Why do people go to hotels? Travel. Romance. Simultaneous construction on their first home and their summer home. And finally: To stay up all night in order to liveblog a ghost hunt on Gawker.com. Join me—please. I’m at the Algonquin. (You stay home.)
The Algonquin Hotel was built in 1902, making it New York City’s oldest continuous-working hotel, according to the leather-bound hotel book in my hotel room. Tonight I will stay here, awake, all night, looking for the leftover souls of the Algonquin Round Table, in what is certainly New York City’s most misguided Specter Detector-related stunt.
Maybe you’ve heard of the Algonquin Round Table. In fact, I’m sure you have. It refers to the group of thirty writers, critics, editors, etc., etc., who lunched together at the Algonquin Hotel regularly, for about eight years, beginning in 1919. Among the group were Dorothy Parker, New Yorker founder Harold Ross, Harpo Marx, Franklin Adams, Robert Benchley, Edna Ferber, and so on. You get it. Famous literary and media figures whose names you know in a way that allows you to nod along as they are listed by someone else.
My new friends!
Some of the souls of the Algonquin Round Table are rumored to haunt this, their former hang. They’re said to scare people in elevators, to make children cry in the main dining room, to appear for a drink in the bar, and to make general ghost-like tap-tap-tapping sounds in the bedrooms.
From 9 p.m. tonight to 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, I will stalk the supposedly ghost-inhabited halls of the Algonquin Hotel. Through use of a Ouija board and a jewel on a string that I bought from on-line, I will attempt to convene with the spirits of the Algonquin Round Table. I will reach out to the ghost of Dorothy Parker and hope she reaches back with some sort of clever play on words, but not so clever that I don’t “get” it.
I’ll update you every hour, let’s say, on whether or not a ghost has contacted me—Kelly Conaboy, ghost hunter—from the dead. And you’ll follow along ‘til tomorrow morning. OK? Deal.
Update: 9:56 p.m.
My room here at the Algonquin is, genuinely, a bit spooky. A little tight—will be close quarters with the ghosts, once they reveal themselves. The window faces another wall of the hotel, making it lit exclusively by in-room artificial lighting and by when the people in the room across the way have their light on, too. (They are not yet having sex, in case you were wondering—disgusting of you.) The “Quiet, please” sign on the door offers the excuse, “Writing the Great American Novel.” Eep! Plus sometimes I hear noises that could be attributed to clever ghosts disguising their ghost noises as hotel-related noises.
The bath products smell great, however.
In advance of this stunt, I purchased Natural Rose Quartz Crystal Pendulum 12 Facet Reiki Charged for $6.19 from Amazon, a popular website. According to Amazon, it was “handcrafted in Brazil and charged by a Reiki master” and “can be used for divination and dowsing.” Oh yes—just what I was looking for. Here’s what it looks like on the stately Algonquin carpet:
To begin my night of ghost-finding, just now, I used the Natural Rose Quartz Crystal Pendulum 12 Facet Reiki Charged to do a bit of a roll call for members of the Round Table. Of course, I did this not without first reading a piece titled “Pendulums – How They Work and How to Use Them” on Ghosts101.com, a trusted source. It offers this warning:
Some people can use pendulums, but they internalize the energy. That’s not a good idea. If you can’t remain completely separate from the pendulum you’re using, stop immediately. Do not allow outside energy to be channeled through your body to the pendulum. (And, if you can’t tell the difference, don’t use a pendulum. The risks are too great.)
Can I tell the difference between not allowing outside energy to be channeled through my body and, hmm, I guess, allowing outside energy to be channeled through my body? I’ll be honest—no. Am I willing to take that risk? I’ll be honest—
To use the pendulum, you ask a question. Depending on which way the pendulum swings, the answer you’re given to your question is either “yes,” “no,” “ask again,” or “maybe.” My question was: are you here? I went down the list of the 30 Round Table members, speaking their names aloud, alone in here, like a psycho, and I collected their ghostly responses for you in this spooky spreadsheet:
The pendulum actually swung different ways, which was startling. I was not expecting that. But then sometimes it would swing sorta the same way a few times in a row, which made it less startling—I was expecting that.
