Seeing Is Believing – New York City, New York, USA
I used to crack up during really bad B-movies that dealt with ghosts. I would also always be skeptical when people would tell me about seeing or hearing things that they couldn’t explain. I even remember my mother telling me when I was a kid about a continual haunting that would occur at her job within a nursing home. I remember her telling me these stories, about hearing noises that sounded like a walker that old people used but never finding the source of it. I was always fascinated–but never felt fright. As I got older, I just never really was scared by "ghosts" or the paranormal. I never bothered reading books about them and whenever I’d see a film that dealt with the subject I would always watch it with skepticism, or amusement. Just because I hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary I assumed, would mean that nothing out of the ordinary existed.
I now think very differently.
I got a job at the North Face in New York City, a really well known outdoor fitter, in late 2003. I was the high season help, and with being hired in late October, knew that there would be a lot of work to be had until December–especially overtime. I had been on unemployment since my return from Oz back in early 2002 and was really itching to get my feet wet again in terms of work. Even if it meant working back in the outdoor arena once more, something I was quite familiar with, for I had worked several jobs in that area over the course of 10 years throughout New York.
The North Face was and still is, situated inside a land marked building in New York City named the Ansonia Hotel. It was created back in 1904 and was built in the Beaux Art style–an architectural style that was commonly associated with Paris at the time. There are several other buildings that are in that style as well–one right down the block called the Doliton, which outdates it by a few years. The park next to the Ansonia, Verdi Square, was created by the Italian immigrants who made the building. The square was initially a place full of tents, where the immigrants lived–just a few footsteps away from work. Quite convenient! The park, created not long after the Ansonia was done, has a statue of Guiseppe Verdi within it–donated by the Italian American community back in 1906.
The Ansonia isn’t a hotel anymore though–it is private apartments. But when it was a hotel, it was the home of several celebs and notorious happenings. One was the fixing of the 1919 World Series–the so called "Black Sox" made the decision to throw the game in the Ansonia. Enrico Caruso, Igor Stravinsky, Arturo Toscanini, Florenz Ziegfeld, and Theodore Dreiser were also tenants. Babe Ruth also lived there as well for a while. And in the 21st century, Julia Stiles, a young American actress (just recently in the film "Flightplan") now lives there (sorry Julia if this story will make you a little nervous about coming home)!
The North Face occupies three floors of the Ansonia. The basement, the first floor and the second. The basement was where the well known swimming pool and bath once was. If you looked closely on the floor down there, you could see the tiling of the swimming pool and the drains that were used to suck water out. During the free love time of the 70s, a lot of gay parties had apparently happened there. Walking down the rather tight confines of the basement stuffed full of shelving and boxes of goods, I’d occasionally wondered what went on there during that time. I’m sure it was scandalous!
The first floor of the store was the biggest one. Open and airy, it was a huge space for the North Face to show its high priced items and some of its immediate stock. It was where the Women’s Department was, and Kids as well. Also you had the sunglasses and goggle cases there, right by the registers towards the rear wall. The man made waterfall, made out of glass and rock at the front of the store definitely made it inviting too, greeting anyone initially entering.
I worked on the second floor of the North Face, in the Men’s Department. From what I could tell, the second floor was deliberately put there by the architects of the North Face to shrink the size of the first floor. The first floor had really high ceilings, a good 20 feet high and the second floor was a section of that area towards the ceiling. Being concreted in you really couldn’t see what was happening up there, unless you went up the angular staircase to see. We all kinda liked it up there, myself and my co-workers, because it gave us a chance to chat and hide from our superiors when it was slow. Being that the staircase was concrete a person’s footsteps would be heard from up there as they ascended, giving you ample time to make it look like you were busy.
It was Christmas Eve in New York, and the store was open late, until 10 p.m. for last minute shoppers. We had just closed and it was around 10:30 p.m. By that time most of the some 30 plus staff had left, leaving a skeleton crew to close up the store. Being that I didn’t mind staying late, I was left upstairs on the second floor to straighten up the goods by myself. Mainly just re-organizing the clothes which the thousands of customers had turned into huge piles earlier in the day. Being that I didn’t want to be there all night doing it, I had started straightening things up over an hour before–refolding, putting clothing back on their hangars, cleaning up the register area. And since we were now closed, it left me time to just dilly dally around and touch up a few of the jackets. It also gave me time to think about my new video game I had just bought, a counter-terrorism game called Raven Shield–and imagine a new way of tackling the hostage situation on the 11th mission!
I stood quietly thinking to myself at the top of the stairs fidgeting with some jackets–when a figure appeared in front of me. It was less than 10 feet away. It was dressed as a male–and wearing clothes that dated back to the late 19th or early twentieth century. He was a Caucasian–with a long brimmed hat and handlebar moustache. His clothes were all black. He had a long coat–almost like a raincoat. He had dark boots on. This figure was solid–like it had mass to it. Like you and me. The immediate feeling I got from seeing this thing was that it had to go somewhere. As I stood there in total disbelief it walked away from me with a purpose and disappeared–less than 20 feet away!
