a ghost story
All this thunder and downpour is making me feel like it’s a swell time to recount the creepster experience that is staying at the Chelsea Hotel earlier this month, and later discovering that the particular room we were staying in is reportedly haunted.
I roped Erik into staying one night there for our 2-year anniversary during our NYC trip because of the history, and in the light of day I was utterly charmed. Each floor was like an art gallery and I could’ve spent so much time just exploring that place and looking at the paintings and eccentricities.
Our room was room 124 on the first floor (one floor above the lobby) and was this quaint, retro suite with a kitchenette and really old, charming furniture. Yesterday I found someone else’s description of room 124 who saw it differently:
quite spacious complete with a kitchenette, 2 large beds, a couple of desks and an old Victorian styled couch which looked like a prop from The Munsters’ TV set. My friend commented on the couch and likened it to a couch old school funeral parlors used to prop dead people up on so they could be photographed.
I could really imagine Edie Sedgwick and the Warhol Superstars having a field day there in that grungy sort of opulence.
We went out that night and didn’t return to the hotel until about 2:30 am, whereupon I pulled out Erik’s iPhone to try to figure out which rooms had been Edie’s and Bob Dylan’s. Anyone who knows me well can tell you I have an unabashed obsession with the sixties and these two in particular and it’s just going to have to be forgiven. I discovered that Edie’s was 105 (just down the hall from us, with the original door!) and Dylan’s was 211 so, with hushed voices we ventured out to explore the silent halls and live through the past a little bit. I took pictures of Edie’s door and tried to imagine which elements of the building would have been the same while she lived there.
Erik was a good sport and humored me, even though he said that the place had a distinct vibe of The Shining and didn’t feel so at ease. (I also found out later that that part of the hall is near where Sid stabbed Nancy, so maybe he had a point.)
I have to say, when not in the light of day that place is CREEPY. It has all this wrought iron and old detailing and weird art all around, and just knowing all the drugs and sex and depravity and tragedy that has happened there in the past leaves you with a pretty eerie feeling when all is said and done in the dead of night.
It only got weirder when we went up to see Dylan’s old room. That corridor was more dark and twisty and had these hauntingly angry eye pictures peering down at you. Right off of his room is a corridor that lured me into it with some interesting old photography hanging on the walls, and I abruptly reached a dead end when we heard these agonizingly blood-curdling screams muffled and coming through the walls. I’m sure someone was just watching scary movies but it was pretty unsettling to be exploring dark corridors in the dead of night and have the only sound breaking the silence be screams of bloody murder (and at 2:30 in the morning). We were both super creeped out, so we hightailed it out of there.
We went back to our room, heated up some pizza and then tried to go to bed. Also a harrowing experience. First off, we couldn’t find the radiator and there was this sweltering heat in the room, so it felt like we were in some hellish pit. Then came all the scratching and clanking sounds of the old building after we turned out the lights. If I believed in ghosts, I’m sure I would have run out of there after an hour. I’m lucky that I live in an old apartment with loud plumbing and a water heater so I recognized some of the typical old-house sounds, but these were more disturbing than most. The typical knocking and clanking sounds from the water heater seemed to come from all over the room, and would start out as knocking, as if to get our attention, and grow more and more loud and insistent until it was undeniable as if someone was trying to break through the floor and the walls, and then would stop all of a sudden. And then the plumbing would start to echo and run loudly from the bathroom. Then, ten minutes of peace would elapse (still in the sweltering heat) and then knocking and tapping would start again.
Now call me the anti-chick, but I generally dislike cuddling; however that night my fear made an exception. We lay there in petrified silence clutching each other for dear life despite the heat and all I could do is imagine some unsettled spirit coming up and smothering me with my pillow. It didn’t help that there was this HUGE antique looking mirror in the center of the room that is just the sort of thing ghosts would try to commune with you through in old horror movies. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and at 4am I whispered to Erik “Are you awake?” and he whispered back “yes” and we got up and slapped on the lights. We hunted and finally found the radiator that was hiding beneath a wooden box and discovered that it had been cranked to full blast, so we cranked it all the way back the other direction.
We also went to the window to let some cool air in and it turned out that it was snowing these big fluffy snowflakes and it was a really special moment to stand there in the dusky quiet 4am light and watch the snow fall and feel the relief of the cool air. After that, we were able to go back to bed with a little more ease, but it was still an eerie feeling and I cuddled up closer to Erik than I usually am comfortable with. Even though, within my spiritual bliefs, I choose not to believe in ghosts, all I could think was “Duh, Rochelle, why would you choose to sleep in a place that is known for its dark past and would only have the disgruntled and unavenged type of ghosts around?” The bloody stabbbing of Sid and Nancy of the Sex Pistols, Charles R. Jackson’s suicide, Dylan Thomas’s death by whiskey, Edies’s drug abuse and all the sexual exploitation…
We only got a few hours of fitful sleep before having to get up and catch the train to Connecticut and I wasn’t too anxious to stay any longer. Yesterday, I decided to google the room we had stayed in to see if anyone famous had lived there and instead found gobs of stuff online claiming that the first floor, and our room in particular was haunted. Lovely. One site claims:
In room 124 the ghost of an unknown man has been seen in and around the bathroom.In the most recent report, a woman, her sister, and their mother reported problems with the lights, writing “the lights in our bathroom and hallway went off and on over and over while we were there,” later adding they heard a high-pitched woman’s scream, a sink that kept turning on and off, and strange bubbles rising up from the drain.
and that “paranormal activity in and around room 100…include[s] large temperature fluctuations.” Another blog goes into detail about their experience staying in the same room, which included seeing “a fuzzy image of a man walk out of [the] bathroom and disappear.”
I’m really glad we stayed there for the experience of feeling the tangible cultural history of the place, and really getting to imagine what it might have been like. You could feel the presence of all the artists like Leonard Cohen and Jack Kerouac and it seems like the place couldn’t have changed much since they were there. During the day, there were a few European looking weirdos and a few young art-hipsters wandering around here and there. I could sense the vibrancy of creation plus destruction that happens there and am amazed by how a monument to so many eras and artistic contributions could still be in tact and available for me to place myself within. It has this stuck-in time quality like nothing has changed (maybe that’s why it’s so creepy). And now that I’ve experienced it, nothing could make me spend a night there again.
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