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Ghostly Gotham: 25 Haunted Places in NYC

In Brooklyn, Guides, New York, See & Do by Guest Author2 Comments

Brace yourself. These are some of the most haunted places in NYC. The season of scares is upon us, the time of year when the filmy veil of time and space slips, revealing the farther shores of existence. What we see might make us question the things we thought we knew, even the very rules of reality.

Paranormal city. New York City, a crossroads for over 600 cultures, one of the most diverse cities in the world, is layered with haunted locales and their spooktastic tales.

So, if you’re dead set on heading to the Big Apple for spine-tingling thrills, add some of these marvelously disturbing locales to your NYC itinerary and discover another reason why this bustling metropolis is called “the city that never sleeps.”

Some stories have more meat on their bones than others. Each borough, however, has something juicy to offer from the most haunted places in New York to some of the most chilling haunted houses in New York.

By Christopher Frederic Lapinel 

Haunted NYC: Morbid Manhattan

The Empire State Building

top of the Empire State Building in NYC

20 W 34th St.

One of the most popular attractions and NYC experiences is also one that is no stranger to paranormal activity, this is one of the most haunted places in NYC.

The Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan has a long history of hauntings. People intent on suicide have a penchant for leaping from the Empire State Building.

In her 2013 book Ghosts and Murders of Manhattan, Elise Gainer wrote that several individuals have “seen a woman appear on the observation deck attired in 1940s-period clothing, her lips painted red. Startled witnesses have reported her muttering about the death of her fiancé in Germany and then throwing herself over the barrier.”

St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery

st-marks-church-in-the-bowery-in-manhattan-one-of-the-most-haunted-places-in-nyc

131 E 10th St.

St. Mark’s Church is the oldest standing structure in the bowery. And it has its share of ghosts making it one of the most haunted places in New York.

The most notable story is of Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New Amsterdam (a.k.a. New York City). The man had a cantankerous demeanor in life. Not much changed in death.

Also known as “Peg-leg Pete” or sometimes “Old Silver Nails,” due to the studs that wrapped said wooden leg. From the day of his death in 1672, to the present, Stuyvesant has enjoyed making his presence known with at least 10 recorded sightings.

His ghost has been known to pull pranks during the Sunday services by ringing bells, singing Dutch hymns, and thundering throughout the church on his peg-leg.

The Belasco Theatre

Belasco-Theater-in-NYCs-Theater-District

Editorial credit: Alexksandr / Shutterstock.com

111 W 44th St

The Belasco Theatre, in Manhattan’s famous Theater District, is haunted by the flamboyant theatrical impresario David Belasco.

The ghost has been known to sit at the desk in his former office, walk the balconies, and approach actors on stage to offer his sage advice.

Another ghost, known only as the “Blue Lady,” has been rumored to be about the theater as well. According to legend, she had been Belasco’s silent business partner.

No one really knows the truth, though. People have seen her backstage, as if supervising, always wearing a faded, once sumptuous blue velvet gown. The scent of her perfume will waft the aisles accompanied by the signature click-tap of her heels.

Sometimes she and Belasco can be heard in his old office, screaming at each other. About what? Casting decisions, they say.

Washington Square Park

spooky and moody day at Washington Square Park a haunted NYC site

Washington Square

One of the most haunted places in NYC is one of the most popular parks and people watching spots in the city. Nowadays, people might have heard that Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan was built over a potters’ field. What they might not know is that over 20,000 people were buried there. Fewer still will know that before this land became a mass grave, it had been the first official Black community in North America.

Dutch colonists decided to lease marshland to “half-free” Black slave families, for use as farmland. This dubious gift was shadier than you might think. Rarely on good terms with the Lenape who still inhabited the northern expanses of the island, the Dutch used this farmland as a buffer, which they called Land of the Blacks.

Later, after the American Revolution, the Common New York Council reclaimed both the slaves and their farms, turning most of the land into the potters’ field. The corpses that the city leaders buried there had been slaves, criminals, indigents, and impoverished immigrants, some of whom had died of a yellow fever epidemic.

According to legend, a tall oak tree at the center of the field had been used for executions. An old tree dubbed Hangman’s Elm, still standing at the northwest corner of the park, might have been used similarly. Local tradition has it that the last lynching took place in 1820. The victim, a slave named Rose Butler, had been falsely accused of burning down her master’s house.

Few received markers or even coffins, though such items have surfaced in the years after the graveyard’s closure in 1825. The public soon forgot the graveyard altogether.

Then, in 1827, construction for the park began, unearthing dozens of corpses, shocking the public. However, this news addressed the rampant tales of phantoms wandering the grounds. One soul has been often spotted, standing on the northeast corner: silent and impassive, watching. Now, for a time at least, the public knew why.

One if By Land, Two if By Sea

 

 
 
 
 
 
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17 Barrow St.

Aaron Burr and his daughter Theodosia haunt this otherwise dreamy restaurant in Manhattan, which is also one of our favorite hidden gems in NYC. If you couldn’t afford tickets for Hamilton, then you might want to consider visiting Aaron Burr’s former carriage house in the West Village.

The staff and diners have seen an invisible force dashing Champagne glasses to the floor and pushing paintings from the walls. Spirits are also often seen coming and going on the stairs in period clothing.

Haunted NYC: Ghosts & Ghouls of the Bronx

The Mosholu Werewolf

Mosholu Pkwy & West Gun Hill Rd.

One of the strangest and most fascinating horror stories took place in the Bronx, in the early twentieth century makes for one of the most intriguing ghost stories of NYC.

December 19, 1913, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported following story on page eight. During the icy winter that occurred that year, in Mosholu, a rural town in the Bronx, various pedestrians reported sighting a monstrous animal lurking nightly at the edges of a densely wooded area. All the sightings took place near what’s now the intersection of Mosholu Parkway and West Gun Hill Road.

Early one morning a young, mounted officer, John T. McKiernan, discovered four people wanted for questioning in a recent robbery loitering near a desolate section of the parkway.

After a brief chase, Officer McKiernan subdued one man. As McKiernan cuffed his suspect, something painfully snatched at the officer’s leg. The officer turned in horror to see a massive “phosphorus-covered hound” savaging the leather-legging protecting his ankle. He whipped his nightstick over the shaggy beast’s broad head, dropping it to the pavement, lifeless.

When McKiernan later returned to the scene of the attack with two of his fellow officers, much to their relief, they found nothing. The mysterious wolf-like creature was never reported again. The “footpad” on the other hand wasn’t as lucky. Magistrate Breen held the man in custody until his trial.

For more on this story, check out this podcast episode: A Werewolf In The Bronx!

Van Cortlandt Park

van-cortlandt-house-in-van-cortlandt-park-in-the-bronx-nyc

Broadway & Van Cortlandt Park

Many believe that Van Cortland Park in the Bronx is a haunted NYC location, particularly in the Bronx’s oldest building, Van Cortlandt House. Witnesses have reported doors shutting of their own accord, whisperings when no one else is about, apparitions floating through rooms, and even dolls that walk making it one of the creepiest haunted houses in New York.

Some have suggested that these hauntings trace from the Stockbridge Massacre of August 1778. The Stockbridge Militia, a Native American unit from Stockbridge, Massachusetts, joined the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

The militia had been a loose alliance of Mohican, Wappinger, and Munsee from Stockbridge. British rangers and Hessian mercenaries, commanded by the notorious Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe, rode down and butchered 40 Stockbridge soldiers, leaving them in the field to rot and be eaten by wild dogs.

With the help of the Kingsbridge colonists, the survivors buried their dead in a field to the northwest, later called Indian Field.

Casualties had been too high, however, especially with the loss of the Wappinger sachem, Abraham Nimham, son of another renowned sachem, Daniel Nimham.

The militia disbanded to care for their families. General Washington discharged the militia unit from duty with his blessing and paid them $1,000. As early as the 19th century, locals noticed strange, unexplained forces at work in Indian Field. Do Daniel and Abraham Nimham walk the land, still protecting their people in the afterlife?

Fordham University

Fordham-University-in-New-York

East Fordham Road

The Rose Hill campus of Fordham University, just west of the Bronx Zoo, abounds in ghostly activities. The present-day university campus was once the site of the old Rose Hill Manor and, later, the Fordham Hospital and Medical School.

Among the university’s students, faculty, and custodians there have been rampant, persistent reports of glowing apparitions, chairs slamming themselves against walls, and unseen hands clutching the throats of sleeping victims making it one of the more active haunted NYC locations.

At Hughes Hall spectral children run the corridors as if lost in a private game only to disappear, laughter lingering in the stillness they’ve left behind. The basement of Keating Hall, built over the old hospital’s morgue tunnels, has terrified more than one security guard with its inexplicable cold spots, flitting shadowy figures, and the unshakeable sense of being watched.

Many a student has met the chillingly blank gaze of a little blonde girl standing in the shower stalls at Martyr’s Court. To avoid her, more wary students check beneath the shower curtain for her feet, but to no avail.

Fordham University’s spookiest claim to fame, however, is that part of The Exorcist had been filmed there.

The Old Candy Shop

(The location and event remain unverified)

For approximately 40 years two ghosts have haunted a certain candy shop in the Bronx, supposedly located on 32nd Street. No such address currently exists, if it ever did.

The story (urban legend?) goes that one night, just before closing, a thief fatally shot a long-time employee. The man’s son, who also worked there, found the body in the morning.

Curiously, the son found the shop had been locked and secured, as usual. Only a fistful a cash was missing.

Starting that evening he heard strange sounds for the next three days—angry, ominous whispers.

