Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stuff: And Mrs. Barrett would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you kids!

Forgive me if my recent infatuation with the archives of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is wearing thin on you screamers and screamettes who don't dig the wacky Victoriana. But this story from August 29, 1901 issue had a goofy charm to it and I couldn't keep it form myself.

Cryptically titled "Only One Foot Was Visible," today's story covers a haunted house that caused a stir in Fort Hamilton, a neighborhood that grew up around the Fort Hamilton Army Garrison in Brooklyn.

The ghost, described a female figure about 35 years of age, appeared regularly in the windows of an abandoned home on Fort Hamilton Avenue and Ninety-second Street. Occasionally she was robed in white, but some spotted her dressed in black. Witnesses – and there would eventually be many witnesses – claimed that audible moans came from the house whenever the ghost would appear.

As luck would have it, the building across the street from this haunted house was the home of two Brooklyn police officers: Patrolman Frank Many, who lived with his mother, and Detective Martin White, who lived with his wife. Mrs. Many was the first to spot the ghost. According to the story, Mrs. Many saw the ghost several times. When she told her skeptical son of the restless spirit, Frank "scoffed at the idea and paid no attention to the matter at first."

I can only assume that, eventually, his mother's nagging wore down Patrolman Many's resistance to the idea of the continued existence of the spirit after bodily death. Without a word of explanation as to why Many changed his mind, the article states that Many "spent several nights trying to solve the mystery of the ghost, but although he would see her, yet she always eluded him."

Having now seen the specter, the patrolman called for back-up and enlisted the aid of Detective White. White, apparently without the aid of Many, also "for several nights . . . kept vigil, but failed to capture the woman."

By this point, the presence of the ghost had the whole neighborhood in an uproar. Speculation about the identity of the ghost became a popular pastime. As nobody could think of a suitably tragic candidate from the house's past, many wondered if it wasn't a a spook that had immigrated from some more tragic place. Crowds gathered around the house nightly. Some nights more than 200 people came to see the spirit. The ghost was seen regularly, but then, inexplicably, disappeared for days. After several nights, the excitement began to die down and the crowds dwindled away to nearly nothing.

Then, as suddenly as she had vanished, the ghost re-appeared. Accord to witnesses the spirit was "robed in white" and she "appeared at the window, uttered a few mournful sobs and disappeared."

A frustrated Detective White decided that he'd had enough and he broke into the house. A mob of men and children followed him. From the paper:

They searched every hole and corner of the house, and just as they were about to give up the hunt, White saw a woman's foot inside the old fireplace. Stooping down the detective discovered the ghost. He dragged her out into the room, tore away a sheet from the woman's head, and discovered a trim, but greatly frightened woman. She was Mrs. John Barrett, who had making her home at the house, and the ghost business was merely a sham to keep people from entering the house.



Chris 'Frog Queen' Davis said...


Thanks for sharing that. It was a great read. Amazing story.


zoe said...

ha! great story, thanks :)

Shon Richards said...

The detective who is nagged by his mother to investigate crimes is a sadly neglected mystery genre.

CRwM said...


It's got to exist.

"Are you going to question the neighbors before dinner?"

"I will, mom."

"Because they might be witnesses."

"I know, mom."

"You could go after dinner, I guess. Unless we eat late. Because then they'll have gone to bed."

"I said I'd go, mom."