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How my grandpa’s Thanksgiving ghost story he tells each year led to us uncovering 189-year-old ‘murder mystery’

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A grandpa’s haunting Thanksgiving ghost story appeared to help two brothers uncover a near 200-year-old “murder mystery.”

Bill and Frank Watson were told a chilling tale about 57 Irish immigrants who died at a railroad site in Pennsylvania during the cholera epidemic in 1832.

The area is now known as “Duffy’s Cut” as the rail workers’ boss was named Philip Duffy. It is a stretch of tracks located around 30 miles from Philadelphia.

The brothers were told the chilling tale by their grandpa – a railroad worker – every Thanksgiving. They believe the rail workers died violently and not from cholera.

Frank told CNN in 2010: “This is a murder mystery from 178 years ago and it’s finally coming to the light of day.”

According to local legend, a man walking home from a tavern claimed to see mysterious green figures dancing in the mist in September 1909.

The documents quote the unnamed man as saying: “I saw with my own eyes, the ghosts of the Irishmen who died with cholera a month ago, a-dancing around the big trench where they were buried; it’s true, mister, it was awful.”

Frank inherited the railroad papers from his grandpa and said one of the documents said: “X marks the spot”.

They suspected that the files contained clues to the location of a mass grave.

Bill and Frank delved deeper into the case. They started digging in 2002 and years later found forks and tobacco pipe shards.

The brothers didn’t believe struggling laborers would discard valuable items.

Immaculata University history professor William Watson displays what he says are human remains that members of the Duffy's Cut Project
The Duffy’s Cut Project believes the bones are from a mass grave for nearly five dozen 19th century Irish immigrants who died of cholera weeks after coming to Pennsylvania to build a railroad.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Researchers in March 2009 found a bone, raising suspicions that cholera may not have killed the rail workers.

Teams also uncovered a skull that had been pierced by a bullet and cleaved by a hatchet, Reuters reported.

Bill, a historian said: “We have no idea what percentage of these guys were murdered. But if we have 57, it’s the worst mass murder in Pennsylvania history.”

William Watson displays what he says is part of a human skull that members of the Duffy's Cut Project
William Watson displays what he says is part of a human skull that members of the Duffy’s Cut Project.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

‘MURDER MYSTERY’

He said the average age of the workers was around 22 years old.

Forensic anthropologist Janet Monge said the case provided “vital clues” about the lives of Irish immigrants.

She said: “It was a cruel and rugged existence that characterizes the immigrant experience, and it speaks very broadly of the xenophobia that existed at the time.”

coffin nails unearthed in a mass grave, in Malvern, Pa., at the Duffy's Cut Museum at Immaculata University, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012
Coffin nails unearthed in a mass grave, in Malvern, Pa., at the Duffy’s Cut Museum at Immaculata University in 2012.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Monge discovered bones from at least seven skeletons, including four skulls.

She said: “One skull has a little divot on what would have been the side bone of the skull. That little divot is something that didn’t happen when they excavated it out of the ground.”

The anthropologist speculated that one of the laborers may have been “clunked” on their head before they died.

Earl Schandelmeier, left, Immaculata University history professor William Watson, right, and his brother the Rev. Frank Watson, visit the location where they say members of the Duffy's Cut Project unearthed human remains
Earl Schandelmeier, Immaculata University history professor William Watson and his brother the Rev. Frank Watson, visit the location where they say members of the Duffy’s Cut Project unearthed human remains.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Researchers believe more bodies are underneath the surface.

Bill Watson said the coffins had been shut with more than 100 nails per coffin, according to Hidden City.

The remains of five men and one woman from those who died at Duffy’s Cut were laid to rest at a ceremony in Pennsylvania in 2012.

 decorated fragment of a pipe unearthed near a mass grave, in Malvern, Pa
A decorated fragment of a pipe unearthed near a mass grave, in Malvern, Pa.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The body of teenager John Ruddy, who was from County Donegal, was repatriated to Ireland.

And a burial took place in County Tyrone for Catherine Burns in October 2015.

Forensics believe that injuries to her skull indicated that she had been murdered, the BBC reported.

Duffy’s Cut later became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Main Line.

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Crypto firms pay massive price tags to name arenas as sports teams weigh risks

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Cryptocurrency companies are being forced to shell out massive premiums in sports sponsorship deals as professional teams weigh the risks of getting burned — like some of them did during the dot-com bubble. 

Crypto.com, a Singapore-based crypto trading site, reportedly paid $700 million for the naming rights to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for 20 years — more than five times what Staples had paid for the same rights in 1999.

