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Friday, October 12, 2012

Some of My Favorite Haunts

It's Halloween time and I wanted to share some of my most favorite places that have left a deep, and yes, lasting haunting impression.


Kioni windmills in Ithaki, Greece

In 1989, I travelled with my father to the island of Ithaca, Greece, to meet my Greek relatives who had a house there. In the Ionian Sea, Ithaca is host to the Kioni windmills that were possibly constructed in the 12th or 13th centuries. No longer operating in their utilitarian capacities, they now grace the landscape as haunting mementos of antiquity having long since fused into organic extensions of this magnificently rugged island.

Hotel Boulevard Atlantico in Mar del Sur, Argentina


Hotel Boulevard Atlantico, Mar del Sur, Argentina

In 2007 I travelled with my husband to the sea resort town of Mar del Sur--a good five hours drive from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had heard enough about this idyllic, unspoiled spot and its resident imposing Neo-Classical structure known as the Hotel Boulevard Atlantico. I knew I would instantly fall in love with it. The Hotel Atlantico was built in the 1880's as a luxurious destination stop for the wealthy that could afford to flee the heat of the city and its cholera outbreaks. Ultimately, the train, which was intended to reach Mar del Sur, never made it that far and ended instead in Mar del Plata--a resort city 45 minutes away. The hotel's history is lonely and forlorn: it really never functioned as the luxury resort that it was built to be due to financial ruin of the original owner and it basically went downhill from there.  After a few short stints as a hotel, it was a hospital for cholera victims, many of whom are buried in the back of the hotel.  But it's most notorious tenants included Mafioso squatters in the 1990's.  Ultimately, time, the elements, and human indifference destroyed most of the structure. Yet, it still remains standing today as an imposing reminder of a once glorious past in a very humble town. The last time we tried to get a tour with the current owner of the hotel, the city had condemned the building. Some palms might have been greased, as the owner is back to conducting tours in order to raise money for renovation of the grand hotel and I look forward to finally seeing the interior of this magnificent building on our next visit. 


Morris Jumel Mansion, NYC
This is the house where my ancestor lived.  Built in 1765, the Morris-Jumel mansion that sits atop a hill in New York City's Harlem, is reputed to be very haunted, and yes, George Washington slept there.  My ancestor was Aaron Burr, who lived in this house with his wife, a member of the Jumel family. Though I did feel the presence of spirit in the house--how could one not? --I experienced no particular paranormal incidents. That said, it has been known to be fairly active in that respect, and I look forward to future visits.


Interior of a jail in Jerome, Arizona.

Ruin in Jerome, Arizona.
During Easter vacation in the mid-1970s, my mother and I traveled to Arizona to visit my great aunt Alice.  One day, we drove through the town of Jerome, a partial ghost town.  I never forgot the fascination of experiencing both the unease as an unwelcome stranger passing through an inhabitated ghost town, and the urge to stop and explore this dilapidated town. It appeared so unreal, it resembled a movie set.  But, it was the home of the living, and the dead, who regarded us as unwelcome strangers and beckoned us if we dared, come forward.  While driving through, a few Native Americans peered at us dully from their broken, windows as if to say: there is nothing here to see, white man, keep moving along.  We kept moving along and I am sorry we did as it's now a bustling tourist destination, and being far too crowded, the ghosts, I am sure, have long since moved out.




Fallen structure on Little Chebeague Island, Maine.


Little Chebeague is a small island connected by a sandbar to Great Chebeague island in Maine's Casco Bay.  Once a bustling summer colony and year-round home to a handful of farmers, the United States Navy took over the island for recreation and training during World War II.  Sadly, the houses fell to ruin and no one returned, so the island eventually became a state park. I have spent practically every summer on Great Chebeague Island and always went on a pilgrimage to Little Chebeague, where we explored and crawled through its decaying houses.  When I was a child, many of the houses were still standing with paint and plaster on the walls, and even full of some furniture.  I imagined who lived in the houses, what their rooms looked like, how they decorated their homes...
As I return year after year, I tend to feel the spirits strongly attached to their homes, long after so many of the structures have at last disappeared.
Ye Waverly Inn, Greenwich Village, NYC.
Having grown up in New York's Greenwich Village, my family dined many times at the historic Ye Waverly Inn, located on the corner of Bank Street and Waverly Place.  It was a favorite place to go when my grandmother came to town and took us all out to dinner. She favored American food and I remembered that their specialty was chicken potpie, which she always loved to order.  I continued to frequent the restaurant well into adulthood and went back fairly recently for a drink at the bar. It had been newly renovated and really looked lovely.  But I miss the the musty old place with splintered benches we once sat in for our quiet dinners by the fireplace. I understand it is now uber-trendy. Reputed to be one of New York City's most haunted places, I wonder if there is indeed any room for the spirits of the paranormal variety with the current influx of "A-list" celebs? There goes the fourth dimension...
 
