Contest! West Side Rag T-Shirts! All You Have To Do Is Tell Us a True Ghost Story

Photograph via Wikimedia, public domain.

By Carol Tannenhauser

My mother had a print of a Degas ballerina. When she died, it was supposed to go to my daughter, with whom she shared a special bond. But a mishap intervened. After we had cleaned out my mother’s apartment in the assisted-living residence where she lived, we left the painting leaning against a wall to be picked up after dinner. While we were gone, my brother came by, thought it was trash, and put it outside the apartment door. An aide passing by took it home. When we returned and found the picture gone, we were sure it was forever. Until the next morning, when I got a call from a very agitated woman, crying, “I’m bringing it back! I don’t want it! I’m sorry! I didn’t know!” It seems that during the night, she had been visited by my mother, wearing a flowing white nightgown, who explained the situation to her, as only she could. The painting was returned.

With Halloween coming, we wondered if anyone else has had an “other-worldly” experience, preferably in the neighborhood? We’ve got five medium West Side Rag T-shirts, and four small. We’ll give one to those who share the nine best true ghost stories.

Don’t be scared!

Here’s the T-shirt.


ABSURDITY | 30 comments | permalink
    1. Sid says:

      When I was 16, I took guitar lessons in the Ansonia. Aware of the history of the building, I went poking around the gothic-looking ex-hotel. The place was deserted, despite being a huge bustling building. It was November, and it was cold and was dark early. As I was running around hallways and staircases, the lights flickered and I heard a BANG. The emergency doors behind me slammed shut, startling me. I took it as a ghostly cue from residents past that I should stop poking around get back to my music studies…

      • Sid says:

        Apparently I don’t have access to the email I use here anymore… so if I won, just drop a comment 😉

    2. Mark Moore says:

      For about 15 years I owned a 27-inch standard definition TV and for the entire time I owned it it never once malfunctioned or failed to work properly. About ten years ago when we got our first HDTV, I had the old TV on while I unboxed and set up the new HDTV.

      When I was done and ready to move the new TV to its rightful place in my living room I said to the old TV, “That’s it, time to go,” and pressed the power button on the front of the set for what should have been the last time.

      And, it refused to turn off.

      I pressed that button that I had used countless times before over and over but with no results, the only time the TV had ever not worked properly. Finally I unplugged it and took it down to the garbage area in the basement.

      That TV may have been possessed.

    3. John D says:

      When I was in middle school, I went over to spend the night at my family-friends house. There was a girl my age, and her older brother, and their mom. My family knew their family since my older brother was in pre-school, and to this day we are all still super close. It was getting later in the night, and the three of us kids were all hanging out in a bedroom. The door was open, and across the hall was the door to the other bedroom. We were all playing when out of the corner of my eye I saw a cat sprint into the other room and disappear into the darkness. “Oh, I didn’t know you guys had a cat!” I said. They looked at each other and then the girl said to me, “huh? We don’t have a cat?”. I looked back into the room and told them I could’ve sworn I saw a cat, but I shrugged it off and continued playing. The next morning I was getting my things ready, waiting for my mom to pick me up, and when she pulled up I started heading towards the front door. Above their TV, was a ton of family photo frames and war memorabilia from their grandfather. But one of their photos caught my eye, and my friend was holding the exact cat I had seen the night before. It was their childhood cat that had passed away just a year ago.

    4. Ann Lurie Berlin says:

      From my deeply sleeping state I heard my name being called repeatedly. Turning over I heard a man saying, insisting,”Go in the living room. Go in the living room now.” I got up and went into the room. One of the candles I had lit was flaming a foot in the air. It’s’ wooden holder had caught fire. I got a wet dish cloth and put it out. A neighbor said the bald man in coveralls was the farm’s past owner. He saved me.

      • LivableCity says:

        Concise and excellent story – thank you! Almost enough of these here to be convincing about visiting spirits….

