Untermyer Park


Cruise the Site!

Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx

Updated November 9, 2006...
Untermyer Park: Located in North-west Yonkers, is a beautiful site, full of interesting architecture and expansive flower beds.

It was once the site of a private estate owned by the Untermyer family. The original mansion has become part of St. John’s Riverside Hospital. The grounds of the mansion are now included in the park. The park affords a spectacular view of the Jersey Palisades.

Popular local legend has it that various sites on the property were used in occult rituals. Regardless, the locale is quite spooky on a moonlit night. The park closes at dusk, so you’ll have to take my word for that! As teenagers, we’d often drive up from the Bronx to hang out, play hide and seek and do other things that teenagers do when relieved of parental observation. It was these nocturnal shenanigans that inspired the author to use Untermyer Park as the location for the climactic scene of LOW END As you can see, the park is quite Goth in Black&White! Please click here to read about BIG HILL Shelter in Bear Mountain State Park and our other teenage adventures!

The park is beautiful in a rather Goth and somber vein. Even in daylight hours, one can almost sense that warm, breathing people are distinctly out of place. The photo to the left was taken from between the two large twin obelisks standing in the Northern end of the enclosed park area. (See photo right, below) That space between the trees in the center of the photo is the main portal leading to the main entrance to the entire facility.

The famous 'Thousand Stairs' are located to the right of the photographer in the above picture. Viewed from about three quarters of the way from the bottom, one can see the top of the stairs and the colonnade. It was from this approach that O'Brien tried to get the drop on Morrissey in LOW END.

Flower beds were repaired and replanted by 1988. These beds were overgrown and their borders unclear in 1975. The photo below right shows a clear view of the colonnade Gary hid on.

In the early Fall of 1974, Mike, a friend of mine from the old neighborhood in the Bronx, turned us all on to Untermyer Park. His brother Pete, about four years older than us, had found the place, while cruising around on his Triumph Bonneville. So Mike took Paul, Mark and I up there on a cool Friday night to hang out, check the place over, and pass the doobie. If I recall correctly, it was a moonlit night. At that time, Yonkers was undergoing fiscal woes and nothing had been spent to either maintain or protect the park. Weeds choked the old flower beds and locals had pried large portions of the mosaic tiles from the decorative pools and pathways. I took pictures of the statuary on a later visit with my little 110 pocket camera--in the dark. I don't think I ever saw the place in daylight until the 1980's.

Anyway, Mike, Mark, Paul and I often went there when there was nothing else better to do than hang out and play hide and seek or just plain try to spook each other out. The place was creepy in the dark! Eventually we heard all the urban myths about witchcraft, satanic rituals and the like. More than likely, the only virgins sacrificed were dispatched by the traditional methods and more or less willingly.

Through the remainder of 1974 and into the late Spring of 1975, we'd often be found in Untermyer Park after sundown partying and horsing around. After we'd all turned eighteen, we eschewed the Park in favor of the bar.

I returned to Untermyer in 1988 to photograph the haunts of my youth. To my amazement, the place had been spruced up, although some of the statuary and mosaics had been vandalized past the point of restoration. I compare photos taken in 1988 with those I took in 1975 and see much destruction.

These black and white photos you see here were taken with my Nikon with a Tamron wide angle lens and a tripod, lens open wide and a long shutter during a full moon in 1988. The place is just so cool at night, I couldn't resist the (slight) civil disobedience of using the park after dusk! Color shots were taken in the Summer of 1988 and March of 1992. The park is best approached from the Route 9 side. Walk the path to the large wall that surrounds the gardens. Once through the archway, you face a long, narrow pool that X's the interior walled area. The leg you're looking at extends back to a semi-circular wall fronted by two columns topped by statuary. There are two small niches in this semi-circular wall that lead the explorer to the fence separating the hospital grounds from the park. It used to be quite a tingler on a fall night. The other branch of the pool directs one's eye to arguably the most notable structure, a circular columned gazebo that overlooks a reflective pool that must have been a fountain once. The mosaics that line the pool mimic waves and contain renditions of various sea creatures. Standing along the railing on this gazebo affords a spectacular view of the Hudson River and the Jersey Palisades. An interesting side-trip is to descend the "1000 Steps" which is in actuality only 127 in number. Still, it's a good cardio workout!

