Destinations

Ghosts of Gotham: New York’s authentic Haunted Houses

October 1, 2016
Merchant House Museum, NYC

One of NYC’s most “spirited” homes: Merchant House Museum. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

New Yorkers are die-hard devotees of their city.  In fact, some Gothamites are so rooted in NYC they refuse to leave…even after death.  With limited space and layer upon layer of history, it’s little wonder that New Yorkers coexist – both alive and deceased. And many of New York’s spookiest haunted homes are open to public.

If you’d like to tour NYC’s historic haunts, here are a few of New York’s authentic haunted houses.

New York’s Haunted Houses

Hotel Chelsea, NYC

Historic celebrity “haunt:” the Chelsea Hotel. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Hotel Chelsea – “The Chelsea Hotel is a vortex – an artistic tornado of death and destruction and love and broken dreams,” mused Sid Vicious, one of the hotel’s long-term residents (some believe very long-term).  “The Chelsea” has long been a celebrity hangout for the likes of Tennessee Williams, Janice Jopllin, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol and Madonna.  It is also considered one of the most haunted places in the nation. Hotel residents regularly report encounters with a variety of ghosts.  One is renowned poet Dylan Thomas, whose face is seen around room 206 where he died in 1953.  In 1978 Nancy Spungen was found stabbed to death in the bathroom of room 100.  Her boyfriend, Sid Vicious of the band “The Sex Pistols,” was charged with her murder but died of a heroine overdose before standing trial.  Sometimes called the “Punk Rock Romeo and Juliet,” the pair are still familiar figures at the Chelsea, and room 100 is often requested.

Morris-Jumel Mansion – this beautifully preserved 1765 mansion is one of the oldest residences in NYC.  It served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, and he later dined there with his presidential cabinet. But it’s the feisty madame of the house who holds court at the mansion.  Eliza Jumel, who lived in the house from 1810 to her death in 1865, was quite a colorful character.  She’s rumored to have tricked wealthy Stephen Jumel into marrying her, and then allowed him to die of an illness so she could marry infamous Aaron Burr.  As America’s Second Lady, she toured Paris introducing herself as the “Vice Queen of the United States.”  Madame Jumel’s first ghostly appearance was in 1964, when she castigated a group of visiting school kids to quiet down (sort of a supernatural “Get off my lawn!”).  Soon after, a radio station broadcast a séance at the mansion, but had to cut the live feed because of Eliza’s foul language.  There are other apparitions as well, including a frenzied servant, a talking grandfather clock and a Hessian soldier known to emerge from paintings on the wall.  By the way, if you tour the mansion, don’t bother to ask about ghostly encounters – the management vehemently denies the hauntings.

83 West 3rd – The spiffy new brick exterior of NYU’s Furman Hall conceals a storied past.  “Master of Macabre” Edgar Allen Poe lived there in 1844 and 1845, writing his classic story “The Cask of Amontillado” and at least part of “The Raven” within the house.  After a recent gut renovation, only the house’s original banister remains. NYU law students have encountered Poe’s ghost using that banister to climb the stairs.  A few blocks east at 47 Bond Street, Poe is believed to have lived on the second floor and enjoyed a drink (or two) in the ground floor saloon. The staff of Il Buco Restaurant, located on the same site, claim he still helps himself to the stock in their wine cellar. Thoroughly sealed bottles of wine are sometimes found half empty.

House of Death, NYC

The Village’s “House of Death.” Photo: Jeff Dobbins

The House of Death – This lovely townhouse at 14 West 10th Street is reportedly home to twenty-two ghosts.  Mark Twain lived there from 1900 to 1901 and claimed he experienced supernatural encounters. Now Twain’s specter, clad in his signature white suit, has been seen ascending the staircase. Paranormal investigators have sensed the presence of a lady in white, a young child, and a gray cat.  “The “House of Death” has been the site of several gruesome incidents, including a murder-suicide and in 1987 the death of Lisa Steinberg at the hands of her adopted father, prominent lawyer Joel Steinberg.

Merchant House – this spooky 1832 townhouse has been exquisitely preserved and is filled with furnishings and belongings of its residents. The demand for slavish preservation came from spinster Gertrude Treadwell, who was born in the house in 1840 and seldom left it until her death in 1933. The spirits of the Treadwell family and their servants still make it their home and sightings of them gliding or walking about are fairly common. Gertrude’s icy-blue veins and gaunt face have been seen, and passersby on East 4th Street hear eerie piano music from within the darkened house.  The Merchant House Museum hosts “Spirited October Events,” including Candlelight Ghost tours and an 1865 Funeral Reenactment and Graveyard Procession.

12 Gay Street, Greenwich Village, NYC

Party house of the undead: 12 Gay Street. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

12 Gay Street – Gay Street is a crooked Greenwich Village byway lined with 19th-century homes.  It was once site of a Dutch-era morgue and later home to stables and servants of the affluent residents of Washington Square.  Number 12 is four-story brick townhouse with a colorful past.  During the roaring 20’s, NYC’s mischievous mayor Jimmy Walker bought the house to keep his chorine mistress Betty Compton, and the basement was the notorious speakeasy, the Pirate’s Den.  Sounds of raucous parties are heard from within and ghosts have been seen appearing and vanishing.  The regular apparitions include a foreign diplomat nervously pacing, pretty young woman dressed in 1930s garb, and a girl from the 1960s in front of the door.  But the best-known spirit is the Gay Street Phantom, an old man decked out in opera cape and top hat.  Many spooky stories come from former resident Frank Paris, who invented the Howdy Doody puppet on the premises.

57 West 57 – in a posh midtown penthouse, Carlton Alsop claimed he was living with a dysfunctional and deceased couple.  In 1922, former showgirl Edna Crawford and her lover Charles Brazelle were acquitted of murdering her wealthy husband (inventor of the spark plug) and used their fortune to buy the midtown penthouse.  Things quickly soured between them – Brazelle kept Edna a prisoner in the swank apartment and eventually beat her to death – before her bodyguards threw him out the window.  After sitting vacant for decades, Alsop moved into the penthouse where he heard the couple’s violent arguments, and his guests reported seeing horrific, unexplainable sights. Eventually Alsop’s wife left him, his dogs had nervous breakdowns, and things got so bad that he had himself committed before abandoning the penthouse forever.

Morris-Jumel Mansion, NYC

Boudoir of bawdy Madame Jumel in the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

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