Monday, October 29, 2007

A Real Brooklyn Ghost Story

Back in the day, well, sometime in the 1980s, when Reagan was as far-out and far-right a reaction to the Jimmy Carter years that the human mind could contemplate, you could still afford to rent your own apartment in Park Slope even though you were neither the employee nor scion of a hedge fund. Anyway, I lived on 7th street between 5th and 6th avenues. It wasn't a fancy hipster neighborhood, and as hard as it is to believe, we were were young once too and were probably the hippest things happening, but there was El Faro and Polly-O and Save on Fifth, and I was just leaving a public affairs and marketing writing job at local hospital (then known as the Park Slope Body Shop), and taking up freelancing for a number of film, engineering and trade mags, so I guess essentially life was good. I was living in the first floor of a brownstone; the owners, an older Italian American couple and their grown sons, lived in the upper floors. The husband of the couple grew his tomatoes and enjoyed his occasional chianti which reminded me alot of my maternal grandfather who had passed away shortly before I moved to this new place.

One day, after I was living in the building for a year or so, the elderly husband himself passed away rather suddenly. My girl friend at the time, the Art Director's Daughter, and I had spoken to the sons earlier in the day. It was the first night of the wake, the family left in the early afternoon and informed us that they would not be returning until much later in the evening. We were planning to pay our respects the following night. Anyway, at around 7:00 PM it started.

Footsteps. Nothing but footsteps, loud and clear, walking the length of the brownstone apartment above. A constant pacing that started near the front door, walked to the opposite end of the house, turned and walked back to the door. Slowly, methodically, but unmistakably. At first, I believe the radio was on, I could hear this strange pacing (they had no dogs or pets of any kind) only intermittently, until it finally made its way into our consciousness as the Art Director's Daughter and I made dinner. I turned off the radio. Then, when it was very quiet, a chill went up and down my spine as I listened to the mysterious, relentless pacing.Finally, I went upstairs to knock on the door, but of course no one answered. I could not see or hear anyone (or anything) through the door. Since it was clear no one was ransacking their apartment, there was nothing much else to be done. But when I returned downstairs, there it was again. We turned on some music. The Art Director's Daughter (who was a Red Diaper Baby) was a big fan of the Weavers and Pete Seeger, so we cranked up some of that beneficent, positive vibe, good time hammer and sickle music, and had another glass of wine.

I guess between the clomping, and the wine, and the Weavers, we distracted ourselves until it either stopped or we took less and less notice of it. A few hours later, when the family returned from the first night of the wake, we decided to throw caution to the wind and mention the strange noises, just in case someone had in fact broken in through a window.

The older son looked at us quizzically but went upstairs first to look around before his mom got out of the car. Nope. Everything was as it should be. "Maybe it was a sound from next door through the walls" he offered good naturedly. We apologized for bothering him, but he said, no, don't worry about it, I am glad that you let me know.

But, just as brownstone walls are thick, and floors in old houses can creak when you walk on them, I was sure that the old man had returned for a final visit, and was looking to see where his wife had hidden the chianti.

--Tony Napoli --- Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this. The only ghost stories I've come across lately are the ones that sit in my Brooklynometry gmail reporting that I've won the UK lottery for the 8th time in 2 months.

    ReplyDelete

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