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Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea

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It all began when young actress-poet Jan Bartell moved with her husband into the old Greenwich Village Townhouse once inhabited by Mark Twain. At first there were only the strange phenomena of unexplained shadows and sounds, and a presence that seemed to clutch at her in the dark. Then the deaths started, claiming one after another of the building's occupants.

This is the story of Jan Bartell's discovery of a diabolical possession she first could not believe, then could not deny. It is the story of her fight against it, and her eventual flight from it.

Jan Bartell's flight was in vain. One month after finishing this extraordinary true story, the author was found dead, and the pattern of horror was complete.

245 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1973

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Jan Bryant Bartell

3 books3 followers

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5 stars
27 (24%)
4 stars
33 (29%)
3 stars
29 (25%)
2 stars
18 (16%)
1 star
5 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Author 7 books30 followers
September 4, 2008
Now, this book was spooky. Not only in content but because of the mysterious death of the author, Jan Bryant Bartell, not long after its publication.

It's been years since I read this book so my details are a bit fuzzy, but it's the story of Bryant-Bartell's haunting. Not only did she live in a "haunted" house, but the haunt followed her after she moved away.

Apparently, Bryant-Bartell was a stormy person to begin with. She was an actress and a bit of a diva and drama queen (go figure), so some people take her and her story with a grain of salt and attribute her death to her suicidal tendencies and bouts with depression.

Regardless, if you like reading about real-life horror--whether you believe it or not--I suggest you read this book.

Profile Image for Don Gillette.
Author 15 books38 followers
October 25, 2016
If you're a ghost story aficionado, you might like this but don't expect any major scares--just a creepy aura.
Jan Bryant Bartell, in my opinion, was out there. FAR out there. She saw ghosts and spirit intervention in every single thing that ever happened to her ("And there, in a magazine about dogs, was a photo of the breed of dog I adopted just 3 days before!") Throughout the book she claims to have a distaste for alcohol, but it seemed like every single day she was adding "a splash of anisette" to her coffee, or knocking back a bottle of wine with lunch, or pouring herself a few fingers of brandy to "still her nerves," etc. Along with her couple of Valium every day and a Seconal every night and most people would be seeing ghosts, too.
Still, I felt sorry for her. And felt sorrier for her poor husband, Fred. The guy must have been a saint.
The book isn't an easy read because it's chuck-full of archaic words (which I really find pretentious), French expressions (which I also find pretentious), obscure references, and 646 exclamation marks (thank you, MS Word, for the count). When I see an exclamation mark, I always think, "If it's something amazing, I'll know it without being told."
I have no doubt that Jan Bryant Bartell believed every word she wrote in this book--and maybe this is the story of a real haunted house and I've been spoiled by fictional houses like the ones in The Haunting or "Poltergeist."
But this book just wasn't that great.
Profile Image for Linda.
285 reviews
March 24, 2014
Jan Bartell and her husband Fred move into an apartment in Greenwich Village, NY. It is there that her psychic abilities first make themselves known. Jan's awareness opens to that which is unseen by most, yet sensed by many. As an actress she is skilled in the art of illusion But this is real life. Her life. This book is a true account of her experiences which began at 14 West 10th St. Fearful yes, but curious too, Jan begins a spiritual search seeking knowledge of what and how the things that go bump in the night can be. When it all began, she did not believe in a spirit world. The couple moves, the hauntings continue, they move again.

I truly enjoyed this one. It is written not as a frightening ghost story but one person's journey through 12 years of strange phenomena. There is humor, sarcasm, sorrow, mystery and a feeling of exhausted desperation. A need for peace. It is an intriguing story. I like that the author includes the titles of her research into the occult and esoteric teachings in her attempt to gain insight and understanding.
I must thank my Goodreads friend for her recommendation.
Profile Image for P..
2,416 reviews81 followers
December 14, 2016
The best part of this was the snarky part about Hans Holzer. Apart from that this was the very purplest prose I ever did read. The fact that nothing really happens (other than the endnote saying she passed away after the book was published) leads me to believe this was real, but it's hard to say what the author even believed among the theories she proposes.
Profile Image for Emma.
Author 13 books59 followers
August 17, 2012
This book is so badly written that it is somehow....awesome. "I was face to face with the unseen" Bonkers!
24 reviews1 follower
August 10, 2011
Read this when I was about 16 years old and probably the first book I read that I remember to this day. With all the investigative series about haunted houses on TV this book rings truer now and not like anything that can be dismissed. This is a non fictional account of the author (who died of mysterious circumstances just as the book was published) and her haunting in a brownstone in Greenwich Village. There is something about the book that rang so true to me and still bothers me to this day. I recently bought a very used copy and even rereading it still bothers me. Despite the dated storyline (NY in the 60s) you feel the downward spiral of the author's life in this house. I am still fascinated by this account. I believe the house she moved into was on West 10th Street in NYC which is the Mark Twain house which is now "known" to be haunted and has 22 deaths occur there including the famous Lisa Steinburg case. Pretty weird stuff.
Profile Image for Kitap.
781 reviews36 followers
November 1, 2022
So I remember checking this book out from the public library when I was nine years old. All I remember about the book is that it was too hard for me to read and that it haunted me, because an editor's note at the end mentioned that the author herself had died when the book was still in production.

As for it being too hard to read, it isn't really, once you get a little older than nine, dust off Roget, and get past the pretentious l'utilisation inutile de Français langue. What it is is insufferable. Bartell reveals herself to be a self-absorbed, neurotic, spoiled, Manhattanite "empath" who is spooked by a couple of shadows in her Greenwich Village apartment and turns that into 200 pages of verbose meanderings. (No wonder so many typists got sick working on the manuscript.)

I did enjoy her railing against "the kids these days" 50 years ago (feels a little familiar), and the last chapter or two was a tad spooky, in terms of what seemed like an improbable number of deaths in a short span of time. (If you're interested, you can learn more about that with a quick YouTube search of the author's name and spare yourself the tedium of reading the book.)

Overall, this book sucked. Nine year old me wishes I'd just left it on the library shelf where it would have continued to haunt me successfully.
Profile Image for Steph (loves water).
464 reviews19 followers
April 24, 2013
I also read this as a teenager and it has haunted me for many years. Years later I still remember some of the author's descriptions, such as finding a God of her understanding in her dog's eyes. I happily found the book at my parent's house and settled in for a reread. As other books I've reread at different times in my life, I felt it on a whole different level.

Ms. Bartell was a talented writer who impressed me all over again at the distance of 30 years later. I am so sorry she passed away at a youthful age, I believe she could have given us many more beautiful passages. I am grateful that I do own this book and I'm sure I'll reread it again.
36 reviews
November 18, 2016
What a fascinating story, wish this was a longer book. Turns out her apt. in the old brownstone has been proven to be haunted. her apt. was in the attic (old servants quarters) and she was tormented by several spirits that made her time there miserable. This was written in 1960's a very different time which is eloquently reflected in her writing. Highly recommend this book to anyone interested in New York in that time period and a haunted old brownstone
Profile Image for John.
1,608 reviews37 followers
August 4, 2017
It was most difficult to list this under nonfiction, but the author thought it was real when she wrote it.. Real to her in her mind where everything that she saw or heard or experienced was psychic in some way. I did not buy it. Only gave her the extra star for her thoughts in the last several pages.
Profile Image for Phyllis Macy.
23 reviews
December 2, 2019
As the author, and book flap suggested, this definitely does read like a gothic novel for the first 20 chapters. It was creepy enough that I had a few sleepless nights, or dreams full of phantoms because of Mrs. Bartell's story-telling and subject matter. However, besides being a ghost story, this seems to be more a story of a deeply troubled woman with few real friends and a husband wrapped up in his own cares. Her companions, her dogs, are the only creatures Mrs. Bartell truly feels loved by. Perhaps more so than the ghosts, this revelation of the author's deep and lasting loneliness was the true haunting story.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
296 reviews3 followers
October 13, 2019
This book gave me the same kind of creepy feeling that The Yellow Wallpaper did. Reading it also felt like those times when I've dared to read books written in languages I'm familiar with but not fluent in; between the peppering of archaic or French/German words, the dated references, and the random switches in and out of metaphor, I sometimes had to rely on the surrounding words or ideas to figure out what she was saying.

I'm not sure whether I enjoyed reading it or not, but I don't regret reading it.
Profile Image for Rachel Alvis.
28 reviews
November 8, 2022
The author's note states, "there are no minutiae to titillate the thrill seeker". However, she seems to be an unknowing fan of purple prose. Her "artistic" writing style with a strain for poetic symbolism takes away from any fluidity the reader may gain. I did find her story and experience interesting enough and even engrossing at times. Especially when she relived those frightening moments with "someone else" there.
Profile Image for Karen.
263 reviews1 follower
March 21, 2023
Well written and creepy story; made more disturbing when you read the afterword. Jan uses many words that you don’t see in print and there’re too many to keep looking up (although I did look up some of them). It’s still a good read though and interesting that a historic house in Greenwich Village would have such a dark history. I bought this used copy online, but I don’t remember which website. It was recommended by a podcast fan group that lists books with an occult or supernatural theme.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
282 reviews
August 4, 2017
I kept seeing this title on "scary book" lists. I HAD to read it! I requested it from my library. It was a rickety copy from the mid 80's. The experiences the author told about were pretty freaky but there was sooooooo much strange extra info about the books she was reading and her own psychic 2 cents thrown into the mix. I totally skimmed those parts.
Profile Image for Ralph Martins.
107 reviews3 followers
May 26, 2017
Read this at a time when I was devouring all the pulp horror I could lay my hands on.
Profile Image for Barbara Barber.
14 reviews
September 6, 2020
This is still one of my favorite books to read. I have read it many times. It's very personal. I love Jan Bryant Bartell's writing style. She's poetic, some have said pretentious but I think her using French phrases, what someone termed 'archaic words' are actually used by her because she was a very sensitive person and those things, though outside of what seems to be her existence as an actress in New York in the 50s were more akin to her than the things around her. They expressed a part of her that those times could not. She had a poets soul.

I do think she rented a haunted apartment. She was not looking for a ghost. She was tired of the boring apartments she had seen and the 1800s building she moved into reflected a more romantic period in architecture and lifestyle that she related better to than the cubicles and rectangles that the NY apartments of her day did.

Hans Holzer was called by her to come to the house to see what he could find. He did and that is written up by him in a chapter in one of his books (Ghosts I've met) called the Town-house ghost.

Her book shows, as she takes you through her day to day living, how her sensitive soul eventually met up with the ghosts in her apartment. I think she missed her father, so dear to her and long deceased. Her husband was quite caring and devoted but she was lost to that spooky world she felt in that apartment and like Eleanor in Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, unfortunately she dissolved into that world. Depression can be very powerful.

The book meant so much to me I ended up painting her from the flyleaf of the book and the front cover.

Profile Image for Nancy.
434 reviews
October 23, 2014
Jan Bryant Bartell and her husband rent a Greenwich Townhouse and then all the trouble begins. Even through moves, the world beyond our understanding continue to follow Jan and it is clear she is a magnet and a sensitive.
Bartell is a good writer and paces this book well in telling her memoirs. There is no incident in the book that does not ring true and none that seem exaggerated. Many of us have experienced the same kinds of things she did to greater or lesser degrees.
This book is recommended for anyone who has an interest in the supernatural and can read it with an open mind. Bartell is an intelligent woman who faces her challenges with courage.
The one thing she does that delighted me was inviting Hans Holzer, the once famous ghost hunter, to see what he could do about her problems. He was completely ineffective and proved he was what I had always thought.
Profile Image for Angel.
119 reviews8 followers
December 1, 2016
I cannot finish this book. I don't care how the author mysteriously died or how she was a poet. Just because you use big fancy words doesn't make the writing any good---horribly written story. Was Jan really seeing ghosts or was she just neurotic??? I didn't care long enough to find out. As stated previously, there is a reason why this book is I longer in publication.
Profile Image for Allison.
579 reviews11 followers
December 14, 2016
I read this book because it was on a list of recommended horror books around Halloween. It definitely was creepy. Jan Bryant Bartell moved into a Greenwich Village apartment where she felt a chilling presence. Her husband and others never felt what she did. This book is basically a journal of her life that was published posthumously after her death.
Profile Image for Myriah.
167 reviews2 followers
October 30, 2016
You can tell the author was an actress; while not bad on the whole, the narration was a little too over-the-top melodramatic for my tastes. It actually detracted from the storyline.
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews

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