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Real Ghost Stories

50 King Street


Some say that truth is stranger than fiction.

Back in our early twenties, Jerry and I found a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan's West Village. We had been friends for a number of years, and as aspiring actors could not afford to rent alone. We would be subleasing from an artist named Lee Gatch.

Near our move-in date we met with Lee Gatch at the 50 King Street apartment and signed the papers. He looked to be in his late-fifties, with a trim figure and a full head of gray hair.

Without a dining room, we sat at the kitchen table, in a small area at one end of the living room.

"Do you have your own furniture?" Lee Gatch asked.

"No," Jerry said, "we've been looking for some."

"My daughter lived here," he explained. "She works for the airlines and has been transferred to Atlanta." He took a moment to gaze into the living room, at the blanket chest at the foot of the Hollywood bed. Unless I misread the look, it appeared to carry a touch of dread. "It's my furniture," he went on, "so if you like, you can keep it until you move out."

An offer Jerry and I could not refuse. Lee Gatch seemingly as pleased as we were.

"Be kind to the furniture," he said. "The blanket chest, mirror and dresser are from the Eighteenth-Century. Same with the dresser in the bedroom." Then added, "Whenever you're ready to move out, be sure to call me and I'll pick it all up."

The day we moved in, I chose the living room with the Hollywood bed to sleep on. Being an early riser it gave me easy access to the kitchen and bathroom without disturbing Jerry.

On our first night I lay ready for sleep. In the dimness of the room, my tired eyes made out a wispy cloud creeping across the old mirror that hung above the dresser. Soon as it had passed the mirror, it vanished.

In the morning, when Jerry came out of the bedroom, I told him what I had seen. He had a methodical mind; I trusted his analytical abilities. In bathrobe and slippers he approached the mirror and gave it a quick study. He then turned to the open blinds that covered the window between my bed and his bedroom.

"Last night were the blinds open or closed?"

"Closed. I opened them around a half-hour ago."

He went to the blinds. "Maybe car lights bounced off the windows across the street and shone cloudy through the edge of the blinds and the window frame."

"And hit the mirror as the car moved slowly forward," I added in agreement, and that was that.

A few months had passed when one night I turned the lights out and got into bed. I lay there whispering the lines I had learned for an audition. When ready for sleep I rose up and adjusted the covers. Something caught my eye at the foot of the bed, where the old blanket chest sat. Its lid rippled like pond water on a windy night. I thought I had gotten dizzy, sat forward and gazed at the lid - at the face of a woman with open dead eyes, hair splayed under the rippling water.

"Jerry!" I hollered.

He rushed out of the bedroom. I turned to him, then flicked my eyes back to the chest - the image gone.

The lights on now, I told him what I had seen. In his robe he thoughtfully patrolled the room.

"You must have been asleep and dreamed what you saw. There's no other explanation."

"I was awake, sitting up when I saw it." Thinking then that it would be useless to try to convince him. "I don't know," I breathed, "maybe your right."

"Well, of course I'm right," he said with a yawn.

I kept the lights on and slept in stops and starts, sitting up occasionally to check the lid of the chest.

Another few months later I was falling asleep on my side, facing the open bedroom door. In the near-darkness, I made out Jerry in profile before the mirror of the antique chest-high dresser. He wore dark slacks, a white shirt with billowed sleeves and appeared to be putting on cufflinks. As I wondered why he was getting dressed with the lights out, he came toward me and stopped in the doorway. With tortured eyes he dropped to his knees, arms pleading toward me - it wasn't Jerry!

"No!" I cried out.

The figure evaporated as Jerry leapt from his bed. He snapped the light on and came through the doorway.

I sat at the edge of the bed, voice shaking while I told him what I had seen: the tortured eyes, the figure pleading desperately.

"Has to be another dream," Jerry said.

"Nightmare is more like it. But I saw it," I went on. "I wasn't asleep - I know I wasn't."

I kept the lights on and stayed awake the rest of the night.

A few weeks later Jerry and I entered our building with groceries. We stood waiting at the elevator. Jerry stepped across the lobby to where an eighteenth-century map of Manhattan hung. He studied it, then muttered, "I've never read this." He turned toward me. "You ever read the fine print at the bottom of this map?"

"No, never noticed it," I said as I joined him there. Squinting, I read that on this property had stood George Washington's Manhattan wartime headquarters.

"Well," Jerry said, "if you actually did see those ghostly things, this could be the reason."

"You really think so?"

"No, of course not, but I have to admit this is quite a coincidence, and pretty creepy."

At the end of our year's sublease I called Lee Gatch and told him we would be vacating. Jerry and I were now able to afford our own apartments.

