Located down one of the most picturesque blocks in New York City stands a building with a notoriously dark history. Nicknamed the “House of Death,” 14 West 10th Street is supposedly haunted by 22 ghosts, the most famous of which is Mark Twain, who resided there from 1900-1901.
A Greek Revival home, “Number 14” was built during the late 1850s in the favorable area of Washington Square Park. Before landing its infamous name, the brownstone was home to many members of New York’s elite, including Mrs. James Boorman Johnston whose husband had been a founding member of the Metropolitan Underground Railroad and the Broadway Underground Railroad.
In 1900, the building became the favorite residence of author Samuel Clemens (or more notably, Mark Twain.) Despite only living there for a little over a year, his spirit seems to have stuck around a bit longer. Sightings of Twain decked in a white suit have been reported on the first floor and near the staircase.
In the 1930s, a mother and daughter claimed to have encountered the author sitting near a window where he stated, “My name is Clemens and I has a problem here I gotta settle.” He disappeared moments later.
As the demand for housing grew in NYC, many brownstones were converted to multi-family apartments. 14 West 10th Street was no exception and was transformed from a single family home into 10 apartments in 1937.
According to the New York Post, actress Jan Bryant Bartell and her husband moved into the top floor apartment (the former servants’ quarters) and almost immediately began feeling a presence she described as a “monstrous moving shadow.” She documented her struggle with the paranormal in her book, Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea, which she completed in 1974.
Making this street even more macabre, Bartell also experienced hauntings in 16 West 10th street, where she lived in the 1950s before moving into the Twain house. Whether these paranormal visions were leftover from 16 West 10th Street, or her visions in the next door house were reverberations from 14 West 10th Street is left unknown.
The house has been visited by multiple paranormal investigators who claim to have sensed the presence of a lady in white, a young child, and a gray cat.
Tragically, the brownstone was home to a real life demon—Joel Steinberg. A former New York criminal defense attorney, Steinberg was charged with first-degree manslaughter for beating his 6-year old, illegally adopted “daughter” to death. Lisa Steinberg was found around 7am in November of 1987 by officers responding to a call about a child not breathing. After entering the second floor apartment, they found Lisa unconscious and another baby covered in filth and tied to a playpen. The baby survived, but Lisa was declared brain dead and died a few days later. Steinberg was released from prison in 2004.
To uncover more of NYCs most haunted spots, join us on our upcoming tour, Murder, Scandal & Vice: Crime & Corruption in 19th century NYC with Andrea Janes of Boroughs of the Dead.