Haunted? - Doyers Street

by Female Abroad

Halloween is upon us and there is nothing like checking out a unique "haunted" spot to get you in the mood. This Halloween we are going to look at Doyers Street in NYC's Chinatown (Manhattan's Lower East Side). While some people may not actually know if by its proper name, if you mention Bloody Angle (it has a 90 degree bend in it) or Murder Alley, it might start to ring a bell...

Where and what is Doyers Street, as per Wikipedia:

Doyers Street is a 200-foot-long (61 m) street in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. It is one block long with a sharp bend in the middle. The street runs south and then southeast from Pell Street to the intersection of Bowery, Chatham Square, and Division Street. Doyers Street contains several restaurants, barber shops, and hair stylists, as well as the Chinatown branch of the United States Postal Service. The Nom Wah Tea Parlor opened at 13 Doyers Street in 1920, and is still in operation; other longstanding business include Ting's Gift Shop at 18 Doyers.

That does not sound that scary, how did Doyers street get its nicknames then? If we keep reading the Wiki article:

Early in the century, the bend in the street became known as the "Bloody Angle" or "Murder Alley" because of numerous killings among the Tong Gangs of Chinatown that lasted into the 1930s. Hatchets were frequently used, leading to the creation of the expression, "hatchet man".

While nicknames are great, more history is needed. In the early 1900's there were two gangs that wanted to control Chinatown - the Hip Sing Tong's and On Leong Tong. Both controlled the opium dens, prostitution rings, drinking dens - basically anything illegal in the area. The police were afraid of the gangs so they just let them do what they wanted to. This lead to one of the first large, murderous events:

One shooting at the Chinese Theater in 1905 claimed the lives of three people, when members of the Hip Sing Tong fired on members of the On Leong Tong. The shooting took place at a time when the theater was packed with 400 people.

No one was ever brought to trial for the murders and the case remains open. This murder started the Tong War which lasted several years and lead to:

In one 1909 incident, two members of the On Leong Tong were shot, one fatally, by members of the rival Four Brothers’ Society, or See Sing Tong. The shooting came after three members of the Hip Sing Tong were executed in Boston for the murder of a member of the On Leong tong.

Some say it also happened because of the murder of sex slave Bow Kum (aka Sweet Flower) who was owned by the Hip Sing Tong and then later by On Leong Tong by a Tong Hatchetman. The fighting continued between the waring gangs until 1913 when the US & Chinese governments mediated a truce. During this war it is estimated that about 50 people died. It is said that the On Leongs used Smith & Wesson's and the Hip Sings used Colts so it was easy to tell who committed which murder but police were not keen to prosecute.

But don't worry, there were other deaths that followed:

A number of old tenement houses are on Doyers Street, and these were sometimes subjected to fires. In 1910, four tenants died and five were injured when fire swept through the building at 15–17 Doyers. In 1939, a fire at the same building, described by The New York Times as "an old rabbit warren," killed seven persons and injured sixteen.

In 1988, Born To Kill (BTK) gang blew up and shot a police car in the alley as pay back for arresting gang members who were selling counterfeit Rolex watches.

Shortly after in 1989 the Flying Dragons tried to take on the Hip Sing Tong and the Born To Kill (BTK) gangs to win the alley. The 1980's were known as NYC's most violent decade so another gang war was far from unusual.

“Law-enforcement officials say more people have died violently at Bloody Angle, the crook at Doyer Street near Pell, than at any other intersection in America.” - Jane Lii, The New York Times, 12 June 1994 (Section 14, Page 6)

In 1994 the illegal gambling dens were closed and police were starting to get a hold on NYC as a whole which included Doyers Street so the clientele started to change and gentrify.

Under the area was a lot of tunnels for prohibition booze smuggling, gambling, and Shanghaiing of sailors for boats, etc. One of these tunnels can still be visited today. The entrance can be found next to Coco Fashion (by Apotheke and Nom Wah Tea Parlor) and it exits onto Chatham Square. Don't worry though, this is not a hidden tunnel, you'll actually find a bunch of small businesses.

If you visit today there is still lots of history and while most of the store fronts have changed, a lot of the builds look like they still come from the early 20th century. Here you can expect to see expensive bars, tour groups, hair salons, tourists, and people peeing on the buildings at night (welcome to New York...)

Well, that certainly makes it a very deadly 200 foot stretch of city!