Lee Gatch came with movers to collect his furniture. He and Jerry and I sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee while the movers performed their chores. There was a lull in the conversation, Lee Gatch lost in thought, eyes on the old dresser under the mirror, then shifting to the blanket chest at the foot of the Hollywood bed.

"In this apartment," he said hesitantly, "did you ever see anything strange?"

Jerry and I exchanged a glance. I answered, "Yes, a number of times."

"When my daughter was little, she had her own bedroom and kept her toys in the chest. There were times she'd awake in the middle of the night and rush scared into our room. The reason was always because of the chest."

I told Lee Gatch about the face under the rippling water. Without any sign of surprise he said, "In the late 1700's, my ancestors came here from the Isle of Wight. The chest was on their ship. Its legs had to be cut off so it would fit into one of the storage bins."

Jerry asked, "What would the legs being cut off have to do with the chest being haunted?"

"No idea," Lee Gatch said regretfully.

"What about the mirror," I asked, "the dresser under it, and the dresser in the bedroom?"

"They were aboard the same ship." Then said, "We kept them stored in our basement."

I had never seen Jerry so troubled. It was a dilemma for this particular man of methodology.

The three of us left the apartment and went down into the street. Where Jerry and I said our goodbyes to Lee Gatch. He drove off and Jerry said, "Guess we can also say goodbye to the George Washington theory."

Some years later, Jerry's acting career had blossomed. Mine had not. We remained close friends while I worked at a small record store. It was a wintry evening when I arrived to relieve Brian. He had the newspaper open on the counter, reading his favorite section, the obituaries. We exchanged greetings as I went into the restroom where I hung my coat. As I did, I heard Brian call out, "What do you know about that - Lee Gatch died!"

Stunned by the news, I went to him. "How do you know Lee Gatch?"

"Never heard of him," Brian said. "Just thought I'd yell it out."

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, phillipkafka, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

AugustaM (7 stories) (996 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-15)
I just googled his work and, at least from my humble opinion, I see a great deal of dark heavy energy in it. The brush strokes seem brutalist and even pallet is not joyful or vibrant but somber and subdued. Could be that a certain degree of energy followed that family around.
AugustaM (7 stories) (996 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-15)
Wow! That left me wanting more! So much more! I want to know the mystery behind that furniture! Mr. Gatch MUST have been holding out on you! There just had to have been more to it than that! It sounds as though a real tragedy surrounded those pieces! Items that had been in the family that long may well STILL be in that family - I know it would be completely out of the blue but in this era of social media, it might be possible, Phillip, to reach out to a member of the surviving family. If nothing else, were I his descendant, I would be interested in adding a story like that to my family compendium! But it is always possible that you may be able to gain a few answers... Something like (free at most libraries) would be helpful - not only could it help you find descendants but depending on how far up the tree you are able to go, it might answer all the questions for you without need of contacting any family members.
silverthane61 (4 stories) (344 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-14)
I must say that this was a marvelously written narrative. I read it and was surprised by how long it was because I had finished it without realizing that. The problem with seeing the paranormal is exacerbated whenever you share a space with a hardened skeptic. I have to say that I was surprised at how well the skeptic respected your side of the events. Those type of skeptics seem to be the hardest hit whenever they are presented with a truly unsolvable story of the paranormal type.
Manafon1 (7 stories) (717 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-13)
phillipkafka--I could nicely visualize your account. The incidents you describe fall in line with many case studies I've read over the years and as alarming as they can be when they occur there is something both satisfying and intriguing to note that spirits freak people out over time in a uniform manner!

When you were living in the apartment the activity seemed to focus on you and I was curious to know if you've had other paranormal experiences throughout your life? It strikes me as interesting that Jerry never experienced anything freaky there.

On a sidenote, I really dig the art of Lee Gatch.
Melda (10 stories) (1363 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-13)
phillipkafka - Perhaps I didn't fully answer your question about commenting on members' profile pages. If you want to read their stories, go to the profile page and click on the title of the story which you would like to read. Then you can read their experience and comment if you choose to.

The way I understood you was that you wanted to comment on their profile pages. As I say, Perhaps I misunderstood.

Regards, Melda
Melda (10 stories) (1363 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-13)
phillipkafka - As nice as Lee Gatch might have been, he'd have had very little gratitude from me for leaving that furniture in the apartment.

Did you realise from the first paranormal experience you had that spirits were attached to the furniture? I know you say that Jerry talked you into logical thinking but one can only think logically up to a point - I mean, the image of a dead woman in rippling water on a chest?

