4. Hangman’s Elm in Washington Square Park
As previously mentioned, Washington Square Park was once a potter’s field, and is home to approximately 20,000 bodies. It was also a forum for public hangings, and it’s said that the tree in which prisoners were hung, known as the “Hangman’s Elm” still exists in the northwest corner of the park. Although some historians dispute if this was the site of hangings, local lore states that the last hanging here occurred in 1820 when Rose Butler, a slave, was executed for burning down her master’s home. During the Revolutionary War, it was said that traitors were hung from the tree. In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette even claimed to witness the hanging of twenty highwaymen there. Whatever tales hold true, the dark aura of the Hangman’s Elm’s past nevertheless has aptly led to its rather gruesome naming.