Dark Tourism In New York: 12 Sad, Strange & Macabre Destinations

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Last updated on July 27, 2023 by Wandering our World

The state of New York, celebrated for its dazzling lights and landmarks, conceals a mysterious and alluring other side, inviting the brave to explore its dark side.

At the heart lies New York City, an epitome of cosmopolitan life, with a hidden history rich in obscure tales. And beyond the glimmer of Times Square and Broadway, spine-chilling waypoints lurk, from haunted mansions to global tragedies.

As an intrepid traveler, delving into the mysteries and secrets becomes a thrilling pursuit, one, we highly encourage. In a city known for glamour and fashion, dark tourism has a fairly strong hold and plenty of hidden secrets waiting to be discovered!

So join us, as we seek out some of New York’s must-see dark tourism destinations.

Panoramic view of Brooklyn bridge and Manhattan at sunset, New York City
iStock.com/sborisov

The Macabre, Strange & Interesting Dark Tourism Destinations of New York

1. Ground Zero

September 11th 2001, is a date that often spikes hairs on the backs of necks. It’s a day where many can recall fearing nothing but fear, terror, and shock as they watched multiple planes slam into American landmarks across the country.

However, it was the attack on the Twin Towers (aka. World Trade Centre) that had the world aghast. Most can remember being glued to their screens, watching as the buildings caught ablaze and crumbled. Unfortunately, thousands of people lost their lives at the hands of the Al Queda terrorist group, and it’s left a notable scar on Modern day society.

The reflecting pools were dedicated to the families of those who lost loved ones to the tragedy of 9/11 and were designed by Michael Arad, an Israeli-American Architect. His vision was clear in he wanted visitors to empathise with the feeling of loss and emptiness the victims’ families felt.

As visitors come together here in silence, they also leave with a renewed sense of unity and a reminder that, in the face of darkness, the human spirit shines brightest.

Location: Greenwich St, New York, NY

Tags: Dark History; Disaster Tourism

2. Amityville Horror House

Horror fanatics will know the Amityville Horror and all its renditions all too well! But while we were once mistaken to think it was just a work of fiction, we were unpleasantly surprised to discover the truth. There’s no mystery behind it,

In 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. brutally murdered six members of his family in cold blood, converting this stereotypical Dutch-style suburban home into a house of horrors within the space of a few hours. Obviously, this tragic and senseless act of violence left behind a few restless spirits…

It was only a year later that the Lutz family hoped to call this address home, only to be chased out screaming in the night by the ghosts that haunt its halls. Their accounts of paranormal phenomena were so vivid and unbelievable that several books were written about it, and later on, a few creative renditions were turned into a film franchise.

While paying these ghostly apparitions a visit might sound like a great idea when you’re bragging to your friends about your die-hard brevity, we’d recommend some caution. Braver souls than you have entered the house and reported strange noises, visions and inexplicable cold spots.

Those who are just mindlessly brazen enough to spend the night have even woken up with a few battle scars, but everyone who has visited has made the same statement. The Amityville Horror House has a very strange aura.

Even Ed and Lorraine Warren spent a stint investigating the house. Their verdict? Definitely haunted. Oh well, it belongs to an Amityville local now, and while you can’t necessarily go wandering through for a tour (it’s called Trespassing), people still claim to get an eerie feeling just from passing by…

Location: Ocean Avenue, Amityville, NY

Tags: Paranormal; Supernatural; Dark History

3. Roosevelt Island

Located in the East River, Roosevelt Island is a serene and tranquil place that housed a rather morbid past. Don’t let the beauty fool you, there’s plenty of tragic and morbid stories that come to mind when this location is mentioned.

In the 19th century, it served as a quarantine zone to help prevent the spread of smallpox around the densely populated city.

Home to the Renwick Smallpox Hospital, now a shell of what it used to be, the island was a line of defence against a terrible pandemic that swiftly killed hundreds of men, women and children before a vaccine was discovered.

Now, the ruins of that period in New York’s history are a poignant reminder of the world’s lacklustre medical system back in the day. We say it often, but we’d hate to have come down with the sniffles in the 19th century, because the doctor probably would have prescribed a lobotomy and a dose of radium to soothe our stuffy sinuses.

 All jokes aside, though, Roosevelt Island had a significant role to play in New York’s history. And while the topic of death by smallpox isn’t entirely pleasant, we’ll remind you that it was the work done on islands like this that helped our medicines evolve into what they are today.

Besides, out of all of the dark tourism locations in New York we mention here, this is probably one of the prettiest. Plus you gain the company of the local feral cat colony to help you on your quest through the dilapidated hospital! If you’re brave enough.

Location: Roosevelt Island, New York

Tags: Paranormal; Dark History

4. Coney Island Creek

Coney Island is as much a part of New York’s travel brochure as the Empire State Building, but with a little twist. It boasts nearly 10 acres of water wonderland in the form of Coney Island Creek!

It’s the pure definition of something being engineered for failure after elaborate plans to turn the creek into a canal ran aground. Literally.

Ships were invited to sail through, but not all of them found their way back out. Cue the wrecks, the abandoned ships, and the mysterious yellow submarine! Yes, you heard it right – a yellow submarine right in the heart of Brooklyn!

Legend has it that a local shipyard worker named Jerry Bianco started building the sub over 40 years ago. His dream was to raise the SS Andrea Doria, a sunken ocean liner with valuable treasures onboard. Unfortunately, he couldn’t seal the deal and left the half-built sub stranded in the creek.

Today, it’s a quirky landmark and home to a peculiar mix of birds and crabs, living their best lives on this whimsical underwater perch. And if it weren’t for the beauty of nature reclaiming the wreckage, we can’t help but admit the whole scene is a bit creepy, or “creek”-y should we say?

Location: Coney Island

Tags: Alternative Tourism

Quester I (Yellow Submarine) Wrecked in Coney Island Creek. Built in 1967 by Jerry Bianco.
iStock.com/SergeYatunin

5. The Ghostbusters’ Firehouse

Intrepid movie fanatics will easily be able to identify the Ghostbusters’ Firehouse! After all, this iconic New York monument was the base camp for some of the most ludacris hauntings New York has ever experienced.

Albeit fake, we can’t help but reminisce on the fiendish ghouls that the members of Ghostbusters’ came up against!

From the undeniable action to the blossoming romance undertones, the original Ghostbusters films were ingrained into the memories of anyone born before the early 2000s. To say that this firehouse has since become a mecca for movie tourism would be an understatement.

It’s a thrilling curiosity that proves not all ghosts are terrifying renditions of modern-day horror! Sometimes they’re the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

But be warned, although the movies might have been entirely fiction, some rather intuitive visitors to the Firehouse claim to get eerie vibes and have encountered some ghostly apparitions. We’re not sure we believe it, but we’re willing to slap on the proton packs! Who ya gonna call? Not us, probably.

Location: 14 North Moore Street, Manhattan, New York

Tags: Paranormal; Movie Tourism

6. Kreischer Mansion

Staten Island might have the reputation of being a luscious wonderland, but beneath the plush parks and cushy demeanor, dark secrets take hold. This tale takes place at the Kreischer Mansion, but is far from a work of fiction, and will certainly build an aura that sends tingles up your spine.

The mansion was once part of a double set, but now stands alone as a tribute to a family toiled with bad luck.

Kreischer Sr. moved to Staten Island in the early 19th century, and brought with him a thriving brickworks business that eventually earned him a town name. As a gift to his heirs, the Kreischer mansions were built but tragically, his eldest passed just a year after their completion.

It seemed the family was plagued by some curse, as shortly thereafter the very business the boys were set to inherit went up in literal flames. Granted, the family tried their best to rebuild, but eventually the stress and turmoil was too much and another of the Kreischer sons killed himself in his home.

Today, only one mansion still stands, with an unsavoury reputation keeping many owners and businesses at bay. Not to mention that the Kreischer Mansion became a horrific crime scene in 2005 courtesy of one seriously irked Mafia Boss.

Needless to say, all the toils and troubles surrounding the curse of this Mansion have conjured up some ghostly apparitions and landed Kreischer Mansion a top spot in New York’s most haunted destinations.

So if you’re looking to come face to face with paranormal entities, where better to start that on the top of the poetically named Arthur Kill Road.

Location: 4500 Arthur Kill Rd, Staten Island, NY

Tags: Paranormal; Dark History

7. The Hangman’s Elm

Washington Square Park is yet another iconic destination in New York City, and it’s home to some rather ancient residents including the 300 year old Hangman’s Elm. As stunning as this colossal feat of nature is, it comes with a rather disturbing folklore that is both intriguing and repulsive to those who know it.

As the legend goes, this tree served as a gallows in the 18th and 19th century. The sturdy branches became the last sight for hardened criminals sentenced to a swift and justified end at the hands of the New York Judicial system.

While there’s no true record of this tree’s reputation, the local lore has been enough to leave a foul taste in anyone’s mouth as they walk below the blossoming branches. It’s spooky, yet charming and a big part of New York’s dark tourism scene.

Location: Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, NY

Tags: Paranormal; Dark History

8. The Ramble Cave

Walking through New York City’s Central Park often sits in the bucket list of most eager travellers. After all, the movies and stories have painted scenes of romance and joy amongst the luscious lawns!

Only, with such a historic reputation, we can’t say Central Park has always been squeaky clean and as ideological as Hollywood likes to paint it. In fact, to this day Central Park can be a treasure trove of horrors if you know where to look.

The Ramble Cave is amongst many of these hidden horrors which seamlessly blends in with the Central Park aesthetic.

Thanks to the vision of Central Park’s planners, you’d never suspect that under all that rustic natural allure sits a gaping cavern that had only been discovered upon excavation to create an artificial oasis. The planners, though shocked, were nothing if not innovative and decided to rather adjust their vision around the natural formation.

The Ramble Cave quickly became a beloved attraction, captivating the imaginations of both children and adults.

However, with popularity came notoriety, and the cave became a magnet for mischief and untoward incidents. Eventually, it was sealed off, leaving only the steps by the lake as a faint trace of its existence.

Location: Central Park, New York City, NY

Tags: Dark History, Alternative Tourism

9. The Dream House

On a lighter note, literally, The Dream House is an enchanting break from the dark and morbid, but rather a colorful delight that’s as strange as it is enigmatic.

Located in Tribeca, you’ll come across a notably black door, marked by a cryptic white sign. You might be expecting the ideal version of the White Picket Fence and 2.5 kids lifestyle, but we promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Designed in 1993, The Dream House was an innovative project taken on by a composer and artist. They aimed to create an immersive experience unlike anything seen at the time, and we’ll admit, in that regard they’ve succeeded!

Stepping through that cryptic black door won’t lead you out to Barbie’s Dream House, but rather into a setting of visual and auditory artistry.

It seamlessly blends a mesmerizing lightshow with harmonious sounds to create an environment where light and sound become one. According to the geniuses behind it, The Dream House was made to be a new form of art, and has been an inspiration to hundreds of artists to date.

So why would we consider it a form of dark tourism? Well, dark tourism serves to alter the very atmosphere you occupy, and this art piece does exactly that. It might not be grim and grotesque, but it’ll certainly steal your breath away.

Location: 275 Church St, New York, NY

Tags: Alternative Tourism

10. The Bellevue Hospital

The Bellevue Hospital was a name synonymous with rot and death that spit fear into the hearts of even the bravest New Yorkers.

Established in 1736, it stands as one of America’s oldest public hospitals, and has a rap sheet to go with it! Its origins were humble, with the hospital quickly becoming a much-needed refuge for the city’s poorest.

It didn’t bode entirely well for their reputation, and while, from the outside, Bellevue Hospital seemed more like a death sentence than a haven, it was the revolutionary facilities it housed that helped it stay afloat.

Despite their game-changing steps in the medical field, the Bellevue Hospital craved more, eventually opening a psychiatric building in 1931. This ward eventually became rather notorious, and grew to be the inspiration for many horror stories over the decades to follow.

Bellevue has since evolved into a state-of-the-art medical institution, earning a reputation for progressiveness and excellence. Yet the old psychiatric building, now abandoned, remains, reminding us that success often comes with a heavy price to pay.

Location: 462 1st Ave., New York, NY

Tags: Paranormal; Dark History

11. Houdini’s Grave

Nestled among the winding cemeteries of Queens lies the grave of the renowned escape artist and illusionist, Harry Houdini. His untimely death on Halloween in 1926 marked the end of an era for magic enthusiasts worldwide.

Of course, Houdini went out with a bang, not a fizzle, and left behind cryptic instructions that were rumored to hold messages from beyond the grave. It became a site of intrigue and on his day of death, a new tradition was created known as the Broken Wand Ceremony.

Unfortunately though, this had to be pushed into November as it attracted hoards to the cemetery around Halloween which obviously didn’t go down well with the mourning families of Houdini’s graveyard neighbours.

Unfortunately, parts of the grave have been stolen and pawned, but for the most part, it still stands as a beautiful tribute to the master of illusion!

Location: Machpelah Cemetery, New York

Tags: Grave Tourism

12. North Brother Island

North Brother Island is a place of haunting history that spans just over a century. In 1885, it became home to the Riverside Hospital which housed “Typhoid Mary”, the first asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid Fever in the US. Unfortunately, this lead to disastrous outbreaks, with many losing their lives to the disease!

But the curse of North Brother Island didn’t stop there. In 1905, it became the site of the General Slocum steamship disaster which resulted in a loss of life into the thousands.

Eventually, the hospital was transformed into a refuge for addicts and war veterans post-World War II before being closed down in 1963 and left to rot away.

Today, North Brother Island has become a serene bird sanctuary amidst the backdrop of decaying hospitals and historical significance. Oh well, if the idea of a potentially super haunted remote islands doesn’t freak you out, at least you’ll get to enjoy some sighting of the Black-Crowned Night Herons.

Location: North Brother Island

Tags: Dark History; Disaster Tourism

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  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.