Whip out your broomsticks, cauldrons and vampire teeth: spooky season has arrived. If you’ve had your fill of pumpkin patches, costume parties and marked down candy, New York has just the right amount of supernatural flare to suit your Halloween needs. With over 400 years of history, New York City is the perfect place to celebrate All Hallows Eve and get lost in some good ol’ haunted houses. Whether you’re a fan of history or ghost stories (or both), here are the best places to take yourself on a spooky tour of haunted downtown NYC.
The Manhattan Well
Though now known for its upscale shopping and dining scene, the bustling streets of SoHo were once the site of a shocking and popularized murder. In the final days of 1799, a young woman named Gulielma Elmore Sands left her boarding home to meet with then lover and fiancé, Levi Weeks. Eleven days later, her body was found strangled and dumped in the well in Lispenard’s Meadow (today’s Spring Street). Marked by scandal, betrayal and intrigue, the story hit the presses and quickly became the talk of the town. Though evidence pointed to Weeks, who was thought to have accidentally impregnated Sands, his lawyers Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton (yes, that Alexander Hamilton) managed to gain him an acquittal. Since justice was never attained on behalf of Sands, some say that her ghost haunts the site of the murder. And while the well is no longer fully intact, visitors entering the Cos shop on 129 Spring Street can still see the remains of the original well at the back of the store.
The House of Death
It’s hard to have an unscathed history with a name like “The House of Death,” right? This picturesque townhouse at 14 West 10th Street was once the home of Mark Twain, who claimed to experience strange, supernatural events while living there between 1900 and 1901. After Twain moved out, several more unfortunate incidents took place in the house, including a murder-suicide and the murder of six-year-old Lisa Steinberg. No public tours are currently offered at the house, but ghosts have been spotted in and around the building.
Let’s be honest–there’s no denying the spooky appeal of old churches. St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery is the second oldest church in Manhattan and rife with haunted history. In 1651, Petrus Stuyvesant purchased the land for a farm, or “bouwerij” (pronounced “bower-ay”) in Dutch. Nine years later, he built a family chapel on the land, under which he was eventually buried. Though the original chapel isn’t the same edifice that stands today, many paranormal fans have cited seeing Petrus’ ghost wandering the aisles, ringing the bells and interrupting the modern-day services.
This stunning courthouse was the first permanent government building erected in New York City after the completion of City Hall in 1811. Today, the building is a registered city landmark and included on the National Register of Historic Places, but some say the ghost of William “Boss” Tweed still haunts the premises. William Tweed was a politician who played a major role in New York City politics during the 19th century. Unfortunately, he was eventually convicted for stealing roughly $40 million from city taxpayers. Tweed’s ghost has been spotted in the courtroom where he was sentenced and throughout the building that would continue to carry his name.
Ever heard of “The Gangs of New York?” Serving as the subject of Herbert Asbury’s non-fiction book and the 2002 Hollywood film by Martin Scorcese, the tales of New York’s 19th century Five Points mobs are both gruesome and true. Powerful crime families like the Gambinos, Gotti and Bonannos ran the area, and although today’s Little Italy is a go-to destination for authentic Italian food and pastry, some say the ghosts of the 19th century gangs still reign the streets.