Scary Places Close to Home

A spooky house on the hill, the ruins of a castle, an abandoned theater, a mysterious cottage in the middle of the woods, and an isolated lighthouse—all of them are classic scary places where dark stories are often set.

But there are plenty of less exotic story-worthy locations much closer to home. You just have to keep your eyes open and you will spot them. There is one in my neighborhood that never fails to send a shiver down my spine. It just reeks of danger!

Where is this nexus of horror?

It’s the hallway where the bathrooms are located at a Ukrainian restaurant on Second Avenue a short walk from my home. Do you think I’m kidding? I’m not.

Let me back track a bit, the East Village was once a Ukrainian/Russian/Eastern European neighborhood and there are still many restaurants, bakeries, shops, social clubs and even a historic bathhouse. One of the restaurants is famous for serving authentic borsch and blintzes (and all sorts of fun stuff) 24 hours a day at very reasonable prices. It’s almost always crowded.

There’s also a Ukrainian restaurant with a large party room. Several times a week that room is taken over by New York City’s Tango dancers. I often go there to dance and eat kasha. (Kasha is buckwheat groats, and a pile of them makes me feel sentimental about my Eastern European grandma.)

To get to the bathroom, you have to go through the regular dining room, through a strangely empty lobby, and down a long flight of stairs leading to a corridor with two doors on the right hand side—the first the men’s room and the second is the women’s. Just beyond the door to the women’s bathroom, there’s another stairway (a dark, forbidding stairway) that no doubt leads up to some kind of service entrance with egress through a trap door on the street. In winter cold winds blow down from that portal and in the summer damp air hovers in the darkness.

An entrance for Zombies!

A handy hiding place for Vampires!

A quick exist for a Murderer!

Every time I go there, I have the same unnerving experience. Clack, clack, clack…. the heels of my dance shoes down the stairs to the too quiet hallway. What awaits me? No doubt a story, but what else?

Scary places exist even in the most familiar locations. Tons of them in NYC home of the iconic and the crowded.

Scary places exist even in the most familiar locations. Tons of them in NYC home of the iconic and the crowded.


  1. -grin- I can see the headlines now:
    “Famous Indie writer disappears after eating kasha.”

    This location reminds me of a lovely story by Alma Alexander in which 4? university friends go through a bathroom door [one at a time!] at a restaurant and live out alternate lives before being returned to the time and place from which they left. Gah…Midnight in Spanish Gardens? I’m pretty sure that’s it.

    Anyway, does this hallway feature at all in your current WiP?

    • Candy Korman

      Not in this novel… This one has scenes in lovely restaurants, art galleries, fabulous brownstones, a posh penthouse and yes… a museum not completely unlike the famed Metropolitan Museum of Art. I think that hallway and the terrifying staircase are worth their own short story. I will be there (eating Kasha and dancing) on Wednesday night. Maybe I will finally nail down the story on Wednesday?

  2. This post brings to mind the nexus of horror that is the mile-long Taft tunnel at the start of the Route of the Hiawatha bike trail on the Idaho/Montana border. Back in the day, trains ran that route. As a bike path, it’s beautiful. Yet, going into that dank, drippy tunnel with a tiny headlamp on always brings to mind things that go bump in the night. Riding along without being able to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is so jarring and creeps me out in the best of ways 😉

    • Candy Korman

      That is seriously scary!
      There’s a footbridge in lower Manhattan that goes over a heavy traffic, multi-lane highway. The one time I walked it I was lost and it was an icy cold winter night with gray snow and sheets of ice on the ground and freezing rain in the air. I climbed the icy metal stairway up and heard the thunk, thunk, thunk of my footsteps and then another set of footsteps. Vampire fantasies overtook me when I realized that the egress was an entrance to a high school and it was way after school hours. Then the other set of footsteps went down another staircase and I, eventually, followed down that staircase only to discover that I was blocks away from the theater and shivering with fear and cold. Your tunnel reminded me of that. It’s the sense of being alone in the dark. It’s an ancient fear.