On a tree-lined Park Slope street, unsuspecting pedestrians pass a location known for it’s dark, grim and morbid atmosphere. Frustration, desperation, and anguish are said to await those brave enough to enter.
In our prior pop-up paranormal investigation outside the perimeter of BAM we sought the spirit of Marian Anderson. Instead, our psychic found a spectral construction worker who dismissed us from the property.
Put-off in more than a paranormal way – we considered calling it quits, but a few months later we received an invitation that would see us deep inside the worn doors of BAM Harvey Theater.
As a team of paranormal investigators, we’re aware that we must keep an open mind and a willingness to experiment. When intriguing new opportunities arise, we embrace them.
We were recently invited back to one of our favorite local locations, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which you may recall from our Marian Anderson investigation earlier this year. This time, we investigated the BAM Harvey Theater, known colloquially as simply the “Harvey.”
Bam Harvey Theater. Photo Courtesy: BAM
For the uninitiated, the Harvey is a historic 1904 theater which once hosted avant-garde performances and classical music all the same, drawing a diverse audience made up of Brooklyn’s artistic community and intelligentsia.
The theater, at 651 Fulton St., was renovated (and renamed) in the 1980s, when renowned executive producer Harvey Lichtenstein hand-selected it as the venue for a nine-hour theater production. The original essence of the building remains, almost ruinous in its aesthetic; the crumbling brick and peeling paint stands at odds to the timeless theater-in-the-round seating area. This juxtaposition of past and present made the Harvey the obvious venue for a recent modern re-telling of the Henry James classic horror novella, The Turn of the Screw.
The premise of the 1898 novel is a classic Victorian ghost story from the Arthur Conan Doyle era, playing on the public’s fears at the time relating to death, mortality, and the beyond. The heroine is a governess of a vast estate, convinced that the home is haunted.
The 1961 film The Innocents revisited the concept for the post-war epoch, but Strange Window: The Turn of the Screw by The Builders Association is a devoutly modern retelling for a millennial audience, with its use of technological stagecraft to create the ghastly and macabre atmosphere that fans of the original novella will be familiar with.
In the original story, the governess was hired after one quick interview. Even as she senses spirits on the property, she vacillates between sharp certainty and disquieting doubt. At many points she feared she was going insane.
Jade, our psychic medium, is a female spiritualist who entered the scene with similar reservations about exploring the grounds. Recall that she sensed the spirit of a construction worker at the Brooklyn Academy of Music when we last visited.
During our investigation, Jade and a coven member identified two areas of importance. Jade identified a spirit to stage-right, while our guest psychic identified spiritual energy to the stage-left.
Before we could choose a path, we were informed that a crawl-space existed underneath us. The 4′ high space was described as creepy and claustrophobic. Naturally we decided to make a bee-line to see it.
Opening with Psalm 91, also known as an “anti-demonic” psalm – Alex our resident tarot expert led an engaging prayer and asked for protection from spirits for the group. We open each investigation with a prayer, or ritual such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual.
Psalm 91 is a poem, composed by either Moses or David, that imparts a confidence in the safety provided by God to the reader. Some consider Psalm 91 to be a Messianic prophecy, particularly upon reading its second half.
Upon investigation of stage-left we discovered the ghost light. A ghost light is an electric light, usually near the stage that’s left on when the theater is unoccupied. While the ghost light was a source of energy, we did not find any spiritual energy attached to it.
After checking out the ghost light, the coven made their way for an impromptu visit to the stage-left balcony. Here we encountered an energized exchange with a possible spirit who intelligently responded to our questions.
For our final investigative stop, we ascended toward a spiral staircase to the stage-right balcony. Jade led the team like a psychic bloodhound to the location where she felt the spiritual energy was most dense.
In our wrap-up, I imagine we looked a bit odd and out of place but the Archives Manager Louie Fleck was altogether too pleased to share a bit of fun facts about the theater with us.
Louie also provided us with a truly immersive “behind the curtain” experience. He gave a riveting presentation that covered everything from the history of the theater to some of the most famous shows that have taken place on its majestic stage.
We are grateful for the opportunity to investigate the Harvey, which was coordinated by Vilina Phan of BAM. Vilina was well educated and astute in pointing our similarities between the characters, and our BKPS Detectives.
We look back now on the investigation, with some time having passed with slight discomfort. Perhaps some similarities between ourselves and the characters is too difficult to ignore.
Will our debut in paranormal performance art haunt us forever?
BKPS met to investigate whether BAM could home the spirit of Marian Anderson.
Born to blue-collar Philadelphians, Marian Anderson expressed talent in singing from a young age.
She began studying music independently in her teens and early twenties, after being turned away from the Philadelphia Music Academy. At the time, the institution upheld a whites-only policy.
Far from being deterred by racial prejudice and economic disadvantage, Marian gained notoriety as an opera singer and went on to tour Europe extensively in the 1920s.
Unlike their American counterparts, European audiences were seemingly more accepting of a black contralto, and Marian was beloved by her fans.
Back on American soil, Marian faced severe opposition from the white elite. She performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1938, but a year later, the tides turned.
During a historic turning point in the civil rights movement, Anderson was denied the opportunity to perform on Washington, DC’s prestigious Constitution Hall stage. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) who owned the hall and oversaw its performances were unwilling to offer non-segregated seating.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who served on the board, was unnerved by the blatant racism of her fellow Daughters and chose to resign out of respect for Marian. She went a step further and organized a special Easter Sunday performance for Marian at the Lincoln Memorial.
To a crowd of 75,000, Marian, raised a devout Baptist, performed a series of traditional hymns in her operatic style said to be full of “intrinsic beauty.” Later, she expressed gratitude to her audience, stating, “I am just so overwhelmed today that I cannot express myself properly. You don’t know what you have done for me.”
While stories like Ms. Anderson’s may sound antiquated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
If perhaps she, like us, was disturbed by the racial divisions in modern-day America, and hoped to offer some positivity to the brokenhearted and the downcast. This was no small feat. I understood the gravity of what I was attempting.
With nothing but respect for the Anderson family, I decided to invite a small group of members to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Marian performed over a dozen times in the late 1930s.
If she was, in fact, still lingering around Brooklyn, this seemed the most likely place to investigate.
Female psychics, and detectives set out to explore BAM for Marian Anderson’s spirit.
It was this knowledge that inspired my latest venture into the paranormal side of Brooklyn. I wondered if perhaps Marian Anderson’s spirit was still within reach.
The coven consisted of psychic-empath Cindy and psychic-medium Elaine, investigator Tina, and student-journalist Comice.
Housed in an old garage space in the Gowanus neighborhood, Douglass Recording opened after a half-decade of planning and development. Since opening, the studio has attracted stars such as Vanessa Carlton and Grace Mitchell.
Acting on a tip that indicated the studio was hosting a spiritual entity, BKPS reached out for comment. Chris Gilroy producer & house engineer at Douglass Recording stated “Ghosts can be felt in our walls…”.
As a means for communicating with the dead, the seance has a dicey reputation. The history of spirit channeling is mired in controversy and fraud. As a form of entertainment however, few things can surpass the seance for drama and theatrics. This ceremony of spirit-calling combines mysticism, showmanship, audience participation and, when done right, can offer spooky excitement.