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4500 Arthur Kill Rd, Staten Island, NY 10309, USA (
Charles Kreischer House
This mansion in Charleston, New York is a historical location, a site of reputed haunting and most recently... the scene of a bloody mafia crime. The Charles Kreischer House (AKA: The Kreischer Mansion) is a remnant left behind by a family that had such an impact on the local area that the neighborhood was once named after them. The Kreischers' lives were filled with prosperity, punctuated with moments of tragedy. Their story begins with an immense fire that devastated New York City a year before the family patriarch had even arrived in the United States.
The Great New York Fire of 1835
On the evening of December 16, 1835, a burst gas pipe was ignited by a nearby coal stove inside a warehouse on the corner of Exchange and Pearl Streets in the South end of Manhattan. The foul weather greatly helped in turning the fire into a large disaster. Gale force winds fanned the flames and spread them to other buildings in the district. Freezing temperatures froze wells, cisterns and ponds, limiting water availability. Firefighters chipped holes into ice to feed water through their hoses, only to have the water freeze and clog within the hoses. It was realized that the only way to stop the spread of the fire was to use gunpowder explosions to collapse buildings in the fire's path. Initially, the firefighters weren't able to secure enough gunpowder to do the job and the wind continued to spread the fire.
Salvation came in the form of Marines armed with gunpowder from the Brooklyn Naval Yard. They set about the task of leveling buildings in the fire's path, finally cutting it off and leaving it to burn itself out. They stopped it before it reached Wall Street. The fire lasted for roughly 15 hours and destroyed nearly 700 buildings, including the Merchant Exchange and four of the city's six newspapers. Between fire damage and looting, it estimated that the incident destroyed 20 million dollars worth of property. Of the city's 26 insurance companies, 23 went bankrupt while paying out damages. With the fire happening in the financial heart of the city, thousands of New Yorkers found themselves unemployed.
On the lucky side, only two people were killed in the inferno, and thanks to it happening during the economic boom resulting from the opening of the Erie Canal ten years earlier, rebuilding began rapidly. In the wake of the fire, wood was no longer considered a desirable material for construction within the city. Brick and stone became the materials of choice. Most bricks were imported from Europe, with few being manufactured in the states. Producing bricks nearby the city would undercut the price of imported bricks and possibly result in a large amount of sales. It was an opportunity that drew the attention of a young brickmaker from Germany.
Born on March 13, 1813 in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, Balthasar Kreischer grew up in the family trade of making bricks. Hearing of the newly increased demand for bricks in New York City, Balthasar immigrated to the U.S., arriving in New York on June 4, 1836. By 1845, he and partner Charles Mumpeton founded their own brick-manufacturing company, Kreischer & Mumpeton. Charles Mumpeton passed away in 1849, and the business became Kreischer and Co.
Kreischer's company mined a quarry on Staten Island, from which they took the natural white kaolin clay that was available and turned it into bricks that were more flame-resistant than those made from red clay. The company also held patents on varieties of hollow tile that provided greater load-bearing capacity, allowing for the construction of even taller buildings - skyscrapers. Business boomed, and at its height, the company was employing 300 workers, covered 700 acres and produced roughly 3.5 million bricks a year. The neighborhood surrounding the factory, which up until that point had been known as Androvetteville, became filled with employees of the factory. At some point the neighborhood was renamed Kreischerville because of this.
Before long, Balthasar diversified, getting involved in banking, the Staten Island Railroad Company and investing in what became Steinway & Sons, the famous piano manufacturers. Overtime, Kreischer's sons followed him into the family businesses.
The Kreischer Family
Shortly after immigrating to the United States, Balthasar married fellow immigrant Caroline Haenchmen: who had grown up near Balthasar in Germany. The two of them produced a total of seven children; four daughters (Caroline, Fredericka, Catherine and Louisa), three sons (George, Charles and Edward). All of the children eventually married and had children of their own with the exception of Fredericka. Louisa married Albert Steinway, connecting the Kreischer and Steinway families by blood as well as business.
The Kreischer boys entered the family business by order of their birth. George F. Kreischer, the eldest, went directly into the brick manufacturing business, became an inventor and got into both the gas-lighting and steam powered-transportation industries. He settled into a home in New York City. Charles C. Kreischer also went directly into brick manufacturing, eventually becoming superintendent of the factory in Kreischerville in 1872. Edward B. Kreischer initially began working for Steinway & Sons, moved into managing stations along the Staten Island Railway line and finally ended up in brick manufacturing like his older brothers. The factory in Kreischerville burned down on January 1, 1877, but was quickly rebuilt. Balthasar retired not long after in 1878, leaving the businesses in the care of his sons. Balthasar passed away on August 25, 1886 and was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery.
Charles and Edward's Houses
Balthasar's middle son and youngest son had lives that mirrored each other in a few ways. Both served as superintendent of the Kreischerville factory. They both became members of the B. Kreischer and Sons firm in 1878. Edward married Freda Wanier on June 19, 1877. Charles married Freda's younger sister, Antonia, exactly two years later on June 19, 1879. They each had a single child - a son in both cases. In 1884, their father built a mansion for each of them a short distance down the from his own mansion and the factory from which they made their living. The brothers' mansions stood a short distance from each other and were nearly identical in design, the difference being that the design was reversed on one so that the houses would properly mirror each other. In the long run the brothers took two very different paths with their lives.
The Death of Edward B. Kreischer
Charles Kreischer left his position at the Kreischerville factory to run the newly acquired New York Anderson Pressed Brick Factory. He performed in this capacity until 1891, when he decided to leave for Europe. Edward and George continued on with the family business. In 1892, both the factory in Kreischerville and the New York Anderson Pressed Brick Factory caught fire and burned down. Once again, the factories were rebuilt. In the interim, Edward Kreischer used thousands of his own dollars to help support the families of the employees who were out of work while the factory was being rebuilt.
On the morning of June 8, 1894, Edward left his house in an
"apparently in a cheerful frame of mind"
New York Times
would later print. Edward went to the factory for a bit and then down to the wharf. He was seen leaving the wharf at 9:15 am. Around 9:45 am his body was discovered by a
"boy going from the factory to the spring for water."
Edward B. Kreischer was dead at age 43. There were no witnesses to his demise, which was quickly ruled a suicide by authorities based on the following logic according to the
New York Times
"The fact that a revolver was found beside the body with one chamber empty is accepted as conclusive proof that he killed himself."
Two possible reasons for the suicide were presented in the newspaper report. One theory was that Edward was despondent following a dispute with his brother George. The other theory presented was that Edward had grown depressed over the treatment he received at the hands of William Linderoth, the Kreischerville factory's current superintendent. Linderoth, who had served as the replacement for Charles since 1892, was strongly disliked by the employees of the factory. It was reported that Linderoth had even been physically attacked and "severely injured" by factory employees. Following the death of Edward, employees came forward with complaints about how Linderoth had treated Edward (who was well-liked) and even began publicly making new threats against Linderoth. Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be any written accounts of accusations of foul play.
The Legacy of the Kreischers
Following the death of Edward, George Kreischer remained in the family business for a time, eventually selling the factory in Kreischerville off in 1899. The Kreischer family left Kreischerville behind. During the course of World War I, Kreischerville's name was changed to Charleston. The change was likely due to anti-German sentiments in America resulting from the war. Supposedly the new name was chosen to honor Charles Kreischer. The factory in the newly named Charleston remained in operation until closing in 1927. It was demolished in 1936. At some point Balthasar Kreischer's mansion was leveled. Edward Kreischer's mansion burned down in the 1930s. Ironically, the homes had been built of wood rather than fire-resistant brick.
This left only Charles Kreischer's mansion standing on the property. In 1968, the house was given landmark status. Other signs of the Kreischers' influence can be seen around the neighborhood. There is a Kreischer Street that has sidewalks made of Kreischer bricks. There are a few homes remaining that were originally built to house employees of the factory. The church Balthasar built in 1883 still stands, though its name was changed from St. Peter's German Evangelical Lutheran Church to the Free Magyar Reformed Church. Kreischer bricks can still be found in many local structures and throughout Queens.
