JD Allen and Eric Revis share their ghost stories about a Brooklyn apartment they lived in together.
ERIC: What was the address? It was six-two-something St. Paul’s Place, about a block off of Prospect Park. If you are walking away from the park, it was on the left-hand side, past the first block, and the buildings were gray. It was one of those old brownstones—it had a particular style. There was a row of them. There are small blocks over there, so about half a block of these houses. And it was done in a particular style.
JD: Like a round outside. Beautiful place, gorgeous. I had the top floor. It had two kitchens, three bathrooms, and a basement. We should have kept that shit. It was about $1,000 a month, it was gorgeous—$1,000 a month for the whole brownstone. That shit was killin’.
ERIC: I got there on Thanksgiving Day, 1992.
JD: OK, so I got there like in ’93. And the only reason I got in, I think, is because I came over to visit and the toilet was stopped up. You remember that? And I went out and bought a plunger.
ERIC: [laughs] He goes in and blows up the spot and has the decency to go and buy a plunger. That was cool.
JD: Yeah, he was like, “I like this muthafucka, he can stay here.” Everybody lived there, man, I think Tarus Mateen even stayed there for a minute.
ERIC: George Colligan.
JD: Karriem Riggins.
ERIC: Peven Everett, Chris Thomas, Brian Blade. They were moving out when I got there. It’s hard to believe that anybody who had an awareness of what was going on wouldn’t have stories. So you came in the house, and it was beautiful inside. There was all this ornate woodwork, the foyer, they had a sitting room, they had paneled glass that was closed in, and the ceiling was all wood.
JD: And, no sunlight in there.
ERIC: Yeah, it was dark and spooky as shit.
JD: Yeah, no light in there.
ERIC: That was when I first got to New York. I was staying on the couch downstairs. And it was draining. I thought it was the energy of the city, and maybe thinking this city is too much for me. I couldn’t wake up. I couldn’t go outside.
JD: Yeah, I had one of those, too.
ERIC: Within a few days of getting there, I had my first experience with all of this shit. I was on the couch and I had one of those things when you start waking up, and I was opening up my eyes, and there was shit flying all over the room. It was rambunctious, and they were all like, “Heeeee heeee heeee heeee,” and shit flying all over the place. I was like, “What the fuck?” I started asking people about it, and they said, “Yeah, there may be some shit in here.” In the kitchen there was a spiral staircase that led up to the back room on the second floor. That became my room. Back in the day, the maids and the nannies stayed up in that back room and they would come down and head directly to the kitchen. And people were saying that there was a ghost lady. I saw her a couple of times.
JD: Yeah, the ghost lady, aww shit!
ERIC: And she would be, like, hanging out
on the stairs.
JD: The weird thing about that is that I’m not one for ghosts, personally. But I remember the same experience with sleeping—I was awake but it felt like something was on my chest.
ERIC: Yeah, like something was on my chest. It was like an apnea thing—you breathe in and you gasp.
JD: What was up with those pennies? All the doors had pennies in the locks. It was like an old-school key, and it was pennies all in the shit. And one day, I went in and took all of the pennies out, went to the store and came back, and all of the pennies were back in the door, man. That shit was out! Remember the lights?
ERIC: So man, these muthafuckas keep leaving lights on. We would have meetings and be like, “Yo, when you leave, turn the light off, man.” ’Cuz one thing: We had $1,000 a month and I think we paid electricity. We paid one bill. So it was like, “Yo, man, keep the lights off.” And everybody swore up and down, “I turn the lights off. I turn the lights off,” and I’m like, “These young-ass muthafuckas are just irresponsible.” Until I started turning the lights off, and would come back and the lights would be on. There was a lot of things like that.
JD: Or you’d hear the walking, at least when I was there by myself. I would hear the walking around on the first floor, and there would be nobody in the house. But the weirdest shit was getting out. There was a key to the door to get out, and sometimes the key wouldn’t work. I would have to wait for somebody to walk by on the sidewalk. I would slide the key out and the person on the outside would have to open the door.
ERIC: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
JD: Remember that? That was weird. Some crazy shit. But the all-time crazy shit was my horn. I was practicing in the basement and I put my horn down. I went upstairs, came back down to finish practicing, and my horn was twisted. It was fucking twisted.
JD: Remember? I pitched a fit thinking somebody broke my shit, cussing and shit.
ERIC: And nobody would even go to the basement. J. D. was going down there shedding and stuff. Did we have a washing machine or a dryer down there?
JD: Yeah, we had a washing machine. And they were like, You must have left it on the washing machine. And I was like, “I didn’t do that.” It was all twisted up. The bell was fucked up. That was when I was working with Betty Carter. I met Branford Marsalis, and he gave me a horn. The neighborhood was crazy, too, right? That was a crazy area.
ERIC: It was heavily Haitian. And they had several houses in the neighborhood. It was an interesting spot to be in at that point. The thing that was funny was we all knew the shit was going on, but nobody really wanted to talk about it for fear of making it worse. There were no long conversations about this bizarre shit that was going on in the house. It was just weird. It got to a point where cats would just leave.
JD: Yeah, nobody wanted to be alone in the house. I know I didn’t. If muthafuckas were out, I tried to get out with them.
ERIC: The owners finally got to be like, “There are eight people in the house and you can’t pay the $1,000 rent. Yo, y’all gotta go.” I had come back from the road, and we had to be out by the [December] eighth. I get back on the sixth, and I have nowhere to go. Cats have started to move out. By the seventh, everybody’s gone. I’m there the last night, and Man, I went through, I turned on every fucking light in that house and stood in the middle of the floor and pled my case to these muthafuckas that had been fuckin’ with us. Like, I am staying here one more night! Please, please! I’m talking out loud in the middle of the thing. All the lights, all four floors of lights, are all on. I had nowhere to go. I moved into the middle room because if some shit is gonna happen, I needed to get out this muthafucka as quick as possible.
JD: Remember that lady who was like a high priestess—she used to walk around late at night and there would be these packs of dogs following her? You remember that shit?
JD: One time, I was coming home from a gig. Got off the train at three in the morning and there was a man waiting outside my building who said, “I’ve been waiting for you.” He knew my name, he knew when I was born, he knew people in my family, and he was telling me shit that was about to go down. Saying, This is gonna happen, that will happen in my family, and you’re gonna go through this. He said, “And when you walk, make sure you walk like a king. Put one foot in front of the other. Always look straight ahead.” He was telling me all this shit, and I sat out there for two hours listening to this muthafucka. I had never experienced some shit like that. He said he was waiting for me. He was told to come there and tell me this shit. And a lot of that shit happened, actually. I don’t know if I willed it because he told me, but the muthafucka knew my name and people in my family. I was like, “Damn!”
ERIC: You have to remember, it was a bunch of musicians coming into town. And it was all by word of mouth, if cats needed it. Some people would last, some people would be there for a week. It almost became a flophouse.
JD: But of all bad muthafuckas.