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Haunted New York City and Other Ghost Stories

Ooooweeeoooo, it’s Halloween glamorous ghosts and goblins!  Which means it’s the perfect time for nighttime strolls around the eerily quiet Central Park, mulled wine and salted caramel hot chocolate, and the spookiest ghost stories New York City has to offer.  Starting with the scene of an unsolved 18th century murder that was buried beneath a popular Soho restaurant for almost 200 years.

The Manhattan Well Murder

 It was December 22, 1799 when Gulielma Elmore Sands stole away from her boarding home on Greenwich Street to elope with her secret lover, Levi Weeks.  Poor Levi waited 11 days for his wife-to-be only to learn that she had been found strangled at the bottom of a well in a meadow on what is now Spring Street.  Although eventually acquitted of her murder, Weeks survived a tumultuous trial and fled Manhattan.  The true killer was never found.  In 1980, long after the well was sealed off and a building was constructed over its hidden presence, the DaGrossa family, owners of the current Manhattan Bistro in Soho, decided to dig around in the basement amidst speculation that the old well might lie below them.  Sure enough, Sands’ well was uncovered and it is said that her ghost haunts the bistro to this day.

Gulielma Elmore Sands

The well where Gulielma Elmore Sands’ strangled corpse was found.  It is below what is now the Manhattan Bistro (online.wsj.com)

 

The Ghostly Chorus Girl of New Amsterdam Theatre

On the same street that I live on now, a Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl by the name of Olive Thomas haunts the stage and dressing rooms of the New Amsterdam Theatre in her green beaded costume.  How did she die, you ask?  Well, after finally having enough of her alcoholic and STD-ridden husband, she purposefully swallowed every last one of his syphilis pills and overdosed.  It’s said that her ghost still carries around the antique cobalt bottle that once contained the remnants of her husband’s indiscretions.

Olive Thomas

Olive Thomas, chorus girl and famed flapper (losttheatres.org)

 

And now, my very own ghost story.  About three or four months ago, I had one of those reality-challenging lucid dreams that so often commandeer my sleepy brain.  I have psychic, telekinetic, and ghost-friendly people in my family, so it doesn’t strike me as odd that most of my dreams are about murder.  I am rarely scared in these dreams, as I am just the investigator, but lately I’ve been dreaming of children which is a little disconcerting to say the least.  Anyway, back to the dream…

I was visiting a house that I had bought sight-unseen and immediately noticed that the previous residents had left all of their personal effects in the home.  This struck me as odd, so I of course began going through everything and happened upon old film cameras and video recorders in the hall closet.  The label on the video camera said in bold, white letters, “John Neel.”  I pressed play on the video recorder and an eerie scene played before me.  A woman with wavy black hair pulled back in a bun was dressed in a black mourning gown of the mid-to-late 19th century design.  It was buttoned all the way up her neck, a small cameo at her throat.  She stood in the middle of a basement room staring straight ahead, probing the camera lens with deep black eyes.  The camera panned down to reveal that she was posed behind a wooden table, upon which a tiny casket rested.  Before the camera flashed a note that said the deceased baby girl, the woman’s daughter, was only 8 months old.  The woman stepped out from behind the casket and looked back over her shoulder straight at the camera, her head and body moving in jilting motions as if in a strange independent art film.  She then walked away and I awoke.

Naturally, the next morning I looked up the name that was so clear in my dream: John Neel.  And this is what I found:

John Neel

John Neel and Mary Catherine Chancellor (betty-shirley.com)

 

Mary Catherine Chancellor IS the woman from my dream.  And even further still –>

 

John Neel

Minnie Pettigrew d. 8 mos old (betty-shirley.com)

 

I counted on my fingers 1, 2, 3…little Minnie Pettigrew, daughter of John Neel Pettigrew and the woman in the dream video, was exactly 8 months old when she died.  Just like in my dream.

Coincidence?  A result of my subconscious memory of a random stumbleupon?  Or a message from the dead?  Whatever the case may be, it’s just plain weird.  If you go on to read about that particular family, they ran into hard times with poverty, tuberculosis, terrible foster care, and slavery.  Maybe something sinister is struggling to come to light.

What are your thoughts on the reasoning, if any, behind dreams like these?

Happy Halloween, fellow ghost-lovers.

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Comments

  1. Oh I love ghost stories!

  2. But seriously … when are we all going to hang out? Drinks? Yoga? Caprese sandwiches? All of the above?!?!

    • I knooow!! I don’t have your number (my phone died a terrible death) and you quit facebook, so I need a way to get a hold of you other than publicly! Fly a plane banner overhead with a time and a place – I want to do all three of those things with you along with taking strolls around Central Park. Yes please <3

  3. Hello, I am the daughter of Betty Shirley and owner of Betty-Shirley.com. I am a relative of John Neel Pettigrew and his family as featured in your ghost story/dream. finding your story about your dream really caught me by surprise. I was searching on Google to find John Neel’s father’s name. He was the 1st husband of my gg grandmother, Millie Ann. Just wanted to introduce myself and I was happy to see you gave credit to my late mother’s website for the photo. I shared it on my Facebook page.

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