New York is home to some pretty fascinating abandoned locations, many of which tend to a have dark and unpleasant history. Off limits to the public, this one island on the East River is now only home to collapsing ruins that have walls we wish could talk. Best not to be read before bed, let’s find out what the dense forest on North Brother Island is hiding:
In 1885, North Brother Island first became inhabited when New York City’s Riverside Hospital was relocated here.
Founded in the 1850s, the hospital treated smallpox and would later end up treating many other quarantine diseases that struck the United States. Its original location was on what is now known as Roosevelt Island.
In 1904, New York City experienced its largest loss of life when the steamship General Slocum caught on fire.
The majority of the boat’s passengers were women and children that were German immigrants living in New York City. The boat caught fire near North Brother Island and would eventually wash up on the shores. Staff from the hospital did their best to help rescue as many people as possible, but over a thousand passengers of the General Slocum ship would die in this tragedy. Stories of dysfunctional life jackets haunt the surrounding waters of the island, just one of the several tales that contribute to the unsettling history here. A memorial for the lives that were lost can currently be found in Tompkins Square Park, the largest loss of life the city had experienced until September 11th, 2001.
The most well-known resident to ever call North Brother Island home was the infamous Mary Mallon AKA Typhoid Mary.
In the early 1900s, an Irish cook named Mary Mallon would reportedly go on to work for a number of families within New York, nearly all of which ended up contracting typhoid fever. While Mary claimed until her death that she was not a carrier of the typhoid disease, she is now known in history as America’s first asymptomatic carrier. Shortly after working for a new family, someone within the household would come down with symptoms of the typhoid fever and Mary would leave to find a new family to work for. Strange, right? After concern grew and an investigation took place, Mary Mallon would eventually earn the name
and would be forced against her will to be confined to North Brother Island. After spending three miserable years on the island, Mary would be released on the condition that she
work in a kitchen again and change her profession. Quickly after Mary left the island, she disappeared.
Five years later Mary would meet an unfortunate fate once again. After going against the conditions of her release, she would take up a job working as a cook in a hospital. Yes, this woman who was clearly infectious and told not to work in a kitchen ever again somehow wound up making her way into a hospital kitchen. In 1915, Sloan Maternity Hospital would experience a typhoid outbreak that would infect over twenty people and left two hospital workers dead. Typhoid Mary was inevitably forced to return to North Brother Island where she would remain until her death 23 years later.
The saddening history doesn’t end there, in the 1950s North Brother Island would become the place of a juvenile drug rehabilitation center.
Claiming to be the first of its kind, the center offered education and rehabilitation treatment to young drug addicts. Many of the residents brought here felt that they were being treated in an inhumane manner, leaving upset spirits behind on the island. The rehabilitation center wouldn’t remain open long, closing in the 1960s after it was clear that patients weren’t making the strides they should’ve been and that staff corruption was taking place.
To date, the island is off limits to everyone and is now only home to New York’s wildlife and the old crumbling buildings that have managed to remain. Out on the water? You can find North Brother Island out between the Bronx and Rikers Island on the East River.
Freaked out by the history of this New York location? Check out this incredible aerial footage of the island that will amaze you:
Who knew so much history was hiding in the dense forest of this one island in New York? To see more fascinating but grim drone footage,
click here to view footage from another one of our abandoned islands.