New York can be a scary place, and sometimes we feel like we’re taking our lives in our hands every time we cross the street. A lot of famous people have lived and died here, and some are said to be still haunting some of their old stomping grounds. We don’t know if it’s true or not, but if it is, you still have a shot of catching Judy Garland at The Palace…
Algonquin Hotel 59 W 44th St
Many guests at the Algonquin Hotel have claimed to have spotted members of the famed Round Table, a group of writers who met at the Algonquin daily for lunch from 1919 until 1929. Also called the Vicious Circle, members included Robert Benchley, Franklin Pierce, Harpo Marx, Alexander Woollcott, Harold Ross, George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber, Robert Sherwood, and Dorothy Parker, who when once asked to use the word ‘horticulture’ in a sentence replied, “You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.” Haunting.
Bridge Café 279 Water St
The building itself dates back to 1794, but the Bridge Cafe’s didn’t become a drinking establishment until 1847, when it was opened as a porter house, making it “The Oldest Drinking Establishment in New York.” The bar was also memorialized in Gangs of New York in the scenes that took place in a wild drinking establishment where pickling jars filled with body parts lined the shelves. This was homage to Gallus Mag, would reportedly escort rowdy patrons out of her bar with their ears between her teeth. Some of those unfortunate found their severed ears preserved in pickling jars for posterity. Ms. Gallus Mag reportedly haunts the building to this day. Modern day patrons also report the feeling of being watched, smelling phantom scents of perfume or lavender, hearing footsteps on the floors above you when no one is there, and seeing shadows move across the room. It is also rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of the pirates who once frequented the bar. Of course, this could be just the liquor talking…
Ear Inn 326 Spring St
Considered one of the oldest bars in Manhattan, this one-time sailors’ haunt is supposedly literally haunted by a sailor named Mickey, who lived at the Ear Inn when it was a boarding house, and was killed in front of it when he was hit by a car.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea 17 Barrow Street
Long before it was a restaurant, it was a carriage house belonging to Aaron Burr, the third Vice President of the United States (under Jefferson), better known for the famous duel in which he shot and mortally wounded former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Burr is said to haunt his one-time property, along with his daughter, Theodosia, who died at sea under mysterious circumstances. No reports on whether or not his conscience is bothering him.
The Dakota Central Park West at 72nd St.
Construction on this landmark building was completed on October 27, 1884 – just a few days before Halloween – and according to legend, was so named because, situated as it was at CPW and 72nd Street, it seemed as remote as the Dakota Territories – a sentiment that many of the vampires who live below 14th Street would agree with, to this day. John Lennon, who was murdered outside the Dakota in 1980, is rumored to haunt the area around the undertaker’s gate, which is where he was shot. The building was also the setting for Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.
Belasco Theatre 111 West 44th Street
There have been numerous accounts of haunting at one of New York City’s oldest theaters. Footsteps have been heard where no humans tread. The disconnected elevator has been heard running, and there have also been sightings of the building’s builder and namesake, David Belasco, who lived in an apartment atop the theater until his death in 1931. Seems he just couldn’t give up the ghost.
Washington Square Park W 4th St to Waverly Place between MacDougal St and University Place
You think of NYU and one of the first vision that comes to mind is the arch, which wasn’t built (by Sanford White) until 1890. During the 19th century, the park itself was a burial ground where thousands of victims of the yellow fever epidemic were laid to rest. In fact, there are over 20,000 people buried on this site of this former potter’s field, which was also once used for public executions. Still, all of this has nothing to do with the fact that so many New Yorkers who hang in the park dress exclusively in black. Another historical tidbit: Samuel F.B. Morse did his first public demonstration of the telegraph here in 1835.
The “House of Death” 4 West 10th Street (near Fifth Avenue)
You’ve passed it a million times and never realized that it was literally home to 22 people who died in the house and are said to still haunt it, including Mark Twain, who didn’t die there, but rather inhabited the place for a year, and whose ghost is said to inhabit it still. It was also once home to attorney Joel Steinberg, who was accused and later convicted of beating his adopted daughter, 6-year-old Jessica Steinberg, to death.
