Spider-Man, pictured above, made his comic book debut in 1962 and has been a mainstay of American superhero culture since. There are now a handful of Spider-Men but the main one’s true identity is Peter Parker, and you know his backstory: smart young man gets bit by a radioactive spider, develops all sorts of weird superpowers, creates (perhaps organically) web-like stuff that lets him swing from buildings, beats up bad guys, etc. He typically focuses his efforts in his hometown of New York City and, specifically, in the borough of Queens, where he’s from. But, alas, he’s a fictional character. No matter how hard you look, you won’t find a Peter Parker living in Queens who can do the things he can do.
And that’s a good thing, because if he were real, perhaps a nemesis or two would also likely be real — and that would have spelled disaster for one family.
During Spider-Man’s nearly sixty-year history, he’s fought a lot of villains. Doc Ock is probably the coolest but this isn’t about him. Norman Osborne, the brilliant scientist who accidentally transforms himself into the sociopath Green Goblin, is another — and this story is only somewhat about him. This is a story, at least initially, about Venom, an alien symbiote who bonds with a human host, and who in particular wants to bond with Spider-Man. Their relationship is complicated and not really all that important for our purposes, but more importantly, there are hundreds of pages of comic books on the topic and I can’t address them all in this tiny space. So, to cut to the chase, here’s a page from one comic book (specifically, the June-July 1989 issue of “The Amazing Spider-Man”)
Basically, Spider-Man and Venom have a fight with no clear winner. A bunch of pink goop gets on Spider-Man so he goes home to clean himself off, saying to himself “thank heaven that Venom still doesn’t know where I live.” Venom, however, discovers a slip of paper that Spidey had in his pocket (does his suit have pockets?) — a change-of-address announcement. The sheet says that Peter Parker and his now-wife, Mary Jane Parker (née Watson) have moved to Ingram Street, Forest Hills, New York, 11375, and provides a phone number to go with that address. If you call the phone number, you’ll find it’s not a real one — like Spider-Man, it’s made up — and if you Google that address, you’ll also find that it’s not a real street. That’d be horrible for whoever lives there.
Oh, wait. It is a real road.
And you’ll never believe who used to live at 20 Ingram Street.
In 2002, Spider-Man made his return to movie theaters in “Spider-Man,” starring Tobey Maguire as the titular character. The film debuted on May 3rd of that year and only a few days later, on May 8th, the New York Times published a story about the people who lived at 20 Ingram, and we’ll let them share their discovery:
In the comics, Peter Parker, the mild-mannered photojournalist who is Spider-Man’s alter ego, grew up at 20 Ingram Street, a modest, two-story boarding house run by his Aunt May in the heart of Forest Hills Gardens. The address actually exists and is home to a family named Parker: Andrew and Suzanne Parker, who moved there in 1974, and their two daughters.
So, no Peter, but close enough — especially for fans of the comics. When the Parkers (Andrew and Suzanne, not Peter and Mary Jane) moved into their new place in the 1970s, they didn’t know what they had done, and by and large, no one else did either. But starting in around 1989, per the Times, “the family began receiving junk mail addressed to Peter Parker,” including, for some reason, Star Trek magazines. The real Parkers were also victims of more than a handful of prank phone calls, but thankfully, the only superpower one needs to defeat such villainy is to hang up the phone, so they didn’t seem to mind all that much.
There are no reports of radioactive spiders living anywhere in the neighborhood, so that’s good, but the coincidence didn’t end at 20 Ingram Street. Across the road, at 19 Ingram, lived another family: the Osbornes. None of them were named Norman (or even Harry); per a local newspaper (not the Daily Bugle), the “address lists both a Herbert Osborn and a Maxwell Osborne as residents,” and per the Times, there was also a Terri Osborne there. And importantly, the families were not arch-rivals but rather “longtime friends,” per the Times.
Today, you probably won’t find the non-Peter Parkers living at that address; the property has changed hands a few times since. The same goes for the Osborne’s house; it last sold in 2011. So if Venom hasn’t shown up yet, he’s too late.
From the Archives: Action Comics: That time Superman almost made a movie that you can’t show your kids.