Monsters, Madness and Mayhem: The Mount Misery Story!
Mount Misery is the tallest point on Long Island and a place where several towns intersect. Millions of commuters pass it each day on the Long Island Expressway and Northern State Parkway as their journey to and from New York City, blissfully unaware of the rich and somewhat sorted history of the place. Just on the Suffolk side of the Nassau and Suffolk County line, Mannetto Hill Road is the western border, while Walt Whitman Road borders the Mount on the eastern side. Mount Misery begins just off of Old Country Road on its southern side and ends at Jericho Turnpike to the north. Although it’s only a little over fives in distance end to end in almost any direction, a lot of history is packed into those miles. Not all of it is the kind you would want to see taught in school.
THE BEGINNING OF A NIGHTMARE
Settled in the late 1600’s, the Mount was the site of a Revolutionary War skirmish and home to Walt Whitman, one of America’s greatest poets. More like a large hill, the Mount is the highest point on mostly flat Long Island at an unremarkable 400 feet above sea level. The traditional site of the high point is marked on Jayne’s Hill by a large stone in West Hills Park. Once rolling meadows, the planting of trees has obscured a view that extended to Fire Island in one direction and Connecticut in the other.
There are no signs saying, “Welcome to Mount Misery.“ It’s simply a name that the area is known by and one which owners of historic and well-heeled homes wish would go away. There have been many attempts to change the name of Mount Misery Road to a more pleasant designation, but all have failed thanks to powerful historical societies who appreciate the past. That doesn’t mean they necessarily like discussing some of the more controversial elements of area history and that includes the name.
Those who wish to avoid the more sorted origin of the term MOUNT MISERY may simply repeat what many historians say:
At least two of the five original Native American Tribes that existed on Long Island considered the area taboo. Notations that I’ve seen in journals from some of the area’s oldest Churches indicate that Indians were fearful of the area. They believed that negative forces were at work. Taking the appearance of odd lights on various parts of the Mount as a bad omen, those who did journey through that area sometimes found dead and mutilated animals. A few early settlers experienced much the same thing, finding their cattle or horses dead and strangely mutilated after odd lights were seen in the sky.
Depending on which historical narrative you believe:
Since the Mount offered little in the way of farming opportunities, most of the first non-native people to arrive there settled in more promising locales around it. The Mount became a crossroads and travel route to save building roads through good farmland. The Peace and Plenty Inn was established in the late 1600s and still stands today at 107 Chichester Road. A favorite stop for Theodore Roosevelt two centuries later, the Inn was originally a center of social life and activities for early settlers and travelers. A school, mills that took advantage of natural streams and other small enterprises followed later.
Treatment for the mentally ill once consisted entirely of locking away those considered mad or unable to function well in polite society. Sometime in the early 1700’s a small asylum was built somewhere in the center part of the Mount, away from any homes, business establishments or farms. Because workers were poorly compensated and lacked any training to deal with the insane or mentally disabled, the conditions were said to be atrocious. Patients were beaten or completely ignored.
Everyone on the Mount, and even farmers in areas surrounding it, could hear the miserable cries of the mistreated and insane during the early part of each day and well into every night. This cemented the Mount Misery moniker already used by locals to describe the area. After just ten years of operation, the asylum was destroyed by fire with all the staff and residents trapped inside. Although the fire was considered suspicious, no one was ever charged for setting it and no one offered a confession; but all were glad to see the asylum gone! Or was it?
This next part of the story is based on the testimony of a local named Daniel (no last name mentioned) to British Authorities (before the American Revolution), as well as their own findings based on other, unnamed sources. He was the Sexton (a church handyman and grounds keeper) at a church in what today would be Melville. Denomination not listed. I found this little gem in a second hand book I purchased about Mount Misery. It was written by John Keel. It was not part of the text, but found on four old photocopies of four handwritten documents connected to an inquiry by the British Authorities (specific location of the inquiry not listed and they were undated). The photocopied pages were folded and placed in the pages of the book.
Two of the photocopies appeared to be some sort of abbreviated summary of their investigation. The other two were the testimony of the Sexton. Daniel stated that he met a former asylum worker who was like a nurse. She came into the church to pray. Thinking there was no one around, the "nurse" called on God to forgive her for her part in the "appalling tragedy" on the Mount. She finished praying and headed for the door only to find Daniel cleaning in that area. Sure he heard her prayer, so the"nurse" told him that she worked at the Asylum. Then, she made it clear she had nothing to do with the fire. He did not believe she was telling the truth and reported the incident to the authorities.Hold on... Here is where it really gets good.
