The NYC Psych Ward, or My Manhattan Hostel

Whenever I think back on the strangest people I’ve met, hostel memories come to mind. New York City was no different. I spent three nights in Manhattan in a hostel whose name I can no longer remember, but the people I shared my dorm room with, I won’t soon forget. Those nights were spent in shock, horror and fear.

Meet the cast:

The Broadway Starlet – There was a woman in her 40s who had moved from California to New York City with hopes of becoming a Broadway star. She had been living at the hostel for over a month (something you can only do if you’re from out of state because otherwise every New Yorker would become a hosteller in order to avoid Manhattan’s astronomical rent, or at least I would). The hopeful starlet showed me her glamour shot as soon as I walked into the room. I looked at her, back at the photo, back at her – the face in front of me no longer matched the portrait. The woman in the photo had youth, ambition, vivacity, and a hopeful glimmer in her eye. That was all gone.

The hopeful starlet seemed kind enough at first. She even attempted small talk, but that all changed after our first encounter. From then on she would approach me in fits of anger for leaving my things someplace she had not deemed appropriate. (I’m not that messy!) My suitcase could not be by the window because that was her spot, and my bag could not be on the floor because that was her spot, and my towel had to be hung on a certain side of the bed… Woman! I blame in on stress; waiting for a call back must clearly be mentally exhausting.

The Scandinavian Party Animals – Then there were the two Swedish girls; one working as an au pair for a wealthy couple in upstate New York, the other visiting from Stockholm. This was their weekend to live it up in the Big Apple! I can’t say I saw very much of them. They were usually getting ready to go out by the time I was returning to the hostel for the night. Scandalously clad, their skirts grew shorter, their heels wobblier, and their makeup thicker as the weekend progressed. But they managed to stumble in quietly every morning, so they were okay in my books.

The Sleep Boxer – There was a mysterious woman who simply appeared in the dorm room one night. The area surrounding her bunk bed was littered with grocery bags stuffed with personal belongings. Her appearance was questionable, I mean, I wondered if she had escaped some kind of institution… She had a lot of internal turmoil which would manifest itself in the form of full-fledged panic attacks in the wee hours of the morning. It would start out with a little tossing and turning, perhaps a little muttering, but these sessions would escalate into bloody screams and boxing moves that would give Mike Tyson a run for his money.

While I lay terrified in the bunk adjacent and above this woman, the Broadway Starlet would jump into action. It would start with an innocent ‘wake up honey, you’re dreaming’ (strange to hear her use the word honey after the verbal attacks directed towards me), and when that didn’t work she would try to shake the woman awake while hollering ‘Shuuut uuup!’

Sweet heavens, who am I sleeping with?

The Furry Creatures – And no New York City establishment would be complete without the addition of a cute little rodent, or an entire family of them… Further peeking under the bunk beds revealed several mouse traps which had previously gone unnoticed. When I informed the receptionist about the little creatures running about in the room, he merely shrugged his shoulders and replied, “this is New York.” He returned back to his work without so much as a glance; I had been dismissed. Thank you kind sir, don’t sweat the little stuff.

There were so many things to do in New York City and it was great to see the city where my parents met as teenagers, but I was glad to trade my sleeping companions for the safety of my own bed.

Farewell New York!

Have you shared a dorm room with any strange characters?
Go on, I want to hear about them.


  • thisbatteredsuitcase says:

    Oh man! I certainly have shared hostel rooms with some strange characters, but never that many in the same room.

    One particular man springs to mind: I was sharing a room of about ten in Singapore last year, and there was a Japanese man in the bed below me who seemed to always be asleep. One day I was sitting in bed reading when he woke up, got out of bed, and started walking around the room. All of this would be totally normal…if he wasn’t COMPLETELY NAKED! I mean, I’m all for making a hostel room feel like home, but have some tact, man. I turned away in horror; luckily one of the hostel staff happened to come into the room at the time and severely reprimanded him.

    Oh God, now that I’m thinking about it, I have so many stories like this…

    • thatbackpacker says:

      Haha, I would have been horrified!!! I tend to stay in the girl dorms when I’m travelling solo, so I’ve managed to avoid strange encounters like that one. 😀

      I’ve gotta say, hostels are the best!

