In May of 2008 P. and I visited the Chelsea Hotel in New York. I was more than excited as I knew so many artists had called it home and still do. Having what I like to think is an artistic bent I looked forward to the famed muse inspiring me and just wished I could stay there too. There was the infamous side too but it seemed to be part of any building as old as the Chelsea Hotel.
The Chelsea Hotel was built 1883 as an apartment cooperative but proved to be a failure. In 1905 it was turned into a hotel and has witnessed Dylan Thomas alcohol poisoning, Charles R. Jackson’s suicide and the tragic murder of Nancy Spungen at the age of 20. Those events are just the tip of a huge creative iceberg and all the crazy creative energy, thwarted and realized, should have prepared me for the feel of the Chelsea. It didn’t.
There was a management upset at the time with the line of management and owners shifting for the first time since 1946. Maybe that was the heaviness and negativity that seemed to follow us from floor to floor. The residents were not quiet about their disapproval of the upheaval of their home. The dead that dwell there are not really very subtle either. I felt watched and surrounded from time to time. We stopped at most floors of the twelve storied building and felt uneasy on most.
The first floor was the most startling. There are now two apartments instead of the one room that Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen last called home. P and I stood rather still there for a moment. I smelled fresh paint and a rotting meat smell underneath it. I commented to P and said that wasn’t good. That smell isn’t exactly a welcoming one and if there is such a thing as ghosts perhaps a dangerous sign. I took an uneventful picture too.
When I turned around I took a long shot of the hallway. That’s when things got even stranger. I felt someone lift up my hair and blow on my neck. P looked at me asked what was wrong and said I’d tell him later. I felt it was time to leave this section even if it was a seemingly playful gesture. As P opened the door he felt someone hit him and cried out in surprise. We had enough of the first floor at that point and went to sit in the lobby awhile to collect ourselves. The famous muse that lives there made me feel slightly queasy and touched rather than inspired. I felt something like hands up and down my legs. Being shaken perhaps some odd physiological/psychological mechanism kicked in? Maybe it is the violent epiphanies and raving revelations that gather and descend on you as you wander the Chelsea’s hallways. In retrospect the energy seemed to follow us too and share it’s anger and torment for a time.
In this picture there’s a dark figure behind the glass in the hallway though we were alone on that floor. The floor and space reveal all with echoes singing as you walk. Most likely it is just a fire extinguisher or some piece of art. Yet thinking about how the ghost of Sid Vicious is spotted near the first floor elevators maybe it isn’t. It’s so close to Halloween so why not believe for at least five minutes? It would oddly make what happened more real and sane. One brave day maybe I’ll go back to see what it is behind the glass and perhaps even spend the night if fortune favors me.
Just not on the first floor.