You won’t find Hart Island on a New York subway map or even in the city’s official bicycling maps. In fact, very few living New Yorkers have ever even caught a glimpse of the area that’s home to the largest mass grave site in the United States. The city of New York has tried to hide the island from the public and trespassing is taken very seriously by local authorities. Even the ferry to the Island was shut down in 1976.
Located just a stone’s throw away from the Bronx, this island is currently a dumping ground for deceased New Yorkers whose bodies haven’t been claimed by family members. To add to the macabre nature of it all, the bodies are dumped in trenches by Riker’s Island prison inmates, who often construct makeshift coffins to mark the graves. Astonishingly, it’s been estimated that between 750,000 to a million people have been buried there since the Civil War. The current population of New York is around 8 million.
The mass cemetery is also used to bury amputated body parts. We thought you should know that.
“The Island of the Dead”, as it’s often referred to, houses an abandoned prison and woman’s insane asylum, which are both still standing today. In fact, there’s almost nothing about this island’s history that isn’t creepy. There were several prisoner of war camps built there and then, in the 1870s, the island was used to quarantine people who contracted Yellow Fever. This place makes Shutter Island look like Mr. Rodgers neighborhood.
Toiling in these dark and gloomy environs, prisoners who work on Hart island report feeling like people are watching them. Others have seen figures and heard voices screaming in the abandoned buildings. In one of these abandoned structures, the whispers of children have been reported.
Get out the sleeping bags!