Eight confirmed ghosts. Ten confirmed rejections—rude. Beatrice and George aren’t together, which is sad. Dorothy, I imagine, is just being coy. So that’s who we’re dealing with.
Aside from that, since arriving at the hotel the eyelid on my right eye has seemed to swell to about twice its size.
Am I allergic to this hotel?
We’ll see. If I die by morning, please tell them to focus the autopsy on both ghost and allergy-related fatalities.
Update: 11:08 p.m.
Part of the Algonquin’s thing is that there’s always some kinda cat here. The tradition began in the ‘30s when Frank Case, owner and manager of the Algonquin in the Round Table era, took in a stray male cat. The cat was named “Hamlet” by John Barrymore, the actor, and since then the hotel has hosted six other “Hamlet” cats, effectively a memento mori named Hamlet. OK, John Barrymore.
You can email her, which is unfortunate. More unfortunate is she has a Twitter account:
PAWsitively exhausted - just finished 3 days of filming for Japanese TV - can't wait to see myself— Matilda/Algonquin (@Algonqueen) September 22, 2015
Hahah. “can’t wait to see myself.” Same. Though the online presence a little bit ruins the forever-dying-yet-ever-present cat lore, I emailed Matilda earlier today hoping to pick her brain about ghosts:
From: Kelly Conaboy
Time: 2:55 PM
To: Matilda the Cat
Matilda, have you ever seen a ghost in the hotel?
If yes, who do you think it was?
To my delight, she emailed me back instantly.
From: Matilda the Cat
Time: 2:55 PM
To: Kelly Conaboy
Please remember our less FURtunate FURiends.
A little rude. If you want me to remember our less FURtunate FURiends, you should at least wait until you’ve finished CATnapping and then tell me if you’ve seen a ghost. I would never ask you to do anything without offering you a favor in return. (In this case the favor would have been—you ask me to remember our less FURtunate FURiends, and then I tell you that I will.)
As I planned my night here, I knew one of the “things” had to be that I saw this cat. Who knew that the thing would happen so early. As I walked around the lobby a few minutes ago, my EMF at a steady “no ghosts,” I saw two men with suitcases taking photos of, seemingly, the wall behind a counter. As both an untrained reporter and an untrained ghost hunter, I knew I had to see what they were taking photos of—
Was it a ghost?
It was a beautiful cat:
I crouched behind one of the men to take a picture, and then he nearly fell on me because the way I crouched down was the way you’d crouch behind someone if you wanted them to fall as a prank. Whoops—sorry, man.
A very cute little cat, though. Here’s another photo:
Aww. Who’s a little angry sleepy? My baby!
My EVP, which displays words ghosts are trying to tell you, if you remember from previous outings, displayed one word while I walked around the lobby:
When I saw it, I said aloud: “holy shit.” A bit much, in retrospect. If it said “looking for ghosts for Gawker,” that would have really been something. But maybe it was talking about the suitcase man who almost fell on me.
Update: 1:27 a.m.
The Algonquin Hotel’s Blue Bar features blue lighting, a decision influenced, again, by John Barrymore, who believed the blue lighting did wonders for the appearance of people’s complexions. Kind of him, but, for me personally, I don’t think my companions benefit very much from that decision. (They are dead.)
“It’s funny it’s called the Blue Bar. It’s blue, I got blue balls—it’s funny,” said one of the very drunk patrons seated next to me during my stay at the Blue Bar. It is funny, I guess, in that way. Blue Bar.
When I arrived at the Blue Bar, a little over an hour ago, a lady was screaming—in a friendly way—at the very kind bartender about how he should let her pay for the tab while her boyfriend was in the bathroom. The bartender would not. Upon the boyfriend’s return, the bartender told him about what his lady was up to, saying, “I will never let a beautiful woman pay for the tab.” “Never,” concurred the boyfriend.
Doesn’t have anything to do with ghosts, but certainly something I saw.
My EMF detector detected nothing while I was in the Blue Bar, even though members of the Algonquin Round Table often hung out there, as evidenced by this email I received just minutes ago:
From: Someone Named Andrew
Time: 12:56 a.m.
To: Kelly Conaboy
Did you go to the bar? That’s where they hung out, and it’s closing soon!
Damn! I did, A. Gost! Thank you!
