Peter Stuyvesant: You Can’t Keep a Good Ghost Down
Stuyvesant was the last Dutch governor of New Netherlands. Stuyvesant was called “Peg-Leg Peter,” or “Old Silver Nails.” because of the silver studs wrapped around his wood en leg. He had lost the leg fighting against the Spanish for Dutch West India Company in Curacao. He is New York City’s oldest European ghost.
St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery was built 1799 on what had been the private chapel of the vast estate of Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch colonial governor of New Netherland colony and its capital New Amsterdam. His great-grandchildren had become Episcopalians and donated the land to the Episcopal Church.
Ever since he was laid to rest there in 1672, ghost tales have persisted; believers claim the final Dutch governor haunts anyone who disturbs his grave. There were many reports in the 1800s of people hearing Stuyvesant’s unmistakable gait pacing up and down the aisles, but reports of his spirit in Dutch period costume and a peg leg haunting St. Mark’s have dwindled considerably in the twentieth century, though the legends live on.
Appearance No. 1: His servants swore they saw Stuyvesant’s ghost roaming through his mansion at what is now Third Avenue and Tenth Street upon his death. The mansion was built in 1660. Almost from the day after Peter Stuyvesant died at age 80 in 1672, he has been making his ghostly appearance. House maids and workers reported seeing his ghost hobbling around the property soon after he died. You can’t keep a good ghost down.
Appearance No. 2: A fire swept through the former governor’s mansion in 1744. Witnesses reported a peg-legged ghost wandering around the rubble in the mist, sadly assessing the damage. You just can’t keep a good ghost down.
Appearance No. 3: Old Pete really got rankled when the city ran Second Avenue through his church yard in 1831. Workmen noticed a lost of noisy activity the closer they got to his mausoleum when they began to build Second Avenue and again when they helped subdivide the farm into lots to sell for housing. You just can’t keep a good ghost down.
Appearance No. 4: 1865 really must have been a good year for disturbances in the psychic ethers. The year Lincoln died, a sexton was scared out of his wits when Stuyvesant appeared in the church and hobbled toward him. Upon hearing the sound and determining it was Stuyvesant’s ghost, the sexton bolted, screaming into the night as his invisible pursuer hobbled closer. That night St. Mark’s Bell started to toll. People rushed to the church only to find it locked. When the members of the congregation finally opened the door, the ringing stopped. Only a small piece of rope was hanging from the bell too short for any human being to reach. They searched the church from steeple to cellar but found nothing–except the rest of the torn bell rope on Governor Stuyvesant’s crypt. You just can’t keep a good ghost down.
Appearance No. 5: In 1884, Church Services were interrupted by a very loud singing voice that was singing Calvinist hymns in Dutch in opposition of the English hymns of the Episcopal Church… It seemed at this point, he could no longer stand Episcopal services! You just can’t keep a good ghost down.
Appearance No. 6: When the twentieth century began, “Old Silver Nails,” once more made his presence known. When Second Avenue was widened, Stuyvesant’s grave was disturbed by the noise of the construction effort involved. This sparked the clanging of the church bell by an invisible and but presumed peg-legged bell ringer. You can’t keep a good ghost down.
Appearance No. 7: In the 1930s, the preacher giving the Sunday sermon noticed that a young man always at in the same spot. He asked why. The young man replied that he observed a man in a colonial Dutch costume with a peg leg sitting next to a woman in a colonial costume listening intermittently to what the preacher had to say. But he said they loved to gossip about the preacher. The governor now has a girl friend! • Will there be toast ghosties in the future? You can’t keep down a good ghost!
Appearance No. 8: In 1953 his last direct descent was buried in the family crypt at St. Mark’s and the vault was sealed. People hoped that Stuyvesant’s spirit would finally find eternal rest. Van Schack Stuyvesant, the last descendant gave instructions that concrete should be poured inside the vault to permanently seal it. A team of paranormal researchers claimed to have photographic evidence of various images and reflections that showed up on film. Some of the mourners claimed they heard the rap of Peter Stuyvesant’s leg during the service. Another report is auditory. Tapping sounds of Stuyvesant’s peg leg could be heard by the mourners present as an apparent last salute to his last male descendant, the sixth generation. Either way, Stuyvesant welcomed his last descendant with ceremony! You can’t keep a good ghost down.
Appearance No. 9: Apparently the end of the line has not meant the end of the Stuyvesant’s ghostly activity. Christmas day 1995, the congregation was finishing their morning prayers when they heard in the reception room, “99 bottle of rum, 98 bottle of rum, etc.” They rushed in to observe a figure in a Dutch period costume with a wooden leg disappearing into the walls. There was only one entrance to the room and no possibility of escape. The punch bowl of Christmas cheer was clearly down an inch! You can’t keep a good ghost down
Appearance No. 10: Just before Halloween 2002 I had a member of the congregation on tour. Leaving a late Wednesday night church service, she thought she heard the sounds of a peg leg step behind. She ran all the way home without looking back and locked her door shut!
You can’t keep a good ghost down. When and where will Peter Stuyvesant make his next appearance?