Hart Island
October 28, 2006 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Hart Island is a tiny island in Long Island Sound, NY. Formerly the site of a prison, it contains an active Potter's Field with over 700,000 people buried in it, a ghost town, abandoned Nike Missile silos, was the site of a Civil War POW camp, and a long-abandoned sanitarium. It's the subject of a documentary, and has guest starred in at least two movies.
posted by biscotti (19 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
An interesting post, although I have to disagree with a couple of the links that say the term "potters field" came from the bible. I'd reckon the King James translators must have used a phrase that was familiar to them when translating Matthew 27, as there were no english phrases in the original texts of the bible.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:41 AM on October 28, 2006

Great job rounding up links. I enjoyed that. I may track down the documentary some day.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:00 AM on October 28, 2006

Great post, I love reading about the forgotten corners of our world.
posted by jasenlee at 10:30 AM on October 28, 2006

Yes, nice collection of links - thanks, biscotti!
posted by carter at 10:58 AM on October 28, 2006

To the lexicon, blue_beetle!

Neat post. I love New York history.
posted by gubo at 11:00 AM on October 28, 2006

I wonder what kind of security they have there against people just boating out to the island?
posted by Vindaloo at 11:02 AM on October 28, 2006

I propose the next New York meetup be at Hart Island!

But seriously, I'd love to get out there and see this first hand, document it. Doesn't seem possible tho :(
posted by splatta at 11:12 AM on October 28, 2006

That's quite a cast on Island Of The Dead.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:35 AM on October 28, 2006

I had looked up Potters Island shortly after seeing one of the films in which it was used. As I recall, you can not just go out there on your own. As for the derivation of the name:
posted by Postroad at 11:53 AM on October 28, 2006

From one of the Wiki links to a 1967 pamphlet on the Island (.pdf):

"There are about 600,00 dead buried at Potter's Field, approximately two thirds of them infants and stillborn. Of the 8,000 burials a year, 1,500 are infants. Because interments are made on the mass level of approximately 125 a week, there can be no rites s aid over the dead at the grave sites. Despite the large number of burials, the 45-acre area of the cemetary is in no danger of being exhausted. Custodial forces are authorized to reuse burial ground after 25 years, sufficient time for the complete decay of the original remains. Currently, they are using ground which has not been used for forty years."
posted by HyperBlue at 11:59 AM on October 28, 2006

600,00 =600,000 (c.1967)
s aid = said (1:59 PM CST on October 28)
posted by HyperBlue at 12:02 PM on October 28, 2006

I never heard of a potter's field before...Spooky.
posted by daninnj at 12:11 PM on October 28, 2006

Nike has missiles? Yikes. I never knew they were that powerful...

(but seriously, nice post)
posted by COBRA! at 1:36 PM on October 28, 2006

My best friend lives in Manhattan, cant wait to send her these links. Thanks, excellent post.
posted by BillsR100 at 6:00 PM on October 28, 2006

I'd love to get out there and see this first hand, document it. Doesn't seem possible tho

Hmmm, I wonder. Maybe you could convince one of the swarthy sea-goin' types on nearby City Island to ferry you over there! At any rate, City Island is a pretty interesting place to see in itself.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:45 PM on October 28, 2006

Primarily, those interred on Hart Island are not vagrants and alcoholics from Skid Row, as hearsay has it, but people who worked hard during their lifetimes just to "keep their heads above water," and could not afford the expenses of private funerals.

There's a testimony to the Land of the Brave and the Home of the Free. You work hard all your life, and all you've got to look forward to is an unmarked pauper's grave.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:24 AM on October 29, 2006

It's also a testimony to the fact that a lot of people simply don't care what happens to their remains after they die.

One problem with Hart Island is that unidentified persons were buried there along with those who couldn't afford a snazzy cemetery plot. Some of the unids were murder victims and the like. The cataloguing of remains wasn't done anywhere near as well as that website implies; I know of five cases where people who are looking for their missing relatives don't know if they're dead or not because remains that *might* have been their loved ones have gone missing on Hart Island. Four of those are likely murder victims.
posted by watsondog at 3:09 PM on October 29, 2006

Fantastic post.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:52 PM on October 30, 2006

Brilliant stuff. If there are no ghosts here, ghosts do not exist. And there are no ghosts here.
posted by supremefiction at 11:06 AM on October 31, 2006

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