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The Creepiest Central Park Stories and Legends

Updated August 14, 2020 9.9k votes 1.6k voters 98.2k views18 items

List RulesVote up the creepiest tales about New York City's Central Park.

As with any famous landmark, there are certainly a number of creepy stories about Central Park. Coming in at 834 acres, Central Park is one of Manhattan's most iconic and bucolic attractions. It first opened in 1857, and was later reopened in 1873, after improvements designed by landscapers and architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Of the 42 million visitors the park is estimated to receive each year, not all of them can be good apples—and some of them might even be monsters.

Compiled here are the strangest true crime tales, urban legends, and lore surrounding The People's Park, including a monstrous fish, an unsolved murder, a mysterious cave, and a pair of sibling ghosts who prefer the chilliest months. If you're feeling brave, try reading this list in The Ramble after dark.

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    The Frankenfish Invaded the Waters (And Land) of Central Park

    The Frankenfish Invaded the Waters (And Land) of Central Park
    Photo: Wie146 / Wikimedia Commons

    The snakehead fish, better known for its ghastly visage as the Frankenfish, terrorized Central Park in 2013. Those who chose to fish at Harlem Meer were warned not to release a captured Frankenfish back into the wild, but rather "kill it immediately, freeze it and report your catch," according to New York magazine. While the species mainly eats frogs and crayfish—not people or pets—it is an extremely invasive species not native to New York. They can also breathe air, and are capable of surviving out of water for up to four days at a time.

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    Ghostly Siblings on Ice

    Ghostly Siblings on Ice
    Photo: www.GlynLowe.com / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Janet and Rosetta Van Der Voort are two sisters who supposedly haunt Central Park. So the story goes, their father was so protective of his daughters that the only place he let them go alone was to the Central Park Pond for ice skating. The women never married and died months apart of old age in 1880. Legend has it you can sometimes catch a glimpse of their ghosts, still wearing the same red and purple ensembles they wore decades before, skating around the pond.

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    A Terrible Murder in 1986

    A Terrible Murder in 1986
    Video: YouTube

    On August 26, 1986, 19-year-old Robert Emmet Chambers, Jr. strangled 18-year-old Jennifer Levin in Central Park. Her body was found by a passerby riding a bike near the Metropolitan Museum of Art near Fifth Avenue and 83rd Street. Chambers was arrested and nicknamed the Preppie Killer for his affluent upbringing and appearance. He was convicted of Levin's murder, despite his attempts to claim Levin's death was an accident that stemmed from rough sex.

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    The Birthplace of the Antichrist

    The Birthplace of the Antichrist
    Photo: Romain Moisescot / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    The Dakota building, located on 72nd St. in Central Park West, has had over 100 years to accumulate lore. John Lennon was tragically shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of the building on December 8, 1980 - but he is just one of many rumored ghosts, along with a young boy and girl that many have claimed to have seen. The Dakota is also where Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move at the beginning of Roman Polanski's 1968 Antichrist horror flick, Rosemary's Baby; it was called the Bramford in the film.
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