Upper West Side is NYC’s Most Haunted Neighborhood

Only Murders is the most affectionate tribute to the UWS since You’ve Got Mail.

Sadie Stein, Town and Country, June 28, 2022

Excerpted: Many buildings up here are old and sumptuous, designed to offer the luxury of town-houses in a a time when the area practically counted as the country. And the excesses of wealth, as we know, make for almost as many ghosts as does squalor. The most storied are all known to be haunted (I asked a realtor friend, who confirmed it, although as a rule real estate people are sensitive on the subject of hauntings; they’ve been cast as villains selling too-good-to-be-true mansions to naifs in the first scene of a horror movie once too often.) Rudolph Valentino strolls the halls of the Hotel des Artistes. There have been reports of James Baldwin’s disembodied voice reading aloud to his dying mother on West 71st. And the Ansonia is, not shockingly, absolutely crawling with long-dead mediums.

Rosemary’s Baby is, of course, the ultimate UWS horror story: a cheap, beautiful apartment in the legendary Dakota comes with strings, not least of which is having to socialize with one’s neighbors all the time. 

The latest offering, Only Murders in the Building,  is the most affectionate tribute to the Upper West Side since You’ve Got Mail. When washed-up actor Steve Martin exits a subway, it’s the 86th Street A/C. When preening director Martin Short crosses an intersection, it’s within steps of Barney Greeengrass. And when the mysterious true-crime aficionado Selena Gomez returns to the lavish pre-war building where they all live, it’s quite clearly filmed in the Belnord, one-time home of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Zero Mostel. There are surly strangers (the peerless Jackie Hoffman) and UppaBabies galore, and when the three would-be sleuths sit down to dinner, you just know the food is authentically mediocre. 

Only Murders is playing into the neighborhood’s stealth-Gothic grandeur, and its storied history. 

Sadie Stein

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Gregory Andracke

Gregory Andracke

Cinematographer, director of photography, and documentary filmmaker