Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Ghost Walk with residue

On Hallow’s Eve, I had the pleasure of rounding up a group of my friends and participating in a 90 minute walking tour about Peter Stuyvesant and the many haunted places in the East Village.
We started at the St. Mark’s church on tenth street and 2nd avenue. Our tour guide was entertaining and informative.  I forget her name but she made the walk that worthwhile in the wet weather. 
She talked about Peter Stuyvesant and how much a “son of a bitch” he was.  We were literally behind the St. Mark’s Church, near the tomb of where he and his other family members were buried.  Although it probably happens often, the eerie constant light on the side of the church kept turning on and off.  She also talked to the spirits among us and told them not to attach themselves to anybody.  She had moments where she experienced ghosts so she warned us.This was the beginning of our tour.


Our next stop was Peter Stuyvesant’s daughter’s home.  Apparently, he wasn’t very fond of her suitors even after death and was reported to have poured a hot boiling pot of water over his head, burning him.  The light post above us went out which apparently, every time our guide does the tour, it happens.
Then we stopped by an old looking bar that opened in 1854.  The inside still looked as it did back then.  We all had a chance to go inside and survey the neat pictures and things inside.  Apparently, when people got too drunk in the bar, they were thrown out.  But when the drunk would turn around, he wouldn’t see anyone there.  Another neat fact: Abraham Lincoln used to also drink there.
Our next stop was Cooper Union.  Peter Cooper became a rich man with no degree.  He founded and funded Cooper Union and made sure the students didn’t pay a dime for tuition.  This still holds true today but as most people know, its a very competitive school due to this fact.  The ghost story here is the ghosts of textile workers that worked in the College of Arts and Science building of NYU are at times heard at night crying.  The story behind this came later.
Our guide mentioned The Merchant House – a place that is a museum that is part of the Stuyvesant family tree.  His great granddaughters lived in the house but had to leave because they couldn’t take Stuyvesant’s ghost tormenting them.  The last daughter, kept the house completely the same, just as daddy wanted it up until she died.  When the house was inherited by a distant family member, he decided to keep the house as a museum.  The guide told us she had the strong urge to enter the house but had to get out.  She didn’t go further with why but we couldn’t explore ourselves either way because it was closed.
We got to the Public Theater where apparently there were ghosts that were seen by the actors during the night time.  Some people went in to look but it didn’t look too eerie since there were so many people there and it was the Public Theater.
Then we walked to the College of Arts and Sciences on the NYU campus across the street from Washington Square Park. In the 1850s, this building was the site for a sweatshop.  Women and girls worked on the seventh and eighth floors of the building.  Some of the women even brought their own sewing machines.  One day, their boss locked them inside.  The reasons were varied why he did it: he was worried they might steal something or didn’t want them to take that many breaks.  A fire broke out while they were working and they couldn’t get out.  When the fire trucks pulled up, they extended their ladder to the sixth floor.  Then they brought out the trampoline to catch some of the women as they jumped out.  They landed and bounced up, splattering on the ground.  One hundred and ninety women died and their bodies were taken to Cooper Union.  Til this day, students get the feeling of suffocation on the seventh floor. 
Our last and final stop was next to the Arch in Washington Square Park.  The first thing our guide told us was that all the parks in New York City were originally called Porter parks.  These parks were used as a burial ground for the poor – which included Washington Square Park.  She told us that a man who worked at the grocery store on the corner of the square saw a woman with milk bottles in her hand for five days straight.  He found it strange.  So he followed her into the park and then her figure went into the ground.  He told a nearby policeman who thought he was crazy and wanted to dig and find what it was.  Back then, the ground wasn’t as solid as it was now and the coffins weren’t buried as deep as today.  When they opened the coffin, there was the corpse of a woman and her live baby next to her.  The baby was buried alive!  Perhaps she kept appearing so people could find out this atrocity? 
By then, the water was really pouring and the arch was full of people trying to cover from the rain.  At the end of our tour, a whoosh of wind blew all around us and went away.  There was no wind for the rest of the night so it made us wonder.  Was the wind coincidence or mother nature?
Later that night, I got home and took a consecutive batch of pictures of myself in my costume.  Each time, trying different angles to get it just right.  The last picture had a bright light on the bottom right corner.  Then I looked up what a spirit would look like if photographed.  It fit the description all right.  I immediately took it upon myself to speak to whatever spirit attached itself to me: I’m sorry I offended you.  Then I did my night ritual of washing my face.  When I got into bed, I was petrified.  My heart was beating like a hammer.  I kept reminding myself they do not hurt unless they are poltergeists. 
I believe in ghosts.  I’ve never seen one but I’ve felt things and heard things.  This tour was a great way to spend Halloween and I look forward to more in the future!  Granted, the end was a little freaky but like I said, I know they don’t hurt.