A Brief History: Opening it’s doors in 1926, Chumley’s historic speakeasy sits at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village NY. Chumley’s was frequented by many artists, activists and literary masters such as: William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, Norman Mailer, Edna St. Vincent Millay, J.D. Salinger, cartoonist C.D. Batchelor to name a few. Purchasing the property in the 1920’s, Lee Chumley turned what was formerly a blacksmith shop, into a prohibition era speakeasy complete with multiple exits, secret passages, a trick staircase, trapdoors and a bookcase that doubles as a hidden door. Chumley’s never had a sign out front, it was said that if you could not find your way in then you did not belong there. When prohibition agents were raiding, the police would call and tell the owners to send everyone out the back door which led to 86 Bedford Street (during prohibition the front entrance was 58 Barrow Street), rumor has it that the expression “to 86” something (to stop serving someone or to get rid of something) was coined here. Dating back to the 1830’s, the building itself is rumored to have been a safe haven for escaped slaves during pre-civil war times.
Lee Chumley ran the speakeasy from 1922 until his death from a heart attack in 1935 leaving the bar to his wife Henrietta. Henrietta ran Chumley’s until she died in her sleep at her favorite table in front of the fireplace in 1960. Coincidentally, both Henrietta and Lee Chumley passed away at the former speakeasy. According to claims Henrietta would sit at her favorite table drinking Manhattans all night until passing out. The former speakeasy closed it’s doors after a partial building collapse in 2007. The bar has since been renovated but unfortunately has yet to reopen.
Haunted history: With it’s long history, including the murder of a writer over a chess game in 1960, it should come as no surprise that there have been a number of witness reports involving paranormal activity at Chumley’s. The current owner even goes as far as to keep a log of all the supernatural occurrences. Some believe that the former proprietress, Henrietta Chumley, still shows her presence by knocking bottles off the shelves and sitting at her favorite table, the same table where she had passed away. It is said that the jukebox would play even though it is unplugged and the songs that come on will seem to sync or coincide with current conversations or current holidays. The owner states this could be attributed to the 12 firefighters and former employees of Chumley’s who were killed on 9/11/2001.