As a paranormal investigator and writer of all things spooky, it is impossible for me to visit a location without checking for ghosts!
Fortunately, NYC and particularly Manhattan, have plenty, so here are some of my favourite haunted locations in the Big Apple that I have been fortunate enough to visit!
Empire State Building
Myself and Dominic took a witching hour visit to the Empire State Building on a cold January night where we found ourselves alone on the 86th floor with just the security guard watching over and possibly a spirit or two.
Since the Empire State Building opened to the public in 1931, the 102 storey high Art Deco architectural feat has seen a number of tragic suicides from the 86th floor observation deck and these tormented souls have been reported as seen, heard and felt by visitors and workers alike.
The most famous of these is Evelyn McHale, a 23 year old bookkeeper who’s post jump photo in 1947 was snapped by photographer Robert Wiles after she landed on a limo and it has the name ‘The Most Beautiful Suicide.’ The photo has featured in publications through the years, and the image used by Andy Warhol and by musicians ranging from David Bowie to Taylor Swift.
Evelyn was engaged to Barry Rhodes, formerly of the US Air Force. She was set to marry him in June of 1947. Instead on the 1st May she took the elevator to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building and took her own life. A security guard just several feet away was unable to reach her in time.
As her poor body lay on West 34th street, a suicide note was found in her pocket. It revealed poor young Evelyn was unhappy with herself and did not feel good enough for the world. With a family history of depression she believed she would make a terrible wife. In this heart-breaking tale her fiancé lived until 2007 and never married. Evelyn tragically is reported to haunt the Observation Deck to this day.
The Dakota Building stands on the corner of 1 West 72nd Street overlooking Central Park. The building itself dates back to 1884 and was the backdrop for 1968 horror “Rosemary’s Baby.” It was also the residence of Hollywood Royalty, including Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland, Leonard Bernstein and Boris Karloff.
It was of course, where long time resident, John Lennon was tragically shot dead in 1980 in the entrance . His ashes are spread in the Strawberry Fields Memorial across the street from the Germanic façade and his ghost is said to roam the top floor apartment he shared with Yoko Ono.
Long before this however, The Dakota had a haunted history including a male figure and the ghost of a young girl in Victorian clothing which John claimed to have seen. Yoko Ono says she still sees the spectral form of the young girl and that of John Lennon himself.
This is a location we have visited a few times now, drawn to the cultural relevance and haunted significance. Each time my eye is drawn to the top floor apartment and I can’t help but wonder if John Lennon is still looking back, watching over Strawberry Fields forever…
When myself and Dominic were given the opportunity to exclusively investigate a mid 18th century haunted Mansion in the heart of Manhattan, we couldn’t believe our luck!
Built in 1765 by English Colonel Roger Morris, our investigation fell on his birthday no less. The Morris-Jumel Mansion became the main war room for George Washington and he served his inaugural cabinet dinner here on becoming President. This elevated location with views across the Hudson River and looks out to New Jersey and Connecticut has seen war, Presidents, Vice Presidents and even spent time as a tavern in the 18th century.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion is an exquisite historical diamond stood on one of the highest points of Manhattan and on arrival we were astounded at this anomalous colonial residence surrounded by much later buildings and an entire 100 year plus later neighbourhood, we couldn’t wait to begin our parnormal investigation.
Even before our first session started, Ann’s senses were on high alert. Built by Colonel Roger Morris as a summer home in 1765, it was then taken over by Eliza Jumel with her husband Stephen. In the main hall, I was photographing the portrait of Eliza and her grandchildren. No matter what angle, the camera software was only picking up Eliza and her granddaughter, not her grandson.
I mentioned it to Chris, our host and fellow paranormal investigator, along with the fact I was getting bad vibes from the painting. It was then that Chris explained that to spite Eliza as he was cut from her will, William had spread ill words through local high society that she had murdered her husband when in fact he had died from complications after a stomach injury.
Eliza disowned her grandson due to him choosing a gold digger over his inheritance and his vengeance as a result. Chris then went on to say that when visitors came to the house, she would place a cloth over the portrait to cover his face…
The ghost of Eliza Jumel has frequently been seen over the years and we were very aware of her presence keeping an eye on us. For the most part however, the evidence pointed to dark male energies, especially in the dining room and the Master’s bedroom.
The Master’s bedroom gave us shadow figures, huge drops in temperature, footsteps and instrument readings off the scale. I took the opportunity to sit in the armchair that belonged to Vice President Aaron Burr, who cheated on Eliza soon after their marriage and died of a stroke, penniless, in a seedy boarding house on Staten Island. I can assure you, after ethereal pressure of a masculine nature, together with the room darkening and K2 meters angrily glowing red, I wasn’t long getting up!
Without a doubt Central Park is the place myself and Dominic have spent the most time over our visits. I am always drawn to the spiritual nature of water, so the lakes and ponds are a must for me.
My paranormal self was therefore delighted to discover the ghosts of Central Park are two sisters skating on a frozen pond!
Janet and Rosetta Van Der Voort lived near 59th Street and were only ever permitted to visit the pond on the corner of 59th and 5th Avenue. An overprotective father saw to it that they saw little else of the world unaccompanied and both women remained spinsters, living in the family home.
They were so close, neither woman married, only to die within months of one another in 1880. They still return to their favourite joint activity, dressed in winter red and purple, bustles and dresses flying in the icy breeze.
Washington Square Park
This delightful Square is set in Greenwich Village and is surrounded by the buildings of NYU. A cultural hubbub for students, artists and the trendy, it began life in much darker circumstances!
In the early 17th century, a Native American settlement known as Tobacco Field was very close to land on which the park stands, with the Minetta Creek their source of water. The Native Americans had lost this part of their world to the Dutch, who allotted some to slaves who had earned a sort of freedom and right to farm the land. With a cruel twist however, the children born of these people were born slaves.
In 1797 the council of New York purchases much of the property to use as a burial ground for the poor and criminal, known as a Potters Field. In the 19th century, New York was hit by a Yellow Fever outbreak and the dead were dropped unceremoniously into a mass, unmarked grave. The location was also an execution place for criminals as well as those who fell foul of the law simply for the colour of their skin or their dialect. There was a tree known as ‘Hangman’s Elm.’
As time progressed, the graves were covered over, new foundations laid and after a short spell as a military ground, Washington Square Park was created and has continued to evolve over the centuries.
We know as paranormal investigators, that to build over tragedy and misfortune, together with renovations and upheaval, you are almost certain to evoke the spirits of the damned and mistreated!
There have been countless paranormal reports, sightings and experiences of visitors to Washington Square Park, coming face to face with the shades of the past. As we walked through at dusk, as a sensitive, I could feel the weight of a dark and cruel history defy gravity, pushing up from beneath the artfully placed paving stones, crawl up my body and penetrate my very soul. Screams of the past competing with the noise and hustle and bustle of students, artists and tourists of today to be heard and remembered.
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station stands on 42nd Street and is split over two main levels. The mainline and adjoining subway take commuters across the Big Apple and out to Connecticut and an Intercity service does the rest!
The journey to the station as we know it began when Cornelius Vanderbilt saw an opportunity to expand the travel network across the Hudson and by 1900 Grand Central was born. It was not without downfall however, as rail catastrophes and the end of steam locomotives took their toll. Finally, in 1913, the iconic Grand Central Station came into being.
While the outstanding art deco style Main Concourse took our breath away, complete with astral ceiling mural, it was the maze of secret tunnels including one for Franklin D Roosevelt to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, as well as tales of an entire ghost train heading straight to Hell itself that caught our attention!
Roosevelt did not like to be seen in his disabled state publicly struggling with travel, so he had a private mode of transport in a tunnel beneath Grand Central that took him discreetly street into his suite at the Waldorf Astoria. His faithful dog, Fala, is still seen running around the lower levels, looking for his master.
A lonely ghost terrified travellers on the platform for tracks 112 and 114 until apparently a resourceful police officer convinced the spectre it would be more comfortable in the warmth of Florida for the winter!
Perhaps the most terrifying account however, dates back almost a century. A man dressed in black from head to foot and a face contorted in fear, asked the duty manager where his midnight train to hell was departing, for his crimes in this world had determined his destination in the next.
The employee carefully explained that the only trains were inbound just before and just after midnight and not to worry. With that the screech of a steam locomotive whistle echoed across the concourse and the manager was blown off his feet by the pressure of hot steam coming from the tracks. When he got to his feet, the man was gone, just his black hat left rolling across the platform.
Since this incredible piece of architecture first spanned the East River in 1883, it has been known as the Bridge of Death.
It was designed by John Augustus Roebling, who succumbed to an injury after his foot became crushed between a ferry and a piling. He was one of almost 30 construction related deaths.
During the official opening, a stampede saw the deaths of a dozen members of the public.
With the location being a suicide hotspot, some of the murkier gang related incidents and other criminal activity with innocent victims, death continues to rear its ugly head.
Reports of floating ghost corpses in the river, a headless ghoul prowling the bridge walkway and shadow figures drifting between Manhattan and Brooklyn are all commonplace, along with phantom screams and the splash of water dissipating into nothing.
We braved a night time walk across the bridge and it was busy but quite creepy indeed, I cannot say for certain that every body we passed was corporeal…