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Updated on July 18, 2012
Playland was a great place when I was a child, and when they closed up, we saw ghosts there.
Playland was a great place when I was a child, and when they closed up, we saw ghosts there. | Source

Ghosts Haunt Times Square New York City!

I had lived in New York City as a child for many years and have fond memories of it. We were raised very well, very heeled, extremely wealthy throughout the whole 10 years I spent as a kid in New York City, and we were always open for a stiff dose of imagination. When we were children and something profound, dangerous or strange happened, my dad taught us how to just chalk it up and move on, checked it off as a fluke or vivid brain thoughts. Now that I am older, I wished I had delved into exactly what was going on when we were wandering around as kids trying to sneak into the Burlesque House next door to the Playland Arcade after they had closed. The week prior, we'd walked across the 59th Street Bridge and explored the old mental hospital buildings on Roosevelt Island.

What I am getting at is that now that the brand new New York City has been hatched, I can feel, appreciate and still hold onto the spirits of the older characters that ran the places that used to grace the streets of Broadway near 42nd Street. I knew them, and we knew downtown Times Square New York, right smack dab in the middle of it all, like we knew our own path to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Now there are huge Video stores and restaurants, and expensive shops, and McDonalds, as well as Planet Hollywood.

But what stood there before those retro futuristic places with the DVD's and big burgers made out of Tofu? Imagine yourself back in 1970, it was Playland Arcade, and a Burlesque house where a tall lanky looking bouncer stood just outside the doorway of the nude bar butting right up against our favorite arcade. It was always the same man, the same creepy guy chewing on a cigar looking at us with his vulture-like eyes.

If you walked slowly by on your way to the Playland Arcade, you could just make out a slight glimpse of a naked girl dancing on what looked like a small stage, but as soon as you got close enough, the bouncer slammed the door and yelled in your face for you to get lost! My older brother, younger sister and I used to frequent that area on the weekends, taking the bus down there to play all the games at the arcade run by Bruno, this mobster looking guy that would put the racing game so loud, that when you won, the noise was so raw you were slightly embarrassed for winning the tickets that shot out of it.

Playland Arcade was a fun place and we'd go for years, even when were were in our late teens although by the late Seventies it was a bit anti climatic by then, with the add ons of Pac Man and taking out of the old time games and nickelodeons. He even had the old time life like cowboy shoot out, which seemed so real.

Sometimes we'd spot Bruno and the bouncer sharing a cigarette and laughing and talking together behind the old Burlesque theater. It was during a lull in the antics of other kids who used to try and sneak in like we tried to attempt, sometimes doing worse things or saying foul things to the two men who, at that time, were just trying to run businesses. We simply wanted to irk them, to make them angry, to make them chase us. Actually, I liked to make them chase my brother, who loved to run down the street screaming. It was a rush for us then. Back when we were frolicking as kids, and my brother could sound like a police siren when he yelled.

But we blew it one day when my older brother ran by and told the guy with his finger what he thought of the bouncer. As he made the finger at Mr. Burlesque, Bruno came out and saw that and refused to let us in his Playland establishment. I was devastated, that's why we came all the way from where we lived at the UN Plaza on 49th and First Avenues. I loved the smell of Playland, the odor of slightly burned buttered popcorn, cotton candy and waffle ice cream mix. I could even smell the oil on the ball bearings of the arcade games.

So that day, on a whim, we ran to the next street, into the more seedier part of Broadway, although as children we didn't see it most of the time. There was another Playland Arcade and it was two floors!!! We couldn't believe this find. We walked in and this one had the old style playing machines, even a recording booth that made plastic records that when done, came out of the side in a paper record cover. This bigger Playland Arcade had vibrating machines where you placed your feet on a platform that shook at a high rate of speed. There was the usual games, but more at this huge Playland we never knew existed until that moment. This one had the old fashioned flip cameras where you saw a lady walking on a beach in the 1900's which fascinated me. Was she still alive, where was she now? Did she get paid to do that back then?" It made me think of the older days long passed and as a child I wanted to see more, so I spent all my money on that one machine.

We tried several times to make a singing record for our parents, but some bad kids kept knocking on the door and ruining every record we made. Back then it was about 1 dollar to record for about 2 minutes and get the record to come out the side. The bad boys kept trying to come in and curse and ruin our song. You can hear it on the record. Afterwards, we would meander up to the second floor where there were hot dog stands, hamburgers cooking, cotton candy, but bigger portions and more of a choice of junk food.

