If you’ve lived in New Jersey long enough, you may be familiar with the story of Snake Hill (offically named Laurel Hill). It is a large rock formation located in Secaucus that has been cut in size by quarrying. However, it’s not the rock that’s the focus of this story, it’s the surrounding area.
Between 1855-1962, Snake Hill sat at the center of a self-contained city.
This was no normal city. While the grounds did contain a sewer system, electrical plant, incinerator and reservoir, you certainly wouldn't find many shops and restaurants. The premises housed a penitentiary, almshouses (shelters for the poor and elderly), Contagious Diseases Hospital, a Tuberculosis Sanatorium, and the Hudson County Lunatic Asylum. Though the asylum has been closed down since 1939, many say its former site is still haunted.
The asylum was known to admit perfectly sane patients deemed to be burdens by their families.
The mentally stable mixed with sociopaths and schizophrenics, many of whom did not receive proper treatment. Once someone was admitted, it was almost impossible to get out. Countless asylum patients, along with those who died at the neighboring hospitals, were buried on the grounds.
After all the onsite institutions shut down, the rock continued to be quarried. This ended in 1982.
Many of the facilities were torn down to make way for the turnpike and what remained fell into disrepair. Eventually, the land was cleared but sat vacant.
A lovely spot along the Hackensack River, the area now serves as a park.
Known as Laurel Hill Park, visitors will find a "public boat ramp with plenty of parking, walking trails, park benches, a gazebo, and two regulation size softball, baseball, soccer and football fields that are equipped with lights for nighttime play. The park also offers an ADA compatible playground and public restrooms." According to the city of Secaucus website, during late spring, summer, and early fall, kayaks are available for rent and guided tours of the wetlands are offered daily.
While work was being done in the area in 2003, archaeologists discovered thousands of bodies.
The Turnpike Authority was looking to build a new interchange in Secaucus, Exit 15X, when the remains were discovered. In one of the largest disinterments of bodies in U.S. history, the remains of 4,569 unclaimed individuals were moved to Maple Grove Park Cemetery in Hackensack. The process took 10 months; two additional bodies were found but claimed by family members.
You can visit Laurel Hill Park on Laurel Hill Road in Secaucus.
It is located off Turnpike exit 15X and New County Road/Paul Amico Way. It is unknown whether or not all the remains in the area have been removed. It is very possible that bones still lurk under the surface of this picturesque park.
Have you ever visited Laurel Hill Park? Were you familiar with the area’s history? For more fascinating (and possibly haunted) spots in New Jersey, check out my article on
Burlington County Prison.