The Haunted Well at the Manhattan Bistro : Affirming the Eternity of the Soul

Sometimes, writing has its perks. A couple of months ago, I was asked to be on a radio show (Working Things Out hosted by the lovely Diana Navarro) that usually broadcasts out of a midtown Manhattan restaurant. For my interview, the venue was moved to Soho in a place called The Manhattan Bistro. What’s so special about the Manhattan Bistro? The small restaurant houses a well that dates back to the 1700’s and has been reportedly haunted since 1800. My perk? The owner gave us rare permission to go down after the show to see the well and do a little paranormal investigation!

Right from the get-go, the Manhattan Bistro looked like a place out of time. The structure is far older and smaller than all the other surrounding buildings and stores. You can tell that the entire neighborhood has grown up around it. When I first stood across the street, it made me think of the Little Red Lighthouse living under the shadow of the George Washington Bridge.

A little on the background of the well: The unhappy ghost of Elma Sands has been seen and heard in and around the old, deteriorating well ever since her murder in 1800. It’s believed the 21 year old was killed by her well-to-do fiancé and stuffed in the well and was the scene of the city’s first murder trial. The fiancé was defended by Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton and the prosecution never had a chance.

So now we have the perfect locale for a haunting. A woman violently slaughtered and a crime without a punishment. People have been seeing her ghost rising from the well, ala The Ring, for centuries.

Three of us walked into the cramped basement to see the well. I’m not a tall guy, and my head almost touched the ceiling as we shuffled down the tight corridor that was straight out of The Amityville Horror.

I was shocked to see that the well itself rose well over six feet out of the ground. The sandy stone has crumbled in some spots but carries the weight of history. We turned out all the lights. It was as dark as a tomb. After asking a few questions, we just let the silence take over. Pictures were flashing and my audio recorder was placed on the lip of the well. I didn’t feel anything supernatural around the well. Not even one tiny goosebump.

I asked, “Do you want us down here? Would you like us to stay or leave?”

We waited expectantly, the darkness covering us like a burial shroud. There was  a knock on the ceiling, but I quickly realized someone had dropped something upstairs.

All and all, we left feeling that the well, this night, was benign. Poor Elma Sands was elsewhere, hopefully with her family or maybe out enjoying the sights.

Later in the night, I slipped back down to the well. This time, I didn’t feel alone, though whether it was due to the paranormal or just human nature when one finds oneself in a dark room standing next to a well that everyone has said is haunted is highly debatable. No matter the cause for my discomfort, it was worth it for the chill that danced down my spine.

And that is why I write about ghosts, and why I run to the things that go bump in the night. Ghost hunting is an extreme sport, with one difference; the payoff is beyond comprehension. Affirming there are ghosts in our midst is proving the eternal nature of the soul, thus eradicating the fear of death. There aren’t many other human endeavors greater than that.

Hungry for more? Check out this video of the most haunted buildings in New York City.


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About Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. You’ll also find him every week on the Final Guys podcast, available everywhere. He’s a bestselling author of over 30 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

7 responses to “The Haunted Well at the Manhattan Bistro : Affirming the Eternity of the Soul”

  1. gzidar says :

    Its so cool that you get to visit real life haunted sites as ongoing motivation and inspiration. I hope you get the opportunity to do that again and if so I hope you share it with us on your blog.

  2. Russell R. James says :

    Very cool site to go visit. Keep these exploits coming!

  3. Paul D. Dail says :

    Awesome. I’ve always been one to believe, even though I’ve never been given any solid proof (maybe I should be careful what I ask for 🙂 ), so I would’ve loved this. I’m trying to remember whose blog I recently read that had a pretty good scare at a haunted hotel. I’ll have to search around and get back to you. Personally, I think I would’ve been freaked to be down there at night, too.

    Hope the radio show went well. And that all is sailing with Forest of Shadows.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

  4. The Paranormalist says :

    Envy heaped upon your head! This was very cool.

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