The House of Death

14 West 10th Street, aka "The House of Death." Photo courtesy of Daytonian in Manhattan.

14 West 10th Street, aka “The House of Death.” Photo courtesy of Daytonian in Manhattan.

14 West 10th Street is a Greek Revival house near Washington Square Park with a dark history.  It is probably most well known for being a one-time residence of Mark Twain, but did you know it’s also the site of a terrifying haunting and gruesome tragedy? Let’s take a closer look at what some people refer to as “The House of Death.”

The house was built sometime in the 1850’s, and since its construction has housed some famous and influential figures.  One is Mark Twain, who resided there from 1900-1901.  The house is said to have seen about 22 deaths in its lifespan, though that is not unusual considering its age.  However, it seems that some of those residents never left.  In 1937, the house was converted from a single family dwelling to 10 apartments.

"In The Way Of Spindrift Jan Bryant Bartell" is a painting by Barbara Barber. Image courtesy of fineartamerica.

“In The Way Of Spindrift Jan Bryant Bartell” is a painting by Barbara Barber. Image courtesy of fineartamerica.

In 1957, writer Jan Bryant Bartell and her husband moved into an apartment in the house with her husband.  In the seven year stretch the Bartells lived in the apartment, Jan experienced a haunting phenomenon, grappling with sometimes unpleasant supernatural experiences during her time living in the Village.  Eventually, the Bartells moved away and she wrote about her experience in her memoir, Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea.  The book was released in 1974, the same year Jan passed away.  In addition to Jan’s experiences, paranormal investigators and other residents have claimed to see spirits such as a ghostly cat, a diaphanous woman in white, and even Twain’s ghost himself.

Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea. Photo courtesy of AbeBooks.

Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea. Photo courtesy of AbeBooks.

Outside of the paranormal, this house was also the scene of a real human horror.  In the 1980’s, this house was the home of former New York defense attorney Joel Steinberg.  In 1987, Steinberg was arrested and charged with first-degree manslaughter for beating his 6 year-old, illegally adopted daughter Lisa to death.  When police arrived they also found a toddler tied to his playpen and covered in filth.  These days, activity and horror in the house has been thankfully quiet.  Though 14 West 10th Street is a stunning example of the beautiful architecture that brings life to the village, its history is a reminder that sometimes behind a fashionable façade there might just be a house of death.

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