The 10 Creepiest Places in NYC (Friday the 13th Edition)

Abandoned buildings on North Brother Island. Source: Christopher Payne

In addition to it being Friday the 13th, it’ll be a full moon above the clouds (a combination that won’t happen again until 2098!). We’ve pulled together some of the creepiest in New York City in honor of the occasion. From mass burial grounds to abandoned psychiatric hospitals to haunted townhouses, this is an “architectural” version of a most haunted list. And if you want more, join our tour, Murder, Scandal & Vice: Crime & Corruption in 19th Century NYC, with Boroughs of the Dead this Saturday evening.

1. Hart Island

Hart Island-NYC-Cemetery-Potters Field-Burial Trench-Joel Sternfeld-Rikers Island-Prisoners-Inmates
Rikers Island inmates performing adult burials on Hart Island. Photograph by Joel Sternfeld via The Hart Island Project

Located near the Bronx, Hart Island is a 101-acre island burial ground, the city’s last potter’s field, for those who are either unclaimed or whose families couldn’t afford a funeral. The island is uninhabited today, but more than 800,000 dead has been buried there since 1869, making it the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world. There are also some “notable” people buried at Hart Island, discovered after death. Bobby Driscoll, the Disney child actor is buried there. He was the voice of Peter Pan in the animated film and stared in Disney’s Song of the South. He died unknown, thought to be homeless, so was taken here. The grave of the first child to die of AIDS is also on Hart Island.

The island is also home to a crumbling women’s lunatic asylum and had areas used for drug rehabilitation. Read our interview with someone who lived there for two years in the 70.s

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4 Responses
  1. Dennis harper Reply

    The creepiest place I’ve ever been to was what appeared to be an abandoned 1800’s era crematorium. As a 60’s teen, I was always out exploring the city by bike. One day I was out with a friend poking around Randall’s island. I wanted to head south and around the base of the Hell Gate railroad bridge. As we neared it there was an old building that was not so easy to tell it’s original purpose.

    I could swear it’s the exact same building and interior in the final scene of the 1971 movie The French Connection where Gene Hackman shoots another cop while looking for Frog One. I can’t say for sure it was a crematorium but I know where it was. It was at or very near what is now Randall’s Island field #62 as seen on Google maps. It’s nice to watch the film and remember biking over the bridge where Popeye Doyle did his little hello wave.

  2. I love walking through cemeteries and reading headstones. I don’t think of them as being creepy, just filled with the spirits of the deceased; whether at peace or unrest. Reading the headstones adds their personal histories to the experience. Potters’ Fields, however, I think of as sad places since in so many cases, the stories of the people buried there have been lost.
    I really like the use of burial grounds as public parks and green spaces, where the living can mingle with the spirits of those who’ve passed on…
    I enjoyed this list of 10 sites in NYC. Now…I’ll follow the link to read more about the Marquis de Lafayette’s resting place in Paris!

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