It makes sense that the streets of New York become weird, mysterious and scary around Halloween. That’s the case all over the country, but especially in the brownstones on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, people seem to be competing with each other to create the scariest haunted houses and yards complete with lights, sounds, and moving parts of the life-sized mummies, witches, skeletons and zombies. Walking Amalia to her school around Halloween begins to feel like being an extra in “The Walking Dead,” but now that she’s four, Amalia is happy hanging out with the neighborhood ghouls.
But what I love about New York is that it’s full of weird, bizarre and unexpected sights all year round. Every time I turn a corner I encounter something so strange that I pull out my camera to prove I really saw it, while the real New Yorker's don’t even blink or slow their stride toward the subway entrance.
"Everyone attending is guaranteed a message"
Above and below are signs that I encounter every day on my way to pick up Amalia from school.
Today I’m featuring some New York strangeness that is not necessarily seasonal. In my next post I’ll focus on Upper East Side Halloween décor. (And on Halloween night itself, many of these elaborate, scary haunted houses -–decorated multi-million-dollar brownstones-- open their doors to all comers!)
I found myself standing in line at a Dunkin Donuts behind this tattooed shoulder and arm. I recognized those columns! They’re from an ancient Roman temple in Baalbek, Lebanon, that I once photographed and later painted. So I tapped the guy on the shoulder and said, “Is that Baalbek?” and he said it was. Then I asked if I could take a photo.
In September my friend Mary and I traveled by subway to Brooklyn to visit the Morbid Anatomy Museum, which describes itself as “Exploring the intersections of death, beauty and that which falls between the cracks.” Besides being an avid collector of early and Victorian photographs (which often explore the same territory) I’m morbidly interested in traditions and superstitions surrounding death, so I found a lot to photograph there—reflecting the histories of taxidermy, medical practices, mourning customs, and just plain weird stuff.
Every table in the cafe held a bouquet of dead roses.
Two-headed duck and friends.
A devil (I think) and friends.
Taxidermy and pickled body parts.
Don't know the purpose of this spooky doll in a suitcase.
And on my way back from the Morbid Anatomy Museum, I couldn't resist photographing this Brooklyn front terrace, with a crowd of lawn ornaments that totally eclipses the single garden troll on daughter Eleni's balcony. (But he does change his hat and garden pickings with the seasons.)
Manhattan garden troll dressed for fall.
Next post: The Ghouls of Manhattan!