Whether by chance or design, the son, too, got shot. He managed to crawl to the sidewalk, calling for help, but died soon after.

Locals report seeing bloodstains and other odd markings on the sidewalk near the store. Neither of the ghosts bother the store’s patrons. According to an unnamed paranormal investigator, the father’s ghost is still looking for the murderer.

The reason why this story cannot be fully disregarded, however, is that it contains no cautionary advice, there’s no lesson to be learned. And, thus, hints at the truth. The truth of all things, which genuine horrors strip bare: existence has a pattern of rules that’s beyond the ratuionale of logic.

“Strawberry Fields of Silver Lake Beach Gardens”

(The location and event remain unverified)

In the 1950s, this secretive, quaint inlet along the northern coast of the Long Island Sound became the scene of a jealousy-fueled fire, which took place on the eve of Halloween—sometimes called Devil’s Night.

According to legend you can still find the remnants of a small, ramshackle guesthouse at the water’s edge. Back in the 50s, however, a resplendent mansion stood a bit further inland.

A large family occupied the mansion. Yet, they were, by some accounts, not very well-liked within the close-knit Silver Beach Gardens community, if that’s where the tragic events actually took place..

Though the precise motives are still unclear, an unidentified man, jealous of their lifestyle, set about burning the mansion to the ground. The official police report supposedly stated that the blaze trapped and killed every member of the family.

Local teenagers, curious to see the smoldering ruins of the mansion, arrived on the scene the next morning. And they supplied an alternative ending to the tragic event.

They claimed that they saw a frantic girl with strawberry colored hair race from the untouched guesthouse. She’d hidden there during the night’s harrowing events. “She kept calling out the names of her siblings and for her parents,” one of the teens said, though she declined to supply her name.

As they tried to soothe her, the girl realized her family was gone for good. Breaking free, she ran past the guesthouse and dove into the water. She did not resurface. Her body was never recovered.

The community, however, has gently played-down the teens’ story. They’re certain no one made it out of the mansion alive.

Nevertheless, each Halloween a ghost with strawberry colored hair returns, in search of her family. Spared by the fire itself, she searches in a state of frenzied despair, overcome by her loss, before plunging again into the depths of the Long Island Sound.

So the question remains, is this one of the most haunted houses in New York or legend?

Haunted NYC: Queens – Borough of the Dead

Wraith of Woodside

(Approximate location: Broadway & 58th Street)

In 1893, as reported by the July 28th 1893 edition of The Evening World, a shrieking wraith clad in white terrorized the women and young girls of the (then) small village of Woodside for three days making it one of the most haunted places in New York in its time.

A drought had made drinkable water scarce. So, the people of Woodside began venturing into a vast nearby forest, Wolf Swamp (in later years described as “suicides’ paradise”) to collect the fresh water flowing from Rattlesnake Spring. And this is what’s thought to have provoked the wraith.

Soon enough, all the villagers had seen this white specter prancing throughout Wolf Swamp. They also noted that it relished chasing females, while dodging males with preternatural agility.

Annie Robinson, a 14-year-old girl, reported that one evening the screaming specter chased her and her friend, Josie Cator. She claimed, moreover, that this thing had matched their pace, while running on all fours for over a mile.

Later that same evening, Georgie and Winnie Cator received similar treatment as they bent to fill their pails. A man named George Christensen saw the specter the next night. He chased it, but the thing eluded him, turning handsprings and jumping through the trees.

Suddenly, Christensen heard a shrill, nerve-wracking screech that rooted his legs to the spot, paralyzed.

On the third night, July 27th, the men of Woodside assembled hunting parties, armed with guns and clubs.

Thomas Robinson discovered a simple shelter near Rattlesnake Spring. The young hunter found a place to sit and watch. The wraith never appeared. Not then, not ever.

However, it should be noted that many years earlier, in 1870, the southern part of Wolf Swamp had been obtained from the Burroughs family for the establishment of New Calvary Cemetery. And sundry other strange sightings have been reported around the eastern edges of Woodside.

The Pig Iron Baron of Old Astoria & President Garfield

(Location unverified)

Many people are familiar with Lady in White ghost stories, and some of the most haunted places in New York also feature the Lady in White.

Interestingly, a few incarnations of this archetypal phantasm have graced Old Astoria. And one of these was the deceased daughter of a prominent pig iron industrialist, Colonel Asa Lyon Hatch. Their opulent mansion no longer exists, but evidence suggests it must have been near the present-day Queens Library in Astoria.

Chris Amandier, the host the Buried Secrets podcast, related this ghost story, as relayed by the 19th century journalist Eugene Virgil Smalley. Listen to Amandier’s podcast here: Ghosts of Astoria, NY (Part 1).

As the story goes, the death of the Hatch family’s only child, Lizzie, at the tender age of 21, became their idée fixe. Asa and Elizabeth Hatch could barely think of anything except their poor Lizzie.

