If you’re into cemetery cocktail parties or speakeasy arcades — the kind of events that reveal the history of a place — you’ve probably heard of the Obscura Society. The “alternative travel” group makes it their mission to reveal the extraordinary secrets all around us with tours of abandoned spaces, treks that highlight the hidden history of a neighborhood you thought you knew, and other thought-provoking journeys into the past, present — and the possibilities ahead.
This Saturday, April 16, they’re going all out with Obscura Day with 16 mysterious events across the five boroughs, alongside thousands of others around the world exploring their own cities in 25 countries at over 150 events.
“The essence of some of our events is bringing people to hidden places they might not normally have access to,” says Rebecca Posner, head of events at Obscura Society New York. “We’re always trying to give people unusual points of view and adventures, a sense of what it means to be in this world, in the past. It’s a kind of time travel. It brings you closer to making sense of the reality you live in, but also escaping when you can’t always leave.”
Obscura Day, now in its fifth year, has events that run the gamut of the group’s usual gatherings, which include lectures, walking tours, workshops and inventive parties. This year, it kicks off with Saturday Morning Pinball & Vintage Cartoons, a breakfast meetup in a secret arcade in the back of a laundromat in Greenpoint. From there, everyone goes off on their own adventures, like the Brooklyn Navy Yard Tour or Show and Tale at the Morbid Anatomy Museum. At dusk, there’s a Secret Garden Party at Marble Cemetery in the East Village.
For Posner, the hardest part is that “I really want to be everywhere.” Though she’ll be busy orchestrating some of the day’s main events, she’s not worried about missing out: “The sold-out events, like the Coney Island Creek Excursion, we’ll definitely run again.”
Posner hopes attendees will leave wondering about the rest of what they pass by every day. “I feel wonder for this city. I feel the stories that are literally in the pavement, in the walls,” she says. “It adds a sense of curiosity to my daily movement. We can hopefully help other people feel the same thing, too.”