There's a spot about the size of a quarter on my right shin that's very tender to touch, and has been for the last 55 years. It comes from a deep gash I got after I stumbled up some steps.Earlier this year, I wrote about my love for my late great aunt's ancient Brooklyn brownstone where I spent my childhood summers. I shared all the celebrations and sweet memories with you, and even painted a visual of the home's garden. But there's another story about the house I'd like to tell. A lot of older homes are filled with history, mystery, and often unexplained ominous shadows; including the grand old house on Macon Street in Brooklyn.
Apart from spending my summers at my Aunt Car's house, my grandparents and I made regular visits to see her and my Uncle Henry. One such visit I'll never forget. My grandparents picked me up after school and we went straight to Brooklyn, which was unusual. But, at that young age, to me it was just another rendezvous to see family.
Once there, Gramps visited with my uncle in the garden, where they smoked and drank Jamaican rum. Aunt Car and my grandmother spoke in low tones trying to be discreet, which was always my clue to hone in and listen hard. As they ascended the stairs from the garden level to the parlor floor, I paused by the family door to my aunt's rooms, but much to my surprise, the two women continued up the stairs to the next level – one I rarely went to without Aunt Car or my uncle. There they rented out rooms to boarders, and it always seemed like another world up there.
But, I was nosy, and they didn't try to shoo me away, so I followed at a respectable distance within earshot. The whispers became lower – hushed, if you will. Intrigued, I edged closer behind them as they slowly walked the hall. The doors to the boarders' rooms were all closed and the hallway was silent.
Aunt Car paused and opened up the bathroom door that was shared by all who rented there. It was a simple bath with a sink, a toilet and a large footed Victorian tub. I really don't like old bathrooms, and the shortest time I can spend in one, the better. Why were we stopping here?
Nana looked at Aunt Car with their strange communal silent language the two of them possessed. I was quickly learning this language and knew all of the facial gestures and signals. Nana's right eyebrow went up, and Aunt Car nodded. Then Aunt Car looked at her again and whispered even lower, “This is where it happened …” It?? I thought silently. What was it? What the heck happened here? I wedged myself between them and looked up, lifting my brows in an attempt to communicate with my elders in their own secret code, but they only shoved me away.
Aunt Car silently shut the door while giving Nana another code glance, and they went downstairs with me following close behind. It was never told to me what happened in that bathroom, and I knew better than to ask. But something sinister took place on that floor, in that room, and it stuck with me for life. From then on, I've had an extreme aversion to claw foot tubs; I can't stand the sight of them, even though I know I'd love soaking in one … probably as a dead woman, but not in this life!
My job, when staying with my aunt and uncle, was to polish the banisters every week. For a couple of weeks, I got away with not polishing anything above the parlor floor. I didn't want to go up there “where it happened.” Eventually I was forced to go up there, and I would race up the stairs, polish the banisters like crazy, and fly back down as fast as I could. On one occasion, as I dashed past the bathroom, I felt something cold swirling around my ankles, and suddenly I was frozen in place. Then, I felt it grab my foot! Terrified, I fled all the way downstairs to the kitchen on the garden level. Out of breath, I immediately realized, I had left my dust rag up there. Not noticing my trembling anxiety, my aunt told me to back up and get it. So I flew up the stairs again -- but on the third step, I tripped and jammed my shin into the edge of the step, cutting my leg open to the bone. Afterwards, I never told anyone what happened upstairs, nor did I ever venture up there again.
Recently, I spoke with the current owner of the brownstone. He told me of his friend, who is legally blind, that visits the home and sleeps in an adjacent room to that bathroom. The friend told him that he senses water, alcohol, possibly a drowning, and a woman who doesn't know she's dead. He's also experienced other occurrences in the brownstone, including a former inmate from the house next door who walks through the walls and haunts him.
So, now I have an idea what may have happened in the upstairs bathroom on Macon Street. But, what if a real incident did not actually occur that night? What if my aunt was upstairs and saw the ghost of the lady in the water? The plot thickens and widens. All I know is, that is where it happened.
On October 27, 2016, in an article about New York hauntings, the New York Post included accounts about our beloved brownstone and its mysterious bathroom.
Published in The Courier-Times on 10/30/2016