    5. Maria says:

      It was easier to park, so I went in the back door of a movie theatre to buy tickets. The back entrance was a floor higher. Little did I know they were under construction. So I tried to go back the way I came but the door was locked. My cell didn’t work so I decided the only way was to try to go down the steps that were under repair. Although very dangerous and dark I finally arrived at a door that led me to a back street driveway. I was so terrified that I would have to sleep in that deserted building.

    6. Gail says:

      Each summer I head up to Monhegan island in Maine where I rent a house for a week. It is an old fishing community and artist colony. One summer I rented a house on a hill with an expansive view of the ocean. We had a full house that week and I chose to sleep on the pull out sofa in the livingroom. Windows surrounding the room, with a lovely old parlor chair placed right at one of the windows. Suddenly, just at dawn, I abruptly woke up, something that is very unusual for me. The first light of the day was coming through the window and without my glasses on, there appeared to be a fuzzy image by the window that I couldn’t make out. I reached for my glasses and clearly saw a woman, dressed in Victorian garb, sitting in that old parlour chair. I thought perhaps I was still sleeping and dreaming. So I did what any adult would do. I threw the covers over my head. When I pulled them off, there was the woman, slowly turning her head back to look at me and as our eyes met, she began to dissolve. I watched as her image disappeared into the air. I knew, on some instinctive level, that she was looking out to sea for her sea captain husband’s ship. And she never stopped looking.

    7. Ric says:

      Our building was built in 2010 on a razed old crack house and abandoned movie theater here in Harlem. I installed a ceiling fan in the second bedroom which I use as my office. When I go out, I diligently turn off all my lights including my fan. Many times, and most recently, when I come home, my ceiling fan is spinning at full speed. Boo!

    8. Rich says:

      It was Seder at my aunt’s house. The service was nearly over and it was time to welcome the prophet Elijah. We started singing the traditional haunting melody, Eliyahu Hanavi, and our entire extended family looked to the front door as we waited for someone to get up and open it. Just then, a big gust of wind blew and the large door swiftly opened unassisted, making a loud creak as it did!

    9. Jeff French Segall says:

      I wrote this song several years ago and have often sung it, amplified loudly, on All Hallows Eve outside our West 90th Street building to the ears of thousands of terrified young ghouls and goblins. Imagine the melody if you can.

      Lonesome churchyards, chilly and cold
      Chill your body and suck your soul
      The Withered hand, the shrunken head
      The vampire’s killed you, now you’re dead

      Late last night you were fast asleep
      At your window a chilling beat
      The beat of wings, then cold, cold air
      Now into space your dead eyes stare.

      Where did it come from? Where did it go?
      It pierced your heart, the blood did flow
      The beast of doom’s infected you,
      You can’t escape, now you’re one, too.

      Vampire blood flows through your veins
      Your soul is wracked, you scream with pain
      Fire, brimstone, sulphery lake,
      Will only end at a wooden stake.

      by Jeff French Segall

    10. Susan Falk says:

      Tom, our friend spent the night with us. He said he was awakened by a woman in a Victorian dress sitting at the end of the bed with her head cocked, staring at him for a a couple a minutes without speaking, and then leaving. The next morning he asked my wife why she did that. She told him it wasn’t me!! Tom went on to say he wasn’t ever frightened, just curious.

    11. Phillip Morris says:

      I was working at a college that claims to be haunted. Me and my partner didn’t believe any of it. We go into Clark Hall which has classrooms and start propping doors open with desks. This is around 0200 hours. We already walked through and made sure the building was empty. Only two stairwells donut wasn’t hard to do.

      We are on the third floor. I finished my door and wedged a desk in between the door and the frame. When I finish I shake it to make sure it’s in there pretty secure. I go over to help my buddy with his door when behind me the door I was working on opens up and the chair desk combo flings across the room and the door slams. He takes off running, jumping landing to landing. I still don’t think he’s ever gone in that building again.

