The following story will include topics regarding domestic violence and physical violence.
Have you ever broken a mirror, walked under a ladder, or had a black cat cross your path? Are you still alive? Then congratulations! You’ve avoided a curse! Those things I’ve listed are well known superstitions that are far more fiction than fact. However, many cultures and people believe curses are real, and not just resigned to humans. Objects and locations can be cursed either through intentional means, desecration of a sacred sight, or because of a tragic occurrence. The latter is why 57 West 57th street, near Columbus Circle in Manhattan, is considered to be one of the most horrifically haunted places in the city. This place isn’t just a ghostly residence. This place is nightmare fuel that could change the way you see the world for the worse.
In 1922, Albert Champion, a cyclist and inventor of the spark plug, married a young showgirl by the name of Edna Crawford. A whirlwind romance, the relationship started strong, but quickly turned sour as both couples accused the other of cheating. No one knows if Champion was committing adultery, but we do know Crawford was. While the couple was in France in 1927, Champion walked in on Crawford and her lover, Charles Brazelle, kissing in a bar. Champion challenged Brazelle right then and there but lost the fight badly, getting knocked out by a punch to the face.
Later that night, Champion died in his room of what seemed to be a heart attack. However, this explanation seemed suspicious given he had just made Crawford the sole heir of his vast fortune. The fight and the death were never investigated, which was good for the couple of Crawford and Brazelle, as they used their newfound wealth to purchase the penthouse of 57 west 57th street in Manhattan. For a while, the couple was happy, but that happiness didn’t last.
Brazelle began to show his true colors to Crawford a few months after they moved into the penthouse. Angry and jealous, Brazelle isolated Crawford in the penthouse, assuming she would simply go out to find a new lover. She tried to convince Brazelle that he was the only one for her, but this was to no avail. Eventually, Brazelle’s abuse got so bad that Crawford hired a bodyguard to protect her. This did not sit well with Brazelle. He killed Crawford while her guard was away and, when the guard saw what he had done, threw Brazelle out of the Penthouse window.
Brazelle somehow survived the fall, but only for a few months. He attempted to contest Crawford’s will (she amended it to say he got nothing in the event of her death) but died as a result of his injuries. Naturally, these events killed any and all curb appeal for the property. However, time heals all wounds, and the wealthy need a place to live, which is why radio producer Carlton Alsop eventually purchased the penthouse for him and his wife.
Alsop and his wife immediately started noticing strange occurrences. It started with them hearing footsteps around the house. Scary, but nothing too abnormal in a haunted house. They knew the history of the home before they bought it, so they thought it was just a quirk of their living space. However, soon they started hearing voices. Loud ones. Alsop and his wife would hear the two previous tenets of the building fighting about things both past and present. When two ghosts fight about you, it’s not so much flattering as it is horrific.
Things only escalated from there. When Alsop had guests over, they would often wake up screaming, claiming to have laid eyes on unspeakable horrors that would disappear as quickly as they came. Unable to bear it anymore, Alsop’s wife left the penthouse. She tried to get her husband to go with her, but he refused. After she left, Alsop had to face the apartment alone. After a few months of solitude, the spirits finally got him as well. Deciding he needed help, Alsop had himself committed and abandoned the apartment.
Alsop’s story sticks out as the most prominent one because he was brave enough to tell. Other people who’ve tried to live in the penthouse have all fled, never to speak of the apartment again. The building was renovated in 1988 and is currently used as a residence and office space. The penthouse is listed as unavailable, which is probably a good thing considering the stories.
No one knows if the penthouse of 57 west 57th street is haunted. All we have as evidence are stories, which many people don’t find compelling. However, even if the apartment isn’t haunted, it could still be cursed. With a history of a love triangle, two deaths, and a family torn apart, the home can be seen almost as stain. The misery of those events will always haunt the building, even if spirits don’t. That said, if spirits do haunt this penthouse, that’s an even bigger bummer. Bad relationships leave an impact on all those involved. To be forced to remain in one for all eternity is to be sentenced to Hell on Earth. For the sake of Edna Crawford, I hope this story turns out to be false; that no spirits wander that home. No matter how shady your past, no one deserves that fate. Regardless, you will never catch me taking a trip to the cursed penthouse of 57 west 57th street.
Russell is a writer and comic based in New York City. His plays have been featured at Penn State’s Cultural Conversation’s Festival, The NYC Thespis Festival, and Imaginarium’s Inaugural Theater Festival. Follow him on TikTok and Instagram @pooleparty528