KNOW YOUr ghosts:
A Ghost hunter's guide
Merchant Bros Circus
MERCHANT BROS CIRCUS (Various, 1928) – From Rex Garrote's narration: "It's long been said that the Merchant Brothers Big Top fire of 1928 had been an accident, but the truth is far more sinister. After losing his shirt to clowns in a rigged poker game, the mime Gaspar Gendarme swapped out their hydrogen tanks for helium. Though he'd only meant to spook them, this little gaffe cost sixty-seven lives. Gendarme was one of only a handful of survivors, so badly burned his facial features fused together, including his lips. Fittingly, I call this overcooked morsel, Mute Justice."
Left: The Mime, Gaspar Gendarme, 1922
Below left: Merchant Bros Big Top, 1890
Below: Video, Raising the Big Top, 1912
The Dollop Homestead
Gentleman of the Sea
GENTLEMAN OF THE SEA (Various, 1721) – Charles Manafort was an officer of the British Royal Navy until his ship and crew were held for ransom by Edward Teach (Blackbeard) in 1713. When England failed to negotiate, Manafort and most of his crew agreed to join with Blackbeard—those who did not were promptly executed. Though his exploits were often attributed to Blackbeard, Manafort and the Gentleman swept through the Caribbean Sea, mercilessly commandeering lone ships and attacking full armadas. The Gentelman was ultimately caught off-guard and surrounded by a French fleet. His crew died in cutthroat combat and he was strung from the mast of his own ship, left to die of exposure, an example to all pirates who dared challenge King Louis XIV. Dry-docked since its capture in Portsmouth, England, one of the only surviving ships of its era, its ghostly crew have been seen manning their posts over the years.
Right: Capt. Charles Manafort in Barbados, 1716
Below: The Gentleman in battle (painting), 1718
CRANE GARDENS (Various) – From the Solitude Fountain exhibit sign: "The widow Agatha Crane began constructing her garden after the death of her husband, a wealthy Southern plantation owner. This portion of the garden, the yew maze, took an entire year to construct and cost a small fortune. Upon its completion Mistress Crane spent much of her time within this courtyard at the center of the maze, a space she'd named Solitude. If a slave disturbed her silence, they were harshly reprimanded. It was rumored that several were never heard from again, believed to have been chased into the maze by Mistress Crane's henchmen, and murdered at her hand." From the Beauty Fountain exhibit sign: "The courtyard at the outer edge of the Crane hedge maze, named Beauty, is a near exact duplicate of Solitude at its center. It was believed for many years that Mistress Crane had ended her life here, drowning herself in this very fountain. Recurrence Field evidence has proven that Mistress Crane did not commit suicide however, but was murdered by the very slaves she had killed."
Left: Sketch of Agatha Crane, 1849
Below: Photo from the Crane Gardens exhibit, Ghostland
CAR 438 (Apparitions. 1976) – The Chambers Street crash on the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line was the worst accident since the 1928 Times Square derailment. In total 141 passengers were injured and six deaths, with the majority of those killed in the third car, Car 438, when it struck a wall. A heavily-graffitied Brightliner car, it was decommissioned after the accident and sat in the Concourse Yard for decades. It was said to rock from side to side on the yard tracks and emit a phantom stench of human excrement and body odor, though no evidence of human activity could be found. Rex Garrote's estate spared it from being used as a part of the artificial Redbird Reef off the coast of Slaughter Beach, Delaware among hundreds of other MTA subway cars.
Left: Photo of Car 438 recovered from cell phone, 2019.
MR. LIM (Revenant, 1878) – Jianguo Lim (Lin) immigrated from China to the Sierra Nevada as a gold prospector in the early 1850s. He formed the largest group of Chinese gold miners in the area, protecting them from attacks from European miners. After years on the panhandle, he lost what little gold he had in a holdup at the Great Western Holdings in Lonesome Plains, Nevada. He worked for several years on the railroads to get back on his feet before purchasing a plot of land in Oregon, where he began his paper mill. By 1878, when he was pushed in front of a train by an unknown assailant, he was one ot the wealthiest Chinese landowners in Oregon.
Right: Photo of Mr. Lim in 1872.
The Dollop Homestead
THE DOLLOP HOMESTEAD (Revenant, 1947) – The third son of a pig farming family, Jodi Dollop was unnaturally large and is believed to have had mild intellectual disabilities. At a young age he became fascinated with entomology, though it was later discovered he merely enjoyed sticking insects with pins. This behavior progressed to small wild animals and pigs, until one day the Dollops returned from a trip to town to find Jodi's two older brothers impaled on the metal poles Mrs. Dollop used to hang her laundry line. The Dollops did their best to keep the murders secret, but when a traveling vacuum salesman visited the farm while Mrs. Dollop was alone with her son, Jodi murdered her and impaled the salesman with his own merchandise. Since Jodi's death, insects, wild animals and lost pets have been found spiked and pinned to the walls of the Dollop Homestead.
Right: Exterior cabin, the Dollop Homestead
Robert the Enchanted Doll
ROBERT THE ENCHANTED DOLL (Poltergeist, 1904) – Thought to be the most haunted doll in the world, Robert originally belonged to Robert Eugene Otto, an eccentric artist from a prominent Key West family. The doll was of German origin, given to Otto as a child by his grandfather in 1904. Some believe the child-sized doll, dressed in Otto's boyhood sailor suit, is possessed by the spirit of a young Bahamian girl. Others believe it was cursed. Robert was said to have moved throughout Otto's house on its own after the artist's death. Footsteps and laughter were often heard in the night, and children claimed to see Robert looking down at them from the upstairs window.
STARLIGHT ARCADE (Various) – Opened in 1969 by one Wallace Braugham, the Starlight became a Times Square staple in the '70s and '80s, but fell into disrepair in later years. It was discovered that Braugham was a convicted pedophile from Omaha living under an assumed name, but not before his six victims, boys ranging in age from ten to thirteen, were dredged from the sewers. The interior is a recreation of the actual Times Square arcade, featuring décor and many of the original games, including the Dr. Dude pinball machine, the Angel Knives and House of the Dead games, along with various haunted cabinets from arcades and private collections throughout America.
Left: Starlight Arcade circa 1982