Haunted Houses in Astoria, NY (Haunted Astoria)

Haunted Houses in Astoria, NY (Haunted Astoria)

A look at some 19th century tales of haunted houses in Astoria, NY.

Highlights include:
• A ghost spider
• Debunkings
• A runaway horse

Episode Script for Haunted Houses in Astoria, NY (Haunted Astoria)

DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product. 

  • • First, let’s look at a story from Long Island City, which is adjacent to Astoria.
    • The original article was printed in New York Daily Herald (New York, New York) · Thu, Jan 29, 1874 · Page 8, but I also found parts of it reprinted in the Mower County Transcript (Lansing, Minnesota) · Thu, Feb 12, 1874 · Page 1, in an article called A Long Island Ghost.
    • Let’s get into it, I’ll read a bit of the Mower County Transcript article:
    § Long Island City has a new sensation, in the shape of a haunted house, situated on Jackson Avenue.
    • Sidenote, the Daily Herald article says that the house was on Dutch Kills road, two miles from Hunter’s point.
    § The landlord, until a couple of weeks ago, has been unable to rent the building for a nominal sum.
    • According to the herald, the family said “they were not afraid of ghosts or the Old Boy himself.” Old Boy is capitalized and I assume it means the devil. The family consisted of 5 people, and the house was small, so there were people occupying every room except the parlor and kitchen.
    • The residents heard a low moaning sound and the father, Mr. Daley, got up and went into the hall, thinking that someone had a cold because it was a bitterly cold night.
    • It seemed like the sound was in the kitchen, but when he went there, he heard it in the parlor, and when he went to the parlor, he heard it in either the kitchen or parlor.
    • It sounds like he gave up and went to bed then, since he couldn’t locate the source of the sound.
    • A little later, he heard a body fall down the stairs, and he heard “deep sepulchral groans” which apparently came from the garret and the hall. The crockery was thrown out of the cupboards, onto the floor.
    • Apparently, the next day, there were more sounds, including someone crying murder and scaring people. One dark thing that the Daily Herald article says “One of the children was so thoroughly frightened that it was thrown into spasm and its life is now despaired of,” and the Mower County Transcript article sadly says says that “One child was so frightened that it was thrown into convulsions and has since died.” WTF?
    • Then it says that the premises were “overhauled” but they couldn’t solve the mystery. The Daley family moved out on Wednesday, saying that “they weren’t afraid to stay, but they couldn’t sleep at night.”
  • New-York Tribune. November 23, 1858
    • This was a reprint from the New Jerusalem Messenger, a NYC religious newspaper of the Swedenborgian denomination.
    • That religion was started by Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish inventor, scientist, theologian, philosopher, and mystic who experienced dreams and visions and claimed that after a spiritual awakening, he developed the ability to visit Heaven and Hell to talk to angels, demons, and ghosts at will.
    • So with that context, let’s get to the article, which was headlined “The Haunted House in Astoria”
    • It tells the story of a haunted house that can’t be rented out because it’s so haunted. The former owner was burned to death in the house, and since then, the ghost visited the house every night, making noises opening and closing locked doors without unlocking them, opening windows and tossing plates onto the grass outside, while leaving some of the plates still in the cabinets, and scaring the watchdog so much that he would run to his owner, thinking he was in danger.
    • This has real poltergeist vibes.
    • The story was relayed by a former tenant, a military man, who had to leave because whenever he hired servants, they would quit. Though I bet he was freaked out too.
    • Over the previous summer, the house had stood empty, and the newspaper sent reporters to investigate the house. They encountered nothing, and theorized that maybe rats were making the noises.
    • Since the house was unoccupied, the owner found a poor family to live there for free. At first, housekeeper–which I assume was the wife of the family–said there was no haunting. But then she told a neighbor that “Sure enough, there is a ghost in the house.”
    § She then produced evidence by fastening strong black thread to a large needle, sewing it to a pincushion on the table, and then having both the needle and thread disappear. She looked for them, and eventually found them. I’ll read from the article which reports that she saw:
      • “high up, the needle still fastened to the thread, but suspended and hanging downwards, while the rest of the thread was most curiously woven together, and adhered to the shutter, without anything to hold it. This supernatural work could not, of course, be done by any one but a ghost. Ellen Green, an intelligent young woman, after attentively listening to her neighbor, went with her to the haunted house to examine this mysterious thread and needle. Sure enough there were the thread and needle as described. But anxious to solve the mystery, she picked up the thread from the shutter, and perceived that it had adhered by means of a spider’s web, and just above she beheld the ghost in the shape of a hideous large black spider–a most fitting representative of all ghost stories, as spiders’ webs correspond to falses and treachery.”
  • I also wanted to talk about some ghostly false alarms, as a reminder that these sorts of stories should be taken with a large grain of salt. So let’s look at a story from the same day in The Evening Post:
    • “Another Hanted House in Astoria” The_Evening_Post.___November_23_1858
      • This story begins: “Astoria seems to be full of ghosts. We yesterday published the story of the haunted house in Astoria. Today we have another from the same correspondent.
      • This article tells the story of a roadside inn, where a landlord had died. Then, if a guest tried to stay in the room where he died, his ghost would “shake him out.” Not totally sure what that means, but to read a bit of it: “Several having tried and got a good shaking, the use of the chamber had to be abandoned.”
      • But then, on one cold night, a weary traveler stayed in the room, since it was the only vacant one. I’ll read a bit more:
      • “As he was very tired, he determined that no ghost should shake him out. But he had no sooner dropped asleep than the whistling of the wind, the creaking of rusty hinges, and a violent shaking of his bed awoke him. Nothing daunted, but with the right spirit of inquiry, he concluded that the natural results must have natural causes.”
      • And to make a long story short, he decided that the shaking and creaking came from the inn’s swinging sign, which was attached to a loose beam that went into the room. And that the bed rested against. So he moved the bed to the middle of the room and wasn’t awoken again.
    • Seems like a false alarm:
      Ghost Horse
      • The June 28, 1888 issue of the Brooklyn Times Union has a story headlined “It was a White Horse And something that Looked like a Red-headed Ghost Leading it”
      • It relays the story of one John Thompson, who was apparently a well-known figure in Astoria, and who resided near “Cook’s training stables”
      • I can’t quite say where Cook’s training stables are, though I assume they’re in Astoria. I looked at a map of old Astoria in 1873, and there were several livery stables near the water, so perhaps it’s one of those, though it could also just not be on that map
      • One night, Thompson heard a horse moving around the yard, and he started to get dressed so he could catch the horse and bring it back to the stable.
      • When he went outside, he saw the horse quietly eating grass in near an Alderman Gibson’s house. He was about to lead the house away, when he heard a window open and a woman yell: “Take that horse out of this yard, sir. How dare you bring your horse in here to eat our grass?”
      • Then the horse turns around, the woman sees the man in a white robe, and supposedly yelled to her husband that “there was a red-headed ghost in the yard leading a white horse.”
      • I’m sharing this story for several reasons. One, it shows what kind of anticlimatic nonsense newspapers used to print back then. It almost feels like they were just trying to fill column inches. Two, it shows how easily people can mistake very normal things for the paranormal.
  • One thing I meant to mention last week but forgot to put in the correct section of my notes:
    Hermit Cave
    • • I found a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from October 22, 1899, that detailed historic homes in the area of Elmhurst, which is just east of Astoria, and it mentions an old hermit cave in Trains Meadow, which was a swampy part of the area: “A near neighbor of the Morrel house is the old Sackett residence, since modernized into a mansion. It was a spacious structure and the rooms were exceedingly well finished. A circular mound in the woods opposite is, according to tradition, the remains of a hermit’s cell, whose story was the subject of a romance.”
      The article doesn’t say what this story was.

