New York City is well known for its brownstones, originally attached single family homes that were many stories high, owned by the wealthy, later changed over to apartments or condos to house more than one family. The building at 14 West 10th Street was one of these, converted to ten apartments in 1937. It later became known as The House of Death.
This infamous building has a scary history, and it’s said to be haunted by twenty-two ghosts. Samuel Clemens, the author who used the name Mark Twain when he wrote, is probably the most well-known of its former residents. Twain wrote the book “Tom Sawyer.” He lived there from 1900 to 1901, but many believe he’s still in residence, one of its many wandering souls.
Located near Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, also known as the West Village, this house of death was built in the late 1850s. Twain is still seen in the white suit he was often photographed in when alive, but now he floats through the first floor and near the stairs. He even talked to visitors at the home in the 1930s. His ghost was sitting near a window and said to a mother and her daughter, “My name is Clemens and I has a problem here I gotta settle.” Before they could respond, he vanished.
Many years later, in the late 1950s, an off-Broadway actress name Jan Bryant Bartell lived in the top floor apartment with her husband, in a set of rooms which were originally servants’ rooms. Shortly after moving in, she only heard footsteps. Then, she felt like someone was touching her. Jan became aware of a huge dark shadow in the shape of a man moving with her around the apartment. She once tried to touch it but only felt freezing cold at her finger tips. And, at that same instant, she smell a sickeningly sweet smell in that place where the shadow was, coming from the floor.
Sometimes, Jan would smell something rotten but didn’t know where it came from. Jan also saw what she thought was a vision of an aborted baby. Were the two coming from the same source? She’d also find furniture had been moved around, and she’d hear the sounds of breaking glass.
Jan and her husband started to take notes about what they were feeling. Jan began to write a book about the home. After learning that Mark Twain had lived there and that former residents had seen his ghost, she realized that what she was experiencing wasn’t Mark Twain. The shadow she saw and felt was pure evil. And the other visions and odors were not pleasant either.
Once during a séance there, Jan was possessed by the spirit of a young woman who believed that President Lincoln was the cause of that woman’s husband’s death during the Civil War. And this woman also cried about a baby who had been aborted. When the medium conducting the séance told the spirit to leave Jan and to leave the home, the spirit said, “Never! I will never leave here. This is my home.”
Jan and her husband had previously lived in the brownstone next door where they also felt a paranormal presence, so she thought it was possible that the shadow may have been one that moved to the new home with them. Either way, their experiences that lasted many years were terrifying. And she died under mysterious circumstances at a young age. Some believe it was suicide.
In November, 1987, Joel Steinberg, a New York attorney, beat his adopted six-year old daughter Lisa to death in an apartment at the House of Death. She was never legally adopted, but Steinberg and his girlfriend Hedda Nussbaum raised her as their own.
After a wild night of using drugs, Joel beat both Hedda and Lisa. The police arrived at the building answering a call from Hedda about a child who wasn’t breathing. To their horror, they found Lisa unconscious. They also found as a second child, a boy named Mitchell less than two years old, dirty and tied to his playpen. Lisa died three days later. Hedda had also been brutally beaten but survived.
More recently, a photographer named Dennis, living in another brownstone across the street for more than twenty years, has had his own experiences. He believes that there is an evil spirit living in The House of Death after seeing spirits of women in flowing white dresses. He has also experienced lights going on and off. And, he believes that this dark soul has wandered over to his home. Dennis has said that during photo shoots his models have run out after being seriously scared by the ghost of a woman in a long white dress, sometimes with a ghostly cat.
Once, when looking through books at a nearby bookstore, the book that was initially written by Jan Bryant Bartell and finished by the editor, suddenly fell in to the hands of the woman he was with. Over time, Dennis bought numerous copies of the book, replacing each one after it suddenly disappeared without reason from his home.
Many believe the brownstone is occupied by various wandering souls – a gray cat, a small child, the woman wearing white, and, of course, Mark Twain, among many others. Is the spirit of child actually the young girl Lisa, who was beaten? Is the woman wearing white the wandering soul of Jan Bryant Bartell? Perhaps these wandering souls have found peace together in The House of Death.