One of New York City’s most serene, beautiful green spaces also happens to be one of its most macabre. Situated over nearly 500 acres, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is just as lovely as Central or Prospect Park—which makes sense, considering that it was originally envisioned as “a rural retreat where visitors could escape the difficulties of urban living,” according to The Encyclopedia of New York City.
In its heyday, the cemetery was a huge tourist draw, one that rivaled Niagara Falls in its popularity. According to the Green-Wood Historic Fund, as many as 500,000 visitors would pass through its gates every year, “to enjoy family outings, carriage rides, and sculpture viewing in the finest of first generation American landscapes.”
Of course, now there’s more competition in the bucolic green space department; Central Park and Prospect Park both opened after Green-Wood, and see more visitors nowadays than the cemetery. But without Green-Wood, those spaces wouldn’t even exist: It was only after city officials saw how popular the cemetery was with travelers that they began envisioning similar open spaces in Manhattan, and later, Park Slope.
These days, Green-Wood is probably best known for its “famous residents”—the authors, politicians, and other New York notables who’ve chosen it as their final resting place. A short list includes Leonard Bernstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Boss Tweed, Henry Ward Beecher, and Charles Ebbets (as in the field), but there are many more—and, per the New York Times, more recent notables like Pete Hamill and Kurt Andersen have already staked their claim for the afterlife.
But for those who don’t have much interest in grave-spotting (hey, it’s not for everyone), there’s still plenty to see and do—particularly in these last days of fall, when the leaves are turning and the vibe is especially spooky. Photographer Scott Lynch recently spent a day in the cemetery, capturing some of its hidden corners; depending on your perspective, these photos may be either incredibly peaceful or incredibly creepy (or hey, maybe both!).