Returning home one evening, however, Col. Hatch saw the young woman sitting at her favorite spot in the parlor, working an intricate swathe of white lace that fell in a spray across her lap to the floor only to trail into nothingness.

Lizzie stopped knitting when he rushed to embrace her and, at once, began fading. She waved a warning finger at him and resumed knitting. As she worked, she gradually regained her solid appearance. Mrs. Hall, a famed medium, held a séance that thoroughly satisfied those in attendance.

This haunted NYC story buzzed throughout the New York City social circles via The Banner of Light, a spiritualist newspaper, attracting the attention of the journalist Mr. Smalley.

On the ill-fated tour President Garfield undertook in Baltimore (where Guiteau shot him), Smalley claims he’d planned sneaking Garfield into one of the regular séances held at the Hatch home.

Given the two men’s fascination with spiritualism, the story seems plausible. The president did, according to a series of spiritualist pamphlets, make at least one appearance—albeit from the other side.

Hell’s Gate

Hells-Gate-Bridge-view-from-Randalls-Island-in-NYC

(narrow tidal strait in the East River separating Astoria from Randall’s and Wards Islands)

A tidal strait within the East River, Hell’s Gate channel is just how it sounds, treacherous. This powerful whirlpool has claimed countless lives over the years and is said to have paranormal activity and is one of the most haunted places in NYC.

The Queens Chronicle reported: “There were hundreds of shipwrecks from the 1800s to the early 20th century, the worst of them the General Slocum disaster in 1904. The steamboat carrying German residents caught fire, killing more than 1,000 people, mostly women and children, in the city’s greatest loss of life until Sept. 11, 2001.”

Stories of smugglers’ ghosts, sunken treasures, and haunted tunnels are commonplace in Astoria, particularly in the northwest in the vicinity of Hell’s Gate.

Some believe it’s a literal hell mouth, haunted by the ghosts of this churning grave and demons scheming escape. Over the years, several witnesses have even described a train stopping on Hell Gate Bridge, above the strait. Legend says the train is gathering the souls of those who’ve drowned there. This is definitely one of the more chilling haunted NYC spots.

The Museum of the Moving Image

36-01 35 Avenue (at 37 Street)

The Museum of the Moving Image, an archive devoted to visual media, is another haunted place in New York with a Lady in White.

The lucent figure of a Black woman has been seen multiple times seated variously at the front desk and security desk, the ghost some say of a one-time star. Disembodied footsteps and the baritone voice of a man have been heard as well.

Harry Houdini & Machpelah Cemetery

 

 
 
 
 
 
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82-30 Cypress Hills Street

This haunted NYC story features expert illusionist Harry Houdini who is buried at Machpelah Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Glendale, Queens.

He died on Halloween of 1926 at the age of 52. How did he die? A McGill University student went backstage with his friends, demanding to know if Houdini’s abdomen was truly made of steel and went ahead to punch the illusionist repeatedly.

Houdini wasn’t in decent health at the time. Reclined on couch—nursing a broken ankle and unknowingly suffering from acute appendicitis—he’d been unable to brace for the impact. He died on the operating table in the arms of his wife, Bess.

Long before dying, however, Houdini had devised a series of secret codes that he shared only with Bess and his closest friends. He told them that if after his passing they saw or heard any of those codes, they could be sure that there was indeed an afterlife, though he doubted it.

He’d dedicated the latter half of his career to fighting duplicitous spiritualists who preyed on the gullible and the grieving.

To help prove his point—and perhaps hoping they were both wrong—Bess arranged for séances each year on the anniversary of his death, Halloween.

The tradition continues with séances held in his honor, inviting him back to the material plane. To this day, no one has heard from Harry Houdini.

It’s said that as the illusionist’s bronze casket was solemnly lowered into the ground at the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, one of his pallbearers whispered: “Suppose he isn’t in it?” 

So is this one of the most haunted places in NYC or was Houdini right?

Haunted NYC: Shadowlands of Staten Island

Kreischer Mansion

 

 
 
 
 
 
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4500 Arthur Kill Road

Kreischer Mansion is said to be one of the most haunted houses in New York by an apparition who delights in touching his living visitors. The precise identity of the man’s ghost is still uncertain. You can take your pick.

German brick-maker Balthasar Kreischer built this historic Staten Island mansion in 1885. He died, however, within a year of completing construction.

His son, Edward, committed suicide, shooting himself in the right temple, at his place of business several years later.

Then, sometime in April of 2005, a gruesome murder took place in the mansion. Joseph “Joe Black” Young, the mansion’s custodian was also an up-and-coming hitman for the Bonanno crime family.

The family lieutenant, Gino Galestro, contracted Young to kill an associate named Robert McKelvey. Young invited McKelvey to the mansion and tried strangling him. McKelvey broke free. He tried to run. Young caught him again, tackling him to the ground, and started to stab his victim repeatedly.

A consummate professional that he was, Joe Young then dragged McKelvey’s apparently lifeless body to a nearby pond and held his head under the water until he was sure the man was dead.

The deed done, Joe Black called three other mobsters and together they hacked McKelvey into pieces. They burned his remains in the mansion’s furnace.

Joe Young, however, insisted at his trial that Michael “Sonny” Maggio strangled, stabbed, drowned, butchered, and incinerated Robert McKelvey.

The Kreischer Mansion embraces that its one of the most haunted houses in New York and you can visit and take a haunted tour.

Sailor’s Snug Harbor

haunted-houses-of-New-York-the-Matrons-House-of-Sung-Harbor-in-Staten-Island

Editorial credit: Phakkapol Pasuthip / Shutterstock.com

1000 Richmond Terrace

Sailor’s Snug Harbor in Staten Island nowadays is a wonderland of historical architecture, landscaping, and one of the best secret gardens in NYC.

Its well-maintained park, farm, botanical garden, and music hall are all extremely popular. It is open to visitors of all ages, but be forewarned, many people have reported seeing apparitions while strolling the grounds and have said it’s one of the most haunted places in NYC. There’s even a tour!

Sailor’s Snug Harbor was originally founded by a dead man, one Captain Robert Richard Randall. He bequeathed funding for the establishment of a retirement community for “decrepit and worn-out sailors,” which would eventually become Sailor’s Snug Harbor.

A retirement community for old salts? Well, as you’d well imagine the site was rife with lewd and lascivious behavior. Much of it was simple, drunken mischief. Sometimes it led to murder.

Though many of the cottages are said to be some of the most haunted houses in New York and have spooky tales associated with them, there’s one cottage that’s shown high-strangeness and paranormal activity. A furtive female spirit clad in white who, known only as the Matron, of course, haunts Matron’s House.

Matron’s House had been a boarding house for the female staff who worked the estate property and the Matron was the head of staff.

There was a strict rule Matrons enforced that prohibited any of the female staff from fraternizing with the old sailors. One Matron in the late 19th century had been a particularly harsh enforcer of said rule, a rule which she herself subsequently broke.

The consequence of their affair was the birth of a son. Not knowing what else to do, she kept him hidden in the basement. As he grew into a restless adolescent, she took to shackling him.

One day, when he was barely 13 years old, the boy managed to break free of the basement and murdered his mother in the house.

He fled inland to the woods behind the community, but his freedom didn’t last long. He was found and hung from a tree behind Matron House.

The tree stood for many years before a storm knocked it down. In addition to eyewitness accounts of the Matron’s ghost, light emanates inexplicably from the house, doors bang open, footsteps echo in empty rooms, and sometimes chains can be heard rattling restlessly in the basement.

Conference House

conference-house-in-staten-island-one-of-the-most-haunted-nyc-locations

Editorial credit: Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

7455 Hylan Boulevard

Now a museum, but one of the most haunted houses in New York is the Conference House (also known as the Billop House, formerly Bentley Manor) was built in 1680.

The site is most famous for the Staten Island Peace Conference, an attempt to peaceably end the American Revolution. The event, hosted by Loyalist Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Billop of the Staten Island Militia, took place on September 11, 1776.

John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward Rutledge represented the rebel colonists, while Lord Howe represented the interests of the British Empire. But, of course, the conference failed.

This failure was not what cursed the house, strange though that might seem. The owner of the house, Christopher Billop, would do that himself. Three years after the failed peace conference, Billop returned from his second stint as a prisoner of war, which had been, in fact, remarkably harsh for an officer. He’d been chained to the floor of his cell and fed nothing but bread and water for over a month.

According to legend, he suspected a 15-year-old servant of the betrayal that had resulted in his capture. Believing he’d caught her in the act once again, Billop angrily confronted the young girl. She denied everything. Billop then threw the hapless girl down a staircase, breaking her neck.

Quite a few visitors to the museum have claimed seeing the ghosts of Christopher Billop and his servant girl, as well as the comings and goings of British soldiers. What’s more, sounds of shouting followed by a girl’s terrified screaming have been heard by neighbors making it one of the most chilling and haunted places in NYC.

The Willowbrook State School

436 Hanover Avenue

The neighborhood of Willowbrook has been long troubled with dubious social experiments, derelict sanitoriums, scandalous medical research, and sundry unnerving incidents.

This notorious asylum has also served as a backdrop for a legendary serial-killer, satanic ritual sacrifices, and a host of supernatural activities making it one of the most petrifying haunted NYC locations.

From 1947 to 1987, the Willowbrook State School, was an asylum for intellectually challenged children. The so-called school sat on a 375-acre wooded campus with its own underground tunnel network. Its maximum capacity was for 4,000 patients. Soon, however, the under-staffed asylum overflowed with upwards of 6,000 children.

