Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mystery in the Steinway attic

They have found something creepy in the old Steinway mansion!

This is the mansion near the Steinway factory, in Astoria, in Queens, where the Steinway family lived once upon a time. For the past 80 years or something it has been occupied by a family named Halberian. Michael Halberian, who was in his 80s, died in December and now the auctioneers are cleaning out the house. 

That is a video of Michael Halberian up above talking about the house. He seems like a nice man and there is this touching story about him and the mansion by James Barron. Barron is the New York Times writer who wrote the obituary on Leonard Pennario and I always remember this crazy day I spent in California on and off the phone with him. He also wrote a book about Steinways called "Piano."

But back to the spooky story.

They found this trunk. When they pried it open it had four voodoo masks and -- this is really grisly -- a creepy little doll in a kind of coffin surrounded by rusty nails. The New York Post wrote about it under the terrific headline of "Piano Mansion Voodoo Shock."

The paper has a picture of it. Brrrrr!

Now there is speculation surrounding whose trunk was it, anyway. Could it have been the Steinways'? I doubt it. They were Unitarian Universalists if I remember correctly from reading a whole bunch of books about them. They were these stolid Germans and I cannot imagine them being into this kind of thing.

The question was raised as to whether this voodoo equipment could have belonged to a servant. Perhaps.


I went to the Steinway factory eight years ago. It is a memory I treasure. Howard was with me and while we were on the tour we stopped to chat with some workers and admire these centuries-old tools that were lying around. Then suddenly a whistle went off and we were swept out of the room with this giant tide of workers going to lunch. Ha, ha! We never did find the tour again!

We did, however, find our way to the Steinway mansion and we got a look at the outside. And I remember I wrote about it in the Buzz column which is the column I write for The Buffalo News. I looked it up today to see what I wrote because I recalled that something was not right.

And I had written about how Buffalo was not the only town that neglects our landmarks, that the poor old Steinway mansion, its lawn was covered with chickens, garbage can lids and -- this is the kicker -- Sunbeam parts cars.

People who own and display items like that, I think it would be perfectly possible they had a voodoo trunk in the attic. Perhaps they picked it up somewhere and never even opened it. Living in Buffalo I know junk collectors and that is the way we operate. Did I say "we"? I meant "they."

Also the more word gets around that you are a junk collector, the more junk comes your way. People say things like: "You like old stuff. I have this old trunk. I'm dropping it off at your house."

Whatever, there is one thing I know.

If I bought that mansion, I would call in a priest.

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