Ellis Island opened in 1892 as an immigration hub and port of entry for New York City. The peak years of operation for the island were between 1900 and 1914, with between 5,000 and 10,000 immigrants passing through each day. Only third class passengers were taken to Ellis Island for inspection, first and second class passengers were dropped off directly in Battery Park. Most made it through - passing the famous 6 second physical, but anyone that was detained for mental or physical health concerns was held at Ellis Island’s Immigration Hospital. Any patient that was suspected of being ill was marked with a white chalk symbol on the label of their coat. Ranging in Pg meaning pregnant, to an X meaning mentally unwell.
One thing to note, the main hall that immigrants passed through during inspection was incredibly loud and full of people. Adding on that English might not be your first language and waiting for hours in line -- it’s no wonder some people may have been confused or slow to respond. If you were marked with an X, you were taking to the psych ward for a hot meal and a bath before you were re-examined.
The psych ward has a cage fitted across what would otherwise look like a front porch. The hospital would allow patients to come out into this space during the day as ‘outdoor time.’ It turns out that much of this hospital is made up of long and creepy hallways. Along one of these is the morgue (*surprise, surprise*).
In the morgue, you can see the cabinets where bodies were kept before and after autopsies. What you can’t see in these photos are the concrete bleachers on the other side of the room where doctors would observe the procedures. We learned that there are a lot of reports of cold spots and orbs (which I don’t buy as ‘paranormal activity,’) in the morgue. One person I was with did feel chills while we were in this room.
We also visited the tuberculosis ward, which is part of the contagious disease section of the facility. There were a lot of clever ways the hospital worked to control the spread, many important medical advances happened right in this space.
Most nurses that were working around these contagious diseases became immune to them. All of the different wards in the contagious disease hospital can be sealed off from each other, in an effort to control the spread. Each patient’s room also had two sinks, one reserved for spitting up blood and one reserved for washing. The sinks drained into separate systems to keep any contamination out of the water supply, you can also see indicator lights above each door. Patients would use these, much like a modern hospital, to alert nurses or doctors that they needed help.
The doctor’s quarters were very different. The flooring was in much better shape than other sections of the facility. Each room was fit with it’s own private bathroom. But it was in the doctor’s quarters that I had what I will loosely define as a ‘feeling.’ I go on many haunted tours an I have never had any sort of experience in the paranormal sense.
The timing was interesting. I was alone in one of the rooms taking photos. I suddenly felt a really bad/anxious feeling.
As I was in the room feeling all strange, someone else was having an experience. One young girl seemed to have a few encounters throughout the day. She claimed to hear someone whispering her name at several points, and of course she also heard it right as I was feeling all haunted and weird. Strange times! (This is the room).
Though the hospital is obviously aged and not kept up, it’s surprisingly good shape and filled with beautiful nooks to photograph and beautiful stories to learn about. Especially in today’s political climate, it’s important to educate ourselves on the standard of immigration in this country and learn about our history. The vast majority of us had immigrant ancestors that brought us to this country, and we should all remember that.