Behind the Scenes - Hart of Madness

Statue of Liberty waves her torch in front of Ellis Island

Hart Island Google Earth Aerial shot

Brooklyn Bridge

Hart Island Pavilion, former home
of Women’s Lunatic Asylum

Brown Building at NYU, formerly Asch Building, where Triangle fire occurred

Hart Island Records Room in ruins

Northern Dispensary, founded 1827, Greenwich Village

Department of Corrections Sign at Hart Island

CO Bigelow Pharmacy, dates to 1838, Greenwich Village

Hart Island potter’s field tombstone

Corner Bleecker and Macdougal Streets, Greenwich Village

Hart Island Google Earth view
shows trenches for burials

I first became aware of Hart Island when I chanced across an article in the New York Times called, “Unearthing the secrets of New York’s mass graves“.

I was stunned to learn that right off the coast of the Bronx, were the bodies of over a million poor souls, buried since the mid-19th century, and still being interred there. Besides the colossal potter’s field, this tiny island held an incredible history on its shores. It was once home to a prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers, a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, a boys’ reformatory, and a women’s lunatic asylum.

The more I read about Hart Island, the more I realized it would make a perfect setting for my next book. What more sinister location than a women’s lunatic asylum around the turn of the 20th century?

The buildings on Hart Island are now ruins. The cemetery, however, is still very much alive. Bodies of indigents, poor and homeless, and those who have slipped through the cracks, are routinely buried in long trenches by inmates on Rikers Island. Sadly, many are babies, whose fates were determined long before they were born.

VIDEO: New York allows rare glimpse of its potter’s field cemetery

Hart Island is still in the news today as the grim stories of bones emerging have made headlines.

The Hart Island Project developed by Melissa Hunt has enabled families who believe they may have a loved one buried on the Island, to visit the gravesite. Tracking down the information is not easy, however. Ferries from City Island carry family members to the cemetery on regularly scheduled days.

I have included a few photos from various websites of what remains of the crumbling Hart Island institutions.