The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for November 8th, 2009

More on “The White Lady of Astoria”

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Halloween posting, describing spectral phenomena experienced by residents on my old block – 44th street between Broadway and 34th avenue, which lies nestled amongst the lowland hillocks of Astoria, has drawn a reply from the Greater Astoria Historical Society.


The Greater Astoria Historical Society, chartered in 1985, is a non-profit organization supported by the Long Island City community. We are dedicated to preserving our past and using it to promote our community’s future. The Society hosts field trips, walking tours, slide presentations, and guest lectures to schools and the public. Regular meetings are usually held the first Monday of the month at 7:00 PM in Quinn’s Gallery, 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Greater Astoria Historical Society (located on the 4th floor of the Quinn building here in Astoria)– in addition to hosting multitudinous walking tours of the area and producing a schedule of lectures and scholarly exhibitions focusing on the culture, community, and history of northwestern Queens- serves as a vouchsafe location for rare documents and publications which discuss their area of study. Additionally, GAHS preserves several historic artifacts, some of which were saved literally, from the wrecking ball due to direct intervention.

I am fairly certain that the Dee translation of a certain book, missing page 751- of course, is hidden away somewhere in their vaults.

From their towering vantage point- an eagle’s nest which affords an overview of the entire city- these ascended masters share hard won knowledge generously with initiates, even ones as unworthy as your humble narrator.

from wikipedia

The holdings of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, on loan and owned, include a collection of rare and unusual items available for public perusal. The GAHS maintains a Library/Research Center that contains over 10,000 items, including books and publications on local history, a photographic record of the community, and neighborhood ephemera and memorabilia. The GAHS holdings include dozens of antiquarian atlases and thousands of historic maps of Queens, New York and surrounding areas from the now defunct Belcher Hyde map company among others. The holdings also include an almost complete run (or the morgue file) of the Long Island Star Journal, “a daily paper that informed the community about local and world news until it folded in 1968. A banner across the Star-Journal masthead reminded readers that the newspaper’s name came from the merger of the Long Island Daily Star (1876) and the North Shore Daily Journal–The Flushing Journal (1841).”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The missive received from the GAHS Lamasery, which came in prompt response to the “White Lady of Astoria” posting on the morning of  Hallowmas, has been delayed in reaching the readers of this- your Newtown Pentacle- due to the burden of developing hundreds of photos from the 2009 New York City Marathon and the startling revelations brought forward on research about a certain grave I found in Calvary Cemetery (more on that next week).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My initial instincts, based on badly scanned and somewhat inaccurate historical maps of the area found around the web, were to postulate about the nearby Moore Jackson colonial era cemetery which is hidden in weedy obscurity a few blocks away. Here’s a google map of the scene today.

From the "Annals of Newtown, 1852" courtesy of Pefagan's great site-

Misreading one of these maps, I placed a colonial era farmhouse inaccurately, and began building a case in my notebook for the White Lady being a phantasmic echo of Mrs. Jackson (as in Jackson avenue). This is a bad habit of mine, connecting dots, and I’m trying to avoid it- so while attending a couple of GAHS events in October, I mentioned my ghost story to officers of the Society. Notice that at the center of the map, where the “S.A. Halsey Late Whitfield’s” script is found- just below that (I believe) is the corner of modern 44th street and Newtown Road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have met a few individuals, since I began wandering the Newtown Pentacle, who are authentic experts on those subjects which we explore together at this page. Esoteric history buffs and antiquarian enthusiasts abound in the community, yet certain individuals (you know who you are) stand head and shoulders above the rest. The encyclopedic knowledge and generous nature of these irascible hierophants has given my poor ramblings a grounding, and helped me to grasp at a secret history, hidden all around us. I call these folks, ascended masters all, “The Rabbi’s”.

Amongst this group of “rabbi’s”, if the subject is Astoria, the folks you’ll want to speak to are Bob Singleton and Richard Melnick of the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here, in its entirety, is their message- used with permission-

I know of no story from that area’s history that would relate to this. It was marshy pasture and undeveloped until about 100 years ago. Northern Blvd. was basically a causeway built through a swamp. The Sunnyside Yards was the head of a millpond dammed at Queens Plaza.

No stories with the Gosman etc. families that owned it, and TNT Auto is the only location of something historic: the old Sunnyside Hotel that gave Sunnyside its name.

However, at 43-44 and 31st Ave-Newtown Road is the approx. location of the infamous Hallet Family massacre where two slaves killed both parents and all their kids in the first capital crime of Queens (ca. 1705 or so). Slaughtered them as they wanted their farm. Both slaves (She was Black and He was Indian) were subject to horrible executions (burning at the stake, I believe) in Flushing.

The area of Newtown Road (original wagon road to their grandfather Hallet farm made about 1652) was always considered haunted in the 19th century. I can personally attest to feeling uneasy as I walked along it at night, particularly the area where the apartment building with courtyard to the south of the street around 45th St.

Wonder if the ‘White Woman’ was the wife who fled and tried to run thorugh the swamp to the nearest homes which would have been along Middleberg Ave on the other side of today’s Sunnyside Yards. Your location would have been the approx. place of the millpond that might have stopped her or been imperfectly frozen.

What was the period of her attire?

P.S. ‘East Astoria’ is historically the area north of Astoria Blvd about 40th St or so. The area that you live in was historically called ‘The German Settlement’.

44th and Newtown Road looking toward Broadway and my former apartment, nearly at the spot mentioned by GAHS above – photo by Mitch Waxman

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 8, 2009 at 1:30 am

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