The Chelsea Hotel: A rare stop for rare individuals. What seems like an incredible boast on the complimentary bathroom soap in this New York hotel, is in probability a massive understatement.
The Chelsea as it is known has been a cauldron of inspiration, talent and creativity for over a century. No kings or queens have passed through its doors, instead, the Chelsea Hotel has opened its portals to writers, musicians and artists.
The Guest Book at the Chelsea reads like a who’s who of major twentieth-century influences. The subject of poetry, film and music itself, this shabby hotel with a slightly seedy reputation draws people from all over the world.
No longer open for business as it undergoes a controversial renovation, the only long-term guests who avail themselves of its comforts these days are the Chelsea Hotel Ghosts.
The Dream Palace
Designed by Philp Hubert, The Chelsea was originally designed as a complex of cooperative apartments. Situated in the district of Chelsea Manhattan, the 250 unit hotel is now a New York City landmark.
Whether by design or by accident Hubert’s building was constructed in what was the most artistic district in New York.
Keen to attract creative people to his building, Hubert rented out his apartments to actors, musicians and writers.
The top floor of the building accommodated twelve artist studios. Built in the Victorian Gothic style, it was for a short time the tallest building in New York.
By 1905 however, the building was bankrupt, the theaters along with the actors, musicians and writers had moved to other parts of New York.
The building was then converted to a luxury hotel and thrived until the end of the Second World War.
By the fifties, it was facing bankruptcy again. The Chelsea Hotel was likely to close until landlord Stanley Bard and his son made the decision to lease long-term apartments and rooms to the more Bohemian elements of society.
Despite the hotel continuing to slide into faded grandeur and decay, it attracted some of the most creative people in the world. Whether they stayed for a week or a lifetime, The Chelsea welcomed them all.
Its residents included; Bob Dylan, Madonna, Arthur Miller, Jack Kerouac, Quentin Crisp, Jimi Hendrix and Andy Warhol, to name but a few.
The hotel and the people who lived there spawned a thousand ideas, great works of literature and paintings were created within its walls.
By the end of the twentieth century, it was fondly nicknamed ‘The Dream Palace’ and was high on the list of must-see places for those visiting New York.
A Lot of Funky Things Happen in The Chelsea
When rock star Janis Joplin made this glib remark she was probably referring to the permissive lifestyle led by many who have occupied the building.
Forty years later and the same statement could refer to the strange paranormal events that occur. If true, it is hardly surprising that The Chelsea Hotel is haunted.
Home to many long-term guests who have died tragically young, it is also a hotbed of creative energy and angst. Identified as one of New York’s paranormal hotspots, visitors to the hotel in recent years have experienced many strange occurrences.
The phenomena recorded at the hotel include full-body apparitions, the sound of heated arguments coming from empty rooms, sobbing, orbs, strange lights, disembodied limbs, feelings of being touched or stroked and strange feelings of foreboding.
Who Are The Ghosts of The Chelsea Hotel?
A multitude of ghosts are said to haunt The Chelsea Hotel, some famous, some infamous and some unknown. Below are just a few to whet the appetite.
The year was 1978, the height of the Punk Rock era. Sid Vicious a guitarist with the British cult band The Sex Pistols had taken up residence in room 100 with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
Their relationship was volatile and destructive and both were heavily into drug-taking. Sometime during the night 12th/13th October a cry was heard from the room but ignored by other residents used to the couple arguing.
In the morning someone called down to the desk requesting help. When staff investigated they found Nancy stabbed to death in the bathroom.
Sid Vicious, crying, upset and clearly under the influence of drugs was arrested for her murder. Vicious later confessed to the crime but retracted it almost immediately.
Heartbroken without Nancy he died of a drug overdose whilst out on bail.
Surprisingly it is not Nancy but Sid who is said to haunt The Chelsea. A number of people who have stayed in room 100 have reported paranormal experiences.
These include massive temperature fluctuations, orbs and the sound of a couple arguing when there is nobody there.
The apparition of Sid Vicious has been seen in the elevator, helpfully opening and closing the doors and operating the buttons.
One of the most bizarre claims about room 100 is that it acts as a portal. Sid Vicious is said to move between two worlds searching for Nancy. Sadly it appears Nancy doesn’t want to be found.
The Vain Lady
One of the most witnessed apparitions at The Chelsea is Mary. Mary was a passenger on The Titanic. Unfortunately, her husband, like many men, did not survive the voyage.
Mary stayed at the hotel after her husband’s death but could not get over his loss. Driven mad by grief, she is rumored to have committed suicide by hanging herself in her room.
This sad lady is often witnessed staring at her reflection in a mirror. Said to spend hours preening and admiring herself she is irritated when observed.
One of the most interesting things about Mary’s ghost is that she has been seen by celebrity Michael Imperioli.
Arriving back at his hotel room late one night, Imperioli observed a woman sobbing whilst looking at her reflection in a hall mirror. When he approached her to ask if she was alright, she evaporated before his eyes.
The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, spent the last days of his life at The Chelsea Hotel. Not a well man by any means, Thomas indulged in the last bout of heavy drinking.
Dangerously ill with pneumonia and other complications he was removed to a nearby hospital where he died. Since his death, he has been seen on a number of occasions around room 206.
Said to appear as a disembodied head, he sometimes hovers at the end of beds in the middle of the night, silently watching those who are asleep.
Other writers who are rumored to haunt the corridors of the hotel are Thomas Wolfe, Eugene O’Neill and Charles R. Jackson who have all been witnessed as full-body apparitions.
Nadia and her family are rumored to have lived at the Chelsea Hotel in the early twenties. The daughter of a wealthy silk merchant, she was a talented artist.
After making an unfortunate marriage in her teens Nadia and her children were left destitute. Falling on her family for help and support she was allowed to move back in with her parents in return for carrying out domestic chores.
Eventually, ground down by domesticity and fearing she was losing her artistic talent Nadia began to suffer mental illness.
Frustrated, unhappy and unable to express herself artistically, she deliberately fell upon a large pair of shears, severing her right hand. Horrified at what she had done, she threw herself off the 3rd-floor balcony of her apartment fracturing her skull.
Guests to the hotel claim to have seen Nadia hovering near their balconies on moonless nights, unable to enter the building. At least one unfortunate person has witnessed the severed hand inside the hotel itself.
There Will Not be a Seat for Any Ghost
Strangely prophetic, the poem ‘The Chelsea’ written by Edgar Lee Masters over seventy years ago, predicts the demise of The Chelsea Hotel.
Sold in 2007 the hotel is now in the hands of developers and many worry for its future. The biggest fear for many people is that this unique and inspiring firmament of creativity will be lost to corporate blandness.
At the moment it is closed and only a few long-term residents and the Chelsea Hotel Ghosts remain. Facing disaster many times before, the hotel has emerged triumphant, inspiring world-class literature, music and art.
Who is to say then that it will not rise again, inspiring new generations and offering a welcome seat to the many ghosts that dwell within its walls.
Obsessed by ghost hunting and all things paranormal. Chris spends a lot of time (some would say too much time) investigating ghosts and spirits and documenting stories and paranormal communication. He teaches aspiring ghost hunters in the Paranormal Academy.