Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Ghost of an Apartment’s Former Inhabitant

Click to enlarge

What you see above is a New York City landlord's ledger entry for a tenant named Vivian Grant, who lived in a Manhattan apartment building in 1960. The ledger was found by a woman named Joanne O’Connor, who now lives in that same building. A few years ago she became curious about the building's history, so she poked around in the basement and discovered the ledger, which indicated that Vivian Grant had once lived in Apartment 2F. That happens to be the same apartment where Ms. O'Connor now lives, so she decided to learn as much about Vivian Grant as she could.

As it turns out, there was a lot to learn. Vivian Grant had died in as the result of a botched illegal abortion, which was a major news story at the time. Here's how the Daily News covered it (click to enlarge):

The more Ms. O'Connor learned about her apartment's former occupant, the more obsessed with the story she became. She spent long hours poring over microfilm, examining court records, tracking down relatives, visiting Vivian's grave. She even named her cat Vivian Grant.

All of this, and a lot more, is described in this excellent article, which I can't recommend highly enough. Engagingly told and endearingly written, it's a great story. PermaRec's highest rating — don't miss.


  1. Though not as meaningful or heavy as this, Dawn Powell's novel, The Golden Spur, also deals with a tenant who becomes interested in the previous inhabitant of his apartment.

  2. Love how the newspaper article describes Ms. Grant as "attractive" and "brunette" for absolutely no reason. Also what a terribly sad story.