Susan and I went to a party the other night hosted by a fellow blogger named Trevor whom we met online and then started running into around the neighborhood. It was already crowded when we got there. Trevor, the host, told us that one of his friends was visiting from out of town, and he had sent him to the Chelsea Hotel.
“But I’m not sure if he likes it,” Trevor said. “He doesn’t know anything about the Chelsea or its history, and he’s just used to staying in regular hotels.”
We ran into Trevor’s friend, Bob, a tall, muscular man in his thirties, later in the evening. “Trevor tells me you’re staying at the Chelsea,” I said. “How do you like it?”
“Man, that place is a dump. I can’t believe Trevor sent me there, but I know he thinks it’s a joke.”
I told him you had to really be into the whole Bohemian trip to appreciate it. “How much are they hitting you up for?” I asked.
“$260 a night!” Bob said. “I know it’s New York and all, but I’m getting raped, aren’t I. When they took me up to my room I just rolled my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. It was a crack den. I started looking around for needles and used condoms and stuff on the floor.”
Susan and I both cracked up at this.
“But that’s OK, I can take it for a couple of nights,” Bob said. “Let Trevor have his fun.” He went on to say, however, that another friend of his claimed to have seen a special on HBO that said the Chelsea was haunted. “He’s not telling the truth, is he?”
“Well, a lot of people think it is,” Susan said. We then went on to tell him about Sid’s ghost, Thomas Wolfe’s ghost, the Betty Boop ghost, Larry the hipster ghost, and the various other famous spectral manifestations of the hotel.
“How do you people know so much about this?” Bob asked suspiciously.
We explained that we had lived in the Chelsea for 13 years. And since he seemed interested, I also took the opportunity to mention that he could pick up a copy of Legends at the Barnes and Noble, or at any other fine bookstore near him. Some times we had to shout over the din of the music and conversation, but Bob definitely got the gist of it.
“Shit,” he said. “$260 a night to sleep with a ghost!” He told us about how when he was a kid he had moved with his parents into a big old house where he heard mysterious noises that he attributed to ghosts. “They made the heating ducts creak, and opened doors when no one was standing there.”
I guess it was at about this time that it occurred to both Susan and I that this guy was really, seriously afraid of ghosts—though certainly the realization had been building all along. Maybe we should have tried to reassure him, but we couldn’t help ourselves: it was too much fun to string him along.
“What floor are you on?” Susan asked.
“Why, does that matter?” Bob asked in turn.
“Some floors are more notorious for psychic activity,” I said.
“Uh, the first floor,” Bob said warily.
“Oh no!” both Susan and I exclaimed. “That’s Sid’s floor!”
“Oh my God,” Bob said. “I knew there was something wrong with that floor. There’s that painting of that scary lady who looks like she’s looking at you, right when you get off the elevator.” (It’s by Hawk Alfredson.) “I should have turned right around and walked back out as soon as I saw that. I’m not scared of anything—any man. I train fighters for Bodog fighting. But you can’t fight a ghost. A ghost is not rational. He’s not gonna spin me around or anything is he?”
“Nah, I doubt it,” I said. “Sid usually just stops the elevator and gets on or off. Of course he’s got a bad reputation because of that dustup with Nancy, but I’ve never heard of him bothering anybody. Stanley says he was a nice, polite young man.”
Bob was far from reassured. Later that night, as were waiting for the elevator to leave, we heard him out in the hallway taking to his girlfriend—or rather yelling at her—over his cell phone: “There’s this guy here who WROTE A BOOK ABOUT THE HOTEL, and he says it’s haunted! I’m gonna kill Trevor! He screwed me! I’m gonna check out and send him the bill!”
Bob had made the mistake of telling us his room number, and so when we got back to the hotel we left a note under his door:
Love Kills – Sid V.
But that’s not all. When we got up to the first floor and started to go through the glass door into Sid’s wing to deliver our note, there was a drunk guy up on the second floor hanging over the railing and when he saw us he started raving, “Don’t go in there! I’m scared of that floor! I know what happened down there! You couldn’t pay me to get off on that floor!” These things tend to cluster, I suppose. Or maybe there was a full moon that night. We heard the drunk guy stalking around on one of the floors above as we got on the elevator to ride up to our floor, and wondered if he’d still be around when Bob got back to the hotel. -- Ed Hamilton