Thursday, July 25, 2013

Haunted Buildings

Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines. There must be Ghosts all the country over, as thick as the sand of the sea.... We are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light.


Last night I was sitting in my favorite chair, reading, when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  That's been happening to me more often now.  I'm becoming more sensitive to my surroundings.  Perhaps it is because I am finally getting a chance to settle in.  Brought to mind a post published just the other day by my dear friend Aine at the Deepest Well.   She spoke about the 'Unseen'.  They are all around us.  Every house or building has its story. Even newly built homes are built over what once was someone else's home.  And it is a fact that some of us sense their presence.  Brings to mind the 'happenings' at my old office building.

I was always the first one to work, and I absolutely loved being in the empty building.  The quiet and solitude was a great way to start my day.  One morning I'd barely taken my seat and settled in when I heard footsteps in the hall.  "Darn," I thought.  I was actually disappointed that someone was trespassing on my 'quiet time'.  'Good morning, Denice', I called out.  No response.  'Hmmm, someone's in a bad mood', I thought to myself, determined to stay out of her way.  It wasn't until I headed for the ladies' room a few minutes later that I learned that no one else was there.

On another occasion, Denice was off, and there was an intense racket going on behind her locked office door.  My clinical superviser and myself stood outside the door listening.  'It's probably just a mouse' she said.  'A mouse', I exclaimed, 'making all that racket?  No, that is our friendly ghost.'

These are just two of many different episodes, enough to make me begin research on the building. I do know that in the basement there were many different doors leading to tunnels which, in turn, led to almost every other building in the area....a complete underground system. Some say these were part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War while others claim they were use as escape routes during to the time of Prohibition.  I've not found the answer to the underground tunnels, but I did find some history on the building. Here is what I found.

On June 15, 1904 an excursion had been planned aboard the SS General Slocum, a passenger steamboat built in Brooklyn, New York. Members of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church were on their way to Locust Grove recreation grounds on Eaton’s Neck, a picnic site in Long Island. Many of these passengers met in front of my office building before heading to the pier to board of the boat.  

The ship got underway at 9:30am, but they  never made it to their destination that day.  It was just as she was passing East 90th Street that the boat caught fire in a storage compartment. The wind was strong on that day and fanned the fire until it was out of control.  The lifeboats were tied up and inaccessible, and the life preservers and fire hoses were rotting and useless.  Witnesses watched in horror as mothers put these old life preservers on their children and tossed them into the river in attempt to save them, only to see them sink beneath the murky waters. There was no escape, and most of the crew and passengers were burned to death or drowned in the river when they jumped into the waters to escape the flames.  

More than 1,000 people died that day in what was New York City's worst disaster until 9/11.  The community never recovered.  Many left the Lower East Side and the shock of losing so many loved ones devastated families so badly that the suicide rate rose to abnormal heights. 

The building itself had at different times been a social security office, a bank, and a boy's home.  I'd once believed that our office spirit had been one of these boys, but soon realized that I was sensing more of a female spirit in the building.  My guess is that she was one of the victims on that fateful day.  

Today the building has been totally renovated into high priced condos.   I have to wonder how our ghost is getting along.

It is wonderful that five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.

SAMUEL JOHNSON, The Life of Samuel Johnson


  1. I believe very strongly in ghosts, for I've been communicating with them ever since I can remember.

  2. Think I'm too emotional. Read the story and I'm feeling so much empathy for those victims and survivors. What was to be and should have been ....a happy day.....
    then on top of justice .... as if there could be, but damn, 3 years in Sing Sing. Rotting hoses , useless life jackets and the like............ Makes me angry.
    If I feel like this, one can only imagine how the survivors and their families felt. God Bless them.

  3. I'm sure the ghost is making herself right at home in someone's condo.


  4. What a sad story about the fire. Terrible tragedy. I can understand that some would never get over the loss.

    Do you think the underground tunnels had to do with the boy's home?

    The "urban cottage" was an old tenement turned into condos. At one time it was located in the bad part of the city, where crime including prostitution took place. We had regular noises, including knocks (3 exactly) at around 5:00 am in the morning. I had to wonder if one of the ladies of the night were still coming home. (The knocks were so convincing I went to the door numerous times to find no one there.)

  5. I love ghost stories, Mary. This is most interesting.

  6. What interesting history and story Mary...
    I'm a firm believer in spirits lingering/ghosts if you will...I've been experiencing them since the death of my own Mother in 1964. Even in my new apartment I am now getting activity. I'm not afraid at they are all just wanting to connect in some way, and I have communicated with some of them. Perhaps they know I am open to them.

    Such a tragedy that happened in your sharing...I'm sure they linger to be heard.


  7. Love it when Those Who Have Passed come back for a visit...its not just for Samhain!

  8. I ABSOLTELY believe in the unseen.....this was such an interesting friend.