The dark tour: ‘Madame Morbid’ shows off Brooklyn murder sites

Black and bleak: Allison Chase dresses in Victorian garb as she leads the Madame Morbid Trolley Tour through Brooklyn’s dark past.
Matt Zaller

Take the tour de death!

A sinister black trolley is creeping around Brooklyn’s dark past. The Madame Morbid Trolley Tour sets off from Brooklyn Heights several times each day to transport curious guests to the borough’s battlefields, murders, and the sites of bloody accidents. The engrossing quest leaves its guests informed, but also creeped out, said its founder and guide.

“The truth is always scarier than fiction and they’ll be more scared knowing that these are facts instead of just stories that may or may not be true — the facts they walk away with are the scariest part,” said Allison Chase.

The Dumbo resident leads the tour while wearing a funereal Victorian-era wardrobe, appropriate to the era when many of the morbid events happened, and guests ride aboard a customized trolley, painted black on the outside and with an interior designed to replicate a house of death.

“We wanted it to literally look like a funeral parlor, and I wanted the leather we used for the seating to be an oxblood color,” she said.

The tour stops at places where murders, wars, and other catastrophic events happened, including the 1960 plane crash in Park Slope that killed more than 100 people. Other locations include burial grounds, a dumping spot for the bodies of Mob hits, and sites where bizarre medical practices took place. Learning about those pre-anesthetic experiments is scarier than any discussion of ghosts could ever be, said Chase.

“I think they’ll have a harder time wrapping their minds around something really crazy that doctors used to do to people, and are still used today,” she said.

Many of the Brooklyn’s bloodiest sites from the American Revolution are now occupied by modern high-rises or chic restaurants, but the tour passes out images of how the area looked at the time to help people imagine the scene, said Chase.

Ghost ride: This Ford trolley is now a functioning bus, taking riders all over Brooklyn in search of its dark history.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

“There’s so many unmarked sites of the Revolutionary War all over Brooklyn and no one knows about it,” said Chase.

During the 90-minute ride, Chase and her driver make funny digs and puns to lighten the ominous mood, and test the knowledge of their riders with trivia questions. The tour makes about 10 stops in different neighborhoods, including Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Williamsburg, and Gowanus, first giving a general explanation of the area’s history, and then a rundown of some diabolical event that happened nearby, backed up with spooky sound effects. She chose the neighborhoods with richest, darkest history, according to Chase.

“We chose the ones with the most jam-packed with history,” said Chase. “Those areas of Brooklyn were developed a lot earlier than others, so we have more history that we can focus on there.”

Chase’s tours attract people intrigued by Brooklyn’s dark history, as well as those who just want to know more about their neighborhoods. And people are often surprised by how much they learn on the trip.

“I think people are shocked when they leave the tour and how much of it is the opposite of what they’re expecting,” said Chase.

“People walk away being an amateur Brooklyn history buff, and they want to tell everyone what they learned.”

Madame Morbid Trolley Tours (pick-up location at Cadman Plaza West and Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights, www.madamemorbid.com). Mon–Fri, 7 and 9 pm; Sat, Sun, and Halloween, 4, 7 and 9 pm. $69.

Your evening guide: The founder and guide of the Madame Morbid Trolley Tour greets guests in an black Victorian dress, accompanied by smoke.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

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