Senator Robert Kennedy toured the facility in 1965. The conditions repulsed him. He compared it to a “snake pit” and authorized emergency funding.

The neglect and filth, however, paled in comparison to rumored predatory abuse by administration and staff; not least the lurid, military-backed medical experiments overseen by Saul Krugman and Robert McCollum Jr., which spanned 15 years. Geraldo Rivera delivered an exposé in 1971, facilitated by whistleblower Dr. William Bronston. “The mournful wail that the kids were making,” Rivera has since stated, “is the soundtrack of my nightmares.”

Other monsters shadowed Willowbrook, too. All That’s Interesting wrote about its most sensational monster, Andre Rand, whose murderous lifestyle immortalized him as a camp-fire bogeyman.

Frank Rushan, whose own mother had been a patient at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, worked as an orderly at Willowbrook State School from 1965 to 1966. He changed his name to Andre Rand in 1968. No one knows why.

At any rate, at least nine criminal acts against children and young adults, beginning in 1969—including kidnapping, rape, pedophilia, and murder—have been attributed to him. Acts that so terrorized Staten Island, they gave rise to the urban legend of axe-wielding child murderer, Cropsey.

One curious detail in the Cropsey legend is that he would drag his victims to the abandoned Seaview Hospital complex, an old tuberculosis sanitorium, which incidentally shares property with the Willowbrook State School.

In 2000, Forgotten New York published a piece on their exploration of the once grand, now dilapidated Women’s Ward Pavilion at Seaview Hospital. On the fourth floor, a message in streaky red spray-paint is scrawled on a white-washed brick wall: “I taste like the dreams of mad children.”

Then in 1987, on the heels of the asylum’s closure, after a 35-day hunt, searchers noticed the shallow grave of 12-year-old Jennifer Schweiger, on the campus.

Police also nearby discovered the makeshift campsite of Andre Rand. He’d been living there, unobserved, for 21 years. A jury convicted him of Schweiger’s kidnapping, but not her murder.

He was, later, similarly convicted of kidnapping 7-year-old Holly Ann Hughes, who’d disappeared in 1981, never to be found. Rand is currently serving a 25-year sentence for each girl.

An articulate, strangely clever man, Rand is prone to writing rambling letters from his jail cell that rhapsodize on both his perceived persecution and the enigma of existence. If you get the chance, check out the documentary Cropsey. You might even find yourself wondering if Andre Rand is indeed guilty of all he stands accused.

Old Bermuda Inn

301 Veterans Road W

Constructed in 1832 by the Mesereau family, this historic landmark in Staten Island now operates as a restaurant, wedding venue, party venue, and bed & breakfast.

The Old Bermuda Inn is another haunted house in New York supposed to be haunted by a widow, Martha Mesereau. Her husband left her alone to care for the mansion in 1860, when he rode off to join a cavalry regiment during the American Civil War.

At first, she was patient. The longer he was gone the more desperately she awaited his return, eventually holding vigil day and night.

Then, one day she received a letter that confirmed her fears: he had fallen in battle. Inconsolable, the poor woman withdrew to her bedroom and soon perished as well. Martha Mesereau’s soul still lingers in that house, waiting for her husband to finish his long journey home.

Guests who claim this is one of the most haunted places in New York say to have seen her silhouette hovering at her old bedroom window. Other guests have said they have felt the cold passage of an unquiet spirit pacing the front of the inn.

Restaurant employees add that they often hear preternatural whispers coming from empty rooms and see locked doors open of their own accord. During a recent restoration in the original section of the mansion, two carpenters independently reported hearing a mournful, old-fashioned tune sung tenderly in their ears.

Haunted NYC: Beastly Brooklyn

McCarren Park Swimming Pool

mccarren-park-swimming-pool-entrance-in-brooklyn

Editorial credit: Massimo Salesi / Shutterstock.com

776 Lorimer Street

One of the most haunted places in NYC happens to be in one of the most popular parks in Brooklyn. The park and its pool sat abandoned for 30 years and only reopened to the public recently after extensive renovations.

Yet, over the intervening years high strangeness and a few deaths have occurred there. Globes of light hover over the site and flicker out of existence. Several homeless people who used it for shelter disappeared or wound-up dead. Three young men who jumped the protective fence on a dare all died. One of the daredevil fence-jumpers was murdered, while the other two drowned in the condemned pool’s stagnant water.

And as if all this weren’t enough to keep you away, a small girl with an ethereal glow is frequently sighted, circling the perimeter as if lost at this haunted NYC location. Those who’ve glimpsed her also state that she’s continually weeping and calling for her parents. According to local lore she died at this site long before the park had been built.

Investigators from the NYC Paranormal Research Society were so intrigued by the stories circulating that their team decided to check the place out.

