New York has it all…including some souls who haven’t departed. Musement takes a look at ten of the most haunted places in New York.
Sometimes the thing that goes bump in the night isn’t your cat Henry shattering your favorite bowl. Whether you consider yourself a skeptic or a believer, all things “supernatural” often intrigue or, oddly, appeal to most of us. With hundreds of years of history, the “City That Never Sleeps” is a fascinating case study for all things mysterious. From famous ghosts to haunted graveyards, theaters and mansions, here are ten of the most haunted places in New York.
1. Hotel Chelsea
Established between 1883 and 1884, the Hotel Chelsea demonstrates an architectural collaboration between the Queen Anne Revival and Victorian Gothic styles, characterized by iron balconies and a magnificent grand staircase that climbs twelve floors. However, its eerie aesthetic is only one aspect of its fame. Once the tallest building in New York state, it attracted a range of patrons including Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. However, nowadays, supernatural enthusiasts visit hoping to catch sight of its famous ghosts, which many believe still reside in the building. Often referred to as “Chelsea,” Hotel Chelsea is considered one of the city’s most haunted places. In fact, hotel guests often report ghost sightings during their stay. Beware, on-premise deaths are unusually common here as well, one of the most infamous being Nancy Spungen, the girlfriend of Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols.
2. Amityville Horror House
This large Dutch Colonial house on the south shore of Long Island is no stranger to paranormal activity. Everybody is familiar with the The Amityville Horror , when Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed six members of his family in 1974 during the middle of the night. DeFeo claimed voices told him to commit these heinous acts. All of the bodies were found face down on their beds, making skeptics think this was not a one-man job. The Lutz family moved into the house 13 months after the murders but didn’t last a full month before moving out. From screaming voices to green slime oozing through the walls and levitating bodies from beds, the Lutz family had no other choice but to flee. There are many theories claiming all of these paranormal stories were fabricated, but we’ll truly never know…
3. The Morris-Jumel Mansion
Manhattan’s oldest home and one of its most haunted, the Morris-Jumel Mansion was built in 1765, home to historically wealthy and powerful figures throughout its history such as aristocrat Stephen Jumel and his wife Eliza Bowen Jumel and later, George Washington. Today, it’s a museum that’s a stunning example of preserved Palladian architecture in Washington Heights. Despite its beautiful facade, stories of scandal, suspected murder, and death inhabit its inner world. Eliza Jumel was suspected of killing her husband since she remarried the highly controversial Vice President Aaron Burr soon after her husband’s death. Many have claimed to have seen several ghosts wandering the rooms, particularly an elderly woman in a violet dress believed to be the mansion’s former troubled mistress, Eliza Jumel.
4. Sleepy Hollow
Just outside of the Big Apple, this small village gets its name from the infamous 19th-century story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” A part of “The Sketch Book” collection, the gothic story was written by American author Washington Irving. Renowned for its ghosts and mysterious atmosphere, Sleepy Hollow is most known for the tale of the Headless Horseman. Legend has it that the Headless Horseman was a Hessian trooper on horseback who was decapitated by a cannonball during the American Revolutionary War. Since the remains of his head are still scattered in pieces throughout the battlefield, his ghost, donning a Jack-o’-Lantern for a head, can be seen furiously riding back towards the battlefield in the midst of the night looking for his head.
5. St. Paul’s Chapel
The oldest standing church in New York City and home to a graveyard that dates back to 1697, St. Paul’s Chapel is said to be haunted by many of those who rest in its grounds. Allegedly, the ghost of a 17th-century actor, George Frederick Cooke still wanders the graveyard and a nearby alley. Once an avid gambler, Cooke’s risky hobby eventually caused him to lose all his money, so he sold his head for research to pay off his creditors. Today, his “headless: ghost can still be seen wandering the grounds. Ironically, considering his former status as an actor, his skull was used for years in many New York productions of Hamlet before being donated to the Thomas Jefferson Medical School Library in Philadelphia in 1938. George Washington also chose this chapel as a peaceful place to pray on the day of his inauguration.
6. Rolling Hills Asylum
Located in East Bethany, the Rolling Hills Asylum opened in 1827 to house the less fortunate. Widows, orphans, and the mentally and physically disabled who were sent here were known as “inmates.” With over 1,700 deaths documented on the grounds and thousands unaccounted for, it’s easy to see why it is not only one of the most haunted places in New York, but in the world. Jack Banion is one of the spirits that still lingers on his old stomping grounds. Jack escaped on Halloween in 1973, exactly 30 years to the date of when he first arrived at the asylum. He was never seen again and left a note on the wall written in blood stating, “You’re all going to pay.” Phantom voices, doors slamming, and footsteps are just some of the things you might hear if you have the courage to step inside…
7. Empire State Building
Doomed souls and frightening happenings are probably not what you generally identify with the Empire State Building. Although, despite its romantic Sleepless in Seattle reputation, dozens of people have attempted to commit suicide by jumping from this iconic skyscraper. One tragic suicide, in particular, haunts its 86th floor: Evelyn McHale. According to LIFE magazine, the twenty-three-year-old jumped to her death on May 1, 1947. Witnesses found her crumpled lifeless body atop a parked car, and despite the circumstances of her death, she looked gorgeously serene with her red lipstick still in place. The photograph of her suicide is known colloquially as “the most beautiful suicide.” Today, much to their unrest, visitors occasionally spot a beautiful woman dressed in 1940s-style clothing jumping to her death, only to find out that she’s already dead…
8. Landmark Theatre
Widely known as one of the first great Oriental Style theaters in America, the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse is also known for having extra guests in attendance. Dating back to the 1920s, the former grand theater played a significant role in Syracuse’s popularity during the movie palace era. Rumor has it that three spirits still haunt the theater today. One of them is Clarissa, a young aspiring actress who fell to her death from the balcony after she saw her secret lover kissing another woman. She makes her presence known by sitting in the upper balcony in a long white dress or through the aroma of Lilacs. If the scent of flowers happens to tickle your nose, just know that it could be Clarissa letting you know that she’s watching you.
9. Radio City Music Hall
Originally developed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1929, Radio City Music Hall remains one of the world’s largest and most stunning venues. Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel and RCA Chairman, David Sarnoff were also integral in the development of the theater and its lavish shows. Roxy was responsible for creating the Rockettes, the famous dance troupe that to this day, still performs during the eight-week Christmas Spectacular. Roxy has been known to make an occasional cameo at his successful theatre, as his ghost has been seen attending opening nights, arm-in-arm with a glamorous female companion.
10. The Dakota
Dubbed “the most famous apartment building in New York City” for years, the Dakota was built in 1884 and is a place with many supernatural stories. Its German Renaissance architectural features attract many visitors while many celebrities call it home. John Lennon, the late great Beatles singer who was assassinated outside of the apartment complex, is one of the ghosts who haunts his old residence. His wife, Yoko Ono, is said to have seen his ghost sitting on his piano in their former apartment. Many visitors, including Lennon, have claimed to see “The Crying Lady” roaming the hallways. This is allegedly the ghost of Elise Vesley, who managed the Dakota from the 1930s to the 50s and witnessed her son’s death outside of the complex.