I walked around some of NYC’s spookiest places, and now I feel prickles down my spine every time I pass Washington Square Park

  • I walked around four iconic NYC destinations in October 2020 that some New Yorkers say are "spooky" or "haunted."
  • I began my tour at The Dakota, an apartment building that John Lennon lived in and died near.
  • Then I headed to Washington Square Park, an iconic NYC meeting place with 20,000 bodies buried underneath it.
  • My third stop was another apartment building where Mark Twain lived and several residents have reported ghost sightings.
  • I ended my day at St. Mark's Church-In-The-Bowery, where a local legend says a spirit reacted to being disturbed by the noises of the growing city.
  • While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not discourage getting outside, the agency warns that "travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19."
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

On New York City's Upper West Side, a 19th-century building is said to be one of the city's most mysterious and exclusive residences.

Source: Business Insider, CNBC

Located on 72 Street, the Dakota is a historic apartment building across the street from Central Park.

The luxury apartment building was featured in the 1968 classic horror film "Rosemary's Baby."

Source: Curbed NY

And it's easy to see why. The building's ominous style, which some architects have called Gothic-Revival, sticks out like a sore thumb on the Upper West Side.

Sources: Curbed NY, Architectural Digest

It turns out the landmark also has a dark past and some chilling lore around it. Residents and workers have reported ghost sightings over the years.

Source: Curbed NY

John Lennon, who moved into The Dakota with Yoko Ono in 1973, is said to have seen a ghost in the building, The Miami Herald reported in 1982.

Sources: The Miami Herald/Newspapers.com, Business Insider

In 1980, Mark David Chapman shot Lennon outside of the building. Since then, Ono has said she's seen Lennon's ghost sitting at their piano.

Sources: The New York Times, Business Insider, New York Post

The Dakota is also known for being intimidating in its application process, denying celebrities like Cher, Madonna, and Billy Joel.

Source: Business Insider, CNBC

No residents entered or exited during my visit, but I did notice some spooky details while I walked around …

… like a shattered window on the top floor …

… and these gas lanterns with sharp, pointed tips that illuminate the building's exterior.

Up close, the Dakota feels uninviting and fortress-like. From just outside the building, I still felt so far from its residents, thanks to the massive gates and thick stone walls.

After exploring the outside of the Central Park residence, I headed to another iconic NYC location, Washington Square.

Washington Square Park is located in Lower Manhattan's Greenwich Village neighborhood.

At nearly 10 acres, this park is typically used for gatherings and community events, but it has a dark past.

Sources: NYC Parks, New York Public Library

An estimated 20,000 bodies are buried underneath the grass and pavement.

Source: New York Public Library

That's because the park served as a potter's field — a graveyard for unknown bodies and those who cannot afford private burials — in the late-18th and early-19th centuries.

Source: New York Public Library

Additionally, gallows, where public hangings took place, were placed where the fountain sits today. There was a prison less than a mile away, and those found guilty were executed here until 1820.

Source: New York Public Library, Untapped Cities

In the early 19th century, victims of yellow fever epidemics filled the potter's field to capacity, and the bodies are still under there.

Source: New York Public Library

In 1827, the area was declared a public space and the city started transforming it into a town square.

Source: New York Public Library

I've been visiting this park with my family since before I could walk, and now I'll never step through it again without thinking of its morbid history.

In the same neighborhood of Greenwich Village, there's another residence that some consider to be "haunted."

Source: Curbed NY

It's a couple of blocks north of the park on West 10th Street.

Located on what is considered one of NYC's most picturesque streets, there's a building some New Yorkers call "the House of Death."

Source: 6Sqft

That's because 22 people have died inside it.

Source: 6Sqft

Famous writer Mark Twain lived here for about a year, and while he didn't die in the home, a resident claimed to see his spirit there during the 1930's.

Source: 6Sqft

A few years later, the home was transformed into a 10-unit apartment building, and residents reported more ghost sightings.

Source: New York Post

Aside from its somewhat ominous entrance, the house looks like the others on the street.

My favorite part was stepping down into the dark entrance — it sent a chill down my spine.

East of "the House of Death," the second-oldest NYC church has been considered "haunted." It was built on a farm in the 17th century.

Sources: Curbed NY, St. Mark's Church-In-The-Bowery

St. Marks Church-In-The-Bowery is in NYC's East Village neighborhood.

There's a cemetery on the church grounds, where Peter Stuyvesant was first buried.

Source: St. Mark's Church-In-The-Bowery

Stuyvesant, who was the last Dutch governor of New Amsterdam, purchased the land in 1651 and built a chapel on it by 1660.

Sources: St. Mark's Church-In-The-Bowery, The New York Times

He was buried underneath the church when he died in 1672.

Source: The New York Times

Legend has it that shortly after his death, Stuyvesant haunted the loud, bustling neighborhood.

Source: The New York Times

The bell rang late one night and people rushed to the church to find that it was ringing by itself with its rope cut so no one could reach it, according to local legend, The New York Times reported in 1985.

Source: The New York Times

My friend lives next to this church, and we meet in front of it all the time. I've never given it a second look. But next time I'm waiting to meet my buddy after dark, I'll think of the ringing bell and Stuyvesant buried underneath.

While I didn't personally feel a spiritual presence during my walk around these haunting NYC locales, I learned a lot about my city's spooky history, and I won't ever view them the same way again.


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