Eight Million Ghost Stories: New York

“There are eight million stories in the Naked City”, the old television series used to proclaim. As one of the most famous cities in the world, New York City has certainly collected its share of unusual habitués. These days, there are eight million ghost stories in the Naked City, and while some of them appear to be brushed up to attract the tourists, there are more than a few that bear the unmistakable ring of truth.


Among the most famous sites of New York City hauntings is the Algonquin Hotel. During the Roaring Twenties, a group of witty and illustrious writers met there regularly. Known as the “Algonquin Round Table”, they included such luminaries as columnist Robert Benchley, poet Dorothy Parker and theater critic Alexander Woollcott. The group met there weekly for nearly ten years, and it should come as no surprise that their ghosts are said to haunt the illustrious hotel at which they spent so many happy hours.


Because New York City has been home to so many famous people, it’s not surprising that people report seeing famous ghosts so often. Guests report seeing John Lennon at The Dakota, and Washington Irving is said to pinch the bottoms of comely female visitors to his Tarrytown mansion.


Not all ghosts in New York City are quite so obliging and friendly, though. At the Morris-Jumel Mansion, well known as an architectural jewel and the city’s oldest mansion, schoolchildren on tour have been emphatically hushed by a woman in Revolutionary War dress, a soldier has stepped out of a painting and the ghost of Stephen Jumel, who purchased the house for himself and his wife Eliza, has reportedly been seen numerous times.


The house has been investigated by many students of the paranormal, and many report hearing, feeling and seeing odd things that can be attributed to nothing but the supernatural. The tale of the Morris-Jumel haunting is full of famous names and very unhappy secrets. The Morris-Jumel house was originally built by British colonel Roger Morris shortly before the Revolutionary War. They lived there not more than a decade when the war erupted, and at its end, Morris – loyal to the Crown – and his wife left and returned to England. The house was eventually purchased by Jumel in 1810, and he and Eliza split their time between the New York mansion and a Paris home. In 1832, Jumel was reportedly thrown from their carriage and killed. Immediately after his death, Eliza married Aaron Burr – and there were rumors that it was Eliza over whom the famous duel was fought with Alexander Hamilton many years earlier. Their marriage only lasted two years, and Eliza retained possession of the house upon their divorce. She lived there until her death in 1865, and according to most reports, she died a senile and embittered old woman.


After her death, the city of New York took possession of the mansion and eventually turned it into an historical museum. Over the years, visitors have reported seeing a mysterious woman in violet who resembles Eliza Jumel. Neighbors across the street report seeing and hearing parties at night after the museum is closed for the night. In addition, there were frequent reports of an angry male ghost that seemed to give credence to rumors that Eliza had helped her husband to his untimely death. In the 1960’s, famous ghost hunter Hans Holzer paid a visit to the mansion with medium Ethel Myers. The two conducted a series of “rescue séances”, during which Myers claims to have spoken with Jumel, who told her that he had been killed when he fell on a pitchfork, and that Eliza had watched him bleed to death. Myers and Holzer reportedly were able to release the spirit of Jumel, and he no longer haunts the house. Eliza has seen no such release, and there are still reports of her wandering about the house, an old woman who can’t forgive herself for the evil deeds she may have committed – or a confused, lonely old woman who can’t find the way to the next plane.


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