The Big Apple is always changing and growing and buzzing into the future, but under its constant innovation is a 400-year history. That’s 400 years of accidents, bar fights, and murders — statistically, there is bound to be a ghost or two floating around (insert Ghostbusters reference here). And if you know where to go, you might even share a pint with one. To get you into the spirit of the season, we’ve listed out some of the city’s spookiest bars.
- McSorley’s Old Ale House (15 East 7th Street, Manhattan)
The oldest bar in the Lower East Side is not just haunted by the misogynist rules that didn’t allow women to patronize the bar until 1970, it is also thought to have some more prestigious poltergeists.
The floors are covered in sawdust, an original wanted poster for John Wilkes Booth hangs on one wall, and occasionally Harry Houdini himself will pop in for a drink. It is believed that whenever one of the rotating cats “on staff” are seen sleeping in the window of the 160-year-old pub, that Houdini is present.
Why Houdini? A pair of handcuffs used in one of his shows is attached to the foot rail of the bar. Current owner Matthew Maher told L’Aura Hladik, author of Ghosthunting New York City, about
several spooky experiences he’s had in the pub. One night when cleaning the kitchen after close, he spotted one of the bar cats purring and arching her back as if being pet by a kind patron. But no such patron was there. Some have also reported tables being moved during the night and strange sounds coming from the bar.
It’s unconfirmed whether the haunting there is actually Houdini, but ghoulish energy can definitely be felt.
- Il Buco (47 Bond Street, Manhattan)
Everyone’s favorite 19th-century goth, Edgar Allan Poe, lived on the second floor of 47 Bond Street while he was wrapping up “The Raven.” It’s said he still helps himself to unopened bottles of wine that staff will later find half-empty but still corked in the 200-year old wine cellar.
There is a dispute as to whether the ground floor of the building was actually a tavern that Poe frequented, a furniture store, or the home of a Dr. Joel Shew. But the staff at Il Buco know these corked bottles of wine aren’t drinking themselves.
- White Horse Tavern (25 Bridge Street)
Greenwich Village is where artists, poets, and performers used to hang out, and turns out they still like to visit their old haunts. White Horse Tavern is one of the most infamously haunted places in this neighborhood.
Poet Dylan Thomas spent his last night at the tavern. During his last visit in 1953, Thomas went on a two-day drinking binge and is thought to have had his last drink (or several) at White Horse Tavern before being brought to St. Vincent’s Hospital where he died the next day.
Wait staff at the bar report to find that beer and shot glasses have gone missing from what is believed to be Thomas’ favorite table. They think he is still looking for one last drink.
- Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Manhattan)
The building that houses the Ear Inn was built in the 1700s as a private home, then became a sailors’ tavern in the mid 1800s. It’s one of New York City’s oldest bars and is known as one of its most haunted. The building has had many lives — a boarding house, smugglers den, brothel, prohibition speakeasy, and even a doctor’s office.
Spirits of lost sailors and people who drowned in the river are thought to stop in for a drink at their old watering hole. One of the most common ghostly patrons is Mickey, who was a regular in the early days of the tavern. He kills time waiting for his perpetually late ship by draining cell phone batteries, blowing fires out of the fireplace, and pinching waitresses’ behinds (rude, Mickey).
- The Campbell (15 Vanderbilt Ave, Manhattan)
This swanky bar and cocktail lounge in Grand Central Terminal was once the office of financier John W. Campbell. After Campbell’s death in the 1950s the space served as a police storage room, a jail, and was later refurbished into the bougie bar it is today.
Staff members have experienced unexplained gusts of cold air, pushes from behind, and have seen doors and taps open on their own. The ghosts that haunt the bar are said to be “friendly and fashionable.” They want nothing more than any of us after a long commute do — a drink in a cozy setting.
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- Photo courtesy of pxhere
- Photo courtesy of McSorley’s Old Ale House
- Photo courtesy of Il Buco
- Photo courtesy of White Horse Tavern Top: White Horse Tavern present day. Bottom: White Horse Tavern circa 1939)
- Photo courtesy of Ear Inn
- Photo courtesy of The Campbell