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Haunted Museums, Parks, and a Library in NYC

Updated on August 17, 2016

The City of New York is the most populated city in the United States with an estimated 8.5 million people living in a land area of only 305 square miles. The area was discovered in 1609 by Henry Hudson, an explorer from England. With over 400 years of history and almost 28,000 people per square mile it's really surprising that New Yorkers don't run into spirits all the time. Here are a few places where they do happen to cross paths with ghosts on a regular basis.

Merchant's House Museum

The Merchant’s House Museum was originally called Old Merchant’s House and later the Seabury Tredwell House. The house was built in 1832 by Joseph Brewster and sold to Mr. Tredwell for $18,000. It is the only home of this era that has been preserved intact, both inside and out. The museum was founded by George Chapman in 1936. He was a distant cousin of the original Tredwell family that lived there.

There were eight children, two boys and six girls. The youngest of the Tredwell daughters was named Gertrude. She was born in 1840 and lived in the house all her life. She lived there alone for 24 years after the death of her sister, Julia, in 1909. The museum opened three years after Gertrude died.

Within a year of her death a man who was working at the house to convert it to a museum saw “a small elderly woman in a light-colored dress standing in the doorway.” She promptly vanished.

Not long after that there were children playing in the yard who, apparently, were making too much noise. “... the door burst open and a tiny elderly lady flew out onto the high stoop in a rage, waving her arms wildly. ...” She then promptly disappeared into thin air.

In the early 1980s tourists would ring the doorbell and it would be answered by a woman dressed in 19th century clothing. She would tell the would-be visitors that the museum was closed for the day. Not only was the museum not closed, but the tour guides did not wear period clothing. Other than the incident of yelling at the kids in the yard Gertrude was generally a quiet observer and didn’t bother anyone.

There were reports of other oddities such as computers locking up if someone started typing “Tredwell.” There were cold spots and the sound of footsteps when no one was around. Probably the creepiest thing was when a broken piano would start playing recitals all by itself.

Twenty years ago the historians who oversee the Merchant House Museum publicly acknowledged the reports from visitors, volunteers, and staff, and began to document them.

Museum of the Moving Image

Originally known as the American Museum of the Moving Image when it opened in 1988, it started a $67 million expansion in March 2008. It reopened in January 2011. The building itself was built in 1920. One ghost that is seen there on a fairly regular basis is an African-American woman wearing a white dress. She is most often seen hanging out at the security desk near the lobby’s entrance. A man’s deep voice is often heard coming from a hallway when no one is there and voices can be heard coming from the air vents.

Washington Square Park

In 1797 New York City bought some farmland outside the city limits that would become Washington Square Park. It was built on what was a Potter’s Field. There are more than 20,000 indigent and unidentified people buried there in just ten acres. Many of them were slaves and victims of the yellow fever epidemic that struck in the 1800s. It was also used as an Indian burial ground even before that. Bones and fragments of bones are often found when any kind of construction is done in the park.

A headstone from 1799 was found as recently as 2009 seven feet underground. The name on the stone was James Jackson and he must have been relatively wealthy to even have a grave marker. He probably died of yellow fever, because this was the only burial ground that accepted bodies that had succumbed to the fever.

Many visitors claim to have seen spirits here. There is a tree that stands at the northeast corner of the park that is the oldest known tree in New York City at 334 years old. Legend has it that this tree was used for public hangings, which explains why it is called “Hangman’s Elm.” This would also explain the high number of spirits witnessed here. Souls are more restless when they don’t die a peaceful death.

The most well known ghost of Washington Square Park is a Quaker woman named Leah. It is believed she is there to protect the thousands and thousands of graves.


McCarren Park Pool

The McCarren Park Pool was opened in 1937 by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. It was gigantic with a capacity of 6,800 people. He also opened ten other public pools all over the city. It was a happening place for a while, but then the new wore off and a rougher element moved in. There were a few accidental drownings and it is said a little girl’s scream can be heard at night during the summer. She has also been seen roaming around outside the pool calling for help.

There were three men who died here, too. Two of the men climbed over the fence late at night. It is not known for sure how they died. One other man was murdered.

Paranormal NYC claims to have registered activity using an EMF (electromagnetic field) detector. They ha also measured dramatic drops in temperature in certain spots and photographs have revealed orbs.

The pool was closed for repairs in 1983 and never reopened.

City Hall Park

The north end of City Hall Park was occupied by Bridewell Prison, constructed in 1773, and was considered the deadliest British prison during the Revolutionary War. It returned to being a city jail after the War of 1812. The jail had no windows and housed thousands of starving prisoners of war. When the park was renovated in the 1990s they found hundreds of bones.

City Hall Park has played a role in the civic life of New York City since it began as a rebel outpost during Colonial times. The land that includes the park has been used as an almshouse, an art museum, a pasture, a parade ground, a prison, a public execution site, and a post office. It covers 8.8 acres.

The park is said to be haunted even now by the dead from public lynchings and hangings that occurred in the 1800s.

Central Park Pond

Janet and Rosetta Van Der Voort grew up in the late 1800s in a wealthy family on Central Park South. Their father was overprotective of the two sisters and the only place they were allowed to go on their own was the Central Park Pond. The sisters were extremely close. They never married and stayed together all their lives until they died within two months of each other in 1880. They are still seen though, dressed in their bustles and skating figure eights on the surface of the pond they loved so much.

Brooklyn Public Library

The Brooklyn Public Library is the fifth largest public library system in the United States. It started in 1852 as the “Brooklyn Athenaeum and Reading Room.”

The stacks in the basement are haunted by a little girl. Patrons and employees have heard the sounds of a young girl sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. The young girl is probably 6-year-old Agatha Ann Cunningham. In 1977 Agatha’s class took a field trip to the Brooklyn Public Library. At some point during the tour little Agatha just disappeared and was never seen again.

Haunted Places in NYC

show route and directions
A markerMerchant's House Museum -
29 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003, USA
get directions

B markerMuseum of the Moving Image -
36-01 35th Ave, Astoria, NY 11106, USA
get directions

C markerWashington Square Park -
Washington Square Park, New York, NY 10012, USA
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D markerMcCarren Park Pool -
776 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, NY 11222, USA
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E markerCity Hall Park -
City Hall Park, Broadway, New York, NY 10007, USA
get directions

F markerCentral Park Pond -
The Pond, New York, NY 10019, USA
get directions

G markerBrooklyn Public Library -
9424 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209, USA
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    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 16 months ago

      As a live person who used to haunt many of these places in NY, I would say I'm not surprised. Museum of Moving Images in particular gives me the creeps but for a different reason involving a time I was in a closed exhibit with the Exorcist life-sized Regan doll and I didn't realize she was set on a motion timer, lol. But the BPL in particular when I used to go study there, my hair on my arm would stand on end and I'd get chills, and an urge to leave. I started going out of my way to go to a different branch.