Ansonia Hotel, NYC.
Ansonia Hotel, NYC.
At first glance you might think this building is in Paris, but it is in fact the Ansonia Hotel in New York City's Upper West side.  To me, it is one of the grandest, most dominating structures in the city. All my life I have felt not only in awe of the magnificent Beaux-Arts architectural masterpiece, but also, felt a bit of fear and intimidation whenever nearby.  My heart would actually start to beat, faster. Well, maybe I need some past-life therapy to look into the fear factor, but it is safe to say it is one of my most favorite buildings in the city.
 
Before it became a luxury apartment building, it was built as a residential hotel. A little known fact is that it was also intended as the original "green hotel" in that the architect envisioned a self-sufficient structure boasting the only known rooftop farm.  Many luminaries stayed and lived in the hotel, including Babe Ruth, Theodore Dreiser and Igor Stravinsky.
I had a personal relationship with the hotel; I attended many dance auditions back in the day when the building was somewhat rundown and renting out studio spaces. Thankfully, the plan to demolish the building (a popular thing to do in the 1960s and 1970s) was fought-off and the hotel became a landmark in 1980.

St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans, LA.

Ladies decorating a grave in St. Louis Cemetery in 1900.
'Je suis la papesse de voudoun' ~ Marie Leveau, a permanent resident of the St. Louis Cemetery ('I am the pope of Voodoo' in Creole)

The Saint Louis Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana, is the name of three Catholic cemeteries, the earliest of which was opened in the late 1700s.  They are exquisitely architected above-ground cemeteries designed in the European tradition.  One of the reasons I find above-ground cemeteries so fascinating is because they resemble small cities.  I remember being in New Orleans during the Jazz Festival and could only view the moonlit tops of the mausoleums behind stone walls.  New Orleans is a city that can safely be described as one of the most haunted in the U.S.  I had the pleasure of visiting three times, but the St. Louis cemetery only once, due to the fact that cemeteries are closed during festivals such as Mardi Gras and the Jazz Festival.  It's best to go during a quieter season if you want to partake of the ultimate haunted experience in New Orleans.


Anne Frank House in  Amsterdam, Holland.
 “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” ― Anne Frank

The house where Anne Frank spent several years in hiding may be haunted with her spirit but not as a spirit in unrest, despite the horrendous eventual cause of her death. This catacomb of both hope and despair where she spent the bulk of her teenage years, fostered an illumination of thought virtually unmatched today.  She was basically a prisoner in her own home long before her family was sent to the camps. Like a prisoner in a jail cell, she suffered very little privacy (more than devastating to a teenage girl) and was only able to look out from the darkness into the light of the bustling world outside. No longer did she have the luxury to enjoy the gift of everday life.  Yet, she was so evolved that she was able to not only record her daily thoughts and grievances but to also move ahead of them: she found a light which included a deep understanding and love for all of humanity, despite what some of humanity was capable of at the time.


Bosque Energetico, Miramar, Argentina.
Photo by Dominique S. Williams
The Bosque Energetico is an energy forest located in Miramar, Argentina. Although I can't say that I had a life- changing experience, I did witness some unusual instances within this small forest along Miramar's coastal road.  There is a definite energy there as we, on numerous occasions witnessed twigs and branches of all sizes and weights level out right before our eyes when placed on the tips of pointed tree knots. The energy was so blatant, it was almost visible to the naked eye.  I did also feel a certain sense of calm and serenity within the forest but it is a forest and trees are good for grounding ourselves--it never hurts to hug a tree especially if it contains paranormal energy.  If you are ever in the area, check it out--it's worth the trip, and not far from a spectacular beach.

The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy.
I would be remiss if I were to not include the city of Venice, Italy in my list; one of the most magical and haunted cities I have ever visited. Sorry, Disneyland, I have no interest in visiting you, for this is the real magic kingdom. Hey, Venice survived plagues and occupations, Casanova and floods. What's not to love about the ghostly residue of this truly gorgeous city? It was even so beloved and revered that it avoided being bombed by enemy forces during World War II.


I would love to hear your feedback as well as your own favorite haunted spots! 

"It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."