(Hilltop Reservation)

Read Avenue, Verona, NJ

Status: Former Home for Wayward Boys and Girls; Former Tuberculosis Sanatorium; Former Asylum; Formerly Abandoned; Demolished; Municipal Park



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The original institution that would eventually become the Essex Mountain Sanatorium was the Newark City Home established in 1873. Verona High School now sits on the site it once occupied.

The purpose of the home was to stop the downward spiral of the city’s wayward boys and girls and to serve as an orphanage.

On January 9, 1900 the entire building was destroyed in a fire. It is said a passing locomotive blew it’s whistle alerting the residents to the fire and there were no fatalities. Considering the almost non-existent fire safety of the time and the fact that you were dealing with children who had little respect for authority having no fatalities was tantamount to a miracle.

One we find hard to believe and call into question.

After the fire it was decided that keeping the children in one large building may not have been the best choice. They switched to the cottage system with no more than 50 children in each home and separating the boys and girls.

As part of this program the Newark City Home for Girls was built on top of what’s known as Second Mountain (Hilltop Reservation) today. It was completed in October of 1900 but as early as 1906 the home was sitting vacant; in a large because there weren’t many wayward girls and most of them were housed with existing families.

However, there were approximately 3000 active cases of tuberculosis in Newark in 1906, with almost 850 recorded deaths, and no real place to house these highly contagious patients. The now vacant girl’s home was put forth as a possible solution.

The surrounding population was not happy with this solution and attempted to file a court injunction to stop it from happening. The State’s solution to this was move a few TB positive patients into the building under the cover of darkness.

Actually evicting the patients was far more difficult than an injunction and all legal proceedings came to a halt.

Over the next decade the tuberculosis epidemic became worse and worse and a massive building campaign was began on 11 new – and much larger – buildings. By 1922 there was a large population of tuberculosis patients on the site.

By 1930 the site had expanded from 32 acres to 200 acres including a large farm – which was worked by the inmates from the North Caldwell Penitentiary – for feeding the staff and patients.

The sanatorium was – and historically still is – considered one of the best with a 50% recovery rate. It was thought that the clean air on top of the mountain was second only to Denver, Colorado for recovering.

It was even used for World War I soldiers returning with injuries related to being gassed on the battlefield.

With pasteurization of milk and discovery of streptomycin (antibiotic) by the 1950’s the number of tuberculosis positive patients began to rapidly decline. By the 1970’s most of the sanatorium’s buildings were empty leaving the State with an issue of what to do with a large site becoming over 75% vacant.

The solution was to transfer mentally ill patients from the nearby overpopulated Overbrook Asylum (Essex County Hospital Center).

In 1975 a male site for alcohol and drug rehabilitation was also opened on the sanatorium site in the building that used to house the male sanatorium staff.

By 1977 the last patient, cured of tuberculosis, was released from the sanatorium.

On December 1, 1982 the site was officially completely abandoned and the gates were locked up.

From 1982 to 1993 the site was left vacant and became a Disneyland for urban explorers and paranormal investigators as well as the local teens.

Between 1993 and 2002 all of the sanatorium’s buildings – some of which were massive – were been demolished.

The site is now a park called Hilltop Reservation, senior’s condos and the aforementioned high school.


Paranormal Activity

The encounters with the paranormal date back to not just when the site was being used but to when the buildings were still being constructed as the picture of what appears to be a little girl above the construction workers taken in 1918.

The Sanatorium site while the buildings still stood was private property and patrolled by security, but some paranormal investigators got permission to enter the site.

While the buildings are long gone but their removal doesn’t seem to have affected the haunting.

Pretty much all levels of paranormal activity have reported here both in the past and in modern times including: apparitions of staff and patients of both the sanatorium and the asylum (both children and adults); both shadow figures and shadow people; touches, tugs and pulls from unseen entities; physical interaction with the living including hair pulling and scratches; objects moving on their own including things being knocked out of people’s hands; unexplained noises from loud bangs to whispers; disembodied voices, laughter and crying; light anomalies; unexplained mists and vortices; cold and warm spots; time and dimensional shifts; electrical disturbances; empathic sensations of fear, sadness, anxiety, euphoria and hopelessness; physical symptoms such as headaches, chest pains and difficulty breathing and feelings of not being alone and being watched.