My snooping convinced me there might be not one but two spirits hanging around my NYC building

By Kelly Kreth  |
May 6, 2019 - 12:00PM

Our author is nosy by nature, and obsessively interested in digging up details about where she lives.


I’m nosy by nature, but I guess you could blame that on Carolyn Keene’s books. As a child, I used her “Nancy Drew” collection as a guide to life. As I get older, I continue to love a good mystery—and a good ghost story—and have been known to go to great (and obsessive) lengths on researching things that interest me, sometimes spending years on projects that yield no financial gain and raise lots of eyebrows.

I also Google everyone I date, have a Peoplefinders account bookmarked, and in some rare cases when something seems amiss, I am not above rifling through a paramour’s bathroom garbage. Oh, the things I’ve learned!

So it should come as no surprise that I am obsessively interested in where I live. In much the same way I eagerly used 23andMe to find out about my heritage (I had no idea I was 1 percent Ashkenazi Jew!), I also wanted to know my building and my apartment’s “DNA.”

I have Googled my address and management ad nauseam and chatted with the long-time doormen. Luckily, I live in a post-war building, so the most senior members of staff know its history.

One particularly tragic story was the result of asking why we are not allowed roof access in my building—a girl wants to tan! It turns out years ago there was a woman who lived in the building next to mine. She was dating a man in my building and one Thanksgiving, after a particularly bad breakup, she went to our roof—and jumped off! I can’t seem to find any documentation of her death online, but urban legend or not, you can always get a good story from senior building staff members.

One sad story leads to another

That sad story, however, only made me want to learn more about my building. My next step was to secure my apartment’s actual rent records. I thankfully didn’t unearth anything scary—in the rent amount I’m being charged, that is. However, I did discover something a bit jarring. 

As if having someone allegedly jump off the roof wasn’t bad enough, it appeared an old tenant, Elsie, had actually died in my apartment. She had lived in my unit for more than 30 years until 2011, when her lease was up—and by lease termination I mean she expired in the unit. Not only do the rent records show her abrupt departure, but the long-standing doorman recalled it as well.

Clearing negative energy

So now what does a super sleuth do when she unearths the potential for two spirits to be lurking in her home? She turns to ancient and sacred practices: Not wanting to take chances, a friend and I tried to clear out the bad energy one afternoon in a smudging ceremony.

But I wondered if my untutored efforts were enough to do the job. So I reached out to Beau Bender, a noted “spiritual jeweler and healer” based in NYC.

Bender consults with owners and tenants to cleanse and reset a space’s energy. He has also worked with professional athletes and performers and has reset the energy in spaces ranging in size from small studios to multi-million-dollar estates. He has also created energies for couture shows during Fashion Week, and has experience with high-profile clients, for example, a famous artist in the South of France. Bender was called because the artist’s wife had died tragically in the artist’s villa.

We had to communicate via email, because he was in Brunei and while I was not privy to details, it appeared he was doing a strenuous clearing project for the Royal Family. Enough said.

Don’t call them ‘ghosts’

Bender’s first bit of advice is actually a caveat: Do not use the word “ghost.” Instead, “residual or latent energy or traumatic incident” is the more proper way to describe the phenomenon. 

His technique varies depending on one’s situation. “We can sometimes use spiritual energy” to address the situation, but he warns, “It’s not really something a lay person should try and handle.”

Things you can try

Still, if you are worried about residual energy in your apartment, there are things you can do on your own, like burning sage. Bender also has another easy suggestion that you can try.

 “A simple glass of sea salt dissolved in water next to the bed at night, discarding it in morning and repeating the process, might help,” Bender explains. “Depending on your belief system you may also try some incense and a prayer.” 

If that doesn’t seem to change the energy to something comfortable and positive, someone like Bender can be hired to do something more intensive. This can help promote feelings of wellbeing (if you believe in this sort of thing) and also help if your place is for sale or rent.

He described a lovely apartment that was lingering on the market. Supposedly, its owner had left behind such a strong energy no one was interested in buying it.

“I came in for a few sessions,” Bender says. “My process involved sound, eggs, incense, and some intense negotiations with the energies found there. Within days it was under contract.”

The price of eggs aside, energy clearing apparently doesn’t come cheap. Bender explains that he bases his charges on the amount of energy work needed, not the size of the space. While most New Yorkers, like me, would most likely be interested in eradicating a feeling of uneasiness or the sense someone is watching them, Bender can also clear unlucky events and illness leftover from previous owners.

While I didn’t find it necessary to have him do anything to my apartment—I have never felt Elsie’s presence or any other uncomfortable vibes in my apartment—I was still fascinated by his process and reassured to know that if I uncovered anything I couldn’t handle, I knew where to turn.



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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