The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

terrible unseeing

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Fear and loathing, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of research was committed here at HQ to try and ascertain what sort of critters might be found down in the Subway tunnels. I found an interesting study which discussed the distribution of Manhattan bedbug populations –  it seems that east side bedbugs display a different DNA profile than west side ones – which the researchers attributed to the separated subway lines. There’s certainly roaches and rats below, no secret there.

Thing is, in a cave system – which is essentially what the subway tunnel network is – rodents, roaches, and beetles are close to the top of the food chain and subsist on diets of lesser insects and invertebrates. Conventional wisdom suggests that it’s the human infestation which supplies caloric fuel to the biota down here, but you never hear tell about centipedes, spiders, worms and all the other creepy crawlies which logically have to be resident in the system. Supposedly there’s a rich and variegated world of micro organisms found in the tunnels, but little in the way of accessible documentation on the subject. Maybe I just haven’t figured out what to call a subway taxonomy, or transit biota census, or whatever obfuscation it’s customary to use for this sort of thing.

A separate study of DNA harvested from the Subway system has reported that a certain percentage of the nucleotides and genetic material present down here emanate from no creature known to science.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most everyone has heard stories about “the condos.” For those not in the know: the condos are residences found in side tunnels and abandoned stations that are populated by groups of homeless individuals who are referred to as the “mole people.” MTA says this is both a fabrication and a myth. Urban apocryphals dictate that track workers will freeze in place and refuse to enter subterranean areas where furniture or camping equipment is observed. I’m no Steve Duncan nor LTV Squad, so I can’t intelligently describe these less common sections of the underground, but I can’t imagine that “mole people” would be anything other than strictly anomalous and out of the ordinary in the underground complexes. Simply put, there’s a lot of street level ATM rooms out there these days, and they are air conditioned during the summer.

Saying that, I’m certain that there are a few individuals here and there who have found a Subway hidey hole to camp in. Maybe there are mole people, which I certainly do hope. NYC needs more mole people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a surprising lack of occult oriented Subway lore, especially when compared to the famously haunted London system. A humble narrator is always looking around the web for ghostly tales (actually, I have an automated Google search gadget that does it for me) involving NYC, and there’s virtually nothing I can relate. The ghost of a slain track worker here, a 7 foot tall demon seen at Port Authority there – nothing other than that which a decent psychiatrist could prescribe away. That’s weird, actually, but I’ve always found New York somewhat lacking in folkloric traditions as compared to places like Boston or New Orleans or even White Plains.

Most of the subway horror stories I see on the web involve unwanted sexual attention – women being victimized by nut jobs with their nuts out, gropers, lewd talkers and so on. Men of debased mind whom my grandmother would have referred to as “meshigga poyvoyts.”

It should be mentioned that this sort of behavior has always mystified me, and the behavior set is beyond my understanding. I really don’t understand, and wish y’all ladies didn’t have to deal with it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of New York’s folklore seems to involve real world circumstance rather than the spooky stuff, in my experience. The ones involving the mob, or crime figures in general, have always been the most prevalent. There’s the ones which describe suicides landing on cars or sidewalk cafes, the aforementioned mole people, and sinister or conspiratorial attributions to otherwise mundane occurrences such as “alternate side of the street parking.” The one about dropping a penny off the Empire State Building onto a guys head, the ghost train at Hell Gate Bridge, and that old chestnut about the birth rate jumping nine months after the 1965 blackout.

It’s actually fairly hard to find a good New York City ghost story, as in something iconic. Guess all the superstitious types moved north or west after the civil war.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I miss earwire. That’s the name I assigned to some nut who I used to see on the R train during daily commutes, whose “thing” was dipping a length of copper wire into a jar of what looked like mercurochrome and then playing a lighter over the anointed cable, whereupon he’d jam it into and then dig it around in his ear. He’d pull the wire back out, thoughtfully consider the length and then talk to it.

He was puzzling and grotesque, but hardly an urban legend.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Written by Mitch Waxman

February 25, 2016 at 11:30 am

One Response

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  1. I’ve noticed the same thing about the World’s Fair grounds, AKA Flushing Meadows Corona park. Never heard such a story about that place despite practically living in the park, and considering it has a history of tragic and violent deaths you’d imagine it would have some tales about it but no.

    That you can’t find these kinds of stories doesn’t necessarily mean there are not any but rather the people who have had these experiences don’t openly talk about them. They either doubt what they saw, eyes or imagination just playing tricks on them, or fearful that others may think them crazy or attention seeking hoaxers. Normal people try to rationalize odd experiences. There’s just got to be a logical explanation, right?

    You’d just have to find the right people and ask them the right way. I would doubt the authenticity of anything openly posted on the net.

    Getting back to the Fair, I’ve lived on the periphery of it all of my life and have been through the park often enough and literally all hours of day and night enough for the Parks Dept. to try charging me rent. I’ve never saw a spook, specter or revenent there. For anecdotal stories: My family lived there since 1921 and considering that most of the Italian families of old Corona were related by blood or marriage, and otherwise neighbor chit-chat, I should have had at least one source of a good story but no. Nothing.

    Maybe no self-respecting ghost would deign lower itself to haunt this city. Maybe it isn’t that story telling folks moved away but the ghosts themselves.

    Don Cavaioli


    February 25, 2016 at 12:16 pm

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