Haunted Washington Square Park

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Haunted New York

New York in autumn feels both festive and unsettled: Something about the changing weather makes us curious about the cycle of life and death. It’s the perfect time to reflect upon all the feet that have walked these streets before us, and all the eyes that have watched the city evolve. Some of these eyes seem to be watching us still. You can scarcely walk a block in Manhattan without encountering a haunted landmark.

Haunted Washington Square Park

Let's start with one of the city's most popular spots. From beatniks to folk singers, from hippies to hipsters, it seems as if Washington Square Park has always been the preferred locale for the young and cool. But next time you take your Starbucks from the NYU dining hall out to a bench in the Square, imagine a body dangling above you. This hot spot in trendy Greenwich Village was once a gallows and execution ground. And you don't know just which trees were used for public hangings. One thing's for sure: On 19th-century Sunday mornings, New Yorkers watched the dead dangle ... and then buried them in the afternoons. Many a body still lies beneath the park's famous fountain and arch.

And did we mention that, before the park was built in 1826, the Washington Square plot served as an American Indian burial ground? So the next time you’re “hanging” in Washington Square, recall those who hung there before you, and who might be lingering still.

Learn about this famous and haunted New York landmark on Project for Public Spaces. You'll get a sense of its bohemian beginnings and the current controversies surrounding its renovations and relationship with New York University. If you can't make it to the park in real life, you can always pay a virtual visit to Wasington Square Park via YouTube.

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