If Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s FX anthology series American Horror Story has proven anything to us over the course of its six seasons and counting, other than its knack for chameleonic creepiness, it’s that these tales of terror are all about location, location, location here in the U.S.
So far we’ve gone south quite a few times: New Orleans witches for Coven, a murderous clown in Florida for Freak Show, and now a North Carolina transplant couple being faced with the reckoning of a spectral colony in Roanoke. The second season’s Asylum admitted us to a Massachusetts mental health facility. And, of course, Los Angeles was the backdrop for not one, but two seasons when we moved into Murder House and checked into Hotel. Ugh, #EastCoastBeastCoast, anyone? Yeah, let’s make that a trending topic.
Because I am an adopted New Yorker, and because I’m sick of Murphy staying in his LA backyard, I couldn’t help but wonder what a Manhattan-set edition of AHS would be like. Because of this season’s excellent execution of the real-life Roanoke Colony’s disappearence, the showrunners could pull from plenty of NYC’s haunted past and dark secrets for inspiration and I’ve decided to compile some suggestions…
The Dakota, Upper West Side
Sure, the posh and prestigious co-op building would have some parallels to Hotel. But perhaps the historic Central Park West residence, which was also the setting for the 1968 horror film Rosemary’s Baby, could be connected back to Lady Gaga’s Countess character from season five. After all, she did make mention of having lived in NYC for some time. While there, she could have lived in the storied building and had some run-ins with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Of course, Lennon was shot and killed by a fan outside the Dakota in 1980. At the time, he was living there with Ono, who has since reported seeing the Beatle’s ghost sitting at his white piano. He reassured her, “Don’t be afraid. I am still with you.”
But even before his death, Lennon was very much part of the Dakota’s ghostly lore. He was one of many to claim to have seen a spirit that has come to be known as the Crying Lady Ghost. It’s believed that she’s the ghost of former manager Elise Vesley. She was a believer in the supernatural herself and experienced the tragedy of her son getting hit and killed by a truck right outside the building. Add this to the apparition of a little girl that greets residents and Murphy has got himself the perfect menagerie for a full season’s worth of spookiness.
84 and 85 West Third Street, Greenwich Village
Let’s face it, between his birth in Boston and death in Baltimore, more places claim Edgar Allan Poe as their own than Abraham Lincoln. But the American gothic writer did call Gotham home for a bit, too. 85 West Third Street, now NYU’s Furman Hall, was Poe’s humble abode while he penned parts of his poem “The Raven.” Although all that remains of the original house is a banister, Poe has been seen by students climbing the accompanying stairs.
But Poe has otherworldly neighbors, too. Actually, Anderson Cooper now lives at 84 West Third Street and is very much alive. But before the CNN superstar anchor moved in, the building was a fire patrol station. In 1930, a Firefighter Scwartz hanged himself from the ceiling. His apparition has been seen hanging in his final state… American Horror Story: College, with special guest star Anderson Cooper, anybody?
St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, East Village
Would St Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery really be Manhattan’s second oldest church without at least one ghost? Not only is the church built on the former farmland of Dutch colonial governor Peter Stuyvesant, his remains are also buried in the churchyard. All of this adds up to peg-legged Stuyvesant’s ghost disturbing the peace as he’s been known to ring bells and disrupt church services. Oh, and don’t forget his singing hymns in Dutch for all to hear. Maybe musical numbers didn’t go over so well on Freak Show, but I don’t see Stuyvesant making it on The Voice so let’s give him a musical season of AHS.
The House of Death, Greenwich Village
I don’t know about you, but the ghosts of 14 West Tenth Street are feeling 22. Or at least that’s how many supposedly haunt the townhouse. One of them is yet another historical figure, writer Mark Twain.
But more gruesomely, the house is the site where attorney Joel Steinberg beat his six year-old, illegally adopted daughter, Lisa into being brain dead and eventually physically dead. When Lisa was fond unconscious, another baby was discovered covered in filth and tied up to a playpen. That baby survived, but the horrific history of the townhouse remains.
12 Gay Street, West Village
Apparently Manhattan ghosts prefer townhouses over apartments. But this West Village site has scarier elements than its creaking floorboards.
During the Prohibition Era, the picturesque townhouse was actually a speakeasy called the Pirate’s End, as if the establishment foreshadowed its own haunted future. A specter wearing a top hat has been seen in the windows and many believe it to be the ghost of former NYC mayor Jimmy Walker, who used to live in the house. But Howdy Doody puppet designer Frank Paris also called the now haunted house home so it could be him, too. Regardless, AHS has proven a penchant for men in top hats: see the voodoo gatekeeper of the spirit world Papa Legba in Coven and the ghost of real-life man-with-two-faces Edward Mordrake in Freak Show
The Morris-Jumel Mansion, Washington Heights
This Washington Heights mansion has plenty of historical significance, even housing George Washington for a bit after the Battle of Brooklyn. But the real eeriness surrounds Eliza Jumel, the widow of Stephen Jumel. After Stephen died under mysterious circumstances, Eliza went on to marry none other than Aaron Burr, the former vice president who killed Alexander Hamilton. Rumor has it, Eliza still haunts the mansion so beware… Especially if you’re in a group of school kids, whom she’s been known to scold to quiet down.