I ran the EVP for about ten minutes and it registered only one word: “war.” You might think this word has nothing to do with my situation at the Blue Bar, but that is only because you didn’t experience the blue balls guy to my left talking very loudly to the lady on my right, for a very long time, about Ohio—a place with which they were both familiar.
Did you know that the lady’s husband has relatives in Ohio?
And the guy also lived in Chicago briefly?
Where the lady lives now?
Here are some photos of the bar, the left “normal,” the right, “green for ghost detecting”:
(Do you see any ghosts?)
At the bar, which was packed and very loud, very different from the empty, old-timey-ness of the lobby, I ordered a Dorothy Parker cocktail, hoping it would awaken her spirit and also because it had all of the things I like:
- St. Germain
Sounds good, right? It was good. Make it at home—
If you dare.
It has yet to awaken her spirit, but we’ve got about five hours to go, incredibly—so we’ll see. Also, did you know she came up with all of these turns of phrase?
“Chocolate bar.” Huh. Seems less like a turn of phrase than an accurate description of an object, but still—who knew.
After I forfeited the bar to the chatty Ohio pair, I took my cocktail into the lobby, where the very nice waiter brought me walnuts from the kitchen.
There were no ghosts in the lobby.
(Unless you see one?)
Soon, the Billie Holiday playing over the speakers turned to contemporary covers of old standards, the lighting turned from dim to bright, and the ambient noise turned from light chatting to vacuums.
It was time for me to leave.
Now, in my room again, I’ve ordered a delivery cheesesteak from Ray’s Pizza and the swelling on my right eyelid has gone down almost completely. Was the swelling simply a ghost test, to see if I am tough enough?
Update: 3:21 a.m.
I’ve received my cheesesteak and have finished the cold coffee I ordered earlier from room service. From now on I’m on my own, in terms of cheesesteaks and coffee. Will I be able to make it until 6 a.m.?
I will. It is my job.
Let’s explore the elevators.
An October, 2009 post from Oyster.com titled “Is NYC’s Algonquin Hotel haunted? One guest says so...” recounts a firsthand experience of ghostly happenings in the hotel’s elevators. She begins by saying a fellow Algonquin visitor asked if she was “feeling” anything on her side of the hotel, which she was not, however:
Then I remembered in a previous stay I was on the elevator and I heard the song “I’m In The Mood For Love” and I jokingly asked who was singing it - or to my husband and a fellow passenger thinking about it? They responded as if I were nuts and I secretly enjoyed the communication from somewhere??
Whaaaat?? She continues:
That night I heard moving furniture (as if on a wooden floor) twice and I was completely awake - but since I’m so fond of Dorothy and her gang I know she’s not harmful - I wasn’t afraid. Next day we are in the lobby waiting to go up and the doors open to a woman who has luggage and is exasperated. I said are you getting off - she said no she was trying to get to her floor. I laughed, entered the elevator and made a joke about it really being haunted but since we are regulars here we’ll ride to her floor and see her off safely! Meanwhile it stopped at every other floor - opened to no one and closed - we finally got her to the 9th floor and returned to the 5th safely.
Spooky, in a way.
As I approached the elevators earlier, my Ghost Meter, given to me “for you to keep, Kelly, as a personal gift” from Gawker news editor Taylor Berman, went wild.
Etc. I had to turn it off, if I can be honest with you, because it was about 2 a.m. and probably there are some people staying here who would rather spend the night sleeping than being notified about the possible presence of ghosts. (Not a fact, necessarily.)
The EMF meters I have on my iPhone didn’t gauge much of anything on the elevator, which I rode to the top floor—the 12th. (Not counting an alleged secret 13th floor inaccessible to the public.) Once I got off of the elevator and walked to my right, however, my EMF meter went nuts again:
I stood in this spot for a few seconds, recording some audio and taking some photos.
Afterwards, I sat on the steps for a little while, hoping to see a ghost. It was at this point that I realized if someone were to watch me on a security camera, they might interpret my ghost hunting—walking, stopping all of a sudden, looking around, sitting down, looking around, staring at nothing, staring, staring, looking so nuts that it’s crazy—as evidence of an otherworldly possession.
Maybe this is part of how these rumors get started.
