Spider-Man is New York City’s hometown hero. In the comic books and many movie adaptations made of the superhero’s tale, Peter Parker lives in Forest Hills, Queens with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. In two 1989 issues of the comic book (#316 and #317), eagle-eyed fans spotted Peter Parker’s exact address on a change of address slip found among Peter’s belongings. Turns out, that address, 20 Ingram Street, was home to a real-life family with the same surname, Parker. Though none of those Parkers had web-slinging powers, after the address became known, they began to receive letters addressed to Spider-Man.
In the latest episode of Undiscarded, a podcast that explores the fascinating stories behind the unusual artifacts housed at The City Reliquary Museum in Williamsburg, host Tania Mohammad talks with Pamela Parker. Pamela grew up at 20 Ingram Street, where her family lived from 1974 to 2007. Over the years, the Parkers saved dozens of the letters they received and those letters are now part of the City Reliquary collections. You can see the now in a temporary exhibit at the Museum called Dear Spider-Man: Letters to Peter Parker.
When the letters to Peter Parker first started to appear, the family thought it might be a prank. Then, a reporter from the Queens Tribune showed up with the two 1989 comic books and the family realized that their address was famous, at least among a group of highly observant and dedicated comic book fans. You needed both issues to see the full address. While some letters arrived throughout the 1990s, the frequency of mail picked up around 2002 and the release of the first Spider-Man feature film, which was partially shot in New York City.
The letters came from children from all over the world including countries like India and Switzerland. Often they were writing to tell Spider-Man how much they appreciated his heroic deeds. Sometimes they asked for stuff, instructions on how to make their own web-slinger, a real Spider-Man mask, or a visit from Spider-Man himself. Some missives even contained little gifts like hand-drawn portraits, coins, candy, or other tiny trinkets. Peter Parker even got junk mail, like an application for a credit card that was on display in the museum. On the podcast, you can hear a group of local Queens kids read some of the letters aloud.
20 Ingram Street is located in Forest Hills Gardens. The Tudor-style home, which is currently on sale for just under $2 million, doesn’t look like the typical, humble Queens rowhouse that Spider-Man inhabits in the comics and films. Was it just a coincidence that real Parkers happened to live at the address given to the Amazing Spider-Man, or did creator Stan Lee go searching for a match (one that also happened to be across the street from the residence of the Osborne family, another name that should be familiar to Spider-Man fans)? Listen to Undiscard here to hear Pamela’s take and learn more about the letters to your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
Next, check out The Superheroes Who Call NYC Home