Most cemeteries are out in the open. They are surrounded by iron gates, and their ornate headstones and mausoleums are well-kept. But then there are the hidden cemeteries. These burial sites have been forgotten about over time. Maybe they contain only a few secret graves, tucked away beneath overgrown weeds and dried leaves. These graveyards remain obscure - until someone stumbles on them.
Why have these historic cemeteries faded from memory? They could be single family plots from long-gone settlements. Or perhaps they were the burial spots for those who died in now-demolished asylums and prisons, or the final resting places of victims of mass plagues. No matter the sources of the dead buried within them, all of these hidden cemeteries in the Northeast United States have an interesting story to tell.
There are two cemeteries near Rutland, MA. The first is the official Goose Hill Cemetery, while the other is the obscure Rutland Prison Camp Cemetery. To get to the hidden one, you have to follow a small path that winds beside Goose Hill Cemetery. Around a quarter of a mile later, you'll come upon a clearing that holds the graves of victims of a tuberculosis experiment.
In the early 20th century, 100 prisoners with tuberculosis were brought to the prison camp. Doctors studied the effects of a healthy diet, sunlight, and physical labor on their illness. But 59 patient-prisoners died, and were buried at the site. The iron crosses that once marked their graves are gone, so the clearing is all that remains.
You would think that a busy place like New York City wouldn't have any hidden cemeteries. Think again. Washington Square Park was once a cemetery, and since there are no records indicating that bodies were removed from the site, it's safe to assume it still is one.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the space was used as a potter's field for the indigent, and served as a place for Newgate Prison to bury those who died behind bars. The land became a park shortly after the last burial took place in 1825. A tombstone was unearthed by a gardener in 2009, proving that people are buried there still.
In order to find the nine graves buried in Bicknell Cemetery, you first need to find the graveyard. Walk along the discontinued section of Old Sodom Road, until you are about 1/3 of a mile south of Hebron Station Road. The cemetery will be off to the east, set back amongst the trees.
This small cemetery contains the graves of the Bicknell family, including Lieutenant John Bicknell, who fought in the Revolutionary War. The other graves date back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Call Hollow Road in Pomona, NY, holds a secret: the village of Old Letchworth. The entire village consisted of a mental institution in the early to mid-20th century. If you go down Call Hollow Road, take the footpath, and cross the brook, you'll see a small clearing filled with tiny metal grave markers. This the Old Letchworth Village Cemetery, filled with the bodies of people who died in the mental asylum. The remains of the asylum are now abandoned and crumbling, and no one lives in the village anymore.