And in March, Bahamas-based crypto exchange FTX ponied up $135 million to rename the home of the Miami Heat. That’s more than triple what American Airlines paid for naming rights in 1999.

Arena owners are able to demand more money from venture capital-flushed crypto firms because they’re relatively unknown names in an unproven industry, experts say. 

“If you want to do a deal with Mercedes Benz, that’s safe,” Columbia University sports management professor Joe Favorito told The Post. “If you go after a nontraditional naming rights deal, you probably ask them for a lot more money.” 

That’s because arena owners remember stadiums named after long-gone tech firms such as Baltimore’s PSINet Stadium and Boston’s CMGI field — both of which had to be re-christened after their namesakes imploded when the dot-com bubble burst in 2001. 

Exterior of the Baltimore Ravens stadium
The home of the Baltimore Ravens had to be renamed after tech firm PSINet imploded in 2002.
Getty Images

“During the bubble, there were companies that bought in on buildings and went bankrupt and that was an extremely disappointing and troubling thing,” said Favorito, who added that scrubbing a defunct company’s name from a stadium can also damage a franchise’s brand and can reduce its appeal to future sponsors.

As a result, crypto firms with unproven track records have to make their offers so big that team owners “can’t take anything else,” according to Chris Lencheski, an ex-Comcast executive who has worked on arena naming deals. He compares the dynamic to the “tobacco premium” that cigarette makers had to pay for sports deals in the 20th century.

Beyond arena naming rights, crypto companies are also spending big on other sports deals. 

Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen on the red carpet
Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen starred in a $20 million ad campaign for FTX in October.
Getty Images

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen starred in a $20 million ad campaign for FTX in October, while American crypto exchange Coinbase paid an undisclosed amount to become the NBA’s first-ever “crypto sponsor” the same month.

Crypto.com also paid $175 million in July to plaster its name on Ultimate Fighting Championship posters and merch for 10 years. StormX, a startup that pays out crypto cash-back awards on online purchases, signed a multiyear deal to adorn Portland Trail Blazers jerseys with a logo patch in July.

“These companies are in a mad dash to get their name out there and put their stake in the ground,” said Woody Thompson, executive vice president at sports and entertainment marketing firm Octagon. 

The premium prices venture capital-flush crypto companies are willing to pay for ad space are likely to raise advertising costs across the board, forcing traditional advertisers like car, retail and beverage companies to shell out more money, Thompson said.

“This is what happened with the dot-com boom” he noted.

As lawmakers and regulators debate how to oversee the booming crypto industry, teams and arenas in the Washington, DC, area are seeing especially high interest from crypto companies and other new financial technology firms, according to Favorito. 

“In Washington, the people who are going to games are lobbyists and senators and you want to be front and center with them in their space,” he said. “Nobody’s really talked about the casual lobbying that goes on at a hockey game or a football game.” 

Exterior of the FTX Arena in Miami
In March, Bahamas-based crypto exchange FTX shelled out $135 million to rename the home of the Miami Heat.
Shutterstock / Johnny Michael

Crypto.com, FTX and StormX didn’t respond to requests for comment. Nor did the Portland Trail Blazers, the UFC, the FTX Arena or AEG Worldwide, which owns the Staples Center.

Coinbase spokesman Andrew Schmitt declined to provide details of the company’s NBA deal.

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Vita Vea gets tooth knocked out, seems just fine with that

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Vita Vea was all smiles despite getting one of his front teeth knocked out Sunday.

The Buccaneers’ defensive tackle was shown grinning and pointing to his bloody new gap on the sidelines after he lost a tooth while being blocked by Colts guard Mark Glowinski in the first half.

Vea’s helmet appeared to be coming off before contact — with his facemask rising above his mouth — enabling a direct hit by Glowinski’s helmet into Vea’s face to dislodge one of his teeth.

Vita Vea tooth
Vita Vea had his tooth knocked out by the helmet of Mark Glowinski.
Fox
Vita Vea tooth
Vita Vea didn’t seem too bothered by having a tooth knocked out.
Fox

The replay of the play led to this exchange between Fox play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and analyst Greg Olsen:

“Oh, he lost a tooth,” Burkhardt said.

“And he’s smiling. That’s the best part. Oh my gosh,” Olsen added.

“Does the tooth fairy come for 26 year olds? I’m just asking. That is unbelievable,” Burkhardt said.

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Manhattan skyscraper snags its own builder as a tenant

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The Spiral is adding a large new tenant who won’t have to ask where the elevators and the bathrooms are when it moves in.

That’s because Turner Construction Company, which just signed a 13-year, 75,000-square-foot lease, is actually building the new Tishman Speyer tower on the far West Side. Turner is the general contractor on the BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group-designed skyscraper with a top-to-bottom landscaped spiral of exterior terraces.

Turner is moving its worldwide headquarters to the third floor of the tower, aka  66 Hudson Boulevard between West 34th and 35th streets. It will relocate from 375 Hudson St. in January 2023.

The deal brings The Spiral’s 2.8 million square feet to 54 percent leased with a year left before it’s completed.

Turner handles $12 billion of construction each year worldwide. Tishman Speyer President and CEO Rob Speyer called the firm  “an incredible partner as we built The Spiral, introducing technology, safety and workforce innovations that make it a new standard for modern office development.”

Turner CEO Peter Davoren said the building “will provide us with an environment that so well defines our vision and the future of the company.”

Construction workers at The Spiral's site.
Tishman Speyer CEO Rob Speyer (second from right), along with others involved in creating The Spiral, signs the steel beam for the topping out of the building.
AP

The Spiral will also be home to COVID-beating vaccine maker Pfizer, the anchor tenant with 746,000 square feet.

Large leases were also signed by law firm Debevoise & Plimpton and AllianceBernstein.

Terms of the Turner deal were not released. Asking rents in the tower have been reported as ranging from $110 per square foot at the base to $225-plus per square foot at the top.

A rendering of The Spiral with the Chrysler Building in the background
AllianceBernstein has also leased space in The Spiral, aka 66 Hudson Boulevard.
The Spiral NY

A CBRE team of Mary Ann Tighe, Rob Hill, Brendan Herlihy and Elliot Bok advised Turner on the deal. Tishman Speyer was repped by an in-house leasing team.


When news broke last week that Chubb signed on as the first tenant at 550 Madison Ave. — a deal that we first forecast three months earlier — observers, Realty Check included, were curious what the lease terms were.

The first tenant at a new development or redevelopment typically gets a more favorable deal than those that follow.

We’ve now learned that Chubb will enjoy 24 months of free rent.

Once the two years are up, the rent will increase in stages from $110 to $140 per square foot on floors 10 to 17 and from $160 to $190 per square foot on floors 36 to 38.


For a street where nobody wants to shop anymore — as lots of off-base media reports claim —  it’s remarkable how the prime stretch of Madison Avenue north of 59th Street continues to draw luxury retailers even as some others move away.

Heidi Klum wearing a camouflage Birkin bag from Hermes
Hermès, maker of bags favored by style-setters like supermodel Heidi Klum, is opening a flagship store at 702 Madison Ave.
GC Images

The newest arrival will be Italian menswear maker Kiton at currently vacant 692 Madison Ave. between East 62nd and 63rd streets. Kiton just signed a lease for a three-level, 3,400-square-foot boutique next door to scarf and bag emporium Hermès — which will soon move into a much larger space at 702 Madison.

“This deal is a true testament to luxury retail in the city,” said broker Marc Sitt of Kassin Sabbagh Realty, who with Dorel Melloul represented the landlord at 692 Madison, the Ezair family.

“With Hermès opening their new flagship, this corridor will be more vibrant than it was in previous years.  We’re happy we structured a lease which made sense for everyone,” Sitt added.

Hermès will soon house its men’s and women’s collections in one building at 702 Madison.  

A building with the Cushman & Wakefield logo on the front
Cushman & Wakefield handled Kiton’s side of the leasing transaction at 692 Madison Ave.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Kiton is expected to move in next summer. The store will also remain at 4 E. 54th St., a building owned by Kiton.

The Madison Avenue asking rent was $1.2 million per year.

Kiton was repped by Cushman & Wakefield’s Alan Wildes and Ian Lerner. Sitt also credited Kiton lawyer Massimo D’angelo for playing an important role in the deal.

Other recent nearby retail transactions include Celine at 650 Madison Ave. and Balenciaga at 620 Madison.


Prolific architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox has renewed its lease and expanded at Tishman Speyer’s 11 W. 42nd St. KPF added 38,000 square feet on the entire seventh floor,  bringing its total in the 1928-vintage building — known for its fine views and abundance of natural light — to more than 100,000 square feet.

The rent started in the low $60s per square foot, sources said. As part of the deal, KPF will enjoy one year of free rent on the expansion floor.

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