I stood there flabbergasted. As I said, I am not one to believe in ghost stories, spooks, hob goblins and the like. But there I was and something–came into my field of view in my own three dimensional world and showed itself. As to why, it beat the hell out of me. But all I could say was that I saw it–and whatever it was I really didn’t know!
No one, absolutely no one at the North Face made any mention about the place being haunted. I didn’t even get any "weird feelings" that people get whenever they walk into a place that was haunted. I had been at that store for a couple of months and never saw anything out of the ordinary. And I had been up there by myself after the store closed dozens of times. But what the hell was that??
I wasn’t terrified. Just confused! How could something appear and disappear, going against all the known laws of physics, not make a sound and at the same time give me the impression that it needed to be somewhere? I got curious and cautiously walked around the store, standing still for a few moments…listening. I heard nothing. I walked to the huge pane windows on the second floor that face 72nd Street and Broadway. It was bustling with activity outside. Shoppers, taxi-cabs, trucks. It was all normal.
But what I just saw was abnormal. I never seen anything like this before. I suddenly had the urge to believe that I was hallucinating–maybe my brain was just rationalizing all of this so I wouldn’t freak out. And decided that I would keep it to myself. I didn’t want anyone calling me crazy or anything like that. Besides, I always laughed at these stories!!
So I figured after that I’d better join some real company that I could see. So I went downstairs to hangout with the rest of the crew! They were all happily chatting away, just talking about Christmas and what presents they’d bought for their relatives and loved ones. Nothing out of the ordinary there. I joined the conversation too, not giving away any idea that I saw something that belonged on Unsolved Mysteries!
Jose, the assistant manager of the store, was working that night. A short, stocky Dominican rock-climber, he asked me to help him count the day’s money with him. I agreed and before we went into the basement office he released several of my co-workers to go home. And while we both counted the money he asked me to join him for a few brews at the local bar up the block. Jose loved his beer and even made his own, and we were both drinking buddies anyway, so I said why not.
As we finished locking the doors of the store, I had the overwhelming urge to tell him what I saw. Not that I thought he would believe me, but I figured that if I told him, myself knowing him a bit better than the others since we hung out quite a bit, he’d be able to keep it to himself and not deem me a fruit loop like everyone else.
So as we began walking towards our local watering hole called the Cowboy Bar, I left it fly: "Hey man, I gotta tell you something. But while we were all closing up the store, I saw something on the second floor, man. I mean, like a ghost! I think it’s living up there."
He didn’t miss a beat when I told him, a smirk on his face. "You saw it too?!"
I stopped dead in my tracks. "WHAT???!!" I was shocked!! Jose began to explain that just a few months before, while he was up there late one evening by himself he saw the same figure appear and disappear in front of him–but this time by the large pane glass windows facing 72nd street and Broadway. He too thought that he was crazy and didn’t tell anyone for fear of being ridiculed!!
As we drank our beers at the bar mulling over as to how this could happen to us, he said a few other peculiar things happened over the course of the year:
One evening, the manager there was woken at his home by the security company that watches over the store and said that there were "several large objects" moving about towards the rear of the basement. The objects apparently were lifesize, hence the motion alarms going off.
In the morning when he opened the store, he went down to the basement and noticed that a stack of large, heavy boxes that were securely at the bottom of the staircase were all knocked over. He walked towards the back and found nothing. When he checked the security cameras from the last evening, dancing points of light were seen in the area where the motion was detected.
A few nights later we told another assistant manager at the same bar, thinking he’d be interested. I didn’t expect him to believe us, but as soon as we told him our stories, he told us HIS!
He said that one night while he was closing the store he thought he heard a party going on. He thought that perhaps there was a party going on in an apartment above the store–and it was pretty loud and he wanted to hear what was going on. As he went up the stairs to investigate, he realized it was coming from the second floor–and the minute his foot hit the top step–it ended abruptly.
I myself was really curious about this thing, which Jose and myself nicknamed "our friend". We called it that because no one really felt threatened by it. So I searched and searched online using Google. Anything about the Ansonia dealing with haunting, strange occurences. Nothing. I even checked the Unsolved Mysteries website, for I figured that if something really strange had gone on in the Ansonia, Robert Stack would know about it.
It made a good conversation starter though. Weeks later, one good friend who didn’t work there but knew about the Ansonia gave me a little more insight. "That place has always been haunted," he said. "I saw a show on television years ago that spoke about the ghosts of the Black Sox wondering that halls, throwing baseballs at people for they’re all so hurt by what they did to the sport."
In the end, I never did find out what it was I saw. I just don’t have any answer. I never saw it again, leaving the North Face a few months later for a better job. I can only surmise that perhaps I saw some sort of "videotape" as I like to put it–like a tear in space and time in which an event is relieved over and over again, and that it can be seen in the three dimensions by us under certain circumstances. I still don’t necessarily believe that ghosts are souls of the departed who are stuck in limbo and cannot make it to where they’re going like a lot of clairvoyants and wisecracks like to say.
In the end, I equate it to this analogy; lets say you see an ant on a leaf. You reach down, scoop up the ant and look at it, placing it somewhere else on the plant. The ant may notice that it’s somewhere else on the plant, but won’t understand as to how he got there. All he’s left to do is wonder and continue with his life.
That’s what I’m forced to do.