Of all of New York’s 1,900 public parks, Washington Square Park is one of the most popular.  Located in Lower Manhattan, it is a cultural oasis in the heart of Greenwich Village.  The park has historic sites as well as many other spots for family fun.  Washington Square Arch and the large fountain are two places that people frequently visit.  But one of the spookiest places at Washington Park is Hangman’s Elm.

Hangman’s Elm is a 300 year old tree with an urban legend that is not for the faint-hearted.  According to the legend, this 100-foot English Elm acquired it’s notorious name from the hangings that supposedly took place.  In 1824, Marquis de Lafayette saw the hanging of 20 highwaymen at this tree.  Prisoners, from Newgate State Prison, who faced the death sentence were also hung from the branches of this English Elm.

Despite all the sinister stories that were passed from one generation to the next, there are no public records of any hangings from this historic tree.  However, some people still experience a sinister feeling when they visit Hangman’s Elm.

Whether you believe in the legend of Hangman’s Elm or not, we can all agree that is a triumph that this tree stands today.  Due to pollution problems, we need more trees to purify the air that we breathe, especially in the cities.  Trees provide homes for birds, and birds eat the harmful insects that destroy trees.  Our feathered friends also eat mosquitoes that pass various diseases to humans such as Zika.  These are some examples of the many ways that trees help to protect us as well as the environment.

In this day and age of global warming, trees combat the damaging effects of climate change.  According to scientific studies, trees help to reduce warm temperatures.  As the world temperature steadily rises, we need to plant many trees in every country of the world.

As many trees are cut each year, Hangman’s Elm still exists.  Perhaps, it is the creepy legend that has helped the oldest tree in Manhattan remain.