A version of this article originally ran on October 22, 2013.
Looking for somewhere scary to explore to complement the other fun you’re planning for Halloweekend?!
Thanks to the spirited efforts of the archivists at the Brooklyn Public Library who digitized the 1800s Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the online morgues of The New York Times, we’ve found some locations close to home that hosted some haunting events a century ago. Take a look—if you dare!!
The Warning Ghost:
Back in 1888, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, railroad workers at Broadway and Bushwick Ave. thought they had unearthed buried treasure.
In fact, they had actually found a forgotten grave, marked with what the newspaper called a “ghostly warning as to the vanity of all things human” — “Afflictions sore long time I bore / Physicians’ art was vain / Till god did please to give me ease / And free me from my pain.”
A Mysterious Skull:
In other unexpected human remains news, the Eagle reported in 1877 that a mysterious human skull was unearthed off Varet St. near Bushwick Ave., in what was then a wooded area.
The newspaper speculated it belonged to a ropemaker who had vanished some years before, after a visit with friends to “one of the two or three taverns in Bushwick.”
The Corner of Knickerbocker & Putnam is most definitely haunted:
In the late 1890s, near where the Bushwick High School building now stands at Knickerbocker and Putnam avenues, an entire 30,000-grave cemetery was unearthed, according to the Brooklyn Public Library blog.
The library notes the cemetery had been the site of some spooky events in the past: a woman mysteriously disappeared on a walk through the cemetery in 1877, the same year an elderly man hanged himself at the site, and, in 1902, a mysterious skull was found on the premises, after the cemetery had closed.
The tragic death at the Charleston building:
174 Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg is now home to The Charleston, the decades-old bar now known for its $1 pizza and Skee-Ball, but in 1889 it was the site of another tragic death, according to the Daily Eagle.
A 53-year-old widow, unable to find work, told acquaintances she was “tired of the world” and hanged herself from her own ceiling while her teenage son was at school.
Even ghosts get jealous:
After another tragic Williamsburg death in the 1870s, in which the widow of the deceased was suspected but never convinced, the Daily Eagle reported that a homicide victim returned as a ghost to haunt his widow’s new husband. The new husband then “fled to a neighboring state” and sought a divorce, the paper reported.
Infant ghosts are the most creepy:
Ghost sightings were evidently fairly common in the neighborhood then spelled “Williamsburgh” — the Eagle reported in 1869 claims of a “ghostess, with an infant ghost in her arms, standing in front of a church door.”
A neighbor, annoyed by the crowds of thrill-seekers congregating at what is now the corner of Roebling Street and South 4th Street, said it was “nothing more than the reflection from the street lamps, seen through the foliage of a small tree upon the church door.”
Beware the Redheaded lady ghost:
In 1865, the Eagle reported another incident “in that lively portion of the city called the ‘Burgh.” Reports of a redheaded lady ghost drew a riotous crowd, including a “large number of ruffians” and pickpockets.
A police sergeant “well known as being a terrible fellow” dispersed the crowd and arrested two young men, who were each fined $3 and ordered to post $300 bonds against future disorderly behavior.
The ghost herself, if the Times can be believed, was actually made up as part of a plot out of a Scooby-Doo cartoon.
“The house belongs to a gentleman in Connecticut… and it seems that a mortgage has been foreclosed upon it, and this ghost story has been started to affect its value,” the newspaper of record reported.
Is Bushwick Reformed Church…haunted?!
“Now, while it is considered an honorable thing to have one chamber in a family mansion haunted, as proving the respectability and wickedness of one’s ancestors, it is very inconvenient to have a constantly used church haunted,” the paper explained.
The church’s pastor conducted a sermon designed to exorcise any ghost present, while churchgoers blamed the rumors on the congregation of the rival Old Bushwick Church.
The Ghost of Napoleon Hangs Out in Williamsburg:
In 1854, a Williamsburg association of “spirit rappers,” or mediums, allegedly spoke to the ghost of Napoleon, who warned of a political assassination and revolution to follow in Europe.
The Eagle reported the apparition two years later, denouncing the ghost summoners. “In all the annals of humbug, nothing has ever equalled this spiritualism in the lunatic credulity of its idiotic believers, or the shallow and disgusting knavery of its professors.”
Are you scared, Bushwick? It seems that we should be!
Do you have any local ghost stories? Tell us about them in the comments below!
Featured image: a gif from the Bushwick Daily archives.