Crimes and Hauntings of NYC

by Julia Hofer

Believe in spirits? Curious about the history of your building? Every building has its secrets. Here’s a few of New York’s most haunted homes:

SOCIETY SCANDAL - 57 W 57th Street

Although the space now occupies an art gallery, the tales with in its walls and floors from previous years cannot be erased. A deadly love triangle led to the haunting of this penthouse. During the roaring chaos of New York in the 1920s, cyclist Albert Champion wed the youthful and money-chasing showgirl, Edna Crawford. It was on the newlyweds' trip to France when Crawford's affair with French native Charles Brazelle began. The lovers conspired to murder Champion, blame his death on heart failure and make off with his $12 million dollar fortune. The plan worked and the devious couple purchased the entire building located at 57 W 57th Street. Once making a home in the building's penthouse, Brazelle and Crawford's treacherous life together ensued. Brazelle imprisoned Crawford in their own apartment and hired servants to account for her every movement. Their volatile relationship consisted of drunken and violent fights, inevitably leading to Crawford’s death. During her beating, bodyguards stepped in and responded by ejecting Brazelle off the building. Urban legend has it that the following owners of this two-floor apartment could hear the sound of muffled arguing and high heels walking the floor above. Guests have even claimed feeling a presence follow them down the stairs.  It’s likely these terrors contributed to the new residents committing themselves to mental institutions.  

The House of Death - 14 West 10th Street

Don’t let the charm of this picturesque building fool you. Once the home of Mark Twain in 1900, this townhouse located in the Greenwich Village, is infamously known for hauntings of the 22 spirits who have died inside. This place is so inhabited by ghosts that even skeptics of paranormal phenomena are led to reevaluate their beliefs after experiencing this 1830s building. 

One night back in the 1930s the mother and daughter who lived there at the time were startled when they discovered the apparition of an old man with white hair sitting in their living room. When asked who he was, the figure introduced himself as Clemens, saying that he had a problem there so he must settle there. In 1989, prominent attorney Joel Steinberg beat his 6-year-old adopted daughter to death in the home's second floor. Her ghost has never been spotted but has contributed to the houses new title “the house of death." Current residents of the house attest to seeing Twain's ghost on the first floor of the house at the bottom of the stairwell. 

Career Girl Murders - 57 East 88th Street

Rewind to August 28, 1963. Perched on the Upper East Side, the two young working girls of apartment 3C at 57 East 88th Street were found gruesomely murdered. Janice Wylie, 21, was raped by an intruder then brutally stabbed. When her roommate Emily Hoffert, 23, walked in, the man tied her up and as he was leaving it was her comment, “I will remember you,” that led to her demise. Ricky Robles, 20, eventually identified as the killer, is still imprisoned for the crime. This double homicide became nationally dubbed as the “career girl murders." Whether their spirits still linger or not, the horrific events that occurred in this apartment building is haunting in itself.    

The Dakota - 1 West 72nd Street

(c) David Shankbone

(c) David Shankbone

The Dakota building, located at Central Park West, is reputable for its perpetual paranormal activity. Various people such as workers, tenants and even celebrities have reported several ghost entities in the over-a-century-old building. In 1965, insideAmerican actress Judy Holliday’s apartment, the painters saw a 10-year-old boy dressed in early 1900s clothing as well as a figure of a man's body with the face of a young boy. As one painter was finishing up his work, the door that had been propped open abruptly slammed shut followed by the light flickering off. 

Another spooky story — in 1989 a guest of a resident was waiting in the lobby when he saw a ghost of a young girl pointing the room next door. He described the girl to have long blonde hair, wearing an early 1900s styled dress. Multiple people are said to have seen the same girl bouncing a ball in the hallways. Meanwhile the owners of a third floor apartment reported furniture moving by itself in addition to hearing footsteps and other unexplained noises. 

The building's electrician and tenants have also experienced strange paranormal phenomenas in the basement such as objects being thrown around the room. More bewildering is their sighting of the vision of a man that resembles Edward Clark, the one who built the Dakota, lurking in his own creation. 

Low and behold, the incident that prompts this building as iconic for paranormal activity dates back to December 8th, 1980, at 10:58 pm, when John Lennon, beloved musician and tenant of the building, was shot dead under the building's archway. Years later, witnesses have claimed seeing the ghost of Lennon propped under the arch of the building's entrance where he was murdered. 

This presence, however, seemed very much alive. His wife Yoko Ono describes coming across his ghost sitting at his white piano, turning to her and saying, “Don’t be afraid. I am still with you.” Interesting enough, Lennon himself has reported ghost sightings while living in the Dakota, specifically the one he called “the Crying Lady Ghost," who walked the corridors. After witnesses reported seeing his ghost, spiritualists and mediums have held sessions to help transition Lennon to the after world, apparently he had difficulty letting go and enjoys revisiting his area of tragedy.