CAREGIVER OR HOMICIDAL MANIAC
As I tried to read the documents it became clear that this was NOT an inquiry into the original Asylum fire. It was an inquiry into a second fire that occurred three years after the first. In the summary it was mentioned that the Asylum was rebuilt two years after it burned down. That didn't mean that mentally disabled residents received better treatment and the British Authorities made it clear that no one had given permission for a rebuilt. They tried to locate the "nurse" after the first fire based on what the Sexton told them. No luck. However, she suddenly appeared in the church again just after the second fire when no one except the Sexton was there. Once again she prayed for forgiveness for her "appalling" behavior.
The summary ended with the British Authorities finding the "nurse" likely responsible for both fires. The inquiry really had no teeth, but it would have been turned over to a judge and prosecutor for further action. British Law states that a suspect may be considered GUILTY until proven INNOCENT. There are no records indicating what ever happened to the nurse.
HOW MANY MARYS DOES IT TAKE TO SCARE THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF LONG ISLANDERS?
Mary's Grave... The mere mention of this frightening legend sends chills down a Long Islander's spine. The problem is that the legend has Mary's final unresting place in at least six different locations: Mount Misery, Head of the Harbour, Amityville, St James, Mount Sinai and Stony Brook. Each place comes with it's own story, but none of them have a happy ending.
The Mount Misery MARY has her part of some great family tragedy. Many believe the the old ruin located on the Mount was home to Mary and is still cursed today. They believe her grave is right behind or next to the house. If children go there at night she will kill them (so says the story). More likely it was invented to keep kids like I once was from nosing around looking for weirdness in all the wrong places; namely, dangerous places for kids. However, many researchers agree that there really was a MARY on Mount Misery and she may have lived in the ruined house. P> Rather than kill children, this Mary lamented the loss of her husband at sea. She always had a candle burning in the window at night and prayed for his safe return. When she found out he died, she committed suicide. People claim they still see a candle burning in the window of the ruins every so often and that entering the house brings bad luck.
When I gave a seminar at a library in that area in 1991, a man named Robert came up to me and said he had some information about Mary's Grave on the Mount. He went to the ruins with a friend. They hung out, drank beer and laughed about the legend: "The only thing scary was the warm beer we were drinking."
The next day he told me that his friend was diagnosed with cancer after a routine medical exam conducted earlier revealed a possible cancerous growth. He barely survived and endured several years of painful treatments. Then, within four months, Robert found himself homeless and sleeping on the couch if relatives for over a year. He did not supply all the details, but said that he had a great job, lots of money in the bank and a house easily worth over $250,000. He finally got back on his feet after nearly two years. Curse? Or just bad financial management? Curse? Or just too much smoking and alcohol?
Other MARYS were rumoured to have been burned as witches, abused or killed by their mothers or fathers, possessed by evil spirits, driven to murdering her family with an axe, hung, stabbed and shot. My fav and likely untrue story is that Mary was the daughter of a wealthy landowner who built her a stone playhouse on his property. Having few human friends, she could go there and play with her animals. Legend has it that she somehow became possessed, then began mutilating the animals. After all the animals were dead, she went after her brother and father with an axe. People began missing the brother and father, so they came to his property. They supposedly found Mary sleeping in bed next to their dead bodies!
WAS MARY REALLY THAT CONTRARY ??? Let's inject a little logic here. Mary was a very popular name, especially if you were religious. In those days people dabbled in Alchemy which, in some cases, ended up slowly poisoning them. The end result was either an early death or horrendous behavior. Then, there was Syphilis and other social diseases that destroyed the brain and no antibiotics (as yet) for treatment. Men were given Carte Blanche to whip and hit their wives for nothing more than dinner being late or the children misbehaving. I believe there were several Marys involved in tragic situations or criminal behavior. I also believe that these situations probably had conventional, rather than supernatural explanations.
NOT THE BEST WAY TO GET A HEAD
The Twentieth Century did nothing to help the Mount’s reputable. Between 1900 and 1910 a number of people traveling through the area vanished. Horrified local residents began to report seeing a disheveled man walking through part of the Mount with an axe and a basket of disembodied human heads! The disappearances, and possible homicides, were never solved. The Head Hunter was never captured. People reported seeing the man with his basket of gruesome contents for years afterward. Some local residents swear he was still living somewhere in the area and committing murders right up through the 1930s. However, this may be an urban legend since it's almost impossible to verify. Supernatural explanation?
