With Halloween around the corner, New Yorkers are seeking out spooky happenings across the city. Do blood-curdling ghost stories, nerve-wracking wanders through haunted houses, and drinks with unsettled spirits sound like your kind of thing? If so, indulge your dark side on one of the best New York City ghost tours.
Discover the shadowy catacombs that lie beneath the Basilica of St Patrick’s Old Cathedral on this behind-the-scenes tour. You’ll wander through the manicured grounds of the cemetery – kept trim by grazing sheep who are rented by the church every fall – admire the intricate stained-glass windows and get to peek behind a centuries-old pipe organ. Be sure to zip up your coat as you descend into the chilly catacombs, learning all about the New Yorkers who are laid to rest here, and studying the stone crypts underlit by flickering candlelight.
Sip spirits with ethereal specters, down pints with 19th-century phantoms and listen to the ominous tinkle of a haunted piano bar on this paranormal pub crawl. Not only does it take you around the ghostly bars, taverns and inns of the West Village, it also regales you with spooky tales of yesteryear. Pull up a seat at the literary haunt where famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas drank himself to death, and indulge in a libation at the former carriage house of a compelling historical figure. Make sure you bring your wallet as there is only one complimentary cocktail included.
Wash down the shudder-inducing stories of gangsters and ghouls with a shot of liquid courage on this East Village pub crawl. The first stop is McSorley’s Old Ale House, where Houdini once performed; if you listen closely, you may hear the faint gasps of a spectral audience and the jangle of chains as he breaks free. Go easy on the drinks, though, as you’ll need to keep your wits about you as you tiptoe along the creaking floorboards of a haunted house. You also won’t want to miss hearing stories of the brawling Bowery Boys – a 19th-century gang bizarrely made up of volunteer firemen.
It won’t be the chilly night air giving you goosebumps on this hair-raising ghost tour – but bring an extra layer just in case. Exploring the East Village under the cover of darkness, even the most cynical of skeptics won’t be able to resist getting sucked into the spine-chilling ghost stories told by your passionate guide. You’ll visit 13 haunted sites, covering everything from local bar ghosts who still roam the sawdust-covered floors of McSorley’s to the theatrical poltergeists of the Public Theater and a mysterious subway filled with ghost trains.
See the spectral side of the city through the eyes of Edgar Allan Poe. A ghoulish galavant with a literary twist, this Poe-themed tour takes you ghost hunting through the streets of Greenwich Village. As well as diving into the mysterious and macabre world of the 19th-century author, you may be lucky enough to spot the spirit of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt – or hear the ghostly yap of her dog Fala.
Promising all killer and no filler, this ghost tour of Greenwich Village is a must-do for serious spook-seekers. With stories of lost children, phantoms and celebrity ghosts, you’ll hang onto every word of your in-the-know guide. Be sure to wear comfy shoes for trekking through Washington Square Park, the New York University campus and West 10th Street; they will also come in handy if you need to flee any malevolent apparitions.
On the Spiritualists of Green-Wood Cemetery tour, you’ll find this National Historic Landmark and Victorian graveyard hides more than the bodies buried beneath its grounds. Secrets, stories and perhaps even a few spirits will be unearthed on this Brooklyn walkabout where you’ll explore the final resting places of 19th-century mediums, clairvoyants and more.
Believe it or not, festival-season favorite Roosevelt Island has a not-so-sunny history. A one-time holding place for convicts, lunatics and smallpox-infected individuals, the island hides a past not often revealed – until now. Join the Island of Lost Souls: A History of Madness and Medicine on Roosevelt Island for a first-hand look at the asylums, prisons and hospitals that once housed hundreds of desperate souls and, perhaps, still do.
This is an updated version of an article originally written by Julia Goicochea