Ghost Story – New York, New York

While the New Amsterdam Theater on W. 42nd St  was being renovated some of the construction men claimed that  they frequently saw a beautiful young woman wandering aimlessly through the theater when they were working. She is always dressed in a Follies costume and a blue glass in her hand. She wore a sash with the name Olive on it too. They think that she’s the ghost of Olive Thomas who died in the 1920s. She was a Ziegfeld Girl which were part of the Ziegfeld Follies that the theatre hosted. Olive died of syphilis in Paris. But once when reconstruction was going on the workers got freaked out because they saw her ghost and they ran out of the building screaming. Another time the ghost talked to a worker in the lobby saying “How are you doing, handsome?” but when he turned around she was gone.

Chauncey spends most of her weekends in New York City shopping, visiting friends from boarding school and going to shows. When Chauncey was about 13 years old she went to see the musical 42nd St. with her Mom. While she and her mom were waiting for the show to begin her mom told her the story of the ghost in the New Amsterdam theatre. Her mom heard the story from a friend of hers who knew the owner of the theatre. Chauncey and her mom both believe the story to be credible because the owner supports it.

The story of Olive Thomas is interesting, but has a fundamental flaw. First and probably most obvious is the fact that Olive Thomas died in Paris, where the follies show was originally conceived. It makes little sense that her ghost would return to New York City. When I asked Chauncey about this she said that she thought perhaps Olive’s most beloved memories are of her time in the theatre and that’s why she wanted to return.

The traits of Olive that came through in her appearances may also reveal reasons as to why she died of a sexually transmitted disease. Olive appears with a glass in her hands, it could be assumed that this glass had a cocktail in it, leading to the assumption that Olive often drank. Also, Olive hit on the workers in the theatre calling one handsome, this might imply that she was promiscuous.  Alcohol and sexual promiscuity are both likely the precursors to sexually transmitted diseases and perhaps Olive is looking to warn others of the dangers.  By appearing with the traits of her downfall maybe it will scare others from engaging in the acts.

Perhaps the only reason her ghost appeared is because the theatre was being gutted and completely reconstructed, this may have disturbed old spirits of the theatre and could be the main reason Olive appeared. As far as Chauncey knows, Olive was the only ghost who appeared to the construction workers. Currently the New Amsterdam theatre is owned by Disney productions and is in use on Broadway. Since it’s reopening in 1997 Chauncey and her mother have not heard any more accounts of Olive’s presence in the theatre, or any other haunting for that matter.