New York is called one of the most haunted cities in the world. The 400+ years history of the city encloses cycles of destruction, reconstruction, re-forming and building. Like any other city, it is associated with many tales and legends. Let us tell you some of the stories related to it.
1. The Morris-Jumel Mansion
2. The Dakota
The Dakota is renowned for its featured role in Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror classic Rosemary’s Baby and as the site of John Lennon’s assassination, but the legendary Central Park West building has a long history of supernatural encounters in its own right. Over the years, workers and residents have reported seeing a friendly little girl dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing, an adult with the face of a small boy, and even the ghost of Lennon himself.
3. 57 West 57th Street
In 1922, Albert Champion, a former cyclist and inventor of the spark plug, married showgirl Edna Crawford. The May-September romance quickly soured when Edna took the younger, dashing Frenchman Charles Brazelle as a lover. In 1927, Brazelle allegedly murdered Champion in a Paris hotel, but Edna and Brazelle convinced authorities he died of a “weak heart” and were set to inherit his fortune, with which she and Brazelle bought the penthouse at 57 West 57th Street. Brazelle was jealous, keeping Edna a prisoner of the penthouse and eventually beating her to death with a telephone, after which her bodyguards threw him out the window. The penthouse lay vacant for years, but subsequent owner Carlton Alsop claimed to hear Edna’s clicking high heels and the couple’s violent arguments, and his guests often reported seeing horrific, unexplainable sights. His wife left him, his dogs had nervous breakdowns, and things got so bad that he eventually had himself committed suicide.
4. The Campbell Apartment
A few years ago, our friends at Eater reported on the supposed haunting of The Campbell Apartment—the lavishly appointed cocktail lounge in Grand Central Terminal, which was once the office and salon of financier John W. Campbell, who died in 1957. According to owner Mark Grossich, employees have felt strange presences, including something pushing them from behind and bursts of cold air, and some have even reported seeing “an old, fashionably dressed couple sitting and having a cocktail on the balcony when the place was completely closed.”
5. The House of Death
This beautiful townhouse on quiet West 10th has been called the most haunted building in New York, with as many as twenty-two ghosts calling it home, earning 14 West 10th Street the sobriquet “The House of Death.” Mark Twain lived here from 1900 to 1901 and claimed that he himself had experienced supernatural incidents. Throughout the twentieth century, 14 West 10th was the site of several gruesome incidents, including a murder-suicide and the beating death of six-year-old Lisa Steinberg at the hands of her adopted father, prominent attorney Joel Steinberg, in 1987. The specter of Twain himself—white suit and all—has been seen ascending the staircase.
6. 12 Gay Street
Located right around the corner from bustling Sixth Avenue, Gay Street is arguably one of the most picturesque blocks in New York, and the quaint brick townhouse at number 12 is no exception. The building served as a speakeasy called The Pirate’s Den during Prohibition and was purchased by the corrupt (yet wildly popular) Mayor Jimmy Walker as a home for his mistress, Ziegfeld girl Betty Compton. Neighbors insist that ghostly flappers and the Gay Street Phantom—a dapper gent in a cloak and top hat—still lurk around late at night, and if that’s not creepy enough, the property was later bought by Frank Paris, the creator of notorious hell-puppet Howdy Doody.
7. St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery
St. Mark’s Chruch in-the-Bowery is the second-oldest church in Manhattan, splitting from Trinity Church in 1799. Built on Dutch colonial governor Peter Stuyvesant’s family farm, legend has it that the cantankerous, peg-legged Dutchman still haunts the area. He’s been known to harass clergymen and parishioners, ring the bells, and loudly interrupt services by stomping around and singing Calvinist hymns in Dutch. Apparently, English Episcopal hymns simply don’t agree with him.
8. The Merchant’s House
While some haunted houses might attempt to shed their notorious reputations, the East Village Merchant’s House Museum all but relishes it. Built-in 1832 and later bought by wealthy merchant Seabury Tredwell, the museum is an immaculate look into the personal domestic lives of the nineteenth-century cultural elite, but the ghost of Tredwell’s daughter, Gertrude—a lonely, sheltered spinster whose life was supposedly the basis of Henry James’ Washington Square Park—still haunts the place.
9. The Manhattan Well
In the winter of 1800, the body of a young woman named Gulielma Sands was found at the bottom of the Manhattan Well at what is now 129 Spring Street. The ensuing trial was one of the great scandals of nineteenth-century New York, with Levi Weeks (brother of influential builder Ezra Weeks)accused of her murder after he reportedly impregnated and promised to marry her. Weeks retained the city’s top attorneys (including Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton) and was acquitted, despite growing public outrage. In 1817, the Manhattan Well was filled in and built over, but it was rediscovered in 1980 and has since become a notorious destination for paranormal enthusiasts claiming that the ghost of Gulielma Sands still haunts the area.
10. 85 West 3rd Street
Now part of NYU’s Furman Hall, 85 West 3rd Street was once occupied by Edgar Allen Poe for eight months in 1844 and 1845, where he wrote his classic story “The Cask of Amontillado” and at least part of “The Raven.” Nowadays, the only part of the original residence that remains is the banister and Poe’s ghost has been seen climbing it by spooked law students.
11. 84 West 3rd Street
Right across the street from 85 West 3rd is another haunted building—a disused fire station converted into a private residence (and home to Anderson Cooper!). The building is apparently haunted by the ghost of “Firefighter Schwartz,” who hanged himself from the rafters after learning of his wife’s infidelity in 1930. Over the years, firefighters have reported strange noises coming from the attic, and have even seen his hanging corpse.
12. The Lefferts-Laidlaw House
In Walkabout, an 1840 Greek Revival home a stone’s throw away from the Brooklyn Navy Yard may hold a sinister secret. One December evening in 1878, resident Edward F. Smith reported hearing a knock at his door, but when he went to answer, there was no one to be found. Of course, the knocking persisted, while the backdoors and windows were violently rattled and banged. The unseen tormentor continued harassing Smith until he called the police. While the cops staked out the area, someone (or something) hurled a brick through the dining room window despite the fact that multiple officers were standing right outside. The New York Times later reported on the incidents, and 136 Clinton Avenue became something of a hotspot for curious ghost hunters and spiritualists, who held séances on the sidewalk. This prompted Smith to boldly proclaim, “They won’t get in here. We consider ourselves perfectly able to take care of any ghost that comes along.”
13. The Conference House
Located at the southernmost tip of Staten Island, this colonial manor was used by loyalist Colonel Christopher Billop as a way station for British forces during the Revolutionary War. It also hosted the unsuccessful Staten Island Peace Conference on September 11, 1776, with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge in attendance. In 1779, Billop suspected a fifteen-year-old serving girl of spying for the rebels and allegedly killed her by throwing her down a flight of stairs, and supposedly her ghost can still be heard screaming today. As a side note, the area was also used as a Lenape Indian burial ground thousands of years before European contact, so take from that what you will.