Walk with the dead, on museum’s ghost tour | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Walk with the dead, on museum’s ghost tour

Lights on, and somebody’s definitely home. This East Fourth Street museum delivers on its rep, as “Manhattan’s most haunted house.” PHOTO COURTESY OF MERCHANT’S HOUSE MUSEUM

Lights on, and somebody’s definitely home. This East Fourth Street museum delivers on its rep, as “Manhattan’s most haunted house.” PHOTO COURTESY OF MERCHANT’S HOUSE MUSEUM

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  Whatever it takes to make a house haunted, the one at 29 East Fourth Street has it in droves. Objects fly through the air, long-dead residents smelling of mothballs engage you in conversation and things that go bump in the night are heard by everybody — while only some of those standing in the room detect the powerful smell of tobacco.

All these strange happenings (and many more) have been documented by the legacy-minded staff of the Merchant’s House Museum. As early as 1933, construction workers tasked with converting the untouched 1832 Tredwell family rowhouse into a museum were spooked by unexplained sightings of what appeared to be a former occupant whose pulse had stopped years ago. Around the same time, rowdy kids were shooed away from the front steps by a woman who, multiple witnesses swore, was the spitting image of recently deceased Gertrude Tredwell. Like family patriarch Seabury, youngest daughter Gertrude died in the house. According to some, both of them have been making occasional appearances ever since.

That’s why, at the start of their Candlelight Ghost Tour, your guide notes: “Nobody is going to jump out at you and yell ‘boo.’ We don’t have to.” You will, however, hear gripping tales of inexplicable occurrences — while standing in the very rooms in which they took place.

Is that glowing white strip of light a deceased resident, or just the reflection of a camera strap — and if it’s a strap, how do you explain two similar photos taken at two different times, in the same exact location? Did somebody brush past you, or was it merely the power of suggestion? Is life after death the explanation for any of the dozens of unsettling things that happen with unusual regularity?

Dan Sturges, co-host of the weekly East Village-based “Psi Show” web talk series, has brought his Sturges Paranormal investigators to Merchant’s House dozens of times — and when asked what conclusion he’s reached, a definitive “I can’t say for sure” is all he’ll say.

Sturges will go out on a short limb, though, and tell you, “There is obviously something happening at the Merchant’s House Museum. There is no doubt that people are having experiences. The question is, are people experiencing communication from the deceased Tredwell family and their servants?”

On the case since 2007, Sturges says that the evidence he’s collected through recordings, eyewitness accounts and information provided by psychics (later verified by the staff) “suggest that there is some kind of communication happening. It’s impossible to say if the communication comes directly from the Tredwell family and others who are connected to the house or is just some form of telepathy between living people who are sharing information. I’m not exactly sure, but I feel that sometimes the Tredwells and others are indeed making some kind of connection to us living folks.”

At merchantshouse.org, you’ll find information on many paranormal-themed October events — including certified psychic medium and paranormal researcher Cathy Towle’s “Reading the Rooms: A Psychic Talks with the Tredwells” (Oct. 24). Take a Candlelight Ghost Tour on Oct. 25, 26 or 28-30 — or just come to the museum during (para) normal business hours, and roam the house on your own (with the help of an excellent guidebook on loan for your visit, and available for purchase upon departure).

All proceeds help keep this worthy nonprofit alive — ensuring that future generations will have a place to learn about life in 19th century NYC, long after everybody reading this has shuffled off their mortal coil. When that day comes, the staff notes, you’ll still be welcome to drop by and pay a visit.


The Merchant’s House Museum is located at 29 East Fourth Street, between Lafayette & Bowery. Reservations are strongly encouraged for all events. Call  212-777-1089 or visit merchantshouse.org. Follow: facebook.com/merchantshouse and, on Twitter: @merchantshouse. Regular Museum hours, during which you can take a self-guided tour of the house, are 12-5pm, Thurs.-Mon. (admission is $10 general, $5 for students/seniors).