In 1978 I spoke with a young man who heard I was on the Mount with two friends collecting information for my research and an article. I interviewed a friend of his earlier that day. He saw us taking pictures and asked if we were the people interested in unusual occurrences on or near the Mount? After I told him we were, he shared me a frightening story with us. Less than two months ago he was power walking on Sweet Hollow Road when he saw what he thought might be someone in distress. It was an older man sitting on the side of the road wearing out of date and unseasonable clothes better suited for winter than a muggy summer on the Mount.
After the young man stopped to ask if he was alright, the older man got up and said, "Thank you for asking Cousin. " Then, without saying another word, he grabbed an axe propped up against a tree and a basket he was hiding behind his back and walked away. The older man was accompanied by a hideous odor. The young man watched as he walked into the trees and vanished into thin air. He knew about the legend of the Head Hunter, so the young man purposely avoided looking at the basket. Realizing he had some sort of a paranormal experience, he thought it best to keep it to himself. The young man eventually told his wife and the friend I mentioned earlier, but that was it.
Here are some unusual Mount occurrences that are not urban legends and occur on a fairly regular basis. There are stories of ghost cars, ghost people and ghost animals. People have seen and been chased by a dark, black car that looked like an older Lincoln Continental, except it only had two doors. As soon as it would make a turn down a dead end road, the car would disappear. It can suddenly show up behind or in front of someone's vehicle and gives off a threatening vibe. To date, no one has seen the driver.
People have claimed that they were chased by a large, vicious looking dog. It's always dark brown and black like a Shepherd, but has an unusually long snout and has a mouth like a Sabre Tooth Tiger. Witnesses say it would catch up to them, then either vanish or run "through" them only to fade into nothing. Witnesses have also seen people like the HeadHunter and hooded figures.
AND THEY PROBABLY DIDN'T ACCEPT BLUE CROSS
Just when everything seemed to be settling down on the Mount, the government decided to build a military hospital there at the start of World War II. According to witnesses who worked at the infirmary, the structure was imposing for a compact facility. Just four stories high, it could only accommodate about 150-200 patients, but everything was state of the art for that time. Designed as a special use facility, soldiers brought there were those who required multiple surgeries, long term care and extended recovery. It was thought that the peace and quiet of the Mount would be perfect for such a facility, but the need for it was overestimated.
No more than 75 soldiers were ever treated in the hospital at one time. By the end of World War II, the facility had become obsolete and too expensive to remain open. After remaining staff members were either transferred or laid off, the hospital was closed and boarded up. But then something strange happened. In 1947 the hospital showed signs of reopening. Boards came off the windows and crews cleaned the place up. Cars and people came and went during all hours of the day and night, but no one in uniform could be seen. From 1947 until 1955, the hospital came under the control of some unknown government agency. Although I have been unable to locate a single person who worked there during that time that is willing to talk about it, I may have discovered what the facility was being used for...
Some declassified government documents speak of experiments that the CIA and various Military Intelligence Services carried out involving mind altering drugs. It was no secret that the government was concerned about brain washing techniques developed by the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans. To better understand mind control procedures and possibly develop medicinal defenses against brain-washing, military personnel were given various amounts of mind-altering drugs with and without their knowledge.
While investigating paranormal phenomenon in the area of the Mount during the 1970’s, I started to look into its history. More then a few people mentioned and recalled the military hospital that existed there during the war, but all said it had been closed in 1945. A few recalled some unexplained government use of the facility from the late 1940’s well into the 1950’s, but could offer no details.. One man who has since passed away could.
He told me that he became strangely ill while an Officer at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He experienced bizarre hallucinations and went from being perfectly healthy to gravely ill. The Officer was transported to the hospital on Mount Misery. He recalls being there, but little else. “It was like being in a constant dream state. I never felt fully awake. I was constantly fatigued…tired. They kept giving me medicine.”
He was kept there for five months. Then in one twenty-hour period, he suddenly recovered. Restricted to just one small set of rooms in the facility, he never saw more then five people. “They were dressed like doctors and nurses, but had no insignia or military identification. When he was taken out of the hospital through a back service porch, he saw a sign that read, AREA 5. When the Officer arrived back at Fort Bragg, he made some very discreet inquiries. A friend and intelligence officer told him that Area 5 had something to do with Psychological Warfare experimentation and that he should not ask any more questions.
A few years later, the Officer retired and decided to go back to Long Island to see if the hospital was still open. It had been closed and sealed by that time. But as he asked locals about the facility, they claimed to see lights and hear noises coming from the facility late at night and early in the morning. More then a few people phoned local Police saying that they heard men’s voices coming from inside the old building and calling for help. I was told the same thing whenever I asked those living in the area about the old military hospital.
The Officer eventually decided to live in nearby Melville and that’s how we crossed paths. He came out to a local talk I was giving on the paranormal during the time I was investing the Mount in the late 1970s. The so-called Haunted Hospital was torn down in the mid 1970s after a couple of kids got injured when they broke into the decrepit building and fell down an old elevator shaft. Today you can still see the stone steps leading up to where the building was, but they’re tough to find.
Although reported for years, UFO sightings began in earnest on Mount Misery in the 1960’s. At least that’s when people started to report them. More than a few teens who went there for some park and spark in the woods reported seeing disc shaped objects landing and taking off. Others described seeing a ‘second moon’ in the sky, but UFOs may have been the least weird things seen on the Mount in those days.
A FLYING NIGHTMARE
Several people claim to have seen or had contact with a sort of flying monster with glowing red eyes known as The Mothman Although barely mentioned in John Keel’s timeless classic, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, the creature’s Long Island visits occurred on a fairly regular basis in and near a small cemetery just off of Sweet Hollow Road. In case you’re wondering what I think of the Hollywood’s Mothman film, don’t waste your time. It’s a mere shadow of the book and concentrates more on the Mothman sightings and encounters in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. If you want a comprehensive look at these Mothman appearances, please go here
Along with sightings of the creature at Mount Misery, there were sightings of and encounters with men dressed in dark suits who most call the Men In Black.
THE MEN IN BLACK ARE BACK (NOT ANOTHER FILM SEQUEL, THE REAL ONES!)
The late 1970’s brought a new round of UFO and M.I.B. sightings and encounters. Fortunately, I was able to spend a good deal of time investigating those incidents. A very sane looking woman who lived in a large home on the Mount claimed she had been sucked out of her second story by a UFO. It was interesting to note that when I saw the window it looked as if the frame had been somehow burned out of position, and placed neatly on the ground some twenty-five feet below without breaking a single piece of glass.
This reminded me of the time that Whitley Strieber (author of COMMUNION) told me he had been taken out of his New York City apartment by UFO Occupants. They apparently managed to remove a window several stories up, placing it against his bed without so much as a crack in the glass.
The woman that claimed she was sucked out of her window was later visited by two MIB’s who she claimed told her to shut up about the incident. The MIB’s weren’t alone. Dark colored helicopters and planes constantly over flew the Mount during my time there in the 1970’s. On several occasions, National Guard Troops suddenly decided to hold maneuvers in the woods. At least that's who we think they were. Afterward, we found an empty metal ammunition box right where they had been, but no spent shells.
WHAT ARE THEY HIDING ???
In the late 1980’s, during yet another flap of UFO sightings and Encounters, whole sections of the West Hills Park and other parts of the Mount were sealed off. Large concrete barriers were erected and debris dumped at access points to open or undeveloped areas to keep people and off road vehicles out. Without explanation, police started showing up on weekends to keep idle UFO watchers and those bent on exploring the Mount as far away from the area as possible.
NO WONDER BEEF PRICES WENT UP
Animal mutilations sometimes occur in conjunction with UFO sightings. In 1989 I received a call from an employee working at Bethpage Village Restoration, just a short distance from the Mount. This is a place where many of Long Island’s most historic homes have been relocated to create an environment that illustrates what life was once like in the area during the 1700’s and 1800’s. During what seemed like a national outbreak of odd cattle deaths and mutilations, he told me that several animals in the Bethpage Restoration had been killed and strangely mutilated.
My investigation showed that at least two cows had met untimely and unlikely deaths in the Restoration Village. This clearly followed a trend of animal mutilations occurring in conjunction with UFO sightings in the area going all the way back to the Native Americans.
Although nobody had planned it that way, a large community Library in the area of the Mount asked me to come and present one of my UFO Seminars in 1991 just around the time of the mutilations and when UFO sightings in the area were making news. There were far more requests for seating then seats and I spent hours answering questions after my seminar. I’m sure that I gained as much information from the stories people told me as I gave out on that day. Although my seminar set a record for attendance at that Library for any event they’ve ever had, I will never be speaking there again. The Librarian in charge of programs told me that she had been warned by important people in the community not to have me back.
Mount Misery is just one of those places that can’t seem to quietly fade into history. People move there in hopes of getting away from the craziness of New York City that’s less than! an hour away, only to find the Mount’s own version of lunacy. You can’t draw conclusions about a place like that, you can just have the time of your life studying it! Oh yeah, Amityville: Mount Misery Road ...Really? If you want to be scared visit the thing.
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