Long Island certainly has its history and with this comes a number of ghost stories. Being an explorer I have always been interested in haunted places. Having a love for photography allows me to capture these places and keep them alive. They either get torn down, locked up, or they are left alone. That is where people like me come in.
Exploring the depths of history I took a trip to Huntington’s own Mount Misery. Remembering my past experience with the Mount I was very eager to go back. Being only 16 years old I was freaked out as some friends and I drove through the area. Even though I was in the car with the people I trusted I will admit it was one scary night.
Located within the West Hills County Park, Mount Misery is the highest peak of Long Island at 400 feet. It can be accessed by taking the Walt Whitman Trail, named for the famous poet who was born nearby and spent many years wandering in the area. Of the five original Native American tribes that settled in the area some had believed negative forces took over the land. Not many explored the area but the ones who did often found dead and mutilated animals.
Because of its location the land was unsuccessful at growing any kind of crops. This resulted in many people settling in the surrounding areas sparing the Mount the human contact that could have given it life. When the land was purchased from the Indians they warned the settlers about the evil spirits that called Mount Misery home. There were also stories of strange lights seen in the sky and a creature that roamed the hills. The Indians asked that the new owners of the land stay away.
Today Mount Misery Road can be found off Old Country Road and Highhold Drive. It’s separated by the Northern State Parkway so unless you travel on foot when the road ends you have to enter on either side. For my visit back in 2010, I decided to explore the north side first. As I came to the end of the road I was greeted by two tree trunks stacked on the ground. Was this a sign telling people to stay away, an act of nature or simply a manmade barricade? I just stood there with my camera, took a photo and moved forward. I entered the woods to the right because it seemed the only way possible. To the left was a driveway that led to someone’s home which I found odd. Having a house out in the middle of Mount Misery? Interesting.
As I started walking I noticed there were three paths to choose from. Since I was closer to the right path I chose that one first. I strolled down the dirt path and looked around. The natural life forms that grew here were out of the ordinary. The trees seemed broken, old and battered, like they have seen a lifetime of misery. I have been in many parks and wooded areas in my time and I must say that this one did not seem to be full of life. Branches were torn and twisted, moss consumed most areas and the fallen leaves just lay there quiet and still. Once in awhile the wind would rattle a few and the sounds startled me because I was engulfed in the forests’ emptiness. I followed this path until I saw the grounds of West Hills Park and turned around.
The middle path was the most haunting. The farther I walked the more intrigued I was and the deeper I traveled the more nervous I got. Even though it was daylight the Mount gave off a gloomy light that seemed to reserve itself for visitors. I knew I was walking through tunnels of time and with each step I took forward I was sinking backwards into the past. At one point I turned back and just saw trees. Although the path was still there I felt as if I have gone too far and decided to turn back. The forest seemed to never end. Besides, I still had one more path to explore.
The last path was a quick experience. I honestly did not feel comfortable going deeper into the forest alone. It may sound silly but after some time passed the feelings of anxiety took over and my body told me it was time to go. On the way back to my car I thought of all the stories I read about this place before I came. The weird red faced men in suits, the white haired woman who oddly didn’t exist, both of which paid a visit to the same home. Were the Indians right about the Mount after all?
There are also a few stories about Sweet Hollow Road that coincide with the Mount Misery tales. Sweet Hollow Road runs parallel to Mount Misery and is located within West Hills Park. Supposedly a couple of people died along this road and they are said to haunt the area. One man, a police officer, was killed by a gunshot to the head. You may find him still pulling cars over. Another woman got hit by a car while changing her flat tire and died as well. This was said to happen by the underpass. It seems as if she is friendly considering she will push your car passed the bridge if you turn it off and put it in neutral. I assume she doesn’t want anyone to suffer like she did.
I also heard of some young boys who hung themselves on the bridge and you can sometimes see them still hanging. All these stories are haunting and if you believe in ghosts like I do, you will be more aware when you are traveling in that area next time.
Of all the stories I read the hospital tales are the most interesting. It is said that during the 1700s an asylum was built in these woods and was burned down by a fire. We all know how people were treated in places like this back then and it was not good. Screams were often heard from the patients there and the employees were said to be mistreated as well. About 10 years later, it burned to the ground and remained an empty forest.
Then during the 1900s the government rebuilt a new hospital to help soldiers from World War II. By the end of the war, the hospital closed down but oddly reopened around 1947. This is when strange things started to happen. It is believed that the government were running secret drug tests on people and personnel to better understand brainwashing techniques. One man shared his experience and stated that after he recovered and left the hospital he remembers seeing a sign that read Area 5. Beyond this information, nothing was found.
I am excited to hopefully explore Mount Misery even more and find more information on the hospital. Some say you can still find the stone steps of the building and fragments of the foundation. I did go back after I wrote this but wasn’t able to find anything. The only way to really explore the area is by foot but I suggest you don’t do it alone. Even when entering on the south side of Mount Misery Road you will come to the end where the Driftwood Day Camp is located.
Whatever you decide to do it is no doubt that this area has been keeping people talking for decades. Generations of stories not only inspire the fearless but keep the investigators wondering. What will become of the famous Mount Misery? Putting history aside and exploring ourselves, we can all capture a new view of this Long Island mystery.