Although the stories are largely unknown to many Queens residents, Marie Carter, a tour guide from Boroughs of the Dead Walking Tours, researched and created a tour based on some of the most fascinating and downright shocking claims in Astoria’s history. Fresh off the heels of a tour on July 23 and with a new tour happening on August 22, Boroughs of the Dead is giving you the treat of Halloween in the summertime.
Borough of the Dead features tours all over the city where dark and hidden historical stories are exposed and ghost stories are told. The Astoria is the first feature Queens tour.
While it’s not primarily a ghost tour, there are still haunting stories of ghost sightings in the neighborhood. One of the most famous ghosts in the borough actually resides in Astoria’s iconic Museum of the Moving Image. Rudolph Valentino, a silent film actor who died in the 1920s, is said to be seen multiple times. Visitors have even claimed to see his dog running around.
A female ghost, dressed in white and smelling of lavender, is sometimes found wandering around 34th Avenue and 44th Street. The Greater Astoria Historical Society claimed that she might be the wife of businessman William Hallett, who owned nearly 2,200 acres of land in what is present-day Astoria.
“I like to get the history in as well, in a way that is fun and accessible to people,” Carter said. “Astoria has an amazing history and I feel like it’s not readily apparent because so many of the old buildings that used to be here are gone.”
Another stop on the tour is the Most Precious Blood Roman Catholic Church, where Carter goes into some history and talks about features of the building before introducing visitors to the world of vampires. Not face-to-face of course, but Carter warns that vampires do exist under a certain definition, and according to the Vampire Research Center in Elmhurst, she said that there are currently two vampires living in the borough.
Originally from Livingston, Scotland, Carter feels like the Astoria tour is something that her whole life had led up to. Her first ghost tour happened in York, England, while she was on a school trip.
“I loved the ghost tour so much that I never forgot about it,” Carter said.
Additionally, her father was a bus tour guide in Edinburgh, which prompted her interest in history as well. After moving to New York City, she became engrossed in the city’s history and eventually wanted to learn about any dark history that occurred around her former home in Brooklyn Heights. After meeting Andrea Janes, the founder and owner of Boroughs of the Dead, Carter chose to rearch Astoria’s dark history and the two women put together the gripping tour.
Carter hopes to carry on more tours in Astoria, and she plans on starting a “B-side” tour next year which will cover the other side of Astoria.
“I feel regretful because Astoria is so huge; there’s so many things to get to that it’s bothering me that we can’t get to the Steinway area and the Steinway mansion,” she said. “There’s so much history around Ditmars Boulevard so we are in talks of going around that area as well.”
The majority of people who attend the tours are local Astoria residents who are interested in their neighborhood’s history as well as a different perspective on the area. People who have lived in Astoria for decades show up to the tours to hear more about stories they’ve heard themselves over the years.
As time ticks closer to Halloween, more tourists will start joining the weekly tours. But for now, the next schedule tour is set to be on Saturday, August 22.
For more information on various tours around the city, head to boroughsofthedead.com/