North Brother Island is a 20-acre plot of land in New York that lies completely empty. And it's not located in the far-flung, savage jungles of eastern New York, or the desolate, barren tundra of northern New York -- it's right there in the part pop culture has taught us to recognize: New York City. You can easily see the Bronx from the beach.
In the 19th century, a hospital for infectious diseases was housed on North Brother Island. The facility had its share of controversy: Poor medical practices and harsh climates led to a high death rate, and, oh yeah -- this was also the place that let Typhoid Mary out into the city and started the second round of a lethal Typhoid Fever epidemic back in the early 1900s. They eventually recaptured her and quarantined her on the island until her death. It was also used as a facility for the grievously war-wounded, and finally as one of the very first teenage rehab centers back in the 1950s.
Now, any one of those histories would make it a perfectly suitable location for a horror movie: The home of tormented, diseased patients that died in a 19th century hospital, the nightmarish ruins that once housed the glorious dead and dying, or a set of crumbling remains still echoing with the insanity and trauma of an experimental psychiatric ward in the 1950s. These are all fantastic settings for the discriminating white, big-bosomed heroine to get ghost-plagued, ripped apart by mad soldier-spirits still bound by misguided duty, or electro-shocked by insane pubescent apparitions, respectively. It's a triple-threat kind of place.
"Triple" is perhaps aiming a tad low.
Unfortunately for breathless blue-eyed vixens everywhere, the public is not allowed to visit the island. The last operating facility was closed decades ago, citing reasons of "corruption." If it seems kind of strange to shut down 20 acres of prime real estate in the largest city in the country just because of some shaky business ethics 20 years ago, there's also this little tidbit: In 1904, the General Slocum, a ship ferrying passengers to Long Island, burst into flames and ran aground on North Brother Island, where over 1,000 -- not a typo -- people died in the ensuing blaze.
Hey, nobody said the "corruption" that necessitated the island's complete quarantine was of a bureaucratic nature.
In Griffith Park, Los Angeles, you can find the abandoned ruins of the old L.A. County Zoo. Rather than demolishing the place when the new one was built, the city opted to leave it open for the public as a kind of museum, though an entirely unattended one. That's right: You can walk up into the L.A. hills right now and wander through a real life Scooby Doo set, and you won't even be breaking one of those half-enforced "Darn Meddling Kids" laws. If the rusting, empty cages and rotting enclosures again put you in mind of horror tropes, don't worry: You won't be dodging any ghost-rhinos here.
Because animals don't have souls. Everybody knows that, silly vegetarian! It's why eating bacon is delicious, but eating man is a crime. So no spirits here! Why, the worst thing that could happen to you in the isolated, abandoned ruins of the Old L.A. Zoo (still complete with functional cages) is some good old fashioned hobo-rape in the reptile house.
I'm sorry, that sounded theoretical, didn't it? I meant to say that if you go here, you absolutely will get hobo-raped in the reptile house. That's where Big Raping Jim is currently squatting.
Oh, don't worry -- the name's ironic. (He's not actually that big; he's just really good with knives).
Fort Carroll is yet another suspiciously abandoned island occupying prime city real estate. Well, maybe "prime' is being a bit generous: It's located just offshore of Baltimore, Maryland. The fort is a sinister walled stronghold, surrounded on all sides by water - a design