The scenario is likely familiar to many a New York City apartment hunter: A starry-eyed couple moves to New York, only to find out that their landlord may or may not be the devil. That’s also the set-up for “666 Park Avenue,” the new ABC horror drama that premieres on Sept. 30. (See the trailer above.)
“If anyone is involved in New York real estate,” executive producer David Wilcox told The Real Deal, “I’m sure at one time or another, they’ve probably been in this situation.
In the series, Dave Annable and Rachael Taylor play a young Midwestern couple, Henry Martin and Jane Van Veen, hired to manage the “Drake,” an Upper East Side apartment building; little do they know that the residents have unwittingly struck deals with the building’s menacing owner, Gavin Doran. Could he be the Devil?
Although the basis for the show is Gabriella Pierce’s novel of the same name, Wilcox said he was “encouraged to basically really depart from the book and come up with a new take on what would it be like to do a sort of horror television show at an Upper East Side address.”
In the show, the Drake is located at 999 Park Avenue – placing the building around East 84th Street – but the crew used the exterior of the Ansonia, a storied Upper West Side condo at 2109 Broadway, as a stand in. “It had this very grand kind of feel,” Wilcox said.
Along with the Ansonia’s exterior, the producers shot some scenes in the lobby – which was appealingly long and straight – but avoided individual apartments. As for clearing Ansonia management, Wilcox said the team submitted a summary of the show, taking care not to mention terms like “Satanic cabal” and “sacrificial ritual.”
Television dramas aside, what happens when a house or an apartment is considered to be haunted?
Under New York State real estate law, a grisly crime, murder or suicide is not considered a “defect,” nor does a seller or real estate broker have to disclose such an event to potential buyers. “It is not a basis to sue somebody for their failure to disclose that there’s been a previous homicide, suicide or accidental death,” said Manhattan real estate attorney Sandor Krauss.
But it’s a different story if a property is well-known as a haunted house, at least according to a 1991 New York State appeals court decision. In Stambovsky v. Ackley, the court ruled that a New York City buyer could back out of a contract to purchase a Nyack, N.Y., home that was “widely reputed to be possessed by poltergeists” because the seller failed to inform him of its reputation.
The owner had touted the hauntings in the local press and “Readers’ Digest,” but since the buyer was not a local, he had no way of knowing about the house’s reputation, the court ruled.
“The notion that a haunting is a condition which can and should be ascertained upon reasonable inspection of the premises is a hobgoblin which should be exorcised from the body of legal precedent and laid quietly to rest,” the panel of judges, in a pun-laden opinion, wrote.
Meanwhile, a Staten Island mansion that’s said to be haunted went on the market in March for $11.6 million, including a five-acre surrounding plot. And last year, a supposedly haunted East Hampton mansion sold for $9.25 million.
Earlier this year, a New Jersey couple sued their landlord to recover their security deposit, claiming their apartment was haunted.
The team behind “666 Park” purposely avoided shooting in the Dakota on Central Park West at West 72nd Street, a building well-known for its reputed hauntings, since it was already made famous as the location for Roman Polanski’s horror flick “Rosemary’s Baby.”
Despite his latest project, Wilcox has no New York real estate horror stories of his own; he has never even lived in the city, although he has worked on shows that are filmed here, including “Law & Order.”
But the production team did rely on executive producer Les Morgenstein, who lives on the Upper East Side, and Wilcox’s father, who is a developer in northern Virginia, to get some of the details right. “I don’t know how well resident managers typically live in these buildings, but I have a sense that they don’t live as well as this young couple,” Wilcox said.