Founded in 1624, New York City has an extraordinarily rich history. Part of its lengthy past includes a darker side: the city is home to numerous supposedly-haunted historical sites, abandoned train stations and houses, and chilling cemeteries. In anticipation of Halloween, I’ve compiled a list of some of the spookiest places to visit in NYC this October… if you dare!
The Renwick Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan was opened in 1856 to contain the spread of the smallpox disease. A century later, with smallpox largely eradicated in the U.S., the hospital was abandoned. The hospital fell to ruins as it was left unused for many years, but today it stands as an eerie reminder of the tragic deaths of smallpox victims. You can still visit the historic site today, whether to pay homage to the dead or to try to spot some spirits.
The City Hall Station was New York’s first subway station, opened in 1904 and abandoned just a few decades later. The station is hauntingly beautiful, with gorgeous windows of stained art and massive mosaics. It was designed by famous architects Heins and LaFarge and incorporated the brilliant work of stained glass artist Christopher Grant LaFarge, as well as the vaulted, tiled ceilings of the renowned Spanish architect, Rafael Guastavino.
You can visit the station by taking an official group tour with the New York Transit Museum or, if you’re daring enough, you can try to catch a glimpse alone: by staying on the downtown 6 train after it leaves the Brooklyn Bridge station to head uptown. Although City Hall Station is better known for its stunning architecture than its spooky happenings, supposedly, during the station’s construction, workers heard the sounds of “agitated spirits” at night.
Constructed in 1856, this Greenwich Village apartment has earned a reputation for spooky happenings and bad luck over the years. In 1897, the resident of the house at the time, cyclist celebrity Fred H. Andrew, hit an eight-year-old boy while biking, leaving the child with a broken leg. The next homeowner was Mark Twain who, while writing some of his most famous pieces, was battling both bankruptcy and depression. Although he was a self-described skeptic, he detailed various accounts of paranormal experiences in this house. People have since reported sightings of Twain’s ghost roaming the halls.
In 1957, the top floor of the house became home to a woman named Jan Bryant Bartell and her daughter, who described “a monstrous moving shadow” following her around the apartment, as well as several other ghosts and paranormal happenings. A rapid succession of deaths within the house followed shortly thereafter — first their dog, then other human tenants, and eventually Jan herself. And, on November 2nd of 1987, another resident of the house, six-year-old Lisa Nussbaum, was murdered in the home.
An “upscale and exclusive” residence, construction began on The Dakota in 1880 and finished four years later. The building comprises of a staggering sixty-five apartments, each boasting four to twenty rooms. Throughout its existence, The Dakota has housed many famous artists and performers, including John Lennon, who was murdered on The Dakota’s steps in 1980. His ghost, as well as the ghosts of an unnamed young boy, the actress Judy Holiday, and a little girl, have supposedly been spotted here.
Other supernatural happenings have also been reported: John Lennon, himself, claimed to have seen a UFO from one of the windows as well as a ghost wandering the halls; residents have reported hearing footsteps and seeing lights flickering; and pieces of furniture have apparently mysteriously moved on their own accord.
St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery
Located in the East Village, St. Mark’s Church was built by Petrus Stuyvesant in 1660. The property on which the chapel was built was later sold to the Episcopal Church to serve the Bowery Village public and, in 1799, a new church was erected. Various additions and renovations have transformed what the church looks like today, but what remains is its haunting history.
Being the “oldest continuous religious site in New York City,” many notable figures were buried at St. Mark’s. Church attendees have reported seeing the ghost of Petrus roaming the halls, and there are accounts of strange sounds echoing throughout the building. People have also reported sightings of a woman dressed in period-style clothing who vanishes into thin air when approached, as well as the ghost of an Irish businessman named A.T. Stewart.
Edgar Allen Poe’s residence on 85 West 3rd Street from 1844 to 1846 has given the house its notoriety. Poe wrote his frightening short story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” and revised one of his most famous works, “The Raven,” while living here.
Poe’s former house on 85 West 3rd Street was destroyed in order to create Furman Hall, an addition to NYU’s law school. After extensive petitioning, scholars worked to reach a compromise with NYU: the university would preserve the appearance of the Poe home but move it to another location. As such, Furman Hall, which now stands where the poet’s house once was, still contains some remnants of the old home, including the banister, where NYU Law students have claimed to see the ghost of Poe lingering.
The Hotel Chelsea at 222 West 23rd Street is thought to be one of the most haunted hotels in New York. Many celebrities have taken residence over the years, including Mark Twain, Bob Dylan, and the Grateful Dead. According to the hotel’s guests, the ghosts of these stars still roam the halls.
In addition to celebrity spirits, it is thought that a woman named Mary spends her afterlife lurking through the corridors. Unlike her husband, Mary survived the sinking Titanic but later became very depressed. Another ghost, called Nadia, who jumped to her death from the window of her room in Hotel Chelsea, supposedly can be seen “flitting outside the windows of the upper floors of the Chelsea Hotel” on certain moonless nights.
White Horse Tavern
Located in Greenwich Village, the White Horse Tavern was first opened in 1880 under the name “the Longshoremen’s Bar.” As it gained popularity, many notable authors began to dine and drink there, such as poet Dylan Thomas. In 1952, Thomas died after consuming eighteen shots of whiskey at the tavern. His ghost supposedly still haunts the bar to this day.
The Woodlawn Cemetery
The Woodlawn Cemetery of the Bronx’s Woodlawn Heights is one of the largest cemeteries in New York City and is home to many famous figures such as Miles Davis and Herman Melville. It was first opened during the Civil War and is now the resting place for over 300,000 people. As with many cemeteries, this one is supposedly haunted. Even if you’re a skeptic, the Woodlawn Cemetery might still be worth the visit as it is absolutely beautiful — it was built on rolling, green hills and designed by several acclaimed architects.
Tudor City is a faux-medieval village on the East side of Midtown Manhattan. Apparently, many deaths (murders, suicides, and inexplicable passings) have occurred in the city over the years, making it a perfect spot for ghost sightings. From the death of 26-year-old Allen Weir in 1929 and the suicide of a 22-year-old woman just months later, to the mysterious death of a married couple in 1938, the neighborhood has an eerie history. People often claim to see the ghosts of these former residents and hear strange noises in the night.