4. Washington Square Park
Like many parks in New York City, including Madison Square Park, and Union Square Park, Washington Square Park was formerly a potter’s field, or a public grave site for the poor and unclaimed deceased. According to the Bowery Boys, over 20,000 people are likely still buried in the Park out of a total of as many as 125,000 burials. In 2009, a 3-foot tall sandstone grave marker was uncovered during park renovations and as recently as 2015, previously unknown burial vaults, with human remains inside, were discovered just outside the park. Another ingredient of a haunting that can be found inside Washington Square is a hanging tree. During the Revolutionary War, it was said that traitors were hung from the Hangman’s Elm, an English elm that is the oldest tree in Manhattan. In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette claimed to have witnessed the hanging of twenty highwaymen there. Alternatively another story goes that in 1820 a nearby gallows was set up to hang Rose Butler, a slave convicted of arson. Whichever tale holds true (if any), the dark aura of the Hangman’s Elm’s past nevertheless has aptly led to its rather gruesome naming.