Local Legends | Ghosts Of Seasons Past

Merchant's HouseTim Milk
Seabury TredwellIllustration by Tim Milk Top: The Merchant’s House Museum, considered one of the most “haunted” locations in New York, was once inhabited by Seabury Tredwell, whose ghost is said to make appearances at the museum.

There it is again, the creeping feeling that you are being watched. You check to make sure the curtains are closed, and they are, so you wonder why you should feel so jumpy. You chalk it up to lack of sleep, or too much coffee, or maybe you should stop eating gluten.

There it is again, you feel it, even stronger now. You cannot help but think, “Maybe I really am being watched.”

The marvel of living in an older city, and New York would qualify, is that the ghosts of those who have gone before are standing all around. Life in the East Village often means inhabiting a place through which has marched a parade of people who cannot be remembered by any living soul.

But that doesn’t mean they ever left your apartment. The place is haunted. And these ghosts don’t bear tidings of the Past, Present or Future, but mostly just wish you would get the hell out.

And the more they make themselves known, and you talk it up amongst your friends, the more you realize that you are out-numbered. They stand in witness to all that you do. They laugh at your lunch. They crowd your elbow when you unpack your groceries. And although you may consider their haunting a nuisance, just imagine what they must think: “Who is this stranger in my home? Why did she paint the walls this color! And what has become of all my things?”

A chat with Anthony Bellov, Board Member of the Merchant’s House Museum, dispelled any doubt that was left in my mind. He has documented the many dozens of paranormal manifestations in Merchant’s House, considered to be New York’s most haunted place. I mentioned that I believed there was a ghost in my own apartment, and that this had become a real problem. “Have you tried communicating with him?” he asked. “It really helps.” He should know, because Merchant’s House is replete with oppressive miasmas, especially if anything inside is disturbed. Then the spirits freely throw things, poke visitors in the ribs and sometimes even appear at the door.

“It matters to them what will happen to this house,” he noted. Its inhabitants, the Tredwells, clung to it as a life-long refuge. And, it would seem, they never left it. Seabury Tredwell, the patriarch, stares out verbosely from his portrait in the parlor. And when he turned that piercing stare on a visiting fourth grader who strayed and stepped into his bedroom, the boy ran out with a frightful tale of a man in there.

“What man?” the tour guide asked him.

“The man in the picture downstairs!”

“Time is not there for them,” Mr. Bellov told me, and we speculated on concepts of parallel existence. Life goes on, it would seem, for us all. Seabury’s daughter Gertrude is also said to haunt her former home.

Back home in my apartment, I pulled up a chair and called out to my ghost.

“Can we talk?” I asked.