New York is a city that never sleeps — even for the dead.
Deep in the heart of one of the New York's hippest neighborhoods, among the fine dining and high-end shopping, lies a chilling mystery. New York’s SoHo district was once the home of famous faces like David Bowie and Kelly Ripa, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and soccer star Thierry Henry, but the neighborhood's perhaps most-famous tenant refuses to leave: the spirit of a scorned young lover.
At 129 Spring Street, paranormal enthusiasts can find a beautiful brick well in the basement of the clothing store COS. It's been around since the 1700s and, while unusable, looks just as attractive as the fashions on display. However, its history as the site of a tragic death is much more alluring.
On Dec. 22, 1799, 21-year-old Gulielma Elmore Sands snuck out of her Greenwich Street tenement. Unaware of the fate that was awaiting her, she went off to meet her secret sweetheart, Levi Weeks.
It was the last time the young lady was ever seen alive.
On Jan. 2, 1800, her body was discovered inside the now-infamous Spring Street well. Sands' body was found with strangulation marks on her neck, a sensational detail that led her trial to become the first in a long history of tabloid crimes in the city. Media dubbed the case "The Manhattan Well Murder."
Weeks, suspected of killing his ladylove, was arrested and charged with homicide. The case captured the fascination of the community and fueled the rumor mill, with busybodies suggesting Weeks had impregnated the victim. And Sands’ own family even displayed her corpse outside their boarding home, which only fanned the flames of fury against Weeks.
Weeks' wealthy and affluent uncle helped put up the money to get him top legal representation. He ended up securing one of the city's — and the young country's — best teams: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
The famed pair claimed that Sands was suicidal, and Weeks was eventually able to walk free. The jury found him innocent in her death.
After the contentious verdict came down, one of Sands’ relatives reportedly screamed at Hamilton, “I call upon the Almighty to curse you all, and He will do it!”
And one of Sands’ friends also reportedly screamed, “If thee dies a natural death, I shall think there is no justice in heaven.”
While the law rendered Weeks innocent, the court of public opinion forced him to flee town and settle in Mississippi. As Weeks moved on from that life-changing night, Sands’ spirit remained. It is said she began haunting the area in search of the justice owed to her.
But even though Sands' spirit was stuck in a limbo over her death, the natural world kept turning. The well became surrounded by transformation as the years passed and Manhattan grew. Structures were built on top of the well and became the site of various businesses — a tobacco addiction specialist, a German beer hall and a carpenter shop.
All of the occupants kept the storied well from public view.
Eventually, the well was buried in sand, dirt and concrete as the city raised the street levels in the 20th century. But no matter how much Spring Street changed, what endured was the presence of a paranormal being.
“Young men and maidens who pass the spot late at night testify they can hear her scream as she vainly implores her lover for her life,” it was reported in American Magazine in 1895.
The aggrieved spirit became known as “The Spring Street Ghost.”
The building on top of the well became a popular restaurant called Manhattan Bistro in the 1950s. Rumors had always circulated that the “The Spring Street Ghost” roamed the restaurant, but it wasn’t until 1980s that the owners decided to investigate. In their basement, as they trudged through dirt and sand, they discovered the well, buried with its secrets for decades.
Throughout the restaurant’s time on Spring Street, employees claimed that they had seen items spontaneously fly off tables and crash into walls. Bottles would reportedly fall off shelves and lights would turn on and off by themselves.
“I’ve seen ashtrays just fly off the table and crash into the wall,” one former employee told the New York Post in 2001. “Maybe Elma’s ghost doesn’t like smoking.”
And down in the basement of the restaurant, where the well could be found, workers reported seeing flying swirls of mist.
An apparition of a woman with long hair resembling Sands was also spotted, according to both employees and patrons. The spirit was described as sometimes wearing a long dress and other times covered in seaweed and water, as if she had just emerged from the depths of the well.
Manhattan Bistro closed in 2014, and COS opened in December of that year, proudly showcasing the well as part of the store’s aesthetic.
Matt Anderson, who was the head of men’s design for COS, joked in 2014 with the New York Post about “The Spring Street Ghost,” saying, “So we have a ghost, our own COS ghost. We imagine it being dressed in all white. ... A modern, minimalist ghost.”
"We are incredibly proud to have restored the well and left it exposed on the shop floor for our customers to see and enjoy," COS Communications Director Amy Furze told InsideEdition.com.
In 2017, New York City Department of Records and Information Services conceded that 129 Spring Street was, in fact, haunted.
"We are incredibly proud to have restored the well and left it exposed on the shop floor for our customers to see and enjoy," COS Communications director Amy Furze told InsideEdition.com.