Haunted Holy Trinity

Most Holy Trinity Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was built between 1882 and 1885 (a school was added in 1887) on the site of a former cemetery. The church occupies an entire city block and is an incredible tangle of secret passageways, concealed rooms and fake closets that interconnect throughout the church’s basement.

It’s rumored that runaway slaves used these areas while escaping to the North. However, that would mean that the labyrinth predates the church; slavery was abolished with the end of the American Civil War in 1865.

A number of deaths have occurred in Holy Trinity since its construction; many dying while at prayer. In 1895, its pastor died in his apartment on the second floor of the rectory; he had built it himself a short time before.  Over the years, guests who have stood in this room have heard peculiar noises and the sound of someone walking back and forth. For nearly 115 years, no other priest has ever taken up permanent residence in this room.

The strange footsteps aren’t limited to the dead pastor’s room but, during the night, are often heard ascending and descending all four flights of stairs in the rectory. On cold nights, dogs have been reported to suddenly cast trance-like stares at the stairs leading down to the dining room and basement. Even when a person was apparently alone in the rectory, they claim to have felt a presence, of “someone” or “something” other than themselves, nearby. In the school gymnasium, the lights often turn off and unaccountably and in the school building yet more footsteps were heard scurrying about, accompanied by faint yet distinct voices.

The apparent causal agent behind Holy Trinity’s ghostly ambience is one George Stelz, the church’s former sexton. He was murdered in the vestibule in August of 1897 and, while the police had a suspect, no one was ever convicted. The bloody handprints of both Stelz and his murderer* (a missing index finger on the ghostly handprint; his alleged killer was also missing an index finger) were allegedly seen on the wall of a stairway leading to the bell tower; the church bells often ring inexplicably. Stelz’s name is said to appear on a stained glass window he had donated to the church twelve years before his murder. Tradition has it that Stelz will roam Most Holy Trinity parish, from walking its passageways to ringing its bells, until his murderer is found.

SPECTRALLY HISTORICAL

Of the estimated 300 Federal houses in NYC, the Merchant House is the most genuine and best-preserved. Built by Joseph Brewster in 1832, Samuel Tredwell purchased the building three years later. The red-brick and white-marble row house is situated at 29 East Fourth Street in Manhattan; the Tredwell family lived there for nearly 100 years. In 1936, after extensive repair and renovation, the building was turned into a museum. Time has stood still on the Merchant House; it looks virtually the same as it did in 1832.

“The distinction of the Merchant’s House and it is a powerful one is that it is the real thing. One simply walks through the beautiful doorway into another time and place in New York.” [NY Times]

Nevertheless, what’s a historical site without a ghost or two roaming about to give it some spirit? Indeed, in addition to being most genuine and best preserved, the Merchant House is also reputed to be one of NYC’s most haunted of houses. At least nine former residents are said to have died there; and, whether or not they died unfortunate deaths (obligatory for a ghostly afterlife), the deceased made it their business to make their eternal presence known. In addition to this, many long ago people who had died elsewhere, but had strong ties to New York’s social scene, made special (or, at least, cameo) appearances at the Merchant House to delight visitors who are currently still alive.

Staff members often feel an energy going up the staircase from the second to third floor. Staying late after work in 2006, Merchant’s House education coordinator Eva Ulz said she heard “footsteps in the third-floor hallway.” Assuming someone had returned, she recounted, “I listened a little closer and realized they were footsteps very light and fast, as if being made by a child in bare feet. When I went into the hallway, they stopped.”

The Merchant House’s most lively specter is Gertrude Tredwell, Seabury’s spinster daughter, who, in 1933, died at the age of 93 in the front bedroom. She’s often been seen wandering through various parts of the house, particularly in the kitchen; according to some witnesses, an elegant, petite figure that exudes a sort of “protective presence.” During a 2005 concert in honor of President Lincoln, Gertrude “appeared to certain members of the audience.” Perhaps an appropriate time for Tredwell to materialize: The concert was dedicated to songs made popular in the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination.

For decades, the Merchant House’s most noteworthy specter was that of Aaron Burr. Particularly famous for proving that duels aren’t cool when he ended the life of Alexander Hamilton in 1804, Burr spent the remaining 32 years of his life in scandalous infamy. Sadly for Aaron Burr fans, experts have recently discovered that Burr had never haunted the place at all. But the good news for them is that his beloved daughter Theodosia (lost at sea in 1812) has probably taken time out from her busy schedule to haunt there by “playing with the earrings of patrons.”

Indeed, if you enjoy American history (as I do) or the paranormal, the Merchant House is the place for you. Few NYC landmarks offer as impressive a taste of the pre-Civil War period as this house; even fewer have the alleged potential for really allowing the past to come alive again.

The Villager

Merchant House Museum website

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Eternal Flame

The Old Bermuda Inn (the Mesereau family mansion) stands at 2512 Arthur Kill Road in Staten Island; it has been steadfastly standing there since 1832. Nowadays, it serves as an upscale social venue, boasting a large vestibule, parlor with fireplace, and a quaint upstairs dining room. House specialties are Penne alla Vodka and the Bermuda Triangle (shrimp, lobster and sea scallops in sherry wine served within a triangle of puff pastry). Weddings, birthday parties, baby and bridal showers are regular events at this very old and very quaint inn, much of its fame owing to the fact that it’s allegedly…haunted.

For many years, people have reported strange occurrences at the inn. Passersby have seen a spectral figure in an upstairs window of the inn and diners have spotted the same apparition wandering through its front rooms. Restaurant employees have told of eerie noises and doors that would suddenly lock then just as mysteriously unlock on their own.

The apparition is suspected to be that of Martha Mesereau, one of Staten Island’s most famous ghosts. Shortly before the Civil War, Mr. Mesereau built what would become the Old Jamaica Inn as an extended part of the mansion proper to use as a summer residence.  When war broke out, he went off to fight leaving Martha to wait anxiously for his safe return.

Day and night she would longingly gaze out of her bedroom window, leaving a candle burning when darkness fell so her beloved would find his way home. He never returned, having been killed in battle, but Martha refused to accept this. According to legend, she became increasingly reclusive and eventually retreated to her bedroom where she died of a broken heart; this bedroom was converted into the inn’s dining room and remains Martha’s primary haunt. Paranormal Knowledge

Finally, on a romantic note:

After closing, when all the lights have been turned off, one light occasionally turns back on by itself, as if Martha is keeping one candle lit in the window until her husband’s safe return. Or perhaps it is her husband’s work, calling her lonely spirit into the light…where he is waiting for her.  Haunted New York