      • thisbatteredsuitcase says:

        Hostels ARE the best! I try to stay in the all-girl dorms, too, but sometimes they are all booked up. I usually don’t mind co-ed rooms (I met one of my best male friends in a dorm in Bangkok!) but there are the occasional creepy moments! My best friend Kerri was once woken up by a man standing over her bed. She tried to tell him to go back to his bed, to which he replied, “First I kiss your breast, then I will go to my bed.” AHHHHH!!

  • mattkarsten says:

    Nice! I’ve got my share of these tales as well.

    No stay to NYC would be complete without some furry creature sightings! 🙂

  • Ashley says:

    Remember the gas the lady that would scream at night had? It was volatile!

    I will not be returning to NYC anytime soon. No SIr!

  • thatbackpacker says:

    Now I do!!!! I had suppressed those memories sistah! 😉 Hahaha

  • Fidel says:

    Ha ha, you must share more of these stories. I love your background of all the characters. This is definitely something you should feature.
    I love those people you meet at hostels who have been there for more weeks or months than they should.

    • thatbackpacker says:

      Haha, thanks Fidel. There’s plenty more in the woodworks…I always seem to end up resting my head in the strangest of places. 😀

  • Anwar says:

    I didn’t even know of a hostel in Manhattan. I suppose that makes sense, but what a frightful experience! Although these types of stories are the ones most remembered years later.

  • Jill says:

    My weirdest hostel experience was probably in San Francisco. There was a SF guy living there after having had a dispute with his landlord. I remember that he ate weird food and liked to talk about it (he was a raw vegan but the things he ate were just really out there). He kept hovering over my friend’s face while she was in bed trying to (pretend) sleep, and added to the awkwardness with “So… are you on Myspace?”

    Other than that, I feel I’ve been pretty lucky. I travel with my boyfriend a lot so we get private rooms when possible.

    • thatbackpacker says:

      It would be so creepy having someone hover around your space when you’re trying to sleep! I’d sleep with one eye open 😉 haha

  • thetravelchica says:

    Fortunately, I haven’t had too many weird experiences. Weirdos in the hostels but luckily not in my room.

  • Alex says:

    My first night in Nicaragua, I happened to stay in a hostel that also had an entire contingent of men competing in the Miss (Gay) Nicaragua Pageant. The hostel owner invited me along to the competition, and I got front row seats. Not your typical hostel!

  • Two 4 Travel says:

    Woah! That’s some intense roommates. We will be staying in our first hostels next month in New Zealand. Hopefully we don’t encounter any creatures or psychos! *fingers crossed*

    • thatbackpacker says:

      First hostel stay – that’s so exciting!!! I hope you girls have a wonderful time in New Zealand…and that you don’t get any creepy roomies! 😀

  • Suzy says:

    Wow! That is quite the cast of characters. I don’t think I could deal with the rodent issue though. That would be a deal breaker for me I think!

  • GoMad Nomad TravlMag (@gomadnomad) says:

    Funny. Yep, you will meet all sorts in NYC, and your dorm rom is a good place to start.

  • Backpackers’ lodgings are usually very social. Some are party palaces where sleeping is not paramount, like Amsterdam’s Flying Pig Backpackers, and some keep sleep tops, like New York’s Chelsea Hostel. In any backpackers’, someone will come in late and flip on bedroom lights (guaranteed).

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  • April says:

    What an experience! That must be so tough. I wonder how I would react when I’m with The Broadway Starlet, I guess I would just scream and shout. That was horrible but at least you get to experience that once in your life. I would rather live with The Scandinavian Party Animals. At least with them, I can have a good night sleep. I can even party with them too if I get bored in New York City, maybe I’ll have a blast. Why not? Well in all fairness, you did a great job. You were able to hang on with these people even just for days. If I were to live with all of them, one night is enough to leave the place. But it’s still one amazing experience that you would always remember.

  • Vlora says:

    If someone in my hostel room writes a post about their experience, I will be the one reading something on her tablet, laughing for no apparent reason. 😀

    I’ve only been staying in this hostel girl’s room for a couple of nights, but today, some chic sat down in the middle of the room, mostly naked, and started shaving her private parts. Ah, hostels,

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