Saturday, October 4, 2008

The haunted elevator shaft on Delaware Avenue

Yesterday I realized it had been a year ago, exactly, that I called Leonard Pennario for the first time. I remember I had putting it off forever, because you now how it is in life, you never have time to get as prepared as you want to be for something. It got to the absolute last second I could interview him and still make my deadline, and that is when I called him.

I uttered the fateful words: "Mr. Pennario, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"

And he said no.

And then I asked if this was a good time?

And he said yes.

And then I surprised even myself by starting to talk about my Uncle Andrew. I had not planned on this but it is a Buffalo thing: you instantly have things in common. Pennario went to Holy Angels School and my great uncle, the Rev. Andrew Kunz, was in charge of the Holy Angels complex for decades. He was the national treasurer of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. And I always wondered why we had so much money growing up! Just kidding.

To this day if you go to Holy Angels, which I do every year for their fabulous Lenten fish fry, you will see a big portrait of my Uncle Andrew in the social hall. That fish fry is great. Last year when I went, I met Jon Lehrer from LehrerDance, the great modern dance troupe. He had just moved here and understandably made the Holy Angels fish fry his top priority. We sat next to each other eating mountains of haddock and drinking jug wine. That is how I knew he was now living here. I got the scoop.

Pennario did not know my Uncle Andrew. But he told me about the pastor who was there when he was there, a priest named Father Stanton he kept in touch with his whole life, along with several of the nuns who had taught him. That helped break the ice. Considering my Uncle Andrew went to his reward when I was a very little girl I have gotten a lot of mileage out of him over the years. I think sometimes that he likes that I think of him. Anyway, he did that problematic first conversation with Pennario a world of good. A lot of Pennario's life was about priests and nuns. That is true of most people from Buffalo, even Howard and he is Jewish. Howard went to Niagara University.

How I ramble! Sitting here early in the morning with my coffee getting cold.

It is time to tell the weird October story of the day.

Yesterday I promised the story of the haunted elevator shaft on Delaware Avenue. This is a creepy one! This comes to us courtesy of my sister Katie, the left-winger. Katie's husband, David, knows these two other guys who, as teenagers, wound up in the vicinity of the Jetsons building. You know the Jetsons building. It is that '60s-looking powder blue 12-story (I think) apartment building on the west side of Delaware Avenue near Utica Street. It has that great mod arch over the doorway, with little lights. Jazz pianist Ruth Killeen lives there in her penthouse.
But at the time our story takes place, the Jetsons building was just going up. Something else had been there before.

Construction had paused for the night and no one was around. The kids noticed a pop machine there to service the workers, and being in that phase of their lives when they were pursuing an ignorant agenda, they decided to see if they could rob some money from it. They went in and were kicking and shaking it when ...

They saw something!!

It was a black shape and it came at them out of nowhere and vanished. This is a true story. I am getting chills just writing it. Without saying a thing, without even looking at each other, they just ran.

It was weeks before they could talk about it, even with each other. That is a detail that makes the story believable to me. David told me that. That is how shaken they were. Neither of them even wanted to mention it.

Well, they finally talked about it, and then they looked into it, where the ... thing ... would have come from. And they figured out that it came from the building's elevator shaft.

What do you make of that?

Every time I go to visit Ruth Killeen I think about it.


Anonymous said...

If the blog author will allow it, I will contribute a spooky and true story from the world of music during the October run of these stories. It didn't happen in Buffalo, which may disqualify it.

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