A tall man looking like a skinny Tony Soprano ran that big Playland on 48th and Broadway. We started to tease him as he stood behind the counter where you traded in your tickets for cheap prizes, but his prizes were not cheap. The guy had watches, clocks, kittens as clocks, bobbing head statues and much more. We told him about the bad boys and he said "tough luck kids, I'm closing up this week, so enjoy!" He then turned all the machines on for free and let us play all day on them, except he unplugged the record machine and would not let anyone record on it. He was selling it to a museum and didn't want anyone to ruin it anymore than it was. He did the same with the old style movie machines. I fell in love with the old place and wished we'd found it earlier, but it was closing, so that was that, as Dad would have said.

We left in all our abandonment and headed back home on the bus, and the following week we returned to find that Bruno at the smaller Playland had died suddenly. We were sad, he was mean, but a fixture in that place. Afterwards his brother Stan tried running the place but the games kept breaking down. I was taking a photo of myself when I saw a vision of Bruno in the camera shaking his head and saying something to the extend of "It's over, it's done, they are building over my grave!" I was afraid, and could not move. But my little brain at the time pretended it didn't happen, or I had imagined it.

They had added more electronic games like Tempest, Defenders and Star Wars stuff, and then taken out the older games we all sort of loved for nostalgia. We passed the bigger Playland on our way to eat at the new McDonalds that had gone up next door to Playland Jr. The old arcade we'd seen in many movies and chase scenes was being boarded up and shut down. What would we do on the weekends? Why was this happening?

The next evening, I asked my father as we made our way in a taxi to Stars Deli one Saturday night, on 42nd and Broadway, about ghosts, if they existed. By the time we got to our huge reserved table at the restaurant and waited for our food, my dad explained it. "Things change and that's just the way it is!" he remembered Playland, both of them. "You've got to make way for bigger and better things," he added as took a big bite of his dill pickle and I sipped on my cola. "There is something called 'an impression' which is mistaken for a ghost. It had to do with electro-magnetic energy and your own mind and what it sees!" He explained the science of it, but I still believed that there were spirits of people, impressions or no impressions.

There was a bad, daring kid we used to hang around named David Cuomo. He dared us to go into the old two story Playland about 5 months later when we all stood on the sidewalk bored to death, not having funds for the movies nor to eat. I volunteered and was lead to the alley and into a small doggie door in the big steel door that had a huge pad lock on it. I entered and felt a presence. "Did you hear that the guy died who used to run this place," whispered David. "He died right over there!" David pointed to a now empty corner I could see because shafts of sunlight were coming through the wood panels. Then I saw the ghost of the man taking a gun and shooting himself. "Did he kill himself?" I asked David as we moved closer to the inner sanctum of the old boarded up Playland. "Yup, he sure did, how did you know?" I didn't want to tell David I saw it in the corner as plain as day.

We left the building after that, and it was soon razed to build some sort of new shopping area of the future. "I wish I could have said good bye to Bruno. He was a nice guy," I thought to myself as we walked passed the old Burlesque place. "Hey what happened to that place?"

There was no usual bouncer guy. "They shut that down weeks ago," said David, seeming to know more than he should. "I remember that ratty guy at the front like he was so cool," said David. That evening David, myself, my sister and another friend passed the back of the old burlesque joint. It was David who screamed when he saw the bouncer, who was supposedly dead, emptying garbage into a bigger container. We all saw something, but whatever it was made us all run down the street at dead neck speed.

That evening, while I lay in my bed. I turned over to stare at the window. We lived 23 flights up but a small sliver of glowing light filtered into my bedroom I shared with my younger sister who snored like a lioness. I saw a robust man standing in the corner who at first I first thought was this valet my mother used to drive her around and run errands. I wondered why he was in my room. Then the figure came closer and I could see it was a big fat darkly dressed man with black hair. It was not the valet. It was Bruno! Bruno, from Playland came close up to me, and I could actually hear the sounds of the video games and pinballs clicking and clanking behind him. He got bigger and bigger until he popped like a bubble and laughed that strange laugh he only possessed.

I was so frightened I ran to my parent's room, but they coaxed me back to my own room. I ended up sleeping with my blanket and pillow in our bathroom. The next morning and no matter how many times I told it, no one believed it and thought I had a vivid imagination.

In closing, all my life I've been attracted to the other side, the dead people as we say now, or the ones on the other side. I've had some sort of contact many times. But the Unknown Ghosts of Times Square New York City are the most vivid in my mind. As a friend of my grandfather's said many times on his TV show "Believe it, or Not!!!!"


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    • Leslie_Siegel profile imageAUTHOR

      Katie Seagal 

      4 years ago from Hollywood, CA

      Those were such fun days for us. I loved Playland, and the one down the street with two floors of fun. But the best was that record machine where you could actually make a record. WOW!

    • profile image

      John Wlson 

      4 years ago

      Ah, memories of the old arcades. I do remember them. Seedy as hell.


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