New York's Island of Lost Souls: The largest mass burial site in America where more than 1 MILLION nameless adults and babies are laid to rest in trenches dug by inmates (50 Pics)

  • Hart Island is a small strip of land off the coast of the Bronx which has functioned as a New York City burial ground for nearly 150 years

  • The island has hosted everything from a rehab center to a workhouse to a Nike missile site during its history 

  • Hart Island is run by the Department of Correction, and inmates from Rikers Island are driven over from the prison to bury the city's dead - earning 50 cents per hour

  • Trenches are left open until they are filled with the coffins of 150 adults or 1000 babies buried in pine boxes

  • The island has been plagued by vandalism and erosion, resulting in exposed bones; the government allocated more than $13million after Hurricane Sandy to facilitate a cleanup

  • Access to the island is severely restricted; relatives of the dead are only allowed to visit on one designated day per month and must register beforehand, sign a waiver and relinquish phones and digital devices

  • Many New Yorkers have no idea that Hart Island exists, and many people do not realize that their relatives ended up in mass graves at the burial site

  • The identities of those buried on Hart Island reflect New York City's diversity, ranging from drug addicts to academics to stillborn babies and accident victims

  • Artist Melinda Hunt has spent decades advocating on behalf of the Hart Island dead, starting a nonprofit that aims to strip away the anonymity and memorialize the people buried there

  • The Hart Island Project's Traveling Cloud Museum lists the dead and maps their burial plots, offering families a chance to share the stories of their lives

  • Hart Island, off the coast of the New York City borough of the Bronx, is reached by ferry from City Island; here, a ferry carries inmates from Rikers Island on a trip to bury the city's dead

    Once the inmate bus and morgue trucks leave the ferry dock, they travel past abandoned buildings on the island - which has housed everything from a rehab center to a hospital during its history - as well as past white markers denoting mass graves

    Inmates, accompanied by armed Department of Correction officers, unload coffins from the morgue truck and transfer them into pre-dug trenches, which are left open until they are filled with 150 adults or 1,000 babies

    The inmates assisting in Hart Island burials are paid 50 cents an hour for their work; many New Yorkers have no idea that the island serves as the city's burial site or that prisoners bury the city's dead

    Vandalism has not been uncommon on Hart Island over the years, though - as property run by the Department of Correction - it is technically closed to the public and even relatives of the dead can only visit at certain times 

    Hart Island is located a short ferry ride from City Island in the borough of the Bronx

    Canadian artist Melinda Hunt first visited the island for a photography project three decades ago and became dedicated to identifying the people buried there and advocating for change at the burial site; this photo shows an adult mass grave in 1992 

    Activist: Melinda Hunt is the driving force behind the Hart Island Project

    Memoriam: A display of large collaborative works by artist Melinda Hunt of the Hart Island Project and photographer Joel Sternfeld are seen here on April 2, 2014

    Data: Copies of historic records found in the municipal archives are seen here on dispaly

    Family: Vicki Pavia, seen in this book, has a child buried on Hart Island

    MJ Adams, who gave birth to a stillborn boy name Juan Carlos Gabard, spent 20 years trying to find the location of her son's grave after being told he would be 'buried with other babies'

    CAROL ANN MORGAN AND JOE CANONICO: Siblings who doted on each other and found resting places nearby - albeit on Hart Island - unbeknownst to their extended family

    Carol Ann Morgan, center, is remembered by her cousin, Brooklyn resident Marguerite Vigliante, as a 'beautiful little personality' who moved in with her brother following her mother's death

    Extended family lost track of Carol Ann, fourth from left, following her brother's death; they thought she had been living with his girlfriend but then learned she had died in an institution in 2008 and was buried on Hart Island

    Carol Ann's older brother Joe, pictured as a child in Brooklyn, was also buried on Hart Island following his death in 2003

    Brooklyn woman Marguerite Vigliante says that, before she found out her cousins were buried on Hart Island, she hadno idea that it functioned as the city's potter's field

    BABY JUAN CARLOS GABARD: The beloved stillborn son of a mother who spent 20 years searching for his grave - only to find that visitation was not allowed

