HARTS ISLAND


A Brief History: Hart Island also known as “the island of the dead” was named for its shape. Hart Island is located in the western end of the Long Island Sound close to the Bronx. In 1865, the federal government used the land as a prison camp for confederate soldiers. NYC Department of Corrections purchased the island in 1868 from the Hunter Family for $75,000. 131 acres of Hart Island is used as a potter’s field with mass graves. In its first year 1,875 people were buried there. The first burial there is Louisa VanSlyke. In 1870, part of the island was used to house people confined to isolation due to the yellow fever epidemic. During the later part of the 19thcentury, Hart Island was home to a charity hospital for women, an insane asylum, a school for destitute boys, and a jail. In 1900s the island housed an old mans home and tuberculosis hospital for women. It was a reformatory for males aged 16-30. Eventually the boys were transferred to another reformatory and in 1914 the jail was used to house aged male inmates due to an over flow of city jails. During WW2 the island was turned over to the navy for disciplinary barracks, for the navy, coast guard and marine personal with 2,800 service men in custody. It held the three German men that surfaced in a U-boat by long island. 1946 it was returned to the DOC and the jail was reactivated. The inmates appealed to the warden and offered to build a monument for those who were buried there. In the 1950s the department of welfare used it as housing for male derelicts and returned back to a jail in 1954. From 1955 –1961 part of the island was used for Nike missile base. In 1966, it was used for phoenix house narcotics rehabilitation. In 1976 returned back to the DOC and used as jail from 1982-91. Now it sits vacant and is not open to the public unless given permission and even then access is limited. Since its purchase in 1868, Hart Island is the final resting place for over 1 million men, women, children, babies and stillborns, as well as random body parts that cannot be identified. All buried there in mass graves with only a small marking to locate the sites. In 2020 due to the high death count of COVID-19 victims, Hart Island is being used as a temporary burial site and possible final burial site to assist with the overwhelming capacity that the mortuaries in NYC are facing.


Haunted History: Due to such a high volume of burials, mass graves, with no ceremony and the history of what this land has seen many people believe Hart Island to be haunted by many restless souls.