Joan Rivers appeared on the very first episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories in 2009 and told a story about a ghostly old woman who haunted her apartment building.
I was a never a believer in the paranormal or the unexplainable. I had guests on numerous talk shows who were psychic or had seen ghosts, but I was always very skeptical. I always thought, “Oh, that’s just silly.”
It had been a very bad year for me. I had been fired from my late-night talk show. My husband had committed suicide. I had no money and I had made a lot of bad investments. Everything had gone wrong. I said, “I’ve got to get out of L.A. and go back to New York.
I took all my money and I went to look at apartments in New York. A friend of mine told me about an apartment. It was on the top floor of a big old white stone building. It had been a ballroom and nobody had ever wanted to buy it. So I went in and took a look and I thought it was wonderful. It was this big old ballroom that was in total disrepair, but you could see how glorious it had been.
All my energy went into the apartment and I loved it so much. I was so miserable and so unhappy, but I would go there at night, when none of the workmen were there, and I would walk around and I’d be all excited and everything would be wonderful, just wonderful. I don’t know if it was a coincidence that I found this broken-down apartment at a time time when my life was so broken-down.
One night, on the way home, I thought, “I’m gonna go and just take a look at the apartment.”
I had my dog in the car. He was a little Yorkie and when we got to the door that night, he wouldn’t go in. Absolutely would not go into the apartment.
I went into the apartment on my own and it was a very hot August night, but it was freezing cold in the apartment. There were all these weird writings and markings on the walls. It was just very, very strange and the dog was barking and carrying on at the door. I just didn’t know what the hell had happened.
I got back into the elevator and I said to the elevator man, “My apartment’s so cold and the dog won’t go in and it looks like somebody was in there writing on the walls.”
Then, he said to me, “Oh, I guess Mrs. Spencer is back.”
I said, “What are you talking about?”
Mrs. Spencer was a niece of J.P. Morgan, the financier. Originally, it was all her house. She owned the whole building and she lived there all her life. As she got older, she kept moving further and further upstairs and she would rent out the lower floors. She ended up living in the ballroom and she died there 7 years ago, in the ballroom.
“She comes back,” he said, “and she just does things to people in the house.”
One neighbor had this amazing antique chandelier that had cherubs holding the light bulbs. She came home one night and she and her husband walked in and every cherub’s head was broken off the entire chandelier.
It was just… It was just… bad and you didn’t feel good… You didn’t feel comfortable in the apartment. No matter how much heat you put on, it was still cold. My dog would not come in. Do you understand? He would not come in. When I would try to bring him in, he would run to the door and scratch and bark until he got out.
I thought, “I don’t know what the hell to do! I’m a widow. I’ve put all my money into this. You want your home to be your haven. You don’t want it to be a place where you’re afraid to turn off your lights at night.
So I called up the New York University Parapsychology department and I said, “My apartment is haunted,” and she said, “Oh, sorry, we don’t do that,” and I said, “You cannot leave me like this!”
The fear was suddenly about a whole new thing. It wasn’t about my husband’s suicide, and it wasn’t about that I was out of work, and it wasn’t about that I had no money, and didn’t know where my next job was coming from. What I was focusing on was suddenly totally different.
I said, “You cannot leave me like this!” and she said, “We shouldn’t tell you this, but in New Orleans, there is this woman who is a voodoo priestess… and maybe she can help you.”
I was desperate. I was absolutely desperate. I didn’t know what to do, and there was nobody to help me. I called her that very same night and just told her everything and cried on the phone. She said, “I will come up and I will try to help you.”
I went into the apartment with the voodoo priestess and she conducted a ceremony. The ceremony was like something out of a bad movie. Chanting and talking and drumming. She told me Mrs. Spencer was very angry. She was still, in her mind, the grand dame of the building and did not like what was being done with the house. “It’s my home and it’s my building and who are these people?”
It was so scary and after about an hour and a half, she let out a scream and a gasp and said, “She’s gone.”
My apartment warmed up immediately. My dog had been waiting out near the door and for the first time in five months, without my calling, he came back into the apartment. So I knew something had happened. Thank God.
It was about 2:30 in the morning and she said to me, “Let’s go to the other apartments and see if they want help.”
So at 2:30 in the morning we started ringing the bells in the apartments. Can you imagine? And we’d say, “Hello, I’m Joan Rivers. I’m cleaning out my apartment because Mrs. Spencer was in my apartment. This is my friend from New Orleans. She will clean out your apartment if you like.” Not one person slammed the door. Everyone had a story.
One of the people said that she had seen a couple coming down the staircase in full evening dress. She said, “Good evening,” and they walked out. Then she asked the doorman, “Who was that?” and the doorman said, “Who was who?”
One of the women said she had gone up to my apartment to look at it. She was thinking of buying it and when she walked in, there were couples dancing in full evening dress, so she thought that someone had rented it. She went back to the woman that was showing the apartment and said, “There are people in there! They’re dancing!” and when they walked back in, there was nobody there.
Everybody had a story and the voodoo priestess went and she cleaned out everything and the apartment was clean.
I moved in and then things started again. The dog was unhappy. The apartment was cold. I could never get any of my electrical things to work correctly. She came back. Mrs. Spencer returned.
I started to cry and I said, “Mrs. Spencer, I am a widow. All my money’s in this apartment. You cannot do this to me. You must, must, must leave me in peace.
One night, I was down in the basement, doing some work with the handyman, and I came across a partrait of this woman. It was shoved behind the drywall and broken bricks. I took it out and I knew the minute I laid eyes on it, I just knew it had to be her. I showed it to the night doorman and he said, “Oh, that’s Mrs. Spencer.”
I took the portrait and I cleaned it up and I hung it in the lobby of our building. The voodoo priestess called me and she said, “I’ve had a visit from Mrs. Spencer. She’s very pleased that you have put her back into her home and she’s very happy with what you have done to the ballroom and she likes that you keep flowers there.”
So, it has been 18 years and Mrs. Spencer’s portrait is still hanging in the lobby and I still keep flowers in the apartment. She comes to visit me now, just about every night. It’s usually about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. My dogs wake me up and I feel this presence and she comes to my bedroom. I say, “Hello Mrs. Spencer.”