Our Man In New York: Of ghosts and ghoulies and advertising from hell

Share

To stand out in the crowd nowadays, it always helps to generate a little controversy. Known as negative advertising, it's all about getting up the nose of sufficient numbers of people to generate indignant newspaper headlines without going too far and alienating everyone.

Madonna got it right by enraging the Vatican with a mock crucifixion in her sold-out Confessions Tour this year but might have caused a tad too much damage with her African baby debacle. Mel Gibson ensured maximum exposure for his film The Passion of the Christ by stirring up the Jewish lobby but his recent drunken anti-Semitic rant has become a press relations nightmare he may never escape.

Now it is the turn of the US distributors of the British film Death of a President, which has just opened here to mostly atrocious reviews. But for a kerfuffle created by the refusal of some cinema chains to screen it - claiming that a fictional assassination of George Bush crosses the taste barrier - and of Fox, CNN and other networks to air trailers for it, most of America wouldn't even know it was playing.

A special prize for ingenuity should be given to the Maritime Hotel in the claustrophobically trendy Meatpacking District of Manhattan which I assume was responsible for planting a story in the gossip pages of the New York Post at the weekend claiming that one of its floors is haunted.

The Maritime was built on the site of a demolished Catholic refuge for troubled youths. It seems that guests have been reporting seeing the spirits of young children playing in the corridors on the 10th floor. One woman recently ran screaming to the lobby wet from a shower and wrapped in a bath towel after a ghoulish encounter. Understandably, she checked out and found alternative lodgings.

While we are assured that these juvenile phantoms are entirely well-behaved and non-threatening, the story has a darker side. Almost 20 years ago the Manhattan District Attorney opened an investigation into claims that the pastor who used to run the refuge was in the habit of intoxicating his wards with alcohol before attempting to abuse them. Perhaps that explains the restlessness of the spirits still today.

You might be asking what has possessed the Maritime's management - aside from the children themselves - to steer such a story into the press, if indeed that is what they did. What kind of publicity is this for a hostelry, which, after all, is by no means a dump? Its balcony bar, the largest outside party space of any hotel in the city, is a point of tipsy pilgrimage on summer nights for any Manhattanite with pretensions of cool. Actually, it is rather good publicity if only because of the season, Halloween.

If you don't live here or have never visited at the end of October, you may not be entirely aware of the seriousness with which Americans take this holiday of tricks, treats and bumps in the night. Millions of small children will have spent the weekend assembling their Superman and Marie Antoinette costumes (well, maybe not the latter) ahead of tomorrow's rituals of gathering sweets from neighbours and threatening them with pranks. Billions of little pumpkin lights are now dangling from front porches from one side of the land to the other.

It is by no means a holiday just for the little ones. New York, perhaps more than any other city, goes a bit bonkers over Halloween. The parade tomorrow, which will pass just a couple of blocks from the Maritime, draws crowds even bigger than those jammed into Times Square on New Year's Eve. It's about commerce too, of course. This year, even the lofty Bergdorf Goodman department store on Fifth Avenue has stooped to filling its windows with witches and grim reapers. Meanwhile, every other cable channel is in the midst of a multi-day, horror-movie marathon.

The horror for many of us is not about gore and blood but about fake gore and blood. Yes, once more I have been the receiver of Halloween party invitations and once more plunged into costume panic. This meant repairing this morning with my friend Veronika to the Halloween Adventure shop on 4th Avenue to purchase an off-the-peg disguise. Regrettably, half the adult population of the city seemed to have had the same idea and after waiting 10 minutes just to get in the door, we gave up.

I have hit upon a solution that merely required a cheap purchase from my local charity shop and a quick raid of my daughter's toy cupboard. While it is more or less inoffensive to all religious and ethnic groups, I do admit that the wearing of it - especially on the subway to my friend's apartment - will induce deep humiliation and discomfort. Thus, while I could reveal the nature of it to you here, I choose to demur lest I stand accused of trying to promote myself though negative advertising.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Buyer

£19000 - £21225 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Duties will include assisting t...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Membership Manager

£35 - 38k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Advisor / Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This position will in the main ...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the top Cosmeceutical br...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks