The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

immediately upon

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It’s National Sacher Torte Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The concrete devastations of Newtown Creek, after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself has slipped behind and become occluded by the state of New Jersey, are spooky. During daylight, they’re just a cautionary tale with occasional glimpses of terror and wonder, but after darkness settles in on the soot stained masonry offered by the warehouses, factories, and the Great Wall of Calvary Cemetery – one finds himself constantly looking over his shoulder. In the case of the furtive glance captured above, my apprehension was directed towards the spot where Review Avenue transmogrifies into Laurel Hill Blvd. nearby the old and nearly forgotten Penny Bridge. The masonry of the 1894 Penny Bridge is still extant, despite the actual span having been demolished around 1940. The first Penny Bridge, which was little more than a rope walk, opened thereabouts in 1803. It is at Penny Bridge that the presence of the spectral Blissville Banshee was first reported in 1884, as she glided across the oily waters of the Newtown Creek.

I mean – this ain’t Queens Plaza – where legions of vampires are known to drop from the steel rafters of the subways when night comes – but… Blissville after dark is just plain weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not just me who feels this way, either. Last Spring, a buddy of mine – who’s fairly fearless – was walking along this stretch with me at night. He began to ask insistently where we were, and opine that he was completely disoriented despite being in his native borough. Paranoid ideations began to blossom in his mind, and despite my insistence that we were on very familiar ground, anxiety began to overwhelm his reason. A distinct sigh of relief escaped his cranial breathing holes when we emerged onto Greenpoint Avenue after walking down shadow haunted Review Avenue in a generally northern direction.

Perhaps he was experiencing the sort of chronal tunnel vision that I often do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Could he have subconsciously known that Van Iderstine’s used to be here, or about Fleischmann’s Yeast with their stable of pneumoniac cattle. The unhealthy condition of these cattle, which attracted the attention of newspaper reporters, hygenicists, and State Board of Health Inspectors from Albany back in 1879, was attributed to being fed only fermented grain produced by the yeast brewers, which slid into their feeding troughs still steaming and straight from from the distillery process. The milk these cows produced was blueish in coloration, and nearly 1% alcohol by volume. This so called “swill milk” was not considered fit for general human consumption, as it was the lowest grade of dairy product commercially available in that era, but was considered a fitting protein source to serve to the orphans and prisoners confined on Blackwells Welfare Roosevelt Island. Nellie Bly might have spent ten days in a madhouse, but I don’t think she mentioned drinking swill milk in her famous exposé.

Van Iderstine’s, for those of you lucky enough to it have never heard of the business which used to inhabit these parts, ran a fat rendering mill hereabouts that was extant until the latter half of the 20th century. Animal parts, spoiled meat, rotten eggs, barrels of butchers blood – all were boiled down in open copper vessels here in Blissville in pursuance of the manufacture of tallow. Ghastly business, that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the atmospheric temperatures being low enough to allow one the usage of his full armor – the filthy black raincoat and a stout hat coupled with durable clothing woven from ruggose fibers – one is always aware of his vulnerability and obsequiousness to malign elements of society due to conducting my excursions on foot. It would be a simple matter for one or two stout men to overpower one such as myself, known for his physical cowardice and nervous temperament.

Others with stronger constitution might venture into the shadows of rumor haunted Blissville, but a humble narrator chooses instead to acknowledge his lurking fear and remain naught but a passing outsider and scuttling stranger.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upon arriving at the inverse end of Review Avenue, a quick glance over my shoulder revealed a small group of stocky men forming up and pointing in my direction. They were clad in shadow, but the outlines of their group against the sodium lit walls of masonry revealed shapes which did not seem “right.” Discretion being the better part of valor, a humble narrator engaged the services of a passing taxi and made haste for the locked doors of HQ back in Astoria.

The world is a scary place, and the concrete devastations of Western Queens can be scarier than even the pathless deserts of Arabia, where the secrets of cities lost await discovery by the scientifically curious. What might be found… in those wisely abandoned metropolises… if occult rumors are to believed… could easily spark another dark age, and retard the forward progress of mankind – or possibly end civilization itself and condemn mankind to an endless era of ape like barbarity.

As far as the Blissville section of LIC goes – who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden down there?

Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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