The evidence of my possession was not weakened by the fact that I requested the elevator stop at every single floor on my way back down to the lobby.
Zhhhhheeeeerr. CLANK. Whooosh. Zhhhhheeeeerr. CLANK. Whooosh. Zhhhhheeeeerr. CLANK. Whooosh. Zhhhhheeeeerr. CLANK. Whooosh. Zhhhhheeeeerr. CLANK. Whooosh. Etc. Though most were no doubt asleep, I’m sure my ghostly journey annoyed many. My bad.
While I was on the 12th floor taking readings, I did experience a couple full-body chills and gusts of cold air, two feelings which are often attributed to the presence of ghosts. These feelings followed me into the elevator. Was there an air conditioning vent above where I was standing on the 12th floor, and maybe this is why all of those things were happening, and now I’m just a little extra cold?
Still a little spooky, though. I didn’t like it.
On my multi-stop elevator ride, my EVP displayed two words:
- “jeans” [what I’m wearing]
- “cookie” [I wish]
Maybe Dorothy Parker is calling me “cookie” as a pet name, and doesn’t like my jeans. Something to think about.
In the lobby, I asked the woman at the front desk if she’s ever experienced anything paranormal, or heard of anyone experiencing anything paranormal. She obliged me, kindly:
“Nooo, that’s just fiction. Everyone always asks because it’s an old hotel, and it’s spooky, but I’m the biggest scaredy cat in the world, and I always work this shift, and I walk around upstairs—” And you’re never scared? I asked. “No, no. And I’ve asked other people who’ve worked here if they’ve ever seen anything, or heard anything, and—” No? “No, no.”
Huh. A lie? Fair enough.
Update: 3:41 a.m.
I’ll tell you, at this point I am a little afraid. I don’t hear any people around anymore, or any TVs. I’m sleepy. I’m still a little cold from before. I’m going to take the Classic Ouija Board Game board from its plastic wrap in a minute and I’d rather not.
Update: 4:03 a.m.
Do you think there really aren’t any ghosts here? The front desk lady has me worried. Maybe ghosts are like love—you won’t find one until you stop looking. Unfortunately I’m a Carrie, and I’ll never stop looking. “Carrie” like Carrie Bradshaw and “Carrie” like Carrie from Carrie.
I purchased the Ouija board on the same website from which I purchased my crystal from a lifetime ago—remember the crystal, from before? Hardly. In the reviews section, Seth Anderkin says, of the Ouija board, “I love this! While it could be bigger, it works perfectly well. Whether you believe in it or not, it’s still a fun thing to have.” Cool. :)
A person named Kelly (pretty) offers these one million words of advice, some of which are actually scary to me now, in my very tired state (bolded words my own):
Never play alone!
Never let the spirits count down through the numbers or go through the alphabet as they can get out of the board this way.
If the planchette goes to the four corners of the board it means that you have contacted an evil spirit.
If the planchette falls from a Ouija board, a spirit will get loose.
If the planchette repeatedly makes a figure eight, it means that an evil spirit is in control of the board.
If you should get an evil spirit, quickly turn the planchette upside down and use it that way.
The board must be “closed” properly or evil spirits will remain behind to haunt the operator.
Never use the Ouija when you are ill or in a weakened condition since this may make you vulnerable to possession. [UH-OH, what about if you’re tired?]
The spirit of the Ouija board creates “wins” for the user, causing him to become more and more dependent on the board. Addiction follows. This is called “progressive entrapment.”
Evil spirits contacted through the Ouija board will try to win your confidence with false flattery and lies.
Always be respectful and never upset the spirits.
Never use the Ouija in a graveyard or place where a terrible death has occurred or you will bring forth malevolent entities.
Witchboards are so named because witches use them to summon demons.
The very first Ouija boards were made from the wood of coffins. A coffin nail in the center of the planchette window served as the pointer.
Sometimes an evil spirit can permanently “inhabit” a board. When this happens, no other spirits will be able to use it.
When using a glass as a message indicator, you must always cleanse it first by holding it over a burning candle.
Ouija boards that are disposed of improperly, come back to haunt the owner.
A Ouija Board will scream if you try to burn it. People who hear the scream have less than thirty-six hours to live. There is only one proper way to dispose of it: break the board into seven pieces, sprinkle it with Holy Water then bury it. [Shit!!!!!!!!]
