Carter works for Boroughs of the Dead, a ghost tour company founded by author Andrea Janes. A writer herself, Carter attended a tour in Brooklyn Heights and, after moving to Astoria two years ago, approached Janes about expanding the tour to Astoria.
“I absolutely loved [the tour’s] combination of history with the ghosts,” she said. “Even though [Astoria is] very modern looking right now it does have a fantastic history.”
Carter did extensive research before starting the tour last year, including biking through Old Astoria and participating in a walk with the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
The two-hour tour makes 10 stops after meeting up at the Museum of Moving Image and winding through Astoria Park South and Old Astoria Village. Carter said more than half of the participants are usually from Astoria but many are unaware of the neighborhood’s rich past.
“Even some of the Astoria residents I take down there don’t know a lot about this area,” Carter said. “Old Astoria Village [is] visually and historically arresting.”
Though Carter did not want to give too much about the tour away, she did share some stories she tells during the excursion. The Astor Room, a restaurant and bar near Kaufman Astoria Studios, is allegedly visited by the ghost of Rudolph Valentino — a famous silent film actor.
The Italian actor who filmed several movies at Kaufman Astoria Studios died when he was 31 years old from peritonitis. About 100,000 people reportedly showed up to his funeral in Manhattan. According to Carter, his ghost has been spotted haunting The Astor Room and several establishments in Los Angeles.
She also tells the story of the Garroting Ghost, which haunted a now demolished house somewhere in Old Astoria Village. Though the location of the house was never disclosed, it has a grisly past. Carter usually tells the story in front of a funeral home for added effect.
The first owner of the house allegedly strangled his daughter-in-law with a rope. It is also reported that someone buried gold in the basement. An Italian man who knew about these stories purchased the home in hopes of finding the gold.
He hired an Irish woman to act as a housekeeper for the house and to help him rent out the floors upstairs. The business venture ultimately failed since people weren’t renting out the rooms. One patron allegedly said that she woke up with a tight pressure around her neck that felt like hands trying to strangle her.
This patron had rented out the room where the previous owner garroted his daughter-in-law. The location of the house was never revealed because an investigator for the American Psychical Research Institute, who told the story to the New York Times in 1934, was visited by a ghost who told him never to reveal the address. It was later torn down due to structural issues.
Carter grew up in Scotland and was “surrounded by ghost stories.” She went on a school trip to York at age 12 and experienced her first ghost walking tour, which she still fondly remembers today. Carter also went on tours of the Edinburgh vaults and credits these early trips as the basis for her fascination with ghost tours.
“People like getting a different take on their neighborhoods…to learn about the history of a neighborhood that is fun and entertaining and also kind of looks at a slightly different and more unique side of history,” Carter said.
The next tour, which costs $20, will take place on June 11 at 8 p.m. For more information on Boroughs of the Dead, click here.
Marie Carter at The Astor Room where famous actor Rudolph Valentino’s ghost has been spotted.