Manhattan is one of the oldest and most densely populated cities in the world. Therefore, it is bound to have it’s fair share of urban legends and spooky stories. Take a look below for 10 of the scariest Manhattan urban legends.
1. Pirate Treasure Under Lady Liberty
I know that the Statue of Liberty isn’t technically in Manhattan, but it is visible from Manhattan so it’s close enough. Anyway, the story goes that the notorious Captain William Kid hid his treasure on the Island on which the Statue of Liberty has been erected. No wonder she looks a tiny bit smug.
Captain Kidd was hung in London in 1701 for piracy, but a lot of his loot was never found. Many believe he hid his wares on what is now Liberty Island, and the rumor was so strong in the late 1800s that two soldiers went searching for it.
Legend has it that they found it, but also disturbed the ghost of Captain Kiss who scared them away. When they returned for the treasure chest it was gone. That isn’t the only pirate urban legend to sail through the mouths of New Yorkers, some even believe that a ghosts hip haunts the Hudson.
2. The Moles of Manhattan
When the Subway was dug under Manhattan, people in New York believed that builders had come across Mole People. By that, I mean supposedly strange inbred people living underground.
When the New York Subway opened, the urban legend saw a resurgence in the 1990s and a whole bunch of first hand accounts started popping. Even today, a lot of citizens think there are communities of people living in the lost tunnels of the Subway.
Of course the legends have become richer over the years, and now people believe that they can see in the dark and that they speak their own language. Some even think that they are cannibals. Yikes! Killer moles. In reality, there are people living down there, but generally speaking they are down on their luck homeless people desperately trying to avoid being hit by trains, which is pretty grim.
3. Taylor Swift in a Box
Taylor Swift moved to New York in 2014 and bought a home in Tribeca, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Manhattan. Taylor has been regularly photographed entering and exiting her home and has a constant swathe of fans outside her home waiting to catch a glimpse of the star, which is pretty terrifying if you think about it.
I wouldn’t be cool with people outside my house at all times. Anyway, somewhere along the line a rumor started that Taylor now had to enter and exit her house in a box. It seems people spotted men loading a large case into a SUV and it sent the internet wild.
4. The Young Women of Wollman
This urban legend is so popular that the New York Times ran a whole article on it! The Young Women of the Wollman Ice-rink are some of the most spotted ghosts in the city; they look like two ladies in well off Victorian dresses and they are seen ice skating on the Wollman Rink after hours.
One wears red and the other purple. It is thought that they are the wealthy Van der Voot sisters, who lived with their overprotective wealthy father in his Manhattan town house. The pair would often escape to the park together.
Both siblings died within months of each other in 1880. Around 35 years later, during World War I, stories started circulating of two girls seen gliding over the 59th street pond, with sightings at the Wollman Rink beginning after it was built in the 1950s – having formerly been a pond that was skate-able in the winter. The sightings have occurred frequently ever since, and in all weather.
5. The Living Dead of The Dakota
Imagine there is no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky, oh, and a few trapped spirits of the dead haunting their former homes. The Dakota Building was built in the late 1800s and is one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in all of New York, but it is also haunted as hell!
The building was already said to be haunted before famous Beatle John Lennon lived there with Yoko Ono. In fact, Lennon told Yoko that he had seen a ghost of a crying woman in the halls. Sadly, John Lennon was murdered outside the building on the 8th December, 1980, by a crazy fan when he was just 40 years old.
Yoko Ono still lives in the building, in a new apartment, but before she moved to her new space in the historic building, she saw the ghost of her husband sitting at his white piano. He reportedly said to her: “Don’t be afraid, I am still with you.” Oh also, it is rumored that $30,000 is hidden under the floor of Lennon and Yoko’s former apartment.
6. Sid and Nancy in Room 100
Hotel Chelsea is an iconic building, rather like the Dakota. It seems that throughout its rich history it has been somewhat of a Mecca for musicians and other artists.
Known guests include Patti Smith, Mark Twain, Dylan Thomas and Leonard Cohen, but the most notorious residents may never have checked out. Nancy Spungen was the original groupie. She was the girlfriend of English Punk Rocker Sid Vicious and she oozed sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
In 1978, when the Sex Pistols Broke up, the pair moved to New York and began living in the Hotel Chelsea. The pair took a lot of drugs and there were rumors Sid Viscous beat her. In October 1978, Nancy was found dead in the bathtub of Room 100, with a stab wound in the belly. Sid was arrested and died of a heroin dose on bail. The pairs presence is said to still be felt in Room 100 to this day.
7. The Manhattan Well
In the cold dead of winter in 1800, the body of a young woman by the name of Gulielma Sands was found at the bottom of a brick well on 129 Spring Street. The finding caused a great scandal as high flyer Levi Weeks was accused of killing her after they had an affair and she became pregnant.
He walked free in the end, despite public outrage, and it is said that the lost soul of Gulielma could be spotted near the well, and those who looked in often saw a face staring back at them. The well was filled in in 1817 due to its ghoulish history, but it was unearthed again in 1980 and is now amid a COS store as an original feature.
8. The Most Beautiful Girl In New York
The New Amsterdam theater is one of the more historic venues on the strip and is currently home to the Broadway production of Aladdin. The venue was built in 1903 and was known for its risqué roof garden.
It was a popular spot for socialites and members of high society including silent film star Olive Thomas, dubbed the most beautiful girl in New York. She appeared on the stage at the New Amsterdam several times and was rumored to be the mistress of Ziegfeld Follies himself.
Sadly, the actress died in 1920 at the young age of 25. Her death was one of the first publicized Hollywood Scandals. Forever young, it also seems like she is forever present; her ghost is regularly spotted at the theater although it is said she only shows herself to men.
9. The Devil of 9/11
A popular belief among the people of Manhattan is that the 9/11 was the work of the devil. With the death of nearly 3,000 innocent people it is easy to see why one might jump to such a conclusion, but not only that, Satan’s face was seen in the smoke that day.
Mark D. Phillips allegedly captured images of the face of the devil staring back at the horrified city. Some call the images a hoax, but others believe the images from the otherwise very credible photographer to be real. Did the Devil descend on Manhattan that day? I don’t know about literally, but in many ways, it did.
10. The Great Sawing of 1823
Did you know Manhattan was sawn in half, according to a pretty hilarious urban legend. The story was told in Scholar Benjamin Botkin’s 1976 book, New York City Folklore. He said that in the ripe old year of 1823, a contractor by the name of Lozier noticed that the southern end of Manhattan was going to sink.
The only remedy was to saw the Island in half, turn the southern half around, and reattach it. Apparently, all the laborers of New York got involved in the project – turning up in swathes to save the city – only, when they turned up for the work, it was all an elaborate rouse by Lozier, who had disappeared.