J.V. Sanders writes in Fortean Times "I AM THE SON OF SAM!" (FT 161, August 2002) As you clear the trees after an uphill climb in New York’s Untermyer Park, you cannot fail to notice what appears to be a rather bizarre-looking rock formation. Closer examination reveals iron handrails and other signs of human handiwork. Locals have always referred to the large structure – more than 40ft (12.2m) high at its west face – as the Eagle’s Nest. It was erected about 75 years ago as a cascading fountain, and the gazebo at its summit offers a fine view of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades.

The park was once the estate of multi-millionaire Samuel Untermyer, who had large stones from Great Britain incorporated into the fountain he built for his daughter’s wedding. There is reason to believe that the wealthy lawyer had an interest in arcane spiritual beliefs, and the design of the Eagle’s Nest suggests a deliberate attempt to imitate megalithic sites of Wiltshire. After Untermyer’s death in 1940, his sprawling estate was donated to the municipality of Yonkers, just north of New York City. At the north end of the park lay the classical gardens with their impressive mix of Greek-style architecture and Assyrian-style statuary. The gardens give way to the so-called Thousand Steps leading down to other scenic viewpoints. Not far from the foot of the steps, in a densely overgrown area behind nearby St John’s Hospital, there once stood a large pump-house. For reasons never made public, it was knocked down about 15 years ago, and not even a trace of its foundation can be seen today.

Northwest Yonkers in the mid-Seventies was much the same as it is today. Running like a thread through the district is the Old Croton Trailway State Park. The 22miles (35km) path, known locally as the ‘Aqueduct’, parallels the course of the Hudson River and was built over a water tunnel that once served Manhattan Island to the south. The secluded Aqueduct also offers discreet access, especially at night, to any number of places, including Untermyer Park and the nearby Lenoir Nature Preserve.

Twenty-five years later, the satanic activity that used to occur in this area has become urban legend. The characteristics of Untermyer Park in particular made it a perfect location for such things; even today, fully half the grounds are densely wooded. Furthermore, several locations there, including the Eagle’s Nest (above) and the so-called ‘temple’, are still tagged with occult/satanic graffiti, much of it recently applied. Population shifts over the last three decades have resulted in a large Hispanic presence in the area. An individual familiar with the neighbourhood today assured me that evidence of santeria ritual fowl sacrifices are occasionally found in woods adjacent to the Aqueduct.

Former employees of nearby St John’s Hospital can still recall nights when chanting and torch flames were seen and heard in the depths of the woods, especially from the area of the now-demolished Devil’s Cave. There are those who maintain that harmless teenagers were the only ones frequenting the backwoods at night during the Seventies, but that belief flies in the face of some disturbing facts. Over Christmas 1976, dead Alsatian dogs, with their ears carefully excised, were found on the Aqueduct just south of Untermyer Park. In November 1979, a Westchester County Police Officer stumbled upon a sinister night-time gathering in the Lenoir Nature Preserve: a group of robed and hooded figures carrying torches and leading two leashed Alsatians.

Similar events were reported elsewhere in the region at the time. In the upstate town of Walden, New York, 85 Alsatians were found skinned between October 1976 and October 1977. Across the state-line, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, an employee at a local radio station told me of druid-like gatherings, at night, in the woods surrounding Candlewood Lake, near Danbury.

Excerpted from an article chronicling the Son of Sam murders of 1976-1977 on the Fortean Times website. This is a great website for reading information on strange occurrences. Please visit this site.


Many thanks to J.V. Sanders for emailing me the pictures shown here of the Eagle's Nest!

I possess no photos of the park in winter. Pity -- it is extraordinarily scenic at any time of year.

The Untermyer Family is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Woodlawn is well-known for its clientele--only the wealthiest and most blue-blooded of New York are buried here!

Untermyer memorial acres occupies a huge chunk of one of the 1930's-1940's sections of the cemetery. The architecture is strongly reminiscent of the estate on Route 9 in Yonkers. If you visit the estate, visit the cemetery, you will see what I mean.

The structure is once again ringed by stone walls with towers or turrets containing statuary and protected by working wrought iron doors. The center of the site is occupied by a large urn. As you can see in the photo, the ground is paved with cobblestone-like bricks, the grass has grown between the pavers, making it seem like a grassy area at first.

The turrets are pictured here. The doors are sometimes open, sometimes closed, I guess it depends on who has been to the site and has messed with them.

I do not know what the statuary is intended to represent-- it would seem to be Christian in content, but the imagery is obscure --though it is highly impressive, just about life size.  TOUR WOODLAWN CEMETERY by clicking here!




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