My good friend Rob was in town yesterday to hand in the galleys of the book he's spent the past four years writing on Eugene O'Neill. After handing over the mammoth, two-volume tome to his publisher, Rob was quite understandably ready to celebrate. Being that yesterday was my first full day of active unemployment, I too was ready to put away a few beers. As such, Rob and I stepped out in the rainy East Village night to laugh, drink and re-visit a fleeting few of our old haunts.
After hitting a few likely watering holes, Rob and I found ourselves strolling south on 2nd Avenue. As we crossed East 5th Street, I stopped and pointed out the strip where Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz and Blondie roadie Michael Sticca got in a fabled altercation with a car-load of chain and baseball-bat-wielding Puerto Rican guys, resulting in the near fatal stabbing of Blitz. This all went down the late 70s, of course, when this area was significantly more rough and tumble than it is today (you can read a full account of this episode in Legs McNeil's book, "Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk"). Even today, East 5th Street between 2nd and Third Avenues -- lined as it is with overhanging trees -- is a pretty dark and forbidding looking stretch of real estate. One half-expects the headless horseman to come galloping down it out of the dark. Being that we'd just spent about forty minutes discussing the Dead Boys -- a huge favorite band of Rob and I's -- with Richard, the bartender at the Black & White Bar on East 11th Street, it seemed entirely fitting that we should end up on this dark rainy plot. I turned around and was met with another grim sight; 84 Second Avenue, the East Village's own haunted house.
I'd never really thought too hard about this storefront before. It wasn't until my blogging comrade/fellow Butthole Surfers fan Jill over at Blah Blog Blah did a bit of amateur sleuthing this past February and discovered the slowly eroding building's strange back story. The footprint of the building played host to a 19th century boarding house made famous by an investigative reporter who feigned mental illness in order to be sent to an asylum she'd go onto write an expose about. That building was demolished, and the current one was built at some point in the early twentieth century. Around 1970, 84 Second Avenue became occupied by a Sopolsky family, who owned and operated a tuxedo rental shop on the second floor. In 1974, one of the Sopolsky daughters was raped and murdered on the top floor of the building (Jill found a police report detailing same). The crime went unsolved and the Sopolskys -- consumed with grief -- closed off their lost loved one's room forever. Supposedly, the family still owns the building, but patently refuses to rent, renovate or seemingly even maintain appearances.
I told Rob this story as we stared up at the cracking edifice. Oddly, I'd only been discussing the place that very afternoon with some parents in the playground (one mother suggested it was simply an urban legend), and there I was in-front of it. In running some errands today, I brought along my camera and snapped the below pics. I find standing in front of it even in the broad light of day somewhat unsettling. I find it hard to believe that people still reside inside it.