There are a million stories in the Big Apple, and many of them involve dead people. With a city as old as New York, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are a bunch of ghost stories to be told. Here are the creepiest locations in the five boroughs.
The Dakota Hotel
This Upper East Side landmark is the place where John Lennon was shot by a crazed fan, but it’s not the Beatle’s ghost that haunts its halls. Instead, the Dakota Hotel is the site of multiple reports of two ghostly children, a boy and a girl. The pair have been seen for decades. The Dakota is one of the city’s oldest buildings, constructed in the 1880s when the north side of Manhattan was still known as the “Dakota Territory,” and the ghosts of two kids in clothes from that era are the most common apparitions. Interestingly, the horror film "Rosemary’s Baby" was filmed at the Dakota, with cast and crew reporting some run-ins with the other side.
Roosevelt Island is one of New York City’s quirkiest areas, a little dollop of land halfway between Manhattan and Queens that used to house a notorious mental hospital. It’s since been torn down and rebuilt as a luxury apartment building called the Octagon. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from horror movies, it’s that tearing down a building doesn’t get rid of ghosts, and residents have reported all kinds of extranormal shenanigans, including apparitions in the stairwells, and bizarre noises.
The Belasco Theater
The Great White Way has a ton of old theaters with interesting stories, but none of the houses on Broadway have quite as much story as the Belasco. Built by David Belasco in 1931, his ghost still haunts the theater, with many people claiming to have seen his spirit during performances. One woman even claimed to feel his spectral fingers pinching her bottom. Often, his shade can be seen on the balcony, watching the actors rehearse. Thankfully, Belasco’s not alone in his eternal unrest, as the ghost of his lover -- referred to as the Blue Lady -- is often seen as well.
Most Holy Trinity Church
This Brooklyn church is one of the most intriguing locations for ghost hunters in the borough. There are a number of mysterious passageways that only the priests are allowed to use -- two of them are buried in a crypt under the narthex -- and there are tons of false walls, bricked-up hallways and more. The parish’s sexton and bell-ringer was murdered in the church’s vestibule in 1897, and his restless spirit is still roaming the building. Many people have reported seeing his bloody handprints appear on the walls, and sometimes the bells ring without explanation. Dogs also stare at the stairway leading to the church’s basement as if in a trance.
Washington Square Park
This popular downtown hangout is currently filled with wannabe drug dealers, but in the 19th century, Washington Square Park was where the city hanged and buried criminals. Before then, it was an Indian burial ground as well, so there are plenty of corpses knocking around to unleash restless spirits. The Hangman’s Elm located at the northwest corner of the park is the locus for paranormal activity, with humanoid shapes spotted swinging in a breeze that nobody can feel. The most famous of these ghosts is a woman named Rose Butler, who was unjustly hanged for setting fire to the house she worked in.
The campus of the Bronx’s largest college has been a hotbed of paranormal activity for years, and there are literally dozens of phantasms that have been reported there. The campus was built atop the ruins of an old hospital, and many disused tunnels still connect buildings. Some of the most notable ghosts include a blonde girl who appears in the showers at the Martyr’s Court dormitory, as well as slamming doors in the school’s basement. One of the scariest phenomena was reported in Finlay Hall, formerly a medical school, where people have woken up in terror with the feeling of cold, dead hands clutching their throats.
The Palace Theatre
Another legendary Broadway showplace, the Palace holds the record for the most ghosts in any single New York location. Over 100 different spirits have been reported here, including the wandering shade of actress Judy Garland. The orchestra pit is sometimes visited by a spectral, white-gowned cello player; the balcony sees a little girl ghost from time to time; and the spot where a former manager is alleged to have killed himself smells mysteriously of cigarettes. Scariest is the ghost of an acrobat who broke his neck performing at the Palace. Legend has it that if you see his ghost, you are fated to soon die as well.
St. Augustine Monastery
Even Staten Island has some haunts to share. One of the spookiest places in the isolated borough is the St. Augustine Monastery. The decaying ruins have a terrifying backstory, as local legends tell of a monk driven mad by the isolation, who holed up in the basement and dragged other religious followers down to his lair only to torture them to death. The area is covered in pentagrams and other occult symbols, and people who dare to explore have reported all kinds of shenanigans, including mysterious moans and a deep, chilling cold emanating from nowhere.
14 W. 10th Street
Constructed in the 19th century, the brownstone at 14 W. 10th Street in Manhattan doesn’t look like much from the outside, but there’s a reason this dwelling has come to be known as the House of Death. Local historians believe that 22 murders have been committed in this building since it was constructed, unleashing a veritable army of wandering shades onto the hallways. It’s possible that the presence of those spirits drove the house’s most recent murderer, Joel Steinberg, insane enough to beat his adopted daughter Jessica to death in 1987.
Next: Chicago's Scariest Haunted Locations
This isn't the famous Strawberry Fields in Central Park memorialized in song by John Lennon, but instead one located in the Bronx at Silver Beach Gardens. A dilapidated farmhouse marks the location of a wealthy family’s flight from jealous neighbors, who burned down their mansion and killed them all. The only survivor was the young daughter, but she committed suicide the next day. Now, every year, her ghost returns to prowl the property, and locals know to stay away if they value their sanity.