If you must use a Ouija board, make your own. Arrange the letters and numbers, into a circle so whatever is trapped within that circle can’t escape.
If you place a pure silver coin on the board, no evil spirits will be able to come through.
NEVER leave the planchette on the board if you aren’t using it.
Lecherous spirits from the Ouija board will sometimes ask young women to do rather . . . ah, odd things. Ignore them and always remember that your Ouija partner (i.e. boyfriend) has nothing to do with this.
Three things never to ask a Ouija board:
Never ask about God.
Never ask when you are going to die.
Never ask where the gold is buried.
Damn. I better not die because of this—OR hear wood scream.
One more: Robert Horvick offers, “My daughter loves it. Just minutes after using it she and her brother were able to summon the spirit of ‘Dick Butthead’ who died in ‘Ass’ nearly 1000 years ago. He apparently has come back from the dead to ‘kill evry1’ and ‘poop’.”
Haha. Man. This shit is spooky as hell.
Here is my Classic Ouija Board Game, out of its plastic and its box:
When I was young, a friend and I played the Ouija board and we asked the spirit for a sign and then my friend’s lamp fell over and broke, and it never worked again.
Just a memory that I’m thinking of currently.
Update: 5:07 a.m.
“Is anyone here?” I asked with my fingers placed gently, yet firmly, on the planchette. After a few moments, it moved—very slowly—before settling on “H.”
“H?” I asked, as it hesitated. “‘H’ what?” After a little while it moved somewhat swiftly down the board, pausing on “R,” and moving past “Q” towards the bottom left corner. I stopped it there, because of the thing I read about demons and corners earlier.
Yeah right, demon—think you can drag me into a corner. Think again.
But if we’re going to assume I’ve contacted a Round Table ghost, my best guess as to which ghost it is, due to the “H” and the brief pause on “R,” is: Harold Ross, founder of the New Yorker who earlier clicked “maybe” on my Natural Rose Quartz Crystal Pendulum 12 Facet Reiki Charged invite.
Hey—hey, Harold. I like the New Yorker and, I’ll tell you what, I even have a subscription. What do you think about that? Harold?
“Is this Harold Ross?” I asked the board.
I moved the planchette in circles to warm it up a little. “Is this Harold Ross?” I asked again, to, hmm, very little response. Just a slight shift in the direction of the “Ouija” logo. Not helpful. So I took out my Reiki Charged Crystal and asked that if it was goddamn Harold Ross. And guess what?
Very clear “yes” from the crystal.
Well, well, well. “How are you, Harold Ross?” I asked the board. No response. “Are you doing well?” I then asked, hoping “yes” or “no” answers would get a better response. Slowly, and because I think I was pushing it, the planchette moved towards “yes.”
Very quickly I realized that I didn’t really have any questions prepared for Harold Ross, nor could I come up with any off of the top of my head. “Do you...like the New Yorker...now?” I asked. Slowly the planchette moved toward the bottom, and toward the right, before landing on the number eight. OK, “eight.” Then it fell off of the board.
“Do you like Gawker?” Quickly it moved to the number four, before, whoops, again, it fell off of the board. What the hell, man. “Four?” I asked. “What do you mean ‘four’?” I set it back in the center and it moved to four again, before falling off of the board again.
“Who do you want to win the 2016 presidential election?”
Here’s a video of me using the Ouija board, pretty clearly moving it myself, alone, at 5 a.m.:
[There was a video here]
Update: 6:15 a.m.
This is my final dispatch from my stay at the Algonquin Hotel. As I lie in bed, the room dark save for the light of my computer screen and the green light of the Ghost Meter, which has yet to beep since I’ve been in my room, I’m left to wonder: Will a ghost ever show me its little ghostly goddamn face even once in my stupid life?
A good question, worthy of my new dead New York media ghost friends who think they are all so clever, with their witticisms, and sly, with their refusing to appear before me. I don’t know the answer. You don’t know the answer—unless you are a ghost who is about to surprise me. The only person who knows the answer is:
A ghost—some other ghost, other than you, if you are one.
And there you have it.
As Dorothy Parker once said, I’m sure: