Get in the spirit of Halloween by taking a trip to New York’s spooky side. There are loads of ghost-themed walking tours that explore mysterious, harrowing, haunted Gotham—and some are even free. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the tours (most are appropriate for teenage grandkids) are filled with the myth, arcana, and history that only a great world-class city can afford. For a frightfully good time, check out the following.
Edgar Allan Poe and His Ghostly Neighbors of Greenwich Village
Walkers in pursuit of ghosts can choose from more than a dozen leisurely walking tours led by Ghosts of New York. This tour focuses on Edgar Allan Poe, the preeminent writer of mystery and the macabre. Step back in time as a licensed guide in period costume takes you to Poe’s old neighborhood and sites associated with him. This one-and-a-half-hour tour involves less than a mile of walking. You’ll visit Washington Square Park, under which 20,000 bodies are buried; search for the spirit of former Village resident Aaron Burr, killer of founding father Alexander Hamilton; learn about New York University’s library (said to be haunted by a librarian ghost), and more.
Ghosts of Grand Central
Countless millions have traveled the winding and cavernous passages of Grand Central Terminal, but are the ghosts of departed passengers still present? Join “Ghost Doctors” Peter and Stew Kandel, both licensed New York City tour guides, as they hunt for real spirits in one of the world’s most famous train terminals. On this interactive tour, which lasts about two hours, you’ll learn lore and legend as well as the use of ghost hunting equipment such as EMF meters, digital infrared thermometers, dowsing rods and other ghoul-sensing tools.
Saturday, Oct. 25, 9:30 p.m. $35 in advance; $40 at tour time. For reservations and meeting place, go to ghostdoctors.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (347) 502-7352. Inquire about wheel-chair access.
Macabre Greenwich Village
Historian Joyce Gold has been sharing her deep knowledge of Manhattan lore for over 25 years through her eponymous Joyce Gold History Tours of New York. To celebrate Halloween, this two-hour tour gives you the lurid backstory to places such as the Washington Square Park graveyard; Newgate Prison; a 19th century Jewish graveyard; Edgar Allen Poe’s home, and lots more.
Sunday, Oct. 28. $20 ($15 for seniors 62+). No reservations necessary. For info on meeting place, plus other tour dates throughout the year, visit joycegoldhistorytours.com or call 212-242-5762. The tour is under a mile and is wheel-chair accessible.
Dark Side of the High Line
Interested in a journey with no upfront cost to the creepier side of New York’s High Line park? Then book your tickets with Free Tours by Foot. On this tour you’ll hear about the curse of a West Side cowboy (who fell to his death from the elevated track in 1934); the children who haunt the street formerly known as “Death Avenue;” the tragedy of 7-year old Seth Low Hascamp, who was hit by a freight train; the lost souls of the Titanic, plus more. This tour covers about one mile and lasts approximately 1.5 hours. It is not recommended for children.
Sunday, Oct.26; Thursday, Oct. 23, 30, 7:30 p.m. Check the website for future dates and required reservations.This tour is free and you decide what, if anything, you think the tour was worth when it ends. Wheel-chair accessible.
Ghosts of Greenwich Village Tour
In addition to its “Dark Side” tour above, Free Tours by Foot offers a tour of historic haunts and streets of Greenwich Village and Chelsea. This two-hour tour includes stops and tales surrounding haunted New York University; the residence of former Mayor Jimmy Walker; Washington Square Park; the White Horse Tavern; Chumley’s; Church of St. Luke in the Fields, and more. This tour is not recommended for children.
Friday, Oct. 24; Saturday, Oct. 25; Monday, Oct. 27; Saturday, Nov.1. 7:30 p.m.
New York tour guides offer their skills and experiences on a pay-what-you-like basis. Reservations required. Click here for reservations. This tour is not wheel-chair accessible.
Wall Street Walks
Wall Street Walks takes you through the Financial District’s underworld, including haunted sites, dark alleys, cemeteries and the former home of Captain Kidd. Among the spirits you might meet along the way are those of individuals driven insane after the Great Stock Market crash, or the famous Kipp’s Bay horseman, later made famous by Washington Irving. Stops on this 90-minutes tour, covering less than two miles, include Trinity Church, the U.S. Customs House, where Herman Melville once worked, Fraunces Tavern and Hanover Square.
Fridays & Saturdays in October only, 6:30 p.m. $25 adults ($15 for seniors and students). Free for kids under 10. To buy tickets, click here. The tour is wheel-chair accessible.
Haunted Brooklyn Heights
You may know Brooklyn Heights as a family-friendly Brooklyn community. But do you also know its creepier history? On this tour offered by the Brooklyn-based Boroughs of the Dead, you’ll visit the site of a “ghost-haunted” fort and the eerie tale of what happened there, meet the Phantom Bell Ringer of Brooklyn Heights, who shattered the peace in 1901, the former house of horror master H.P. Lovecraft, and the darker side of some of the area’s oldest houses.
All the company’s tours, which mostly entail about 1.2 miles of walking in a 90-minute period, are led by working writers of horror and speculative fiction who are themselves devoted to the craft of macabre storytelling. The tours are not recommended for children.
Friday, October 24 and October 31, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Saturday, October 25, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Or inquire about future tour dates. $20 in advance, $25 at door. For tickets, go to Boroughs of the Dead website. Not recommended for those who need wheel-chair access.
Rona Cherry is an award-winning writer/editor who was friends with a world-famous ghost hunter who lived next door.