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Someone in the cellar

Chinatown in Manhattan New York, is the largest Chinatown in the United States. Although fast becoming usurped by two additional NYC Chinatowns (in Flushing, Queens and on 8th Avenue, Brooklyn), Chinatown Manhattan has a long history from the mid 1800's when the first Chinese immigrants arrived off Ellis Island.


As we all know, different cultures see the world uniquely through their own beliefs and customs. Many of the earlier Chinese immigrants arrived from Guangdong Province in the south of China. At the time, it was a very poor part of the country that had felt the effects of war, famine, and general unrest. The vast majority of these early immigrants even came from just a few hometowns in that same area. Perhaps it is a unique belief from that part of China, but some of these immigrants believed that ghosts don't have chins...


When my grandfather arrived in New York City (around 1919) he worked in a grocery store that was owned by his brothers and some relatives on 32 Mott Street. Like many of the stores in NYC today, there was (and still exists) a cellar directly below the store, accessible by a metal door on the sidewalk. These cellars were (and are still used today) stockrooms for inventories. It was in one of these basements where my grandfather had a very strange experience.
One day, my grandfather had to go down the cellar to bring up boxes. Climbing down by himself, there was no one else in the cellar. Although it was during the day, it was still very dark in the recesses of the cellar, which stretched back under the store into the shadows. Midway between moving boxes my grandfather noticed, out of the corner of his eye, the figure standing in the shadow. My grandfather recalled that the figure gave off a very malevolent presence.

Knowing that there should have been no one in the cellar, my grandfather continued facing away from the figure but kept looking at it from the corner of his eye.
My grandfather said, "Who's there?"


From the direction of darkness, the figure gave a low and undistinguishable reply. More a mumble than a word. My grandfather knew that the figure would disappear if he looked straight at it, so he tried to get more details of its appearance. The low voice showed that the presence was a man. Its shape was definitely that of a man. My grandfather also the presence had no chin. Surely it was a ghost.
Giving in to the urge, my grandfather finally turned his head to look, but there was nothing in the spot where the figure had just been.

Knowing of this story as he was growing up, my father also had to frequently enter that same cellar to get things. Sometimes he would look through the corner of his eye into the shadows, but was always disappointed not to see anything.
For those of you who live in the New York City area, you might be interested to know that the grocery store is still around. Instead of selling groceries, it's now a gift shop. The original woodwork has not been changed and the store looks the same as it did when my grandfather worked there in the early part of the 20th century. Its located on 32 Mott Street. I do know the people who currently run the shop, but have never mentioned this story to them.

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