How ‘Madame Morbid,’ a Ghost Tour Guide, Spends Her Sundays

Allison Chase was at a crossroads and venting to her father about the direction of her life at 26 years old. Having dabbled in doing special effects makeup, writing restaurant reviews and obtaining a sommelier certificate, she quipped half in jest, “What if I want to start a ghost tour?”

Ms. Chase, now 36, was no stranger to the macabre. When she was growing up in West Hartford, Conn., her father operated an elaborate haunted house out of an abandoned department store to help his children better enjoy Halloween. Ms. Chase’s brother and younger sister both have Type 1 diabetes and couldn’t fully partake in the sweeter side of the holiday.

“Having fake limbs, body parts and fake blood being delivered by U.P.S. for my dad to open up and look through and having these Jell-O brain molds in the refrigerator — I thought that was normal,” she said.

In 2017, Ms. Chase opened Madame Morbid with her ex-boyfriend Matt Zaller. From June to November, they lead tours of Brooklyn’s gruesome history, hidden cemeteries and paranormal sightings in a replica Victorian trolley equipped with oxblood-colored leather seats, sparkling chandeliers and Persian runner rugs.

October, their busiest month, always sells out, and this year they’re staying open through December because of high demand.

“I’m so incredibly lucky to have a vision and be able to execute it exactly how I wanted,” Ms. Chase said. “So when people enjoy it, it’s validation.”

Ms. Chase lives in Downtown Brooklyn with her 11-year-old dog, Lulu, who is half Havanese, half Coton de Tulear.

Ms. Chase and her 11-year-old dog, Lulu, run errands on Sunday mornings.Credit…Paul Frangipane for The New York Times

DOOMSCROLLING AND DOG-WALKING I usually wake up around 10 to 10:30, and I’ll scroll through Instagram, check on my enemies, my frenemies and my friends to see what they’re up to for about 30 minutes. And then once I’m done doom-scrolling, I’ll take my dog out. We always walk to the Ace Hotel — which is a couple blocks away — where I get my iced oat milk latte.

I head back to my apartment and I open up my laptop. I check to see if we have reviews, compliments, complaints, do emails back and forth with clients, schedule around tour guides. Then we’ll usually go over the night before, see how things went, and just tie up all the odds and ends.

Ms. Chase, left, with her sisters Melissa, center, and Sara, right. They are all “obsessed” with Halloween, she says.Credit…Paul Frangipane for The New York Times

SISTERLY COVEN Sometimes my sisters will come because they love to see Lulu, and this is their only day that they can come. We’re due to carve pumpkins and watch “Antiques Roadshow.” We call ourselves a little coven; they’re also super into Halloween — we are obsessed.

HAIR AND MAKEUP I start to get ready for the tour around 2:50, 3 o’clock, and that requires putting on a dress. I’ve got my hat, gloves, shoes, and then I do my makeup. I’m doing a “Jackie O. at a funeral” look this year.

DEADLY NAVY HISTORY We pick up in Williamsburg, and we head over to Clinton Hill. The very first stop is the Navy Yard. Wallabout Bay is where the British prison ships, most notoriously the Jersey, a.k.a. hell, was docked, and that’s where they kept all the prisoners of war. Their bones would wash ashore for years. There’s about 11,500 people who died on those boats.

The Gowanus Canal is a stop on the Madame Morbid ghost tour.Credit…Paul Frangipane for The New York Times

GHOSTS OF THE BRIDGE Then we’ll head over to the Brooklyn Bridge, which is the reason we’re a part of New York City. But it was extremely deadly to make, so we highlight how dangerous it was and why ghosts are so commonly seen on it.

My favorite spot to visit is the Gowanus Canal. I won’t spoil too much, but it is the most disgusting body of water I have passed by.

Chase often stops by Skinny Dennis, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, after doing tours on Sunday.Credit…Paul Frangipane for The New York Times

HONKY TONK After the tour I’ll get an after-work drink. I usually go to Skinny Dennis because I not-so-secretly love old country music. It’s a newfound obsession since February 2023. I just love that honky-tonk feel, especially when you’re in Brooklyn.

ZUCCHINI DINNER Then I come home, and I cook dinner. I have this zucchini recipe, which I make four times a week, or I’ll do an egg dish simple. I’m only cooking for one, and I try to eat healthy because I eat crap the rest of the day, so it’s like offsetting that.

Ms. Chase said she was one of the few people who watched the much-maligned HBO show “The Idol.”Credit…Paul Frangipane for The New York Times

TV AND BEDTIME After that it’s Sunday TV time, which is the best night of television. At 9 o’clock is “Real Housewives of New York,” the new cast. I’m obsessed. I love it. I watch every episode twice in case I missed something the first time. Also at 9 o’clock is whatever HBO show is currently airing. Believe it or not, I watched every episode of “The Idol.” I’m one of 10 people in the world who did that.

We get into bed, we’ll put on a podcast and fall asleep, either “This American Life” or “The Moth.” I’ll put the podcast on and in like 10 minutes I’ll just zonk out.

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