With a history as long and storied as New York City’s, there are bound to be tales of ghostly apparitions attached to its most famous and frequented locations. Over the centuries New York City has experienced all of the makings of a good haunting, from tragic and untimely deaths to mass burials and unfinished business. Here are 10 of New York City’s most famously haunted locations:
10. The Merchant House Museum
The Merchant House Museum was built in 1832 and is an example of late-Federal and Greek Revival styles. It was the first building designated in the borough of Manhattan following the passing of the Landmarks Preservation law in April 1965 and is the only historic house museum in the Greenwich Village/Soho/NoHo neighborhoods. But what really sets this building apart is its embracing of its haunted history. There is even a “Ghosts” tab on the website.
The museum was once the home of a wealthy mercantile family, the Tredwells, from 1835 to 1933. Over 3,000 items of the family’s possessions including furniture, decorative arts, clothing, photographs and books, household items, and personal items make up the museum’s collection. Many claim that the ghost that haunts the house is that of Gertrude Tredwell, the youngest of the Tredwells’ eight children. Gertrude was born in an upstairs bedroom in 1840 and died in the house 93 years later. She was the last member of the family to live there. The house has been a museum since the 1930s and there have always been stories of strange and inexplicable happenings reported by staff, volunteers, visitors, and neighbors.
9. Grand Central Terminal
While in New York President Franklin D. Roosevelt commuted between Grand Central Terminal and theWaldorf-Astoria Hotel via his own armored, five car train. Frequently along for the ride was Roosevelt’s dear pet, a Scottish terrier name Fala. According to Phil Schoenberg, a New York City historian and founder of Ghost Walks NYC, the ghost of Fala still haunts the station he once travelled through with the President. Schoenberg told WNYC that the canine spirit has “been spotted late at night by various people who are in the station to fix things or clean up.”
Another spectral resident of Grand Central Terminal may be John W. Campbell, the financier who’s office is now The Campbell Bar. According to owner Mark Grossich, employees have felt something pushing them from behind, 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.”
To uncover more secrets of the historic Grand Central Terminal (and maybe listen for Fala’s ghostly barks for yourself) join an upcoming Untapped Cities walking tour!
8. Hotel Chelsea
The Hotel Chelsea is famous for the many artists and musicians who called it home throughout its over 130 year existence and the infamous incidents that took place within its walls. Everyone from Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix at one point boasted a Chelsea Hotel address. The artistic significance of the hotel runs so deep that when materials from inside were being discarded as part of ongoing renovations, someone saved the doors that once hung at the entrance of some of the hotel’s most famous rooms and auctioned them off at Guernsey’s. The Gothic style of the hotel, which was completed in 1884, only serves to enhance the morbid tales.
While there are many stories of apparitions wandering through the Chelsea Hotel, the most famous are the ghosts of Sex Pistols’ bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. The couple lived at the Chelsea in the late 1970s when Spungen was found dead in their room of an apparent knife wound. Sid Vicious was charged with her murder but died of an overdose while on bail awaiting trial.
7. The Dakota Apartments
When a building figures prominently into the story of a classic horror film, you know there must be some trace of real terror attached. The Dakota Apartments, which were built between 1880 and 1884, serve as the Bramford in the 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby. In the film, the building has a legendary history of ties to the occult. In real life, the Dakota is just as, if not more, legendary than the witch filled and tragedy plagued Bramford.
Like the Hotel Chelsea, the Dakota has seen many celebrities pass through its doors including Yoko Ono and John Lennon. Lennon was murdered outside the Dakota by a crazed fan in 1980 and some say his spirit never left. Yoko Ono herself, who lived in the Dakota for twenty years after Lennon’s death, claimed to see his ghost sitting at the piano. Before he was killed, Lennon also claimed to see the apparition of a crying lady.
6. One if by Land, Two if by Sea
This upscale restaurant in Greenwich Village, housed inside a 1767 carriage house, is said to be haunted by as many as twenty ghosts! In 2011, General Manager Rosanne Martino told Eater that the establishment was most definitely haunted, as she herself had had “inexplicable experiences…picture frames tilting, machinery activating by itself, strange drafts especially by the bar, flying plates, flickering lights, staff members will occasionally be pushed and when they turn, no one is there.” The ghostly occurrences have been so bad that some members of staff reportedly quit over them! Some believe one of the ghost is Aaron Burr who kept his carriage and horses in the carriage house
while he served as Attorney General of the State of New York during the 1790’s. Others may be Burr’s daughter Theodosia, an unnamed Ziegfeld girl and of course, a woman in black.
5. House of Death, 14 West 10th Street
14 West 10th Street beats out One if by Land and Two if by Sea with a reported twenty ghosts! This Greek Revival home was built during the late 1850s in Washington Square Park. In 1900 famous American author Mark Twain moved in and spent the next year in residence. Though he only lived in the house for a short time, his spirit seems to to have grown attached. Sightings of Twain decked in a white suit have been reported on the first floor and near the staircase. The paranormal events taking place inside 14 West 10th were recounted in actress Jan Bryant Bartell’s 1974 book Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea. Bartell and her husband lived in the former servants quarters of the house and she claims to have felt a presence she described as a “monstrous moving shadow.” You can learn more about the dark history of the “House of Death” here.
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.
3. White Horse Tavern
The White Horse Tavern is one of New York City’s oldest bars. Opened in 1880, the tavern originally attracted longshoremen who worked at the Hudson River Piers and in the mid-twentieth century, it became a hotspot for musicians and writers of the Beat Generation like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Another Beatnik writier who frequented the tavern was Dylan Thomas. One night Thomas downed eighteen shots of whisky at the tavern, returned to his home at the Chelsea Hotel and died the next day in St. Vincent’s Hospital on November 9, 1953. Legends say he still keeps coming back to his usual table at the tavern for more.
2. The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building has sadly been the site of over thirty suicides and even more suicide attempts since it opened in 1931. One of the most famous was that of Evelyn McHale, a 23-year-old who leapt to her death from the 86th floor observation deck in May 1947. McHale landed on top of and crushed the roof of a limousine parked at the curb. A photo of the aftermath taken by student Robert Wales led Time Magazine to dub the event the “most beautiful suicide.” In her book Ghosts and Murders of Manhattan, Elise Gainer recounts stories of people who have “seen a woman appear on the observation deck attired in 1940s-period clothing, her lips painted red…muttering about the death of her fiance in Germany and then throwing herself over the barrier.”
1. Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall, which opened in 1932, is said to be haunted by the spirit of Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, the man that brought the Rockettes to New York. Rothafel died in 1936 only a few years after the music hall opened. Ushers at the theater have reported finding his seat down at the end of the night when all of the others are up. Some even claim to have seen his ghost “walking to his seat with a stunning woman on his arm.” There have also been reports of ghost-like activity in his private apartment in the theater, which is still maintained.
Bonus: Alien Abductions on the Brooklyn Bridge
In 1989 one of the most compelling alien abductions took place right here in New York City. Manhattan resident Linda Napolitano claimed that on the night of November 30th she was abducted from her apartment, carried through her closed window, and brought aboard an alien spaceship where little gray creatures performed various experiments on her. This incident became known as the Manhattan Transfer Abduction. Throughout the years following Napolitano’s abduction, two eye witnesses came forward to reveal what they saw that night. Those witnesses were the two body guards of the Secretary General of the United Nations at the time, Perez de Cuellar, who claimed to have seen Linda and three grey creatures floating through the air above the Brooklyn Bridge towards a large craft. That craft eventually dove straight into the East River. Cuellar himself would never speak publicly about what he may or may not have seen but more witnesses who claimed to have seen the abduction from the point of view of the Brooklyn Bridge area have come forward. Napolitano’s experience was researched by UFOlogist Budd Hopkins and turned into a book, Witnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge Abductions.You can watch Hopkins explain one eye witness’ testimony from the bridge here!
Uncover more secrets of the Brooklyn Bridge on an upcoming Untapped Cities walking tour!
Next, check out The 10 Creepiest Places in NYC