At nearly 400 years old, New York City has seen countless episodes of violence, death and human suffering: the slaughtering of American Indians under Dutch rule, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the Draft Riots of 1863, and the General Slocum Disaster, to name a few.
"In the course of four centuries, things are bound to happen that are going to leave a bit of residual energy in the locations where they occurred," said Andrea Janes, founder of a "macabre" walking tour company called Boroughs of the Dead.
The term among paranormal investigators for that energy is "place memory," and it isn't confined to cemeteries.
With such memories abounding in New York City, we've narrowed the list to one place in each borough that's bound to leave your skin crawling — after you've learned its history — this Halloween:
Bridewell Prison, Chambers Street between Broadway and Center Street, Manhattan
On the site of present-day City Hall Park, there once stood Bridewell Prison, where the British locked up American patriots during the Revolutionary War.
Its detainees faced cold winter winds, starvation, torture and execution at the hands of the jail's sadistic overseer, an officer named William Cunningham, Janes said.
Choosing victims at random and without due process, Cunningham would "take them out of their prison cells under the cover of darkness late at night, ... out on Chamber Street, where he would hang them and shoot them," she said.
The street was a residential one; neighbors were instructed to avert their eyes from the executions taking place outside their homes, at the risk of their own death.
Van Cortlandt Park, The Bronx
On Aug. 31, 1778, at the height of the Revolutionary War, a military unit of British loyalists known as the Queen's Rangers surrounded and killed as many as 40 American Indians and several rebel allies on land owned by the Van Cortlandt family.
The Mohican troops had marched to New York from their Christian, Anglicanized village in Massachusetts, which would give the battle its name: the Stockbridge Massacre.
“You can go and stand in Van Cortlandt Park on the buried bodies of these slaughtered Indians — apparently they've never been moved," Janes said.
The mansion’s second owner, a British loyalist named Colonel William Axtell, had married the daughter of a wealthy merchant, but fallen in love with her sister, Alva.
So Axtell, according to the tale, kept his beloved hidden in a secret chamber that only one servant knew about in his New York home. When the colonel was called away from several weeks and the servant died suddenly, Alva perished without food in her locked room. Her ghost would later wander around the mansion at night, neighbors said.
“It’s the most bizarre story, basically this sex slave dying of starvation in this locked chamber,” Janes remarked. “And now there are apartment buildings on that site and I’m sure the people that dwell happily in those apartments have no idea what they’re living on.”
Willowbrook State School, Staten Island
When then-ABC News reporter Geraldo Rivera investigated the horrific conditions at this overcrowded and understaffed state-run institution for children with mental illness and developmental disabilities in 1972, he found neglected, starving residents living in filthy rooms.
After the facility closed in 1987, the College of Staten Island relocated its campus to the grounds 6 years later.
“There are kids going to college on top of that very place where these horrific outrages occurred very recently,” Janes noted. “It’s legendarily rumored to be haunted, because many children passed away there… and also there’s a just residual energy of the horror and the trauma that these children endured.”
Some students, who say they sense that energy, have even requested to move to different dorms and classrooms to distance themselves from it.
Old Astoria Village, Queens
In 1934, the director of the American Psychical Research Institute, Dr. Hereward Carrington, told the New York Times the story of his investigation into an allegedly haunted frame house in Old Astoria Village. (The Times never printed its exact address.)
His team of psychics reported a "high level of psychic activity" there, according to Charles J. Adams' "New York City Ghost Stories."
The house's owner knew that its original proprietor had garroted his daughter-in-law on the premises, but he believed that gold was buried in its dirt basement.
To make the best returns on his investment, he hired a housekeeper to help him rent out a room upstairs. That business venture failed when patrons reported ghostly phenomena, like waking up to the sensation of manual strangulation.
Deemed structurally unsound, the house was later demolished.