Their instruments detected inexplicable changes in temperature in certain spots with a range of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and they registered unusual EMF activity. They could not obtain any EVP readings, unfortunately. The ambient traffic noise caused too much interference. All they could say is that the place is haunted. How or why remains an open question.

Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church

138 Montrose Avenue

Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn was constructed around 1882-1885, with the school added in 1887. Prior to this, the land had been used as a cemetery, from 1841to 1853.

According to legend, which is said to be one of the most haunted places in New York, the location is haunted by the souls of those who weren’t removed before construction began.

Lights flicker randomly in the school gym and heavy, booted footsteps plod through the empty corridors late at night. Another legend suggests that there are mysterious passageways with false closets that lead beneath the church, which might have served the Underground Railroad.

One of the more chilling stories, however, recalls the murder of George Steltz, the parish sexton and bellringer. A parishioner attacked and viciously murdered him in the in the vestibule of the church one night in August of 1897. The suspect would be eventually executed for the murder of another man in the neighborhood.

Nevertheless, the murderer’s handprint, made from Steltz’s blood, is said to mark the staircase of the bell tower and the bells often ring of their own accord. Sexton Steltz will never find peace until his murder is solved and justice is served.

Brooklyn Bridge Alien Abduction

Moody-Brooklyn-Bridge-by-Katie-Hinkle

In addition to the ghost stories and haunted NYC stories, we also have one that involves the extraterrestrial.

Accidental deaths and suicides pervade the history of the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact, before the bridge’s completion in 1883 it had already claimed 30 lives. And that’s a conservative estimate.

The first to die was the bridge’s first chief engineer, John Roebling, in 1869. It nearly claimed his son, Washington Roebling, too, who’d taken over as chief engineer. Fortunately, Emily Roebling, Washington’s wife, proved more than capable and ensured the bridge’s completion.

Shortly after opening, 12 more people would die in a panic-induced stampede, erroneously believing that the bridge was collapsing. To add to all this, as far as suicides go, more people attempt suicide from the Brooklyn Bridge than any other in New York City. One such story regards the ghost of a young female jumper, whose reported appearances date  back to the early 1950s.

Yet, the most chilling story of all isn’t about death, demons, or any kind of hocus-pocus.

On November 30th, 1989, at 3:15 A.M., Linda Napolitano woke mortified to discover three grey beings in her Brooklyn apartment in the midst of abducting her. She tried to rouse her partner, but to no avail. Are we saying that they were aliens? Yes, we’re saying that they were aliens.

Linda recalls floating through her closed, plate-glass window. She hit one of her abductors and then a soft white fabric fell across her. Colors, blue and white shifted all around her. Then she lost consciousness.

She later woke in a chamber. Couldn’t see anything, as if her eyes wouldn’t work. She felt small hands prodding at her. She lost consciousness again after what felt like a long time. And woke in her bed beside her sleeping husband sometime around dawn.

Soon after, she contacted Budd Hoskins, a celebrated investigator of UFO sightings and alien abductions. And Hoskins took an immediate interest. However, the trail of clues, so promising at first, went cold.

Then, almost a year later two men, known only as “Dan” and “Richard,” wrote to Hoskins with fascinating details about the night in question, instantly reopening the case. They claimed to be police officers.

Yet, later, they reluctantly revealed that they had been undercover agents who’d witnessed the incident at the Brooklyn Bridge from the cover of FDR Drive in Manhattan. They both professed shame over not helping the victim at the time and expressed shocked relief on discovering that Napolitano had survived her return.

These agents were the first to describe in detail what happened after Napolitano passed through her 12th floor window.

They reported that her body, folded in the fetal position, floated through the air, followed by three misshapen grey humanoids. All four hovered above the Brooklyn Bridge for an instant before a glowing, orange spacecraft swooped in, opening like a clamshell it took them all aboard. The spacecraft then dove straight into the East River, leaving no further trace of its existence.

The agents also revealed the existence of a third witness, later revealed to be Javier Perez de Cuellar, the then U.N. Secretary General. He himself, it turned out later, might have been an abductee. He neither confirms nor denies anything.

A fourth witness who’d been driving across the Brooklyn Bridge suddenly stalled, her car losing power, and then saw Linda Napolitano ascending into a spacecraft, exactly fitting the accounts by the agents and the Secretary General.

Since then, other incidents of high strangeness revolving around Budd Hoskins, Linda Napolitano, “Richard,” “Dan,” and Javier Perez de Cuellar have occurred; such as recollections of past alien abductions, paranoia, kidnapping, attempted rape, the rediscovery of a forgotten interpersonal relationship, madness, lies, and more.

All of which have undermined a seemingly solid case of alien abduction. Yet, the doubts are based on suspicions, not hard evidence. And in some sense prevent the story from appearing too neat and clean.

