A New York Ghost Story

by Real Ghost Stories

My own experience of a ghost occurred in 1998 in the particularly un-spooky location of Manhattan’s Upper West Side in New York City.

I had travelled from the UK visiting friends on mine who had an apartment near to Central Park in a typical New York brownstone – for those unfamiliar with brownstones, these are the ubiquitous 4 story houses built around the turn of the century in what was then Manhattan’s suburbs to house the large families of the New York middle classes and their servants. By the 1950s these had almost all been converted into apartments.

My friends’ apartment was a small one-bedroom affair three floors up. I slept on a sofa bed in their living room. The only window in the room had a roll down blind which was illuminated from outside by a streetlamp that cast an orange light onto the blind. It was my first night in New York and as I was still on UK time I awoke bright as a button at 4 am. As I lay there wondering what to do for the next four hours I noticed that something had obscured the light from the window. Looking up I saw a dark silhouette sharply outlined and moving slowly across the window from left to right with its arms raised above its head rather like it was swinging on monkey bars. There was no drop in temperature or oppressive atmosphere in the room and my first thought was that it was a burglar on the exterior fire escape. In order to deter anyone outside, I switched on the nearest lamp and read a book until the morning.

The next day I mentioned the cat burglar to my friends, who told me that there was no fire escape on the building. I then spent some time examining the window where I had seen the silhouette. Apart from no fire escape, there was also no exterior drainpipe on that wall and the outside window ledge was no more than a couple of inches deep. The streetlamp opposite was about 40 feet away and was not obscured by trees or anything that could cause a shadow like the one I had seen.

Two years later I went to visit again and on this occasion, my friends were hosting a farewell party for everyone in the block as they were about to move house. I mentioned my experience at the party and was amazed to hear that almost everyone who lived there had seen a dark silhouette in their own apartments at some time. They all agreed that it was not threatening or even very frightening and were quite proud of their live-in ghost.

One of the neighbours had done a bit of research on the property and had discovered that the jazz singer Billie Holiday had lived in the building in the early 1950s and was certain that it was Billie’s ghost dancing through the house, although by that time the property was already apartments and it seems unlikely to me that she would be interested in roaming the whole house.

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