The White Horse Tavern 567 Hudson Street at West 11th Street
Built in 1880, the White Horse Tavern has been known as a poets’ haunt since the 1950s, one of the most famous being Dylan Thomas. In 1953, Thomas decided to try and beat his record of 18 straight shots of whiskey. When he finished, he stumbled out of the bar and collapsed on the sidewalk. He was then taken back to his room at the Chelsea Hotel, where he slipped into a coma. The next morning he was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he passed away. People claimed to have seen him sitting at his favorite corner table, and then he would simply vanish. He’s also said to haunt his room at the Chelsea Hotel. Poetic.
The Chelsea Hotel 222 W 23rd Street
Built in 1883, at which time it was situated in the center of the theater district, The Chelsea Hotel is regarded as being in the top ten of the most haunted hotels in the world. Many famous people resided here, including Mark Twain, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Dylan Thomas, Janis Joplin and Madonna, and a number of notables died here and are said to haunt it still.. Author Charles R. Jackson (“The Lost Weekend”) committed suicide in his room in 1968. Charles James, often referred to as America’ first couturier and who lived there for fourteen years, died in his room in 1978. It was also in 1978, in Room 100, that Sid Vicious, formerly of the Sex Pistols, purportedly stabbed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, to death. (Sid died of a heroin overdose before he could stand trial.) Sightings of Thomas Wolfe’s ghost have been reported on the 8th floor. In room 206, a guest woke early in the morning to see the ghostly face of Dylan Thomas (who once occupied the room) watching her from the end of the bed. Other guests have complained of loud footsteps pacing the corridor outside the room – only to find no one there. Sid Vicious’ ghost is also said to still be around: there have been sightings of him near the first floor elevator and reports of loud music and the raised voices of a couple arguing coming from Room 100. Upon inspection, the room was found to be unoccupied. By terrestrial guests, anyway.
The Palace Theater 1564 Broadway
Considered to be the world’s most famous and premier performance theaters from its opening in 1913 until the 30s, anyone who was anyone wanted to “Play the Palace.” Many famous people have performed there, including Sandra Bernhardt, Harry Houdini, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Buddy Hackett, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Better Midler, Shirley MacLaine, Diana Ross and Harry Belafonte. There are also enough ghost sightings surrounding the place to fill a theater, from former patrons to performers. The ghost of Judy Garland is said to have made it’s way back from somewhere over the rainbow and has been spotted near a private door formerly used by the performer. Piano keys have been heard and seen playing, without someone there physically performing, and the smell of burning cigarettes emanate from the spot where a former manager purportedly committed suicide. Legend also has it that the place hosts an “omen” ghost. An acrobat is said to have broken his neck while performing, and died instantly. The rumor goes that if you’re in the Palace Theater and happen to see the ghost, death will soon find you as well. Next time, go to the Belasco.
The Empire State Building 350 Fifth Avenue
Built in 1931, The Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building until 1972, when the World Trade Center was built and took over the title. There were 14 documented suicides that were attempted from the observation deck from as early as the construction of the building. The first suicide was when an employee was laid off while working on the building and jumped. In 1947, a fence was put in on the Observatory Terrace after five people committed suicide in a three-week span. Spirits from the suicides are said to haunt the Observation Deck and have been seen jumping from the building. Millionaire recluse Howard Hughes once kept an apartment there, moving in in the late 40s until the early 50s, when he was spending a lot of time on the East Coast. It’s sealed to this very day and is rumored to still be home to Hughes’ ghost. We may never know: once a recluse, always a recluse.
The Landmark Tavern 626 11th Avenue
Stands to reason that a place called The Landmark Tavern would have its share of ghost stories. Dating back to 1868, the place opened as a saloon when Johnson was President (Andrew, not Lyndon B.) and the first beer poured there cost a nickel. Legend has it that three ghosts haunt the place: a young Irish girl who died of typhoid fever in the 19th century, but who still believes she is at home there and has been seen living out her days, wandering up and down the hallways on the third floor. Another is the spirit of a Confederate soldier who is said to have been either knifed or shot in a bar fight. He evidently didn’t go quietly – or at all. His ghost has been known to knock over books in the second-floor party room and has startled guests and staffers with his sudden appearances and disappearances. The bathtub in which he went to die is still there. Finally, George Raft, who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen and used to frequent the place when it was a speakeasy, is said to haunt the bar. We can’t confirm whether that’s true or not, but doesn’t every famous haunted landmark need at least one famous ghost?
Image credit: CC by y42z