Plus, skeptics must face harder questions. If Linda Napolitano fabricated a hoax, how did she manage to involve so many people in such an elaborate scheme? Is she someone else’s pawn? If so, who and to what purpose? As of today, there are 23 additional witnesses, all of whom corroborate various aspects of each other’s accounts.

To use Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. In this case? That means aliens. The truth is out there.

Brooklyn Navy Yard: Wallabout Bay

shipping-cranes-at-Brooklyn-Navy-Yard

63 Flushing Avenue

Wallabout Bay was the original name for the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the East River waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn. Established in 1801, it quickly became the nation’s premier shipbuilding yard, involved with outfitting the naval fleets up until the 20th century.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is now a bustling hub of entrepreneurial enterprise, but the place has a sinister history and said to be one of the most haunted places in NYC.

During the American Revolutionary War, British forces held captive rebel soldiers in squalid conditions, spread amongst 25 prison ships in Wallabout Bay. The most infamous prison ship being the HMS Jersey, where brutal violence and disease acclaimed many prisoners’ lives.

Thousands, an estimated 11,500, died in captivity. The British soldiers dumped the dead and dying into the water, or else laid them on the streets as a public spectacle. Their souls are said to still wander this area in Brooklyn. The Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument in Fort Greene honors these early American patriots.

Litchfield Villa in Prospect Park

Litchfield-Villa-in-Prospect-Park-Brooklyn

95 Prospect Park West

Litchfield Villa sits atop a hill overlooking Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. A sumptuous Italianate mansion, designed by renowned architects Alexander Davis and his protégé Calvert Vaux in 1852, Edwin Clark Litchfield oversaw its completion in 1857.

He dubbed it Grace Hill in honor of his wife, Grace Hill Litchfield. Mr. Litchfield had been a railroad engineer who played a significant role in connecting the nation and, thus, well-connected within Brooklyn society.

According to legend, a friend of Mr. Litchfield, a widow named Margaret Cahill, lost her son in 1864 during the war. Distressed by the fact that she’d never had a chance to make her farewells and fearful that he might have died with bitterness in his heart, Ms. Cahill implored her friend to arrange a séance in the villa. He obliged, though neither he nor any of his family seems to have participated.

The first session, according to those present, went well. Which, in turn, prompted more séances. One night, something went wrong. During this séance, the table shook, lights spluttered. The five participants testified to a low reverberating growl and how the air condensed, shifting rapidly around them. Then the whole room shuddered, tossing porcelain plates and portraits crashing to the floor.

One participant, Margaret Rossiter, fainted on the spot. Two individuals fled the mansion, shrieking in terror. The horses outside, also panicking, ran wild. They nearly crushing one man beneath the wheels of the carriage they pulled. Back inside the mansion, the room went completely dark. And that’s when the demons appeared. They suddenly rose into the air and vanished through the ceiling, into the rooms above.

Several nights after the disquieting séance, creatures resembling gargoyles took control of the mansion’s upper floors. In the following year, four of the five participants died of natural causes. The fifth simply vanished.

The mansion is now used as administrative offices for Prospect Park but is rumored to still be one of the most haunted houses in New York. And to this day, some of the staff and visitors see things that they describe as green-eyed gargoyles staring out the windows, their flicking tongues an obscene, luminescent red.

Poor Margaret Cahill got far more than she bargained for. So did the Leitchfield family, for that matter—although they claimed to see nothing unusual themselves. On the other hand, Edwin Leitchfield admitted relief when he left the place behind in 1882.


“And in the Naked Light I Saw…”

Are the aspirations of the dead any less important or rational than your own? Perhaps it’s this unnerving question that draws folks (of a certain temper) to a well-told ghost story, like moths to flame. Some go farther, never so alive as when experiencing contact with the beyond- and hopefully surviving to tell their tale.

Plato once wrote:

“No matter how hard you fight the darkness, every light casts a shadow, and the closer you get to the light, the darker that shadow becomes.”

If that’s true, then a lively metropolis, like New York City, has its shadowy double—a necropolis, simmering with occult energies of restive souls, striving to make good on unfinished business.

If you live in this city, or another similarly possessed of a deep-rooted history, you too have been swept into the circumambulations of its shadow-world. The question is whether you dare admit it or not.


If you’re interested following up on these haunted places in New York stories or discovering the darkness of the City that Never Sleeps, check out BOROUGHS OF THE DEAD, Macabre NYC History Tours, founded by author Andrea Janes.

Their company Has a proud reputation for being “dark, literary, unique, morbid, macabre and intelligent.” In-person tours are back!

There’s also the Madame Morbid Trolley tours that run in the fall through Brooklyn and is one of the best Brooklyn tours and things to do in NYC in the fall.

For more macabre things to do around the city, check out the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn too.

And of course, if we missed any haunted houses in New York City or haunted NYC stories, share them with us below in the comment section.

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