Between its haunted houses, spooky theatres and renovated psychiatric hospitals, New York is bursting with paranormal activity. In the mood to switch up the sights for the supernatural? Here are seven of the most haunted places in New York.
Scary places in New York
There’s been a bar here since 1880 but it hasn’t always boasted an occult authority. In the 1950s the watering hole became popular with the local literarati, including Dylan Thomas. One day in 1958 the famous poet, a heavy drinker, headed to the White Horse Tavern and reportedly drank 18 whiskeys in a row. He fell ill and died a few days later. People have since reported seeing him propped up at his favourite table. Some say he’s responsible for mystery shots that appear from time to time without any explanation too.
One of the oldest houses in Manhatten, the Morris–Jummel Mansion is also (unsurprisingly) the spookiest. Roger Morris, a British colonel, built the house in 1765 and the house served as military headquarters during the Revolution. George Washington apparently retreated here after losing the Battle of Brooklyn. In the early 19th century, Stephen Jumel and his wife Eliza bought the house. Stephen died under suspicious circumstances, and Eliza remarried Aaron Burr. Rumours of hauntings abound – there’s a talking grandfather clock, a Hessian soldier who emerges from paintings and even Eliza herself has been known to pop up too.
Head to leafy West 10th in Greenwich Village and you’ll find an unassuming brownstone building that houses as many as 22 ghosts. Mark Twain lived here for a year from 1900 and said himself that he’d experienced supernatural incidents. The psychic, Jan Bryant Bartell, claims to have seen Twain in her living room reading a book too. He reportedly said “there’s a problem here I gotta settle” before disappearing. There’s been a string of sinister murders here too, including a murder-suicide and the notorious murder of Lisa Steinberg in the 1980s.
4. The Dakota
Made famous by Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and then as the site of John Lennon’s assassination, The Dakota attracts its fair share of visitors. According to its inhabitants and the people who work there, it’s no stranger to paranormal visitors either. People have reported sightings of an adult with the facts of a small boy, a little girl in period clothing and even John Lennon himself.
If living it up in spooky premises is your style and there’s no room at The Dakota, then The Octagon should fit the bill. Formerly known as the New York Lunatic Asylum, The Octagon is now a luxury residential block. Initially billed as a new model for mental health, its conditions quickly deteriorated with underfunding and overcrowding and neglect. Nellie Bly famously exposed the mistreatment of its patients in Ten Days in a Mad House, and even Charles Dickens commented on its “naked ugliness and horror”. It follows, then, that any spirits left hanging around would be… disgruntled. Residents have reported unexplainable incidents and paranormal activity, and even pets reportedly refuse to venture up the stairs of the building.
The former firehouse is reportedly haunted by the ghost of ‘Firefight Schwartz’. Local lore says he hung himself after learning about his infidelity in 1930. Firefights working in the building in the following decades reported strange noises and even saw the shape of a corpse swinging mid-air. It’s now owned by Anderson Cooper, who took on the property after a hefty $4.3 million renovation. We’re not sure whether he managed to get rid of Schwartz though.
It’s the oldest, best-looking theatre in New York – and it’s supposedly haunted by a young actress called Olive Thomas. Described as ‘the most beautiful girl in New York’, she was the first access to ever portray a flapper on the silver screen. She also performed regularly in a show called ‘Ziegfeld Follies’ at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Sadly, she died under mysterious circumstances on holiday with her husband in France. Legend tells that the starlet started reappearing on stage shortly after her death, and still makes startling appearances today, wearing a flapper dress. Fear not ladies, she only visits men apparently. If you’re visiting the auditorium, sho should blow a kiss and say good morning to the picture of Olive Thomas. There’s one at every exit to keep her in good spirits.