    12. bloomingdaler says:

      When we first moved into our Pre-War apartment building on 102nd and West End Ave, all sorts of bizarre things kept happening. Shut windows would open by themselves – we’d ascribe that to the age of the building. My sister kept complaining other people were using her bathroom in the middle of the night and waking her – we blamed the creaky floors expanding and contracting. The dog would suddenly jump up and growl at thin air – but he was a bit nuts anyway. Little things – a favorite knife and fork, a silver charm, a set of keys – would suddenly vanish. We blamed that on absent-mindedness.

      One day an old man no one knew was seen walking into my sister’s bedroom. We investigated and of course, no one was there but we had seen him very clearly. Quite old, short, plump, with a bald spot on top of his wild white hair, in tee shirt and boxers.

      We were getting friendly with our neighbors across the courtyard at this point and one of them exclaimed how nice it was no longer have to see “old Mr Weiss in his underwear playing the violin in front of the windows.” Well – – she described him and he matched the description of the man we had seen exactly. He had died IN the room we saw him walk into about six months before we took possession!

      Over the next few months we would talk out loud to him and explain that he needed to “go towards the light” and other stuff like that. The manifestations grew weaker and they finally stopped completely. This was in 1979-1980. I’m still there but Mr Weiss has been long gone – – – I HOPE!!

    13. Jeff says:

      One day in the fall of 2019, I arrived at the 72nd street 1/2/3 subway stop late at night on a cold and rainy, dark night. Sitting outside the subway was a little boy, about 8 or 9, shivering in the rain, drenched, rocking back and forth.

      I approached him to ask how he was doing and to offer help. He could barely project his voice, but I was able to get his name, Bobby, and his need to get home. I offered Bobby my sweater, a favorite light blue knit sweater my mother had given me for my birthday many years prior.

      Slowly he stood up, now wearing my oversized sweater, and together we walked towards his home – a beautiful brownstone somewhere in the 80s between West End and Riverside.

      When we approached his home, he told me he was okay and I left him as he used his own key to pass the threshold.

      A few days later, unable to stop thinking about the boy and wanting to reassure myself that he was doing well, I returned to that block. I climbed the steps of the brownstone and buzzed the only buzzer available. A kind older woman answered the door.

      I asked her, “have you seen a little boy named Bobby? I brought him back here a few nights ago in that rain storm.” She turned white. “My son Bobby has been dead for 20 years.” She gave me a look indicating the conversation was over and there would be no further discussion.

      But, sure as I was standing there, I knew the events of that day with Bobby were real.

      Later that night, having learned his last name at his building buzzer, I googled Bobby and sure enough he had died decades prior under mysterious circumstances.

      The online obituary revealed that he had been buried at the Third Shearith Israeli Cemetery in Chelsea. So, the very next day, a similarly rainy and dreary day as the day I had met Bobby the prior week, I took the train down to Chelsea to pay my respects.

      When I found his tombstone, my heart stopped. Sitting on the top of his grave was my old blue sweater.

    14. Jesse says:

      I grew up in a 125 year old Victorian house and one specific room has hosted several unrelated paranormal experiences for at least 5 different people over the years. One thanksgiving my cousin was staying over in this room while her husband and kids slept upstairs. In the morning when we all came downstairs for breakfast, my cousin goes to her husband “Dave, what did you want last night snd why’d you wake me up and get in bed with me?” He responded “I have no idea what you’re talking about, I slept through the night upstairs and never left the room.” Her face went white.

      My cousin had no idea this room was haunted and had no idea about the previous paranormal activity in it. Bizarre stuff.

    15. Janis Corsair says:

      Last November, for our anniversary, my husband’s cousin and his wife sent us a huge gift basket filled with all kinds of goodies, including a large box of Lindt Chocolate Truffles. Since we were both on strict diets we decided not to even unwrap the huge gift and left it on the dining room table.
      Two days later I noticed that the cellophane covering had been disturbed and ½ the box of truffles were missing.
      My husband says it must have been a ghost.

      At least that’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.

    16. Ian Alterman says:

      In 1985, my then wife and I were staying at her parents house in Lynbrook, LI. It was a parsonage (her father was the pastor of the church it was attached to). As anyone who has been around church homes knows, they are almost all “haunted.”

      One night, while staying in one of the two rooms on the third floor (the other was a sort of attic storage area), we heard noises coming from the other room. I went to investigate, and found an odd series of numbers, letter and symbols written on the door in yellow (they had not been there previously). I told my wife and she came out to see as well. While we were standing there, we heard more loud noises coming from the room. Neither of us wanted to actually go in, so we went down to wake her father (hoping he might do some sort of “exorcism” or something).

      When we first woke him, he thought we were crazy, or simply pulling some prank. A few seconds later, there was a huge crash in that room (which was right above his bedroom). He got very serious, and we all climbed the stairs.

      When we got there, the door was ajar (neither my wife nor I had opened it). He opened it and we all went in. The room was a shambles! Boxes and items strewn everywhere, several things broken.

      Note that there had not been a storm, nor is this something that wind – or even an animal – could have done. And there was no indication that an animal (or human being) had climbed up into the room.

      He asked us to leave the room, and he stayed behind and did and said whatever pastors do and say in those situations. He then left the room, but kept the door ajar.

      He then told us that he believed it was the “restless spirit” (poltergeist) of the former pastor’s son, who had died tragically in a motorcycle accident at just 18 years old.

      After that night, my wife and I – who continued to use the other room when we stayed there – never saw or heard anything from that room.

      I had never had a “spirit” experience before (though my wife, as the daughter of a pastor, had apparently had several), and it scared the bejeezus out of me! (Until I, myself became a minister, and had a couple of later encounters of my own.)

    17. Maybe all lighthouses are haunted…I don’t know. But Upper Michigan’s Big Bay Point Lighthouse, built in 1896 and converted into a B&B in 1986, definitely has a ghost or two hanging around. My wife and I can attest to that! In June of 1990 we stayed in this two-story, late Victorian-style B&B which looms above a 40-foot cliff overlooking the rocky shore of Lake Superior. A resident ghost, the original red-haired keeper named William Prior, still haunts the lighthouse and roams the grounds. Prior disappeared into the woods near the lighthouse in June of 1901 after becoming depressed and despondent over the death of his son, who had been an assistant keeper for his father. William’s body was discovered over a year later hanging from a tree, most likely a suicide. Although my wife and I were expecting flickering lights, faucets turning on and things going bump in the night, we never woke up to the lighthouse keeper at the foot of our bed or saw his reflection in mirrors as some guests had experienced through the years. But we did hear a few unexplained noises echoing in our room during the night, perhaps disembodied footsteps making their way across the wooden floor. It must have been the keeper! So if you asked my takeaway from the trip? My response would be: “I do believe…I do believe…I do believe in GHOSTS!”

    18. Maria Dering says:

      Ciao-ciao, Margarita! Juana Margarita Figueroa (Margarita “Pratacan”) was a well-known, upbeat and always stylish West Sider for more than 50 years. (WSR ran her obit.) Shortly after she died in June 2020, I saw her in our lobby — or should I say I saw her ghost? As I went to step onto the elevator, a shadow beckoned to me from the mailbox area. I turned and saw Margarita waving slowly, saying good-bye to the building and people who loved her so much. Pratacan, baby!!

    19. In the late 70s I was renting a cheap apartment on the third floor of the Hotel Belleclaire after moving to the UWS from the Midwest. One night I was awakened from a deep sleep by a presence in my bedroom. My eyes were wide open, but the rest of my body was completely paralyzed as if in a catatonic state. It felt like something or someone was forcibly holding me down on the bed. In my mind I was screaming for help at the top of my lungs, but no sound could be heard as a roommate later confirmed. Suddenly my body was released and I bolted out of bed. Who knows if it was the ghost of an alcoholic neighbor who died in his apartment next door or some malevolent spirit haunting the building…regardless, it WAS scary. This happened to me one or two more times before I moved farther uptown on Broadway.

    20. Prof Rial says:

      It was not a stormy night. On 109th Street, Cleo was deep asleep. Then a compression in the mattress, one step at the base of it then another. A cat. But Cleo didn’t own a cat. Next week, she calls in the shaman-lady she met in the Park. “Yep, you’ve got a cat ghost in the apartment. It hangs out in the back. You have to tell it firmly to leave.” That night, Cleo sits up in bed after she turns out the light. “I’m sorry, you cannot stay,” she says, her voice sonorous in the dark room. The next morning, she grips the tab at the base of the window shade, enjoys the whirring sound of its rise. There in the window looms a cat’s face, gazing back at her from its perch on the fire escape. It slowly turns its back, casts a last long look over its shoulder then slowly patters its way down the escape. Wait–it climbed 6 flights? How did it get up to the ladder at the base? Or had it been roaming her floor for the last century?

    21. Carol says:

      I once lived in a building built in 1898 in Los Angeles. Everyone said it was haunted and had various stories to tell about it, but especially about the basement. The basement was haunted very late at night; they could hear footsteps and all sorts of other things.

      Now, I don’t know how long they’d heard footsteps, but I did tell them that my husband and I are night owls who usually do our laundry at midnight. In the basement.

    22. Josh says:

      “HORACE J. HAYDEN’S CRUSHED BODY FOUND” the front page of the New York Times announced on December 8, 1900. Hayden fell to his death from the third story window of his home on 76th St. “The Hayden residence is one of the most striking in that district of fine mansions,” the Times reported. Now, almost 121 years later, the former Hayden mansion has long since been subdivided into a number of smaller apartments. One of those apartments is where I live today.
      The newspaper descriptions of Hayden’s death are graphic. “The sound of his body striking the concrete pavement” was loud enough to alert two servants working in the basement. “His head had been crushed in,” the Times said. Despite these vivid details, there were questions about exactly how Hayden died. “It was not known at first whether Mr. Hayden fell out of the window or jumped out,” the Times said.
      As you might expect from a man with an Upper West Side mansion whose death was on the front page of the New York Times, Hayden was a wealthy and powerful man. He was second vice president of the New York Central Railroad, the massive monopoly that built Grand Central Terminal and the Vanderbilt family fortune. He attended Harvard and served the in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he found work as a clerk for a railroad in Chicago and slowly worked his way up to become one of the highest ranking men in the industry. His success brought him into the top rungs of New York society, but the pressure of maintaining that position may have been too much to bear.
      Hayden “suffered from nervous prostration, possibly brought on by overwork”, although at the time of his death he hadn’t worked in nearly a year. Eleven months before his death, Hayden was replaced on the board of the New York Central. No specific reason was given, and the company downplayed the announcement. “This is significant only in marking the New-York Central’s policy to have only the best men in the directory,” Samuel R. Callaway, president of the New York Central said. Was the Central’s announcement implying that Hayden was no longer considered one of its best men?
      The Times politely mentions that one of Hayden’s son was a law student at Columbia, who was traveling in Spain at the time of his father’s death. It did not mention the scandal that sent him there. On July 2, John P. Hayden was arrested and plead guilty “on the complaint of the twelve-year-old daughter of Aaron Eckstein.” Later, Aaron Eckstein sued Hayden for $20,000 for “the loss of his daughter’s services” and his daughter sued for $2,000 in damages. Hayden paid a $500 fine and his father sent him off to Europe until the scandal blew over.
      “The shock to him resulting from the trouble his son… brought on the family was so great as to incapacitate him for business. All this was a great blow to the father. He was not well anyway and after the scandal he did not go back to his duties. He was about the house and saw his friends, but he was not the same man.”
      The coroner officially recorded Hayden’s death as an accident. We’ll never know whether he fell or jumped, but Hayden was undoubtedly a troubled man, haunted by the actions of his son.
      Hayden left behind an estate worth an estimated $500,000. Every time our apartment creaks, or a light flickers mysteriously, I wonder whether he left behind a part of himself in his former home.