SPOOK HOUSE OF WILLIAMSBURG

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With Halloween approaching I thought it appropriate to highlight one of Brooklyn’s more notable ‘haunted houses’ or at least one of its more mysterious. Growing up in Bay Ridge I knew of at least two decrepit old piles, one on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 88th Street, the other on Parrott Place near 92nd — both have long since vanished, and while my father shot a photo of the former that has since been lost, the latter was never documented — a shame. To be ‘haunted’ does not necessarily mean inhabited by a ghost –the building in question has to look like no one has inhabited it for decades. Today’s haunt is at 539 Driggs between North 7th and 8th.

There was a storefront at one time. The inside of the ground floor is obscured by venetian blinds of indeterminate age. An American flag has been placed over the blinds on the door to keep prying eyes away from whatever nefarious dealings go on inside, or have ever gone on. What looks like a containter that once held a striped barber pole is clamped outside — likely a clue as to the former business.

The metalwork is detailed and shows a high amount of care and craftsmanship. Someone built this place, likely a century or more ago, with an eye for detail. The wrought iron fire escapes are decorative as well as functional, and now so rusty that they would likely collapse if called into service.

In the window are cleaning materials and an old telephone answering machine. The house number on the door is likely the original from when the place was first built.

Above the front door is a light of more recent vintage. Lights like this began to show up in the 1960s, likely when it was installed.

Looking at the house in full, it appears uninhabited, though you never can tell. The doorbell at the front door is rusted. A hand lettered sign of indeterminate age points to the “Torpey rear house.” This adds more to the mystery. You step to the right and peer through a locked gate encrusted with the graffiti and “street art” so prevalent in this time and place…

…and you gaze upon a backhouse that, if anything, seems even more Stygian and forbiddding that the domicile facing the street. There are many mysterious backhouses in New York City, and barring any loosening of the many rusted locks barring my access, this one will remain unknown to the casual passerby.

10/20/09





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