It was like the Murders in the Rue Morgue, only at the Chelsea Hotel. On August 15, 1922, the diabolical Finnegan escaped from his cage in a pet store at 256 West 23 St. After a jaunt across various roofs and flag poles and other high points of the area, he scaled a drain pipe at the Chelsea Hotel and entered a window. Over the course of the rest of the day he roamed the hotel and the neighborhood at will, apparently traveling between rooms at the Chelsea by means of the balconies. By nightfall his crimes included the killing of two birds belonging to the manager of the Chelsea Hotel (no it wasn’t Stanley—he’s not quite that old), the theft of two ears of corn from a neighborhood vendor, and the frightening of several women. By the next day, the rogue was still at large.
It took one of New York’s Finest, Policeman Ernest Freeberg, to subdue the dangerous miscreant. The officer tracked the monkey to an apartment in one of the upper floors of the Chelsea Hotel, and was able to trap him inside the room before he could flee through the window. As reported in the New York Times, the following hair-raising struggle ensued:
"Freeberg jumped for the animal just as the monkey jumped for him. They met in the center of the room. The monkey got the better of the first encounter. It caught the policeman’s fingers in it’s mouth and for a few minutes the room was filled with monkey and policeman. After the first break both sides sparred for an opening and in about the third round Freeberg, with a right uppercut to Finnegan’s jaw, put the monkey scientifically to sleep." (New York Times, Aug 17, 1922)
While he had the chance, Freeberg stuffed the momentarily unconscious Spawn-of-Satan into a handy pillow case and delivered the soon enough writhing, shrieking bundle to the West 30th Street police station, where it was entered into the log: “One monkey, two feet high, color brown, name unknown, disposition terrible.”
While it’s unknown if Finnegan ever returned to the Chelsea in life, in recent years there have been tales of a particularly ill-tempered little phantom scratching at the ankles of tourists on dark, moonless nights. Such is the psychic pull of the fabled hotel, undiminished even by the grave. -- Ed Hamilton
(Editors Note: This is a story that Ed wanted to include in his book, but he forgot.)