Sources consulted RE: Haunted Houses in Astoria (and the Haunted Astoria series)

Books RE: Haunted Houses in Astoria

Articles RE: Haunted Houses in Astoria

  • Mower County Transcript (Lansing, Minnesota) · Thu, Feb 12, 1874 · Page 1
  • New-York Tribune. November 23, 1858
  • “Another Hanted House in Astoria” The Evening Post.. November 23, 1858
  • “It was a White Horse And something that Looked like a Red-headed Ghost Leading it.” June 28, 1888 Brooklyn Times Union
  • New York Daily Herald (New York, New York) · Thu, Jan 29, 1874 · Page 8
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) · Thu, Jan 29, 1874 · Page 3
  • POLICEMEN’S QUEST FOR GHOSTS FUTILE: Three Carloads Go to Astoria’s … New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 22, 1934; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times with Index pg. 12
  • GOLD GHOST WALKS IN ASTORIA HOUSE: Psychic Expert, Called to Old … New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 21, 1934; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times with Index pg. 21
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) · Thu, Nov 22, 1934 · Page 24
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) · Sun, Jul 11, 1937 · Page 8
  • Brooklyn Times Union (Brooklyn, New York) · Thu, Nov 22, 1934 · Page 8
  • Brooklyn Times Union Sat Sep 4 1869
  • Another Haunted House in Astoria. Evening Post (published as The Evening Post.) (New York, New York)November 23, 1858
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun Jul 18 1886
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Wed Dec 27 1893
  • Brooklyn Times Union Sat Mar 7 1925
  • Brooklyn Times Union Thu Nov 22 1934
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun Jul 11 1937
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Thu Nov 22 1934
  • The Courier Fri Feb 2 1900
  • Image 18 of The sun (New York [N.Y.]), January 14, 1900
    Evening Post published as The Evening Post. November 23 1858
  • New York Tribune published as New-York Tribune. November 23 1858
  • Brooklyn Times Union Mon Oct 25 1909
  • The New York herald (New York, N.Y.), February 13, 1921, (SECTION 6)
  • Brooklyn Times Union Thu Jun 28 1888
  • GOLD GHOST WALKS IN ASTORIA HOUSE: Psychic Expert, Called to Old … New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 21, 1934; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times with Index pg. 2 
  • POLICEMEN’S QUEST FOR GHOSTS FUTILE: Three Carloads Go to Astoria’s … New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 22, 1934; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times with Index pg. 1
  • The evening world (New York, N.Y.), December 30, 1889, (EXTRA 2 O’CLOCK)
  • The Appeal Sat Feb 24 1900
  • The Inter Ocean Sun Jan 21 1900
  • The Evening World Wed Nov 29 1893
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Thu Apr 19 1928
  • The Tonganoxie Mirror Thu Jul 19 1883
  • Reading Times Mon Jan 20 1896 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun Nov 8 1885 (1)
  • The evening world (New York, N.Y.), December 30, 1889, (EXTRA 2 O’CLOCK) https://www.loc.gov/resource/sn83030193/1889-12-30/ed-1/?sp=3&q=astoria+ghost&r=-0.026,0.482,0.453,0.19,0
  • The times (Washington [D.C.]), December 19, 1897: https://www.loc.gov/resource/sn85054468/1897-12-19/ed-1/?sp=8&q=astoria+ghost&r=0.109,0.598,0.884,0.371,0
  • Image 18 of The sun (New York [N.Y.]), January 14, 1900: https://www.loc.gov/resource/sn83030272/1900-01-14/ed-1/?sp=18&q=astoria+ghost&r=0.489,0.945,0.683,0.365,0
  • Image 8 of New-York tribune (New York [N.Y.]), January 7, 1919: https://www.loc.gov/resource/sn83030214/1919-01-07/ed-1/?sp=8&q=astoria+sanatorium&r=0.385,0.216,0.487,0.205,0
  • Image 7 of The sun (New York [N.Y.]), February 17, 1919: https://www.loc.gov/resource/sn83030431/1919-02-17/ed-1/?sp=7&q=astoria+sanatorium&r=0.569,0.553,0.276,0.116,0
  • Image 10 of New-York tribune (New York [N.Y.]), February 10, 1906: https://www.loc.gov/resource/sn83030214/1906-02-10/ed-1/?sp=10&q=astoria+sanatorium&r=0.719,0.853,0.417,0.223,0
  • Image 4 of New-York tribune (New York [N.Y.]), September 30, 1905
  • Image 21 of The New York herald (New York, N.Y.), May 27, 1921: https://www.loc.gov/resource/sn83045774/1921-05-27/ed-1/?sp=21&q=astoria+sanatorium&r=0.342,0.678,0.311,0.166,0
  • Image 16 of New-York tribune (New York [N.Y.]), October 5, 1904: https://www.loc.gov/resource/sn83030214/1904-10-05/ed-1/?sp=16&q=astoria+sanatorium&r=0.323,1.204,0.323,0.173,0
  • Brooklyn Times Union (Brooklyn, New York) · Thu, Nov 22, 1934 · Page 8: https://bplonsite.newspapers.com/image/576215460
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) · Sun, Jul 11, 1937 · Page 8: https://bplonsite.newspapers.com/image/52695146
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) · Thu, Nov 22, 1934 · Page 24: https://bplonsite.newspapers.com/image/59991092
  • https://www.qgazette.com/articles/pages-from-the-long-island-star-journal-9/
  • Image 18 of The sun (New York [N.Y.]), January 14, 1900: https://www.loc.gov/resource/sn83030272/1900-01-14/ed-1/?sp=18&q=astoria+ghost&r=0.555,0.033,0.321,0.148,0
  • Buffalo Morning Express and Illustrated Buffalo Express Tue Nov 13 1894


Websites consulted RE: Haunted Houses in Astoria

  • “The So-Called ‘Kidnapping Club’ Featured Cops Selling Free Black New Yorkers Into Slavery,” Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/so-called-kidnapping-club-featured-new-york-cops-selling-free-blacks-slavery-180976055/
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