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 a mile in distance end to end in any direction, a lot of history is packed into that mile and not all of it is the kind you would want to see taught in school.|
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 tradition 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 once extended to Fire Island in one direction and Connecticut in the other.
Walt Whitman’s Birthplace //////// Jayne’s Hill in West Hills Park
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 sorted aspects of area history and the origin of the name.
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 strange lights were seen in the sky.
Since the Mount offered little in the way of farming opportunities, most of the first non-native people to arrive there settled on 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.
The Peace and Plenty Inn
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. The area quickly became known as Mount Misery. After just ten years of operation, the asylum was destroyed by fire and never rebuilt. Although the fire was considered suspicious, no one was ever sought for setting it and no one offered a confession. But all were glad to see the asylum gone!
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 a basket of disembodied human heads! Although the murders were never solved and the head collector 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.
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 over-estimated.
No more then 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 and 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 1970s. The so-called Haunted Hospital was torn down in the late 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 then 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.
Mothman Statue, Point Pleasant, West Virginia
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 you’re time. It’s a mere shadow of the book and concentrates more on the Mothman sightings and encounters in Point Pleasant, West Virgina. Along with sightings of the creature at Mount Misery, there were sightings of and encounters with men dressed in dark suits who some call the Men In Black.
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 had apparently managed to remove the window without doing any damage several stories up, placing it against his bed. The woman 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.
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.
Animal mutilations sometimes occur in conjunction with UFO sightings. In 1989 I received a call from an employee working at the 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.
Old Bethpage Village Restoration
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 speak on the Paranormal just around the time of the mutilations and when UFO sightings in the area were making news in 1991. There were far more requests for seating then seats and I spent hours answering questions after my seminar. But 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 then an hour away, only to find the Mount’s own version of lunacy. You can’t draw conclusions about a place like that, just have the time of your life studying it!
Author Bio :
Bill Knell, Paranormal Researcher,
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