Friday, October 4, 2013

"I'll Take Manhattan" Walking Tours Gets Ghoulish in Greenwich Village

By: Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
Edited by Heather K.

Ghosts in Greenwich Village?
Photo by Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
Known to be the most walkable city in the US, and arguably one of the most famous and filmed locations in the world, New York City is still full of surprises around every corner. “I’ll Take Manhattan Walking Tours,” run by licensed NYC tour guide, Anthony Grifa, aims to let both tourists and locals alike get a glimpse of a Manhattan they've never seen before.

Photo by Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
I recently met "Tony" with a walking tour group on the Corner of Seventh Avenue and Grove Street for a very interesting, informative and enjoyable hour and a half “Ghostly Greenwich Village” tour. Wearing a mic with speaker, so everyone could hear him, Tony first led us to the reportedly haunted former home of Aaron Burr. Our group learned some alluring history behind the haunting-- there has been an alarmingly high property turnover rate due to many former owners fleeing after experiencing paranormal activity. And that’s with only one resident manifestation, unlike at the "House of Terror," where…wait, I am getting ahead of myself...

Tony next directed us to the oldest homes in the Village, on Bedford Street, as we continued on to the Cherry Lane Theatre, on Commerce Street, rumored to be haunted by an actress who rearranges scenery overnight, laughs at actors who miss their lines, and is held responsible for many other unexplained events. The building, erected in 1836, has a rich history, which Tony colorfully provided.

Around the corner from Cherry Lane Theatre is the very charming and beautiful Grove Court, a must see, where the ghost of a women has been reported sitting on the bench in the gardens purportedly waiting for her lover, who died while helping her to recuperate from an illness. Without giving away too much, the story behind that apparition is a tale of sad irony.

Continuing on, Chumley's, a former speakeasy and casino on Bedford Street, was an old drinking haunt for famous writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Eugene O'Neill, and many others, yet is known to be haunted, not by authors, but by former owner, Mrs. Chumley herself! The story of this famous speakeasy is fascinating. At street number "86," some say that the term "86"originated here as a warning to scram out the back door as the police were coming in the front. The building, closed after the 2007 collapse of its fa├žade, is in the process of being rebuilt. It will be interesting to see if the mischievous resident spirit of the drunken Mrs. Chumley makes another appearance when the building is reopened!

Photo by Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
We next strolled along Gay Street, where Frank Parris, creator of "Howdy Doody," once lived and the ghost of Mayor Jimmy Walker has been seen, and then stopped at the former home of Mark Twain, on West 10th Street. There have been nine murders at that location including the infamous murder of young Lisa Steinberg in November of 1987, which earned it the title of the "House of Terror."  One unlucky author, Jan Bryant Bartell, who wrote the book, “Spindrift Spray From A Psychic Sea,” about the hauntings and purported possessions there, was found dead under mysterious circumstances a mere one-month after the book was published! I'm surprised that Hollywood never made a movie about that one.

Did you know that before Washington Square Park was erected the space was a graveyard, or more accurately a potter’s field, a common grave where many unknown, indigent people were buried. There have been so many sightings in Washington Square Park that our tour guide, Tony, who used to teach at NYU across the street, was often asked by frightened students if he would accompany them through the park. The legend is that several students have been chased into an NYU building by ghosts and thereafter jumped off the roof to their death! Now that is something I never knew about that park. Did you? Tony himself maintained that sometimes as he crossed Washington Square Park late at night he has observed little pockets of mist or fog -- Ghost or Weather? You decide.

Photo by Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
Our final stop was at the corner of Green Street & Washington Place the historic landmark location of the tragic and deadly March 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire with the loss of 146 young lives. Now owned by NYU, it is said that every year on the anniversary of that fire the upper floors are so haunted classes have to be suspended.

Believer or skeptic, it won't matter. Tony's tales were gripping and his knowledge of city streets, history and strange stories was impeccable and sure to impress even the most skeptic. "I'll Take Manhattan" offers more than ten tailored walking tours, for public or private visitors and groups, and can also arrange "Manhattan Sampler" bus tours for groups that can provide their own bus. See the schedule for more information on specific neighborhood and themed tours, or contact Anthony Grifa at ag@newyorkcitywalks.

Commander Kalachman is a retired NYC public school educator, current Cmdr. of Victor Murtha Post 972 American Legion, and author of "Hi Mom, I'm OK, And other Lies From Vietnam."  


  1. Very informative. Nicely written.

  2. Hi,
    I have toured with Tony before and loved it. Your link didn't work, can you send me his info?

  3. Hi Beth,
    You're right! The website seems to be down. The last contact info we have for Tony is ag@newyorkcitywalks. Hope that works and thanks for reading!

    Heather K. WGINY