Did the man dressing in front of the mirror actually look like Jerry or did you simply assume that it was Jerry? His reaction when he came towards you and disappeared when Jerry arrived on the scene, seems almost torturous. I get the impression that he was unhappy about something in his life which has carried over to the afterlife. He might have been residual but if so, why did he attempt to make some form of appeal to you?

George Washington's Manhattan Wartime Headquarters: don't totally discard that - it might have played a part in some of the less scary incidents which would have been a whisper in the wind compared with the big stuff!

Did the lady die at sea? Maybe. Lee didn't say, maybe he didn't know.

I wouldn't be surprised if his daughter requested a transfer to escape that spooky apartment. Placing myself in her situation, I certainly would have done so. Let Dad hang onto his scary antiques but I'm done, not even living in the same town, I'm out

Lee should have told you about the furniture. He should have moved it out before you moved in because he knew what you would be living with. Yes, probably a very nice man but nonetheless I would not have been happy with him, especially after he confessed that the whole shebang was haunted! I hope he got rid of that furniture in an appropriate manner.

Brian reading his obituary, no coincidence. You were meant to learn that Lee Gatch had passed away. May he rest in peace.

Regards, Melda
LFrog1386 (1 stories) (73 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-12)
Phillip, your story telling is excellent-I can see why you are a writer. I honestly think that maybe Lee said he didn't have room for the furniture (and quite possibly, he didn't) at his place because he knew the pieces have hauntings attached to them. But it's very interesting how different the hauntings are, from a woman's face seemingly underwater to the ghost of a man getting dressed in fancy attire. I propose they are unrelated hauntings, attached to separate pieces of furniture.

If there was a drowning aboard the ship, perhaps the owner of the chest was the one who drowned? She also may have died aboard ship from illness or injury and they consecrated her body to the ocean. Or perhaps didn't consecrate it, and therefore created a spirit not at rest. Either way, if there was a death on board crossing the Atlantic, that would have been how a body was disposed of. It's not like they carried ice to keep bodies in storage until they could be buried on land.

The other haunting of the man getting dressed could have been residual and attached to the mirror and dresser. A man could very well have owned it just after the Revolutionary War era, as the chest came over in the late 18th c. From what you were told. The haunting could have taken place here in America, after its arrival on US shores.

Thankfully, neither seemed to have any dangerous intent, although I am quite sure I would have been unnerved by it, nonetheless. I wonder who got the pieces after Lee passed away? Hopefully someone that can appreciate their history. 😁
phillipkafka (1 stories) (4 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-12)

Thank you for your answer to my comments question. Hope you had a good dinner.
Melda (10 stories) (1363 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-12)
phillipkafka - You can't post on members' profile pages, you don't have access. Besides, we're all interested in reading everyone's opinions.

What a time you had in that apartment!

I'll comment further tomorrow but off to cook supper now, early evening in South Africa. At this stage I'm simply commenting on your question about the profile page.

Regards, Melda
phillipkafka (1 stories) (4 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-12)
Does anyone know how I may answer a comment on the commentator's page?
phillipkafka (1 stories) (4 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-12)
Lealeigh: Brian announcing Lee's death was one of those amazing coincidences. Carl Jung wrote about these sort of coincidences. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story.

I'm a big fan of Kafka's, and that's why I used his name. My name is Phillip Frey.
phillipkafka (1 stories) (4 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-12)
Alina5. Lee Gatch didn't want to move the furniture to his place in NJ and have to make room for it. A matter of convenience. I don't know what he did with it after he'd picked it up at the end. There is a Lee Gatch painting at NY's Museum of Modern Art.

I went to your page and could not find how to place this comment on it. And could not find out how to read your story.

Not that you would do it, but if you want to see more about me:
Alina5 (3 stories) (136 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-12)
Hello Phillipkafka,

Very well-written Sir. Aside from acting I believe you should try your hand in writing.
I still couldn't make out for what reason he rented you out the furnitures for the time being. He presumably had a generous character or it might be that he wanted to verify whether these paranormal activities are happening to others or not. But it's only my saying.
Nevertheless, condolences on your loss.

Hoping you a great career ahead!

Lealeigh (5 stories) (512 posts)
4 years ago (2020-04-11)
Hello phillipkafka and welcome to YGS,

I really enjoyed your story! I am sorry that Lee died. He seemed like a nice fellow - leaving irreplaceable family furniture to the mercy of two young men was pretty generous of him. He was probably a very good judge of character and knew that you guys wouldn't destroy his furniture. Did you ever find out why Brian announced Lee's death in the obituaries?

I like your screen name. Are you also a fan of Franz Kafka, or is that your last name?

- Maria

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