    MJ Adams, who now works as a chef in South Dakota, was nine months pregnant and past her due date when she was told doctors could no longer find a heartbeat; she consented to burial on Hart Island without realizing she would not be allowed to freely visit her son's grave

    MJ spent 20 years trying to discover the exact location of the resting place of her son, who she named Juan Carlos Gabard; the ferry that takes inmates and visitors - separately - to Hart Island leaves from the end of this residential street

    The efforts of Melinda Hunt, who started the nonprofit Hart Island Project, eventually led to the identification of the plot in which Juan Carlos was buried on Hart Island

    MJ still cherishes the sonogram of her son,  but finds the hurdles to vising his grave - registration, a ferry trip and Department of Correction chaperones - to be daunting

    MJ finally got the chance to visit her son's grave in 2014; she was one of the first relatives to do so since the island was closed to the public in the 1970s. Because she was not allowed to take photos, she gathered some dirt from his gravesite, which she keeps displayed in her bedroom to feel close to him

    Relatives visiting the island have to sign a waiver warning that any trips are taken at their own risk – absolving the Department of Correction of ‘exposure to dangerous chemicals, wild animals, collapsed building structures, spikes or pikes in the ground, or large or small holes’

    A 2013 report from New York’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner assessed the shoreline of the northern portion of the island and found human remains ‘eroding from the cliff banks in numerous locations;’ this photo shows exposed bone that was visible in 1992

    Describing the island - which hosts this Department of Correction compound - MJ Adams says: ‘I don’t want to say soulless … but it’s just empty – which is how I kind of felt: empty. Which I always will be’

    OCTAVIA AND LORD BALTIMORE KINARD: The church-going Brooklyn grandparents killed in a house fire and given a city burial as their grandson fought for his life

    O'Justin Kinard and his mother, Carrie, are mourning the loss of her parents Octavia and Lord Baltimore Kinard, who died in a November 2015 fire at the family's home in Brooklyn

    Carrie, right, recalls the love her father, Lord, (left) had for singing; he had relocated as a young man to New York from South Carolina and spent years working for Domino Sugar to support his wife and two children

    Octavia Kinard was very active in the ushering program at her church; her daughter consented to her parents' burial on Hart Island following their tragic death because she was at her son's side as he fought for his life after suffering severe burns in the house fire

    EVELYN LETFUSS: The former UN interpreter who took her own life and wanted to donate her body to science - only to end up in a Hart Island grave

    Evelyn Letfuss, a native of Austria, led an international life and worked as a translator at the United Nations in New York before she took her own life in 2015

    Evelyn, left, had wanted to donate her body to science but it was not eligible; her husband, David Eber, was so distraught that he consented to a city burial - and took his own life not long after

    When the couple's nephew, David Eber, realized where Evelyn, right, had eventually been buried, he arranged an exhumation and scattered both her ashes and those of his uncle, left, in the Atlantic Ocean

    JACK ALAGONA: The charismatic brother who succumbed to drug addiction after a decades-long struggle - and was buried on Hart Island by a system that never even notified his sister

    New Jersey resident Sally Alagona holds the First Communion picture of her brother, Jack, who died on June 6, 2014 and was buried on Hart Island before anyone notified her of his death - despite the fact they had the same last nam

    Jack Alagona served in the Navy before he fell victim to drug addiction; his family tried for years to get him help but their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful

    She says of Hart Island: 'Even if I hadn't reunited him with my mom, I would never have left him there. Because for me, it was a sign of being a forgotten, lost soul'

    Sally Alagona says she believes the Hart Island Project 'might bring a little bit of closure and a little bit of comfort to family members or friends'

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    New York's Island of Lost Souls: The largest mass burial site in America where more than 1 MILLION nameless adults and babies are laid to rest in trenches dug by inmates (50 Pics) New York's Island of Lost Souls: The largest mass burial site in America where more than 1 MILLION nameless adults and babies are laid to rest in trenches dug by inmates (50 Pics) Reviewed by Your Destination on October 14, 2017 Rating: 5

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