Abandoned, the former clay quarries filled in with water and vegetation. It created a mixture of ponds, swamps, woodlands, sand barrens and spring-fed streams. It drew in a variety of wildlife. The roughly 260 acre area was declared a state park in 1976. Now known as the Clay Pit Ponds State Park, it is open year-round from dawn until dusk.
In the many years since the Kreischers pulled out of the area, the Charles Kreischer House has become a focal point for local lore and tales of the supernatural.
The Legends, Lore and Paranormal of the Kreischer Mansion
There are tales of unexplained phenomena surrounding the remaining Kreischer house on Arthur Kill Road. Strange sounds such as a woman crying, doors slamming, clanging and footsteps are said to have been heard, though with no apparent earthly source. Sometimes scratching can allegedly be heard coming from a closet within the house. Some have claimed to have seen apparitions of a man and woman wandering about the mansion. There are also claims of anomalies in some photos taken within the mansion.
Legends have cropped up to explain the phenomena allegedly occurring within the old mansion. There is a tale of a cook who killed himself in the kitchen. The scratching sounds in the closet led to tales of children being locked in the closet due to abuse. Another related tale has a girl being shoved into a closet by unseen hands and being locked in there. It is said she was unable to escape until someone else broke the door down. Another legend that unfortunately has been printed at times as fact is that Edward and his wife Freda were murdered by his father Balthasar. In these tales, Edward and his wife are burned alive within their mansion shortly following an argument between Edward and his father. This story is obviously false. All of Balthasar's children outlived him. Edward died from a gun shot near the factory, a possible suicide. Edward's mansion didn't burn down until four decades after his death. There is also a lack of documentation to back up the tales of the cook killing himself and the case of alleged child abuse. It has been suggested that the disembodied sound of a woman crying is the spirit of Freda crying over the suicide of her husband. It is perhaps the most plausible of the explanations that have cropped up over the years, but the fact remains that the remaining mansion was not the one Freda lived in.
For a time in the 1990s, the mansion was owned by Joseph and Andrea McBratney, who ran a restaurant in the building. Joseph claims to have once awoken in the house one night to see an apparition of a woman in his doorway. He told the phantom woman that he planned to restore the house
"...to its historically correct, original beauty with Victorian period furniture."
He also asked the spirit to
"... show herself on a Friday night at the restaurant."
The apparition did not appear to him again during his time there.
Joseph, who apparently now works as a private investigator, claims to be a psychic and appeared on the Lifetime television show
America's Psychic Challenge
as a contestant. He did not make the finals of the show. Joseph is also the son of former mobster James McBratney. James was murdered on May 22, 1973 at Snoope's Bar and Grill on Staten Island. James was murdered by rising mobster John Gotti. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joseph McBratney's restaurant in the Charles Kreischer House was once used for a meeting between members of the Gambino and Bonanno crime families in early 1998. It wouldn't be the only time that Bonanno family would be linked to the mansion.
Murder in the Kreischer Mansion
After the restaurant closed, the mansion sat empty for a time. Musician George Harrison considered buying it, but changed his mind after being attacked in his home near London, England. He decided that the Kreisher Mansion wasn't secure enough for his needs after being stabbed by a crazy fan. Ohio developer Isaac Yomtovian purchased the property in 2000. Yomtovian intends to build condominiums for the elderly in the nearby area. He also initially intended to turn the mansion itself into a clubhouse for the tenants of the condos. During the restoration of the Charles Kreischer House, Yomtovian hired a former Marine named Joseph Young.
Joseph Young, who commonly went by the name
, worked as caretaker for the property and was allowed to live in the old mansion for part of the term of his employment. It wouldn't be until after Young had left Isaac Yomtovian's employ that Isaac would find out that his former employee had committed a gruesome crime on the property during his time there.
