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Ghost Story: Elma Sands

Our video on YouTube, ‘Ghost Story: Elma Sands’, tells the sad tale of Elma Sands, who was murdered in early NYC and continues to haunt us centuries later. Watch our video and let us know how you feel about it. Below is the story of Elma Sands in greater detail. 

The restless ghost of Elma Sands

New York City is one of the oldest and most historic cities in America. As such, it is home to millions of stories, some of them ghost stories. It is no surprise that the supernatural films like Ghostbusters, 1408, Deliver Us From Evil or Ghost take place in the Big Apple. One real-life ghost story that is among the most sad is the story of the ghost of Elma Sands, the Ghost of Spring Street.

Elma Sands lived - and died - on an early NYC block much like this.
Elma Sands lived – and died – on an early NYC block much like this.

Elma Sands: who was she and what happened to her?

‘Elma’ was the nickname of Gulielma Sands.  Her parents had died when whe was young and she eventually went to live in her cousin’s boarding house in New York City. Manhattan was an important port city much like its sister cities, Philadelphia and Boston.

Levi Weeks was a carpenter who lived in the same boardhouse as Elma Sands. He worked for his brother, a well-connected architect that designed buildings for the prominent lawyer, Alexander Hamilton. It has been reported that:

During his stay at the boardinghouse Levi Weeks was noticed paying attention to both Hope Sands and Margaret Clark, but he was also seen entering Elma Sands’s room late at night. On Sunday, December 22, 1799, the last the last day Elma was seen alive, she told Hope Sands that she and Levi Weeks planned to secretly marry that night.

On the night of December 22, 1799, 22-year old Elma Sands left her home for a walk with her fiance, Levi Weeks. Some suspected that Elma was pregnant with Levi’s child. unknown, Levi was accused of having strangled Elma to death for reasons that remain a mystery. The murdered then dumped Elma’s body in a well on Spring Street.

Elma Sands’ body was not found until the 2nd of January 1800. Her dress was torn violently according to someone who rescued the body.

Before her funeral, the public was allowed to participate in an open viewing of Elma’s body at the boardinghouse. Thousands of people traveled to view the body and pay their respects.

Levi Weeks was arrested and imprisoned. Because he was part of a wealthy and well-connected family, he was able to secure Alexander Hamilton, Henry Brockholst Livingston and Aaron Burr as his attorneys.  The case divided the New Yorkers, and was considered the first major American trial of the modern era.

The haunted well is one of Travel Channel’s 10 most haunted places in America.

The well where the body was thrown Elma still exists.  In 1817, a red-brick building was built on the location, which is now 129 Spring Street In 1980, the owner of this Spring Street location decided to excavate the basement, which was full of dirt.  During the excation, the workers managed to unearth the infamous seven-foot tall well.

Elma Sands ghost well
The well in which Elma Sands body was found – and the source of the haunting. It now sits in a clothing boutique in NYC.

For many years, the well sat in the basement of a restaurant restaurant “Manhattan Bistro”. The well was inaccessible to visitors during this time. While the restaurant was open, there were reports of dishes flying on their own through the restaurant, cups that were thrown mysteriously, and mysterious noises heard by the customers. Footsteps have reported been heard in the room where the well sits. Also, banging against the door that opens up into the room.

The Travel Channel has named this building one of the 10 most haunted places in America.

The restaurant closed down in 2014. During December 2014, COS, a trendy Dutch retailer opened up at the location.  The multi-story clothing store includes a shopping area right where the haunted well sits in full view of shoppers.

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