Columbia University is haunted. Well, just barely. The Morningside campus was formerly the home of the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum (La Maison Française and a few tunnels are the only remaining evidence). If that's not enough, some parts of campus have also been featured prominently in the movie Ghostbusters, which was terrifying when we little Columbians were five.
Don't get discouraged by Columbia's limited assortment of terrifying spots. New York City is filled with them-and I'm not just referring to the Village's Halloween Parade. Grab a group of friends and this weekend and do your own ghost hunts at some of the area's creepiest spots. Just remember that The Blair Witch Project was so 1999 and that we claim no responsibility for the stupid things you may do.
To start your tour, hit up haunted houses. They're old, creaky and have tons of back-stories that make them doubly weird.
The oldest home in Manhattan, the Morris-Jumel Mansion, is allegedly haunted by at least three ghosts. Stop by 65 Jumel Terrace (between 160th and 162nd Streets), which was built in 1765, and look out for Eliza Jumel, former wife of Aaron Burr and mistress of the mansion. She'll be wearing a purple dress and rapping on walls and windows. A servant girl who committed suicide in the house is also said to appear, while a painting of a soldier who served in the American Revolution comes alive periodically.
The "House of Death," located on 14 W. 10th St. near Fifth Ave. is a brownstone, which is supposedly haunted by the 22 people who have died there. Mark Twain, who lived in the house for a year, has been seen in the stairwells, too.
The ghost of a young man and a girl dressed in 19th century garb have both been seen at The Dakota apartment building, located at Central Park West on 72nd St. John Lennon, who was murdered there in 1980, is also rumored to haunt the area around the undertaker's gate. Rosemary's Baby, Roman Polanski's 1968 paranormal thriller, was also shot there, adding to the fright.
If going to a haunted house is too much for the group, try other area landmarks. Washington Square Park's high fright-factor stems from its use as a hanging ground during the American Revolution. People swung from trees that still stand today. If that's not enough, the Park also was a cemetery at one point, and 15,000 bodies are reportedly buried beneath its lawn. (Bonus points: Start digging.)
Numerous reports also claim to see the apparitions of two young girls at Wollman Rink in Central Park skating figure eights. But maybe the Donald has taken care of that nuisance by now.
New York City haunts are incomplete without a mention of Broadway. Tales from backstage are an important part of this city's mystique. See The Lion King at the New Amsterdam Theatre at 214 W. 42nd St. this weekend and then stick around after the audience leaves. That's when the ghost of Olive Thomas, a Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl, should appear. Thomas is thought to have killed herself by overdosing on her alcoholic husband's syphilis medication, though the stories vary. She holds a blue bottle that is supposed to hold the medicine, and appears on stage and in the dressing rooms.
The Palace Theatre on 1564 Broadway, a favorite of old Vaudeville acts, takes the cake, with over 100 ghosts supposedly haunting the venue. Alleged ghost sightings include: a girl looking down from the balcony, a gowned cellist playing in the theatre's pit, and even Judy Garland, who has been spotted near the rear orchestra door built for her. Just hope you don't see the acrobat who broke his neck and died in the theatre-sources say that those who see him die soon after.
When you're starting to get hungry, sit down at the One if By Land, Two if By Sea restaurant on 17 Barrow St. The most hated vice president on campus, Aaron Burr, has been spotted in this restaurant, which was formerly his carriage house. Employees and customers have witnessed flying dishes and chairs being pulled out from under patrons. Burr's daughter, Theodosia Burr Alston, is also said to haunt the carriage house. Take your earrings off before sitting at the bar, though-many female patrons have experienced Theodosia pulling them off.
If you've got friends at Fordham University, this is the weekend to visit. Fordham wins the award for "most haunted campus in the tri-state area," and it's easy to see why. The school itself is built on the Old Rose Hill manor and the site of an old hospital that was taken down in the 1830s. Though there are stories told about places all over campus, Keating Hall is the freakiest spot. The building was possibly built over top of morgue tunnels in the 1930s. A security guard on his break in the basement lounge flipped out when the doors closed themselves and the chairs started to bang themselves against the wall. He quit immediately.
The first floor of the building has chairs and historical items on display, but few students sit on them because of the feeling of being watched. There are also cold spots even in the summer, and people often say they are the spirits of Jesuits that have past. On the third floor, there are many reports of being touched on the shoulder and seeing ghosts while in the auditorium, a chair tumbling down the stairs without anyone present has been witnessed more than once.
So maybe after all of this exploring, you've come to the realization that the city isn't completely devoid of supernatural thrills ... you just need to know where to look for them. Sure, you can say that you don't believe in ghosts all that you want, but now that you know the City that Never Sleeps is full of spooks, you might just be a little more careful the next time you're around dark corners late at night.