In March of 2005, Joseph Young was contracted by the Bonanno crime family member Gino Galestro to murder another family associate, Robert McKelvey. Galestro wanted to silence McKelvey, who he felt had been too vocal about the family's illegal activities as well as owing money to Galestro. That month Young lured McKelvey out to the Charles Kreischer House where he lay in wait with fellow criminal associates Stefan Cicale, Michael Maggio and Jose Garcia. Young's ambush didn't go as well he had planned. After being strangled and stabbed, Robert McKelvey managed to escape the house. Joseph Young pursued the wounded man into the yard and tackled him by the ornamental pond, finally ending the victim's life by drowning him in the pond. At this point, Young and his accomplices dragged the body behind a shed while they went out to get food and buy supplies to help them dispose of the corpse. They returned with power saws, drop clothes and garbage bags and set to their gruesome task. They placed McKelvey's body on a mattress in the mansion's kitchen and began cutting the body into pieces. They double-bagged the body parts and brought them down to the furnace in the basement to incinerate. Their grim task took many hours, during which they had to keep prodding the body part with a metal pipe to keep them burning. Stefan Cicale would later complain in court testimony that burning the remains produced a
On April 5, 2006, the FBI searched the Kreisher Mansion for evidence after being tipped off about the murder by an informant. Unfortunately for investigators, the furnace in which the body was incinerated had been replaced with a new one in the year between the murder and the investigation. They apparently did find evidence during their investigation of the house and before long they arrested Joseph Young. The FBI returned to the property to investigate once again in 2008.
The authorities also searched less than a mile and a half away, in the waters around Fresca's on the Bay restaurant for the steel pole believed used for stoking the furnace fire. Frank Fresca, the owner of the restaurant was himself shot to death (a total of nine shots fired) on July 30, 2008 at 12:30 am. The 66-year-old restaurant owner was apparently assisting the federal authorities in their investigation of the Bonannos. His restaurant had once been under the crime family's protection and Joseph Young had worked as a bouncer at the restaurant. In 2005, Fresca had been badly beaten by a group of men apparently because he'd been sleeping with another man's woman. Young is alleged to have been sent to the house of one of the assailants to shoot the place up following the incident. Shortly before his death Fresca had hired a bodyguard and sent his 29-year-old girlfriend (the same one he'd gotten beaten over years before) and her kids on vacation to Florida. Fresca was supposed to join them down there at the time of the shooting.
On March 13, 2009 (a Friday the 13th), Joseph Young was sentenced to life in prison for murder in aid of racketeering. Young was also convicted for other crimes, including arson, armed robbery and transporting illegal firearms across state lines.
According to the book
Haunted New York City: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Big Apple
by Cheri Revai (see Available from Amazon below) a young group of paranormal enthusiasts were allowed entry to the Kreischer Mansion in 2004 by a man claiming to be the owner of the house. The youths were allowed to wander about the house and take photos, which they later posted online. One of the photos of a mirror captured the reflection of the "owner" standing in the background watching the kids. The man wasn't the owner, it was Joseph Young. In their hunt for ghosts, the youngsters were unaware that a man capable of murder was leading them about the halls of the mansion.
The Kreischer Mansion Today
Currently, the Charles Kreischer House is still only occupied by a caretaker (and possibly some ghosts). Isaac Yomtovian has stated that he wishes to donate the mansion to be used as a museum or art gallery or to possibly be used by a religious organization or college. The fate of the mansion has yet to be determined. The mansion continues to draw both folks curious about the stories of haunting and vandals. In October of 2008, there were repeated break-ins at the historic house. The vandals were bold enough to break in three days in a row, stealing computers kept in the building. They were caught by the caretaker on their fourth break-in that followed a few days after their previous invasion of the house. The Kreisher Mansion is private property and has no trespassing signs posted. Any visitors to the house should avoid trespassing onto the property.
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Wikipedia: Charleston, Staten Island
Wikipedia article on the Charleston neighborhood in Staten Island.
Tottenville History: Charleston Historic Sites
Tottenville Historical Society's page on historical sites in Charleston.
The Falstaff's Experience
The Old State House Museum
Victory Gardens Biograph Theater
See Also on TheCabinet.com
Blog: Murder in a Haunted Mansion (04/05/09)
Available from Amazon.com
Haunted New York City: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Big Apple
Forgotten New York: Views of a Lost Metropolis
The Encyclopedia of New York City
Weird New York: Your Travel Guide to New York's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets [WEIRD NEW YORK]
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