Culture

Tales from the Trail: Long Path Trail

Long Path Trail skirts past the Letchworth Village Cemetery, the eternal resting place for residents of the notorious Letchworth Village mental asylum.

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Location: Harriman State Park in Rockland County, New York 

Trail: Long Path Trail

Long Path is a long distance running and hiking trail in New York and New Jersey perfect for a Sunday morning long run. The path skirts through Cheesecote Mountain in Rockland County and eventually passes the Letchworth Village Cemetery, a graveyard with hundreds of T-shaped graves bearing rather than tombstones with engraved names. The plot serves as the eternal resting place for residents of Letchworth Village, an underfunded mental asylum constructed in 1911 for the “segregation of the epileptic and feeble-minded” where unspeakable atrocities were committed. The institution housed mostly children who lived in unethical, claustrophobic conditions and were subjected to abuse, neglect, and clinical drug trials such as, most infamously, an experimental polio vaccine.

Journalist Geraldo Rivera took millions of American television viewers inside Letchworth in his 1972 expose “Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace.” In it, Bronx congressman Mario Biaggi as he tells Geraldo during a tour of the facility, “Inside we have housed the children of many of our citizens who are subjected to what appears to be the worst possible conditions I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve visited penal institutions all over the country, I’ve visited hospitals all over the country, I’ve visited the worst brigs in the military… I’ve never seen anything like [this].”

While Letchworth shut down in 1996, and its ruins are now a haven for graffiti artists and high school punks looking for mischief. Visitors have claimed to have seen lights switch off and on in some of the old rooms, and hikers have reported seeing shadows moving between the equipment in the boiler room. Moans and shrieks are often heard after dark.