Haunted History: Ghosts on the Shore of the Ear Inn

Posted on: October 30th, 2015 at 10:31 am by
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This is a city with millions of stories, many of which belong to ghosts. The Ear Inn implores you to tell these tales if you see any such apparitions. The historic establishment at 326 Spring Street finds its way into countless haunted New York City tours and books.

Being that the Ear Inn is considered one of the most haunted places in the city, it’s perfect for our favorite time of year. The time when the veil between worlds is lifted and spirits can walk among the living. Wear your masks, people! It will protect you from getting stuck on the “other side” when the veil is dropped back down (e.g. sexy nurse costumes won’t save ya).

The spirits said to haunt the Ear are sailors who never left, victims of the river’s relentless tide, people who lost themselves to a bottle or twenty, and women of the night who remain stuck in the darkness. And then of course, the most popular of ghosts, “Mickey,” the man who died in one of two ways (both widely accepted and unable to prove): (1) He was hit by a car in front of the Inn; (2) He drank himself to death while waiting for his Clipper to come into port.

Meet me at the banks of the mighty North River (aka Hudson) and I’ll tell you a tale of how it all began…

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NYHS James Brown House to far right

The Ear Inn, aka The Green Door (perhaps an allusion to the O. Henry short story), began its life at 326 Spring Street as the James Brown House in 1817. The first owner was James Brown who fought in the Revolutionary Army. Legend has it that he was an aide to none other than George Washington himself, and that he even appears at Washington’s side in Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting titled “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

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Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851), by Emanuel Leutze. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

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Adapted from “A Short History of Hudson Square” by the Friends of Hudson Square:

In 1705, Queen Anne of England made a land grant of 215 acres to Trinity Church. The Church Farm, to the north of the city proper, stretched from Fulton Street to Christopher Street along the Hudson River, and was mostly farmland and swamp. Although most of the farm was eventually sold, Trinity is still the largest individual landowner in the Hudson Square area.

By 1800, the community centering on Spring and Greenwich Streets was a thriving market area known as Lower Greenwich. It was a working class, racially mixed neighborhood south of the more affluent Greenwich Village. Most of the buildings were Federal style single-family homes with storefronts on the ground floor. Several buildings still survive from this era, including the James Brown House at 326 Spring Street (now home to the Ear Inn) as well as 486 and 488 Greenwich Street.

Here are two maps that show the original shore line against landfill and what the shore line is set to return to/look like in 2106.

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Library of Congress (original banks in green, landfill in brown)

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Ear*Inn*Virons is the definitive history [book] of the James Brown House and West Soho neighborhood.From NYC Architecture’s interview of the man who bought the building in 1977, RIP Hayman:

“This is sand from the foundation of the building,” said Hayman, holding a beer stein full of grayish sand. The house, now a block and a half from the Hudson River, was right on the riverbank in the early decades of the 19th century. “There was a sand spit in the river at Canal St. at that time,” said Hayman. “We have to pump out the tide from the basement twice a day.”

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RIP Hayman with gun found in chimney on 2nd floor

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Waterline

HALT!  A little spirit told us that those tunnels were also used to haul ice in from the river for those drinks the sailors loved so dearly and also, let us not forget that tunnel can be an escape route for, let’s presume, runaway slaves. And finally, to haul alcohol in during prohibition.

From Bucket List Bars: Historic Saloons, Pubs, and Dives of America, By Clint Lanier & Derek Hembree:

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Courtesy of Ear Inn

“The Green Door” is literal. It has no significance other than the door to the establishment being green; and it still is.

Meanwhile, the river fought against the disruption of its original bank many times, perhaps most unforgettably during Hurricane Sandy. Sadly, the damage was done in places never meant to exist … Manhattan rose up from the river in the form of schist, not landfill. Much like New Orleans (Hurricane Katrina), it’s always been a given that the rivers will rise trying to make their way home. Lives lost and places destroyed are heartbreaking, but when humankind tries to defy nature…

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Hudson River during Sandy

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As per the Ear Inn’s request, please tell us if you see any ghosts. Happy Hunting!

From the James Brown House website:

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