There are plenty of ghost stories attached to haunted houses, but comparably fewer associated with high rise buildings in the middle of New York, yet they do exist and one of the strangest started with a rich and well-known couple. At the end of the 19th century, the man named Albert Champion was a French track bicycle racer who would go on to become a prominent industrialist when he founded the Albert Champion Company in Boston in 1905, which manufactured porcelain spark plugs, later changing the name of the company to the AC Spark Plug Company. He was phenomenally rich, his spark plugs making big waves and going on to notably be used in Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight in the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic in 1927. In 1922, he married the much younger Edna Crawford of Kansas City, and the two would become the stuff of legends, leading to the strange tale of perhaps one of the most haunted and cursed buildings in New York City.
By all accounts the marriage was soon proven to be a rocky one at best, and it would all implode in 1927, when Albert caught Edna getting very cozy with a man named Charles Brazelle at a bar. The two men got up in each other’s faces, one thing led to another, and a fight broke out. In the subsequent melee, Albert would apparently get pretty roughed up, later dying at his room at the Hotel Meurice, but the fight was never investigated by authorities and Brazelle never charged with a crime. Edna Crawford Champion came out of it alright, inheriting most of Albert’s fortune and moving to New York with Brazelle, where they found a beautiful penthouse apartment at 57 West 57th Street that they simply had to have. When they were told that the penthouse was not available and that it was all a Medical Arts Building, Edna did the restrained and rational thing, opting to buy the entire building for a cool $1.3 million, which in today’s money is about a gazillion bajillion dollars.
The two moved into three floors of the penthouse and immediately went to renovating the entire thing, complete with opulent gold and silver walls, marble mantels, stained glass windows, fountains, exotic plants, and a 40-foot mural of her and Charles at a Venetian carnival, in the meantime having some personal issues of their own. It would turn out that Brazelle was a bit of a controlling freak, who was prone to bouts of jealousy and would habitually lock Edna up in her room. They would also frequently argue, and it was during one of these arguments that Charles would beat Edna to death with a telephone, after which he was rushed by her body guards to be thrown from the 19th floor of their penthouse to go careening to his death. The death of these two high profile rich socialites heavily made the news at the time and there was already talk of the building being cursed even then. It did not take long at all for people to point out that an entire floor of the building was dedicated to a sanitorium, and that a 27-year-old patient by the name of Esther Glasser had had a meltdown and thrown herself from the window there. Other people in the building were also said to have lost their minds and committed suicide, and the talk of an ominous curse made the rounds.
The Champion penthouse suite sat abandoned for some time until it was rented by one Carlton Alsop, who at the time was a big shot radio and film producer. Alsop moved in with his four Great Dane dogs and things would quickly unravel for him. The dogs allegedly were terrified to go anywhere near the penthouse at first, and as soon as they moved in the dogs quickly showed bizarre behavior such as pacing about and growling at nothing, eventually withering away as they experienced what can only be called a nervous breakdown. As this was going on, Alsop would complain of all manner of paranormal activity in the penthouse, including the sound of muffled arguing that seemed to come from nowhere and the disembodied clicking of high heels. Both Alsop and his wife would have frequent vivid nightmares and see shadow figures lurking about, and during the lavish parties they would frequently hold some guests also complained of being followed by unseen forces or of having the deep sense that something was off about the place. Some guests would complain of being pushed and nudged by unseen hands, and others would fly into panics to go running from the premises altogether, sealing its reputation as an ominous place to be avoided.
Over the years this paranormal phenomena would intensify, causing Alsop’s wife to leave him and driving him to the brink of madness. He would eventually have a nervous breakdown and be committed to the mental asylum in the very same building, leaving the cursed penthouse abandoned once again. Several other tenants of the penthouse had similarly odd experiences that caused them to move out, until in 2011 it became an art gallery called “fordProject.” At present the building is still in operation, and the ghostly phenomena seem to have abated somewhat, but there will likely be no erasing of this place’s dark past and the whispers of a curse pulsing under the surface. What dark forces are congregating here? Are these ghosts, demons, or just an elaborate urban legend? No matter the answer, it is certainly a curious place surrounded by whispers of sinister unexplained mysteries.