The area of West 44th Street in New York City was just a patch of farmland and forest and 1792. The American Revolutionary War had ended less than 10 years before, and maybe events that took place then caused the ghost that eventually became known as Lucy Ryan to haunt this area.
New York City grew and expanded and by the 1800s a road was laid down in that area. In 1862 a brick townhouse was built on the corner of Forty-Fourth Street and Ninth Avenue. The area became known as Hell's Kitchen and was close to the theater district.
The Rodenberg family lived there, and a Mr. Payne bought it and remodeled it carefully in order to keep its Victorian appearance. In 1962 June Havoc, the movie and Broadway star bought the house. She rented the upper floors to various tenants, and lived downstairs.because no one would renew the lease on it. She lived there until 1969.
Before long June started to hear rappings on the kitchen floor, at the magic hour of 3 AM. She thought there was something wrong with the structure of the house and brought in a carpenter, a plumber and an architect who found no problem with the home. June's maid also heard the tapping. Underneath the floor of June's apartment there was floor-through apartment, but the tenants never complained of any noises.
It was then that June started to believe that her house was haunted and spoke about her experiences on her television show. Gail Benedict who was involved in public relations got her in touch with Hans Holzer.
In his book, Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond he described the investigation of June Havoc's home. He arranged several seances starting in January 1965. He brought with him the English medium and witch Sybil Leek.
It did not take long for the ghost to make its appearance by tapping on floorboards in the rear of the house. The entire interaction was being filmed for June Havoc's television show. Sybil Leek allowed the spirit to speak through her, and she identified herself as Lucy Ryan who was 20 years old and to her the year was 1792. She claimed she was very hungry. When asked how she had gotten there she described herself as a camp follower of the army in Napier's regiment.
She said she couldn't leave because of too many soldiers and that she was making noises because she wanted to get food, "meat and corn". Apparently she had been abandoned by a soldier named Alfred, who left her in the care of another man. She refused to leave and Sybil Leek while visiting a small courtyard in the back of the home said a body might be buried close to the wall of the basement.
Lucy not only did not leave, but transferred her tapping from the kitchen to June Havoc's bedroom.
Research was completed regarding the information given by Lucy the ghost, and it turned out Colonel George Napier, a British officer had served on the staff of Sir Henry Clinton. The Clinton mansion had once occupied the area where June's house was now at . Holzer had investigated other ghostly manifestations at Clinton Court two blocks to the north.
It turned out that Napier had been in charge of a regiment from 1781-82 at this very place. It was especially noted in the history books as Napier's wife and children had contracted yellow fever while living there and died. Sir Henry Clinton did not allow Colonel Napier to join his family and shipped him off to England. The area where the Napier family had lived and died later became Potter's Field.
During a second seance on January 15, 1965 Lucy was again channeled through Sybil Leek. She gave Alfred's last name as Bailey and that she was waiting for him and that he had told her he would return. The group tried to cross Lucy over, but all that happened was that the tappings were now heard throughout the entire apartment.
A third seance was conducted in March 1965. Sybil Leek under trance described where Lucy had moved on, but Alfred was still there. He was waiting for Lucy now. He described where it appeared several people were sick close to the river. Alfred described where people were hungry and cold and were buried in a pit.
The activity quieted down considerably and Hans Holzer cautioned June Havoc not to feel sorry for the ghost, and eventually all activity died away.
ACTUAL HISTORY -
It wouldn't be the first time that ghosts come through with dates that are not on the mark. Such is the case with the story of Lucy. This information also disputes dates supposedly researched and reported in Holzer's book.
The information given that Alfred Bailey served under Napier could be possible, however the year of 1792 does not. Captain Napier as he was known then had first married Elizabeth Pollock and indeed she along with several of his children died in America. He became sick himself, and was shipped back to England by Sir Clinton with his one remaining child, the infant Louisa Mary (who died in 1856). In 1781 he was still in Britain and he married Lady Sarah Lennox with whom he had 8 children. He did not return to America.
Yellow fever reached epidemic proportions in 1795, 1799, and 1803 claiming thousands of lives over the course of its presence in NYC. Upon infection, most victims would experience headaches, followed by severe exhaustion, high fever and slowed heart rate. This period was followed by a remission stage and then by delirium. During the delirium stage, victims acquired a characteristic yellow hue on their skin and pupils. In final stages, a vomiting of black bile occurred and was followed by death.
Source - Holzer, H. (2004). Ghosts (pp. 256-262). New York: Black Dog & Leventhal.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer