New York is a pretty cool town for Halloween, what with the venerable Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, two wildly popular haunted houses—Nightmare NYC and Blood Manor—and scores of parties and film screenings. But if you’re looking for something a little more offbeat to do this month, there are even more options lurking in greater Manhattan.
Tribeca's Hook & Ladder 8
Filming locations for classic horror movies abound in New York, from the Ghostbusters firehouse at Hook & Ladder 8 (14 N Moore St) to the Dakota apartment complex (1 W 72nd St) that doubled as the sinister Bramford in Rosemary’s Baby. In addition to featuring a whimsical sidewalk painting, Hook & Ladder 8 became a memorial site after the death of Harold Ramis (Egon) last February. The Dakota, meanwhile, is infamous for the assassination of John Lennon, and the singer is one of several reported ghosts that haunt the building. Life imitates art, it seems.
Speaking of ghosts, New York is a notoriously haunted locale, with dozens of tours catering to the city’s spirits. A complete list of haunted locations would probably crash this site, but a few of note are NYU’s Furman Hall (85 W 3rd St), where Edgar Allen Poe lived while writing “The Cask of the Amontillado” in the 1840s and occasionally freaks out undergrads on the bannister in the present; the famed Hotel Chelsea (222 W 23rd St), where Dylan Thomas, Sid Vicious, and Nancy Spungen, all of whom died on the premises, are said to spook current residents; and St. Paul’s Chapel (1157 Amsterdam Ave), where boozy British actor George Frederick Cooke, who donated his head to science and his skull to productions of Hamlet (talk about a theater queen!), can now be seen searching for his missing noggin.
One celebrity who never believed in ghosts in life is ironically associated with them after death. Famed escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926) publicly debunked phony spiritualists but remained interested in the possibility of contact with the beyond, so he told his wife Bess that he’d reach out to her after death—if he could. Though she herself gave up on that dream—she died in 1943—fans have continued to attempt séances on Halloween, the anniversary of Houdini’s death (and now, consequently, World Magic Day). Houdini’s grave site is a popular place to attempt contact, or simply to pay tribute to this incredible performer. It’s at the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens (8230 Cypress Hills St, Flushing), where Houdini’s mother, grandmother, brothers and sister are all buried. Alas, Bess isn’t; though she wished to be entombed beside her beloved, her Catholic parents refused to bury her in a Jewish cemetery.
"High School Musi-Ghoul," one of the yearly spectaculars at 313 Clinton Ave
Across the bridge from Manhattan and its west village Parade, Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood hosts two equally spectacular and creative happenings. The Brooklyn Halloween Show (227 Waverly Avenue) features live wrestling matches between suited monsters (!) and has entertained trick or treat crowds for a decade. 2014’s installment is called “Mission to Monster Planet” and features “Vibrotron! The latest in vibro-optic technology.” Nearby at 313 Clinton Avenue, Janna Hyten, aka “The Halloween Lady,” is hosting her twentieth Halloween spectacular in front of her townhouse. “Nightmare on Clinton Avenue’s” plot is top secret, but past musical productions have included “20,000 Screams Under the Sea,” “ApoCALYPSO” (2012, natch), and “High School Musi-Ghoul.” A recurring crew of artists and craftspeople erect a massive stage and create costumes and props; the cast includes both stage and screen vets and neighborhood kids. Both the Halloween Show and 313 Clinton Ave are free and have multiple performances on Halloween evening; if you attend “Nightmare,” which you definitely should, you may catch a glimpse of this writer playing a prisoner (so maybe I’m biased). Happy haunting!
Next week: my final batch of underground horrors will keep you entertained as we reach All Hallow’s Eve.
Follow me on Twitter: @HeyLockwood. On Tumblr: smithsgrovesanitarium.tumblr.com.