "Please talk--it makes me uncomfortable when people stare." He accepts his glass politely and sits down in an armchair by the fire. I seat myself on a nearby stool. "Forgive me," he says in a very faint voice. He has been gaping at me, trying to decide if he finds me attractive.
Thomas Wolfe on Me
He thinks the distracted look on my face suggests the abstracted devotion of a young nun. He can imagine a cowl draping my head. It’s a very literary way of looking at me, as you might well imagine.
A Shade of his Former Self
Frankly, Thomas Wolfe hasn’t had much success lately with his own writing. Did he mention that? He can’t concentrate long enough to start the flow. It takes all his energy just to hold himself together. Increasingly, he feels like someone lightened of every tissue and synapse.
Once his writing was synonymous with American prose. But today his books are an "undergraduate indulgence." He read that phrase somewhere and God, it stung. Today his name is so faded on the mattering map of American literature that it is no bigger than the bottom row on an ophthalmologist’s chart--the tiny letters that only those with perfect vision can see. Thomas Wolfe, not Tom, I say to young friends who haven’t read his novels.
His Size Thirteen Shoes
"Somebody came here last week and took away your shoes," I tell him. "They had to be yours. Size thirteen--a fan, I think." He sighs, the sound of his gratitude like a whoosh of traffic noise.
I, Too, Worry about my Reputation in American Letters
I, too, worry about my reputation in American letters. Especially now that my book had been savaged in the Times. Following a silence of 15 years, I had brought forth a new work and heard it dismissed as "inconsequential, plodding novel & neither original nor memorable. " Brittle & overwhelmingly self-pitying " had been some of the dismaying phrases. "At least they didn’t say I couldn’t write my way of a paper bag." Thomas Wolfe replies. "The only thing a writer needs to concern himself with is staying open to experience. If we aren’t vulnerable we can’t write."
Thomas Wolfe on the Writing Life
No one thinks about what happens to writers after they lose the attention of their public do they? Writers either peak early or last too long. And who, more than Thomas Wolfe, dares to argue? He was raised to win but now he says losing is the art writers need to master.
When Thomas Wolfe was a resident, Purdell Kennedy, the bell captain, was his best friend. Purdell would bring him free coffee with a dab of Scotch every morning and say, "A little hair of the dog, boy?" Poor Purdell, dead and gone so long now. He loves the hotel’s façade of rufous brick--its spidery balustrades and Victorian gables. How many nights did he cover the floor of his suite with manuscript pages? And sweat-stained shirts, fortified by raw gin? One thousand four hundred and eighty? Or was it only six hundred and two? And now he’s back to finish his manuscript.
His Last Masterpiece
He left the Chelsea in the summer of 39, planning to return to put the final touches on his last masterpiece. Instead he fell ill in Baltimore from acute pulmonary tuberculosis. To give him relief, the doctor bored a hole into his skull and fluid had spurted three feet into the air. Those were his biographer’s very words. He couldn’t remember what went on in the operating room. Just his brother remarking, "You’re going to be fine, boy." "I hope so, Fred," he’d replied. And look what happened!
Thomas Wolfe on His Critics
I can still remember every word of my last review. …Placental material--long, whirling discharges of words unabsorbed in the novel, unrelated to the proper business of fiction & raw gobs of emotion, aimless and quite meaningless jabber…" Thomas Wolfe stops. He realizes he is getting distraught. And once he starts, he can’t help himself. He can recall every word. They all do. We all, he corrects himself. "If only that critic could hear me now! I don’t have a clue how I lost my biblical cadences," he says. "But after all these years I am turning into a modernist like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. They were enemies of mine, you know."
"Time transforms everyone," I reply. "No reason to think you will be any different."
Thomas Wolfe Plans to Fix the Critics
My next book will reassert my old prominence. It’s going to be a living diaogical--is that the right term? I shake my head. "Dialogical."…a living dialogical mural that fictionalizes the life of every man and woman in Eastern America. I will go back to my old Biblical cadences and put in every beauteous cranny of the world I love. Do you believe me? I put up my hand in protest. "I think you should know that I read one of your old journals last night and it made me cry." I’m sorry."Look, no need to be modest with me. I know the passage off by heart." I begin to quote: ‘No one owes the writer anything for writing…he may regret the stupidity or ignorance that keeps his work unknown, but he must accept it as one of the possible conditions under which he must work.’
Ah, Now He remembered
Ah, now he remembered. He wrote those words as a young man. When he didn’t know better. I see his eyes move to his old desk. Surely, now that I have welcomed him so hospitably, he can get on with his writing. At least, that’s what I think he’s thinking. "Don’t you want to hear the rest?" I ask aware his attention is straying."Oh god, no," he says. I give him a sympathetic look. "You know, I think you need to hear it. I take another gulp of her Scotch: "’No one asked the writer to write…let him expect nothing’”. My voice quivers slightly over the word nothing and then I compose myself. He extends his silvery hand for another Scotch and says, "Thank God, I am still a sentient being in some respects at least." (to be continued next halloween)
Susan Swan is a novelist, journalist and one of York University's most prestigious public intellectuals. She is the author of six books of fiction including The Wives of Bath, a finalist for Ontario's Trillium and the Guardian Fiction Award in the UK.
Her most recent novel, What Casanova Told Me, was nominated for the 2004 regional Commonwealth Prize and as a Globe and Mail, Now Magazine and Calgary Herald best book for 2004. (more information on the reception to that novel can be found here)