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 Anderson, 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.
Our all-female coven of psychics and paranormal detectives set out to explore BAM.
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.
To begin, I loaded up M2 – the ghost-hunting app that has served me well in the past, and set the analog and digital voice recorders to record. Our choice of analog recorder that night was a trusty Tiger Electronics Talkboy, and our digital recorder a modern Etekcity VR-BK8.
After a few moments for protective prayers; the psychics began to explore the perimeter of BAM as the rain misted. Throughout the next few minutes the investigators discussed amongst themselves and aloud questions addressed to Marian and any other entities present outside BAM with us.
Increasingly curious by the lack of EVP and EMF activity, I walked off-course and began to ask her opinions on the state of modern music, politics, and culture including references to current events. Unfortunately, no response came, either psychic–ally or on my app.
Gadgets, and hopes of making contact had captured my attention away from the group for a few moments. Sensing commotion I lifted my gaze to catch the group’s attention attracted towards a stairwell. Cindy and Elaine confirmed, we had a hit.
Despite our focused efforts to contact Marian Anderson, Cindy informed me that she was sensing a completely different spirit: that of a construction worker present on top of this stairwell.
Perhaps in life this person assisted with the construction of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and died onsite, or simply enjoyed being close to the beautiful architecture and music.
We received no explanation for his presence, nor did we observe any symptoms of haunting; such as chills, goosebumps, dread, etc.
The only correspondence the spirit of the construction worker passed to the two psychics was that Marian was not present, nor had her spirit been present since he had been there.
Having no other messages or answers for the group, and the equipment and meters showing no activity, we shuffled over to Whole Foods to continue the conversation.
Each investigator described a different account of our experience that February night as we unified our notes and feelings. The psychics, reporter and investigators were each confident the spirit of Marian was nowhere to be found.
In spite of our failure to connect with Marian Anderson, I was left with a deep sense of hope and optimism. Going around the table, each detective confirmed this optimism prevailed when no actual evidence emerged, which most likely means the company and conversation was incredible.
As the detectives said their goodbyes I promised to continue the investigation, alluding to a choice existing that I wasn’t sure I had. Reflecting on my thoughts and actions over the past few weeks, reveal a determination to uncover Marian’s story that could be considered supernatural.
Upon arrival at home, I hastily smudged myself and performed a Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram; a mainstay of the Brooklyn Paranormal Society’s magic arsenal. When performed correctly, the ritual would ensure that construction worker didn’t find himself a new home, a neighborhood over from his current abode — in my house.
After lighting incense, I played performances of Marians’ including the Lincoln Memorial performance as a research soundtrack. I poured through the evidence hoping to find something, even reaching out to Cindy and Elaine to see if Marian Anderson had appeared since we departed BAM.
The latest word from the psychics, and the recorded audio and video all paint a distinctly non-spectral performance occurring outside of BAM. The sounds of New York City, including car radios, angry drivers and horns blared over any subtle EVPs that may have been recorded.
That night, what I read of Marian Anderson reinforced what the five of us hypothesized on the street; a soul as accomplished as Marian Anderson’s couldn’t possibly have unfinished business.
In the soft glow of the candlelight, a single word appeared on my phone screen confirming my theory: “heaven”.
Editors note: Thanks to BAM Harvey for hosting us. Check out our other article about a haunted theater; Loew’s Kings Theater and learn about our paranormal investigation at Brooklyn Academy of Music.