Saturday, July 9, 2011

Spectral Street

Today I walked into a courtyard full of ghosts,

smelled their flowers,

sat at their table,

flew with them into their inner rooms.

Summer is their favorite time to travel. Look outside tonight.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pale Night - Summer - & Coincidences

I am getting ready for my tour about Edwin Booth this Saturday. I just realized that the protagonist of my story "Tobacco" (which you can read here) and Booth lived within a few blocks of each other. The ghost frequented the Old Town Bar. Booth must have strolled past it many times. Funny I never realized that when writing the story. Funny that the man in the story might be Booth. Just never thought of it before, which leads me to believe that most good stories write themselves.

Outside my window are waves of night, pale and golden, riding on updrafts. They carry insects, dreams, ghosts, debris, soot, and ashes. This building is 100 years old. When I moved into my apartment, there were red light bulbs in the ceiling fixture -- remnants of the 1960s? a hooker's calling card? Changed them right away, changed the lock, cleaned the place, never saw a ghost here. I have to hang around the Old Town Bar for that.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ghosts of the Bridewell

Memorial Day will soon be here. In preparation for a tour, I strolled through Lower Manhattan and wondered about the ghosts that are waiting for their turn to enjoy a summer night. Perhaps they will rise up from the Bridewell, which was used by the British from 1776-1783 to house their American prisoners of war. Perhaps those men fared a little better than the thousands who died on the prison ships. Perhaps not. But certainly their ghosts must be yearning for a nod, a good word, a crust of bread or sip of water on a hot day.

Here is part of the footprint of the Bridewell traced in City Hall Park:

Photo by Maria A. Dering

And here is part of the footprint of the northern wall:

Photo by Maria A. Dering

I have walked by this spot hundreds of times but rarely stopped to think about the prison. It all seems to far away as I look at the green, growing park. I wonder what I'd see if I went back at sunset?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Door Plate

One morning, the door number had been polished and replaced, though I heard no one working in the hall. Perhaps someone else passed this way on the stairs,

leaving a crooked calling card.

What Remains

I took some photographs this afternoon of the night watchman's route. He would have walked down the cast iron staircase

(underneath it looks like this)

brushing the top of the banister in the half-darkness.

Perhaps he would have turned up the gas jet that sat in this fixture

and clocked in at the box on the landing.

When I took a picture of where the box had been, I caught this instead:

I checked the flash. I focused and re-focused, zoomed in and out.

Is someone still looking after us in the dark?

What Has Vanished

Our building is 100 years old this year. Much has remained the same but the night watchman is gone.

When I moved here in 1978, his ghost was still on duty. On our landing was the call box where he checked in. The heavy brass key turned and clunked as he logged his time. Next he turned off the gas jet on the second floor landing. He straightened the air raid shelter sign when he remembered. He walked down to the first floor, then the basement, making sure everything was secure.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, the ghost was gone. The gas jet was clipped off and capped. The call box was removed, and the banister shaved clean. The chain that held the key was gone. Some job security!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pale Night

At 8 p.m., the snow started falling again. By 10 p.m., it was thick and heavy, coating the skylights on the roof below. At 1 a.m., I fell asleep, heavy and tired, and happy that I wouldn't wake up until it was light again.

At 2 a.m., the girl stormed into the apartment above us, slammed the heavy metal door. Screamed at the top of her lungs: "I can't believe you would do this to me! Who do you think you are!" No one answered back. She kept it up, louder and longer. I opened the door to our apartment, wondering if anyone else could hear her in the hall. The sound was muted, thanks to the brick and cement walls of our 1911 building.

Back and forth, clicking her heels she went, faster and louder. Into the bathroom -- more screaming. No carpets up there. Every now and then, I heard a low murmur from the man who is the tenant. No words, just a low sound. On she went until about 4:30. Then a metallic, loud, hard thud against the floor, just above our bed. Waiting for the next salvo. Quiet.

Around 10 a.m., the floor boards creaked. I was convinced there would be drops of blood seeping through the ceiling -- but, no, of course not. Not a sound all day. Not a sound now, 6 p.m. Tonight I have to get some sleep.