Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Absit Omen

via Slate (go here to see image captions)

For his book North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City, photographer Christopher Payne took pictures of a little known island in the East River, a 10 minute ride from the Bronx's Barretto Park Point. The island is off limits to the public as it is now a bird sanctuary. It has been abandoned since 1963. This is one of those places with a curiously juicy past. It was Riverside Hospital between 1880 and the 1930's where patients were quarantined, originally for smallpox. Then after WWII it housed returning veterans during the housing crisis. In the 50's and 60's it was a juvenile drug treatment center, some of these patients seemed to have believed they were being held against their will, according to wikipedia, (I wouldn't be surprised if they were). It closed due to staff corruption and patient recidivism. In 1904 a steamship, General  Slocum, crashed there killing over a 1,000 people. Typhoid Mary, the first "healthy carrier" of typhoid fever in the U.S., was imprisoned housed there. She died there.

Here is a photo of what Riverside Hospital used to look like. Notice there were barely any trees then, now it's almost all forest. 

There is something so creepy about ye olde medical attitudes and treatments, and consequently the places these took place. I don't believe in ghosts but if I did I would also believe that hospitals are the most haunted places, and the older the hospital the more haunted it it, simply because of the quantity of people dying there. The creepy thing is that at one point medicine was practically on the level of play. Sure they took it all very seriously (children take their games seriously too) but looking back at medical history one cant help but get the feeling that doctors were often toying with people's lives, and knew it. I shudder to think about what kind of toying went on here. 

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