Carnival of Souls

Souls2.jpg I can’t remember if it was the Million Dollar Movie or the 4:30 Movie, but through one of them I was introduced to the horror movie Carnival of Souls when I was a kid. (If you grew up in New York you know what I’m talking about, they were movie programs from our youth.)

I was immediately drawn to this movie, which really doesn’t have much of a plot and very little happens that’s scary. But it’s atmospheric and haunting, and I think what grabbed me were all the scenes shot in an abandoned amusement park. This was the Saltair Pavilion in Salt Lake City, I learned. God, how did we survive before Google and Wikipedia?? I must use them 50,000 billion times a day every day of my life.

Sadly, the Pavillion burned down. It’s harder to find abandoned things to wander through and explore now. Every available space is used, every old building rehabbed. I was watching this movie yesterday, and I started thinking about one of my favorite articles of all time, Joseph Mitchell’s Up In The Old Hotel. It would be hard to find something like that anymore, if not impossible. At least here in the city.

For those of you who haven’t read it, there was a restaurant down at the Fulton Fish Market called Sloppy Louie’s. (92 South Street.) No one had gone up to the upper floors in I forget how long, 50 years maybe, and no one even knew what was up there except that it had once been a hotel. The whole piece was about Mitchell going up there and exploring. You can go there now and kinda see it how Mitchell saw it. They cleaned up the floors, but didn’t restore them so it looks like what he would have seen except swept up.

It would be hard to imagine something like that happening now, all the upper floors of a building shuttered up for decades, like something out of Edgar Allen Poe (or Dickens). But places like this have always had an allure for me.

That reminds me. I found Mr. Hunter’s grave — this is from one of Mitchell’s other pieces, another favorite of all time. I wrote about finding it, but no one wanted my piece. I don’t think I did a very good job, I was in a weird place at the time. Anyway, I should find the picture and scan it in. Fans of Joseph Mitchell might enjoy seeing it.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

2 thoughts on “Carnival of Souls

  1. Ah yes-Million Dollar Movie was on 9 and the 4:30 Movie was on 7-when the local news began at 6. Something to keep the housewifesw occupied while they prepared dinner for the breadwinner 🙂

    I remember Carnival of Souls as I was kind of a sucker for that tyoe of movie.

    On the subject of the departed:


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