Family that lived in ‘Spider-Man’s house’ shares decades-worth of letters from young fans: ‘Could you teach me how to make two web shooters?’
When Pamela Parker was growing up in Forest Hills, a neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., her family received numerous letters from around the world addressed to none other than “your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” she says.
“We just thought it was a prank or something, from one of our friends,” Parker, 41, who now lives in Brooklyn, tells Yahoo Life. Little did she know that her childhood home — at 20 Ingram Street — was somewhat of a comic book landmark.
Peter Parker, the true identity of “Spider-Man,” a Queens-based superhero who first appeared in Marvel’s December 1961 final issue of Amazing Fantasy, was created by the late great Marvel writer Stan Lee. Though Lee stopped writing the character in early 1989, the June and July 1989 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, written by David Michelinie, displayed Parker’s home address as "20 Ingram Street." (It's unclear where the inspiration to include the address came from, though in a 2002 interview with The New York Times, Lee made clear that he "never pinpointed" Parker's address to Michelinie.)
That same year, Parker's family started receiving "stacks" of fan mail from boys and girls across the globe — though It was sheer coincidence that the people living at "Spider-Man's house" shared the same surname as the comic book hero.
Further, The Queens Tribune reported in 2002 that the Parkers’ longtime neighbor, Terri Osborne (at 19 Ingram Street), shared a similar surname with Spider-Man’s archenemy, Norman Osborn, a.k.a. the Green Goblin, played by Willem Dafoe in the 2002 film opposite Tobey Maguire.
It was the perfect example of life imitating art. Or was it the other way around?
Up until the release of the first Spider-Man film, Parker says her family didn't realize they shared the same address as their city's local hero. “Once [the Tribune reporter Brendan Browne] cracked the case, there was a whole media tour at that time to coincide with the movie, and then we started getting a lot more letters,” she remembers.
Needless to say, the film’s producers jumped at the opportunity to showcase the wondrous coincidence — Osborne and Pamela’s mother, Suzanne, even did an appearance on CBS’s Early Show ahead of the film’s 2002 premiere, per The New York Times.
“We got tons of [mail],” Pamela’s mother told the paper at the time. They also received prank phone calls, which she attributed to a “teenager who found it funny that we had the same last name as Spider-Man.”
During that time, Parker says her mom replied to very few of the letters due to privacy concerns. And throughout her teenage years, it became "a really sweet story” that's now part of the fabric of her childhood. Though admittedly she grew up an X-Men fan, she’s since learned to love Peter, who, in many ways, is like an imaginary brother.
“I really appreciate that Spider-Man is a local hero,” she says. “I have become a Spider- Man fan. One of the really nice things about that superhero is that, unlike other superheroes, he comes from a real place.”
While the city has yet to name 20 Ingram Street an official landmark, last year a Queens local named Larry Ng started a campaign to erect a statue of Spider-Man in the area, depicting the superhero hanging from a lamppost at the intersections of Ditko and Lee (for Stan Lee and co-creator Steve Ditko).
Sadly, Disney had issues with handing over creative license, so Ng's plans were ceased.
“They are very protective of their intellectual property,” Ng told Hell Gate, a local publication, about the campaign, which received hundreds of signatures from Queens locals.
Pamela’s family moved out of 20 Ingram Street in 2017, after which her parents gave her the numerous fan letters they’d collected over the course of nearly three decades. Parker has since donated them to the City Reliquary, a not-for-profit community museum and civic organization in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which celebrates "local heroes" and "offbeat histories" of New York City.
“I'm happy for them to be public and, especially, to give the collection to the City Reliquary, which is a really wonderful place to visit,” says Parker, who is also a board member of the museum. “It’s also a nice way for [the letters] to participate in a bit of civic pride,” like their local superhero would have wanted.
“The collection is an incredible example of serendipity, and so-called coincidence,” Dave Herman, the museum’s founder, tells Yahoo Life. (For anyone in the area, the “Letters to Spiderman” collection will be on display through April 2, with select images available to see here.) “Despite denying responsibility, we are quite glad the Spider-Man writers chose a real-life Parker family address to use in their historic comic books. By doing so, they’ve allowed the real-life Parkers to create an archive of appreciation for our hometown superhero.”
“Spider-Man exemplifies the spirit of a true New Yorker, made of grit and determination, always ready to stand with and protect his fellow citizens,” Herman says, adding that “in a post-9/11” world, the superhero “exemplified the spirit of unity among New Yorkers” as he fought to protect the city — as reflected in a particular line from the 2002 film when a New York native shouted at the Green Goblin from the 59th Street Bridge: “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!”
For Parker, the museum is the perfect home for a superhero like Spider-Man, who, she says, continues to inspire other local heroes to do the right thing.
“Start from a place of civic pride,” she advises young aspiring heroes. “That’s always going to set you up to keep your eyes on what's going on around you — and looking for ways to help others.”
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