Further research into the sunken boats is still pending, but the whole thing got us to thinking about the frequency with which weird new historical sites are still being discovered in Brooklyn to this day. History is alive and happening all around us, etc. etc. However, some claims are a little more, shall we say, "solid" than others. And how can we be sure? It's easy to be taken in by convincing historical hucksters, you know! With that in mind, it's time to test (and brush up on) your knowledge of random Brooklyn history with our own pop quiz: Real or Fake?
The uppity Coney Island Creek doesn't have the market cornered on ghost ships, no sir. Last February our own Henry Stewart reported on newly discovered ghost ships in the Gowanus, found by teams probing the waters of the just-declared Superfund site. A number of vessels were found, "including the 60-foot-long hull of a wooden vessel near Fifth Street." Our beleaguered canal isn't just filthy, it is also (probably) haunted.
In fact, the Cobble Hill Tunnel is so real that for a while, you could even take tours. Also known as the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, this passageway was not just a long-abandoned LIRR tunnel, it's also the oldest tunnel beneath any city street in America! After years of abandonment it was rediscovered in 1981 by then-teenager Bob Diamond, who went on to lead tours on-site until the NYPD put a stop to them in 2010, citing safety concerns. Nonetheless, it now has a safe home on the National Register of Historic Places, was featured on the History Channel, and was even written about by Walt Whitman. Not shabby!
This one is still in dispute, but historian Bob Furman firmly believes that a mass grave of heroic Battle of Brooklyn soldiers lies under a lot on the corner of Third Avenue and Eighth Street. Unfortunately, the property's owners and local archaeologists alike have largely shot down the theory. "There is a distinct possibility that the graves have been destroyed," said one Brooklyn College archaeologist, and the site's landlord calls the whole thing "gibberish." For now, Furman is on the hunt for either funding for a dig or a city-sponsored designation of the area as a park. Results are forthcoming.
This doesn't exist at all, which is probably for the best. Stay on your toes!
Back in 2006, city workers discovered a super unsettling remnant of the Cold War, in the form of a hidden bunker within the masonry foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge, near the Manhattan side. The room, intended to serve as a shelter in case of nuclear attack, contained supplies dating back to 1957 (the year Sputnik was launched), including water drums, blankets, 352,000 highly caloric crackers, and a major supply of Dextran for treatment of shock.
According to historians this type of thing was a fairly common civic practice at the time, which is terrifying. Good thing we live in safer times now, right?
Why yes, all your worst paranoid delusions are correct, and not only are your neighbors and the police watching you, your neighbors ARE the police. And they have a network of underground tunnels! If you happen to live next door to 58 Joralemon in Brooklyn Heights, at least.
It's one of the neighborhood's worst-kept secrets that the building, which appears to be a regular neighborhood brownstone, actually leads to what the Brooklyn Eagle described as "a grimy-lit set of metal stairs that ascend past utility boxes and ventilation shafts into a windowless room with a door."
Creepy, yes, but the passages mainly serve as a means for allowing NYPD officers to enter and patrol the subway system, which is by no means a terrible idea.
And so concludes this exhaustive historical quiz. Did you do well? Your reward is a smug sense of superiority. If not, don't beat yourself up too much. Whether your knowledge is newfound or just newly proven, you'll now be the weirdest and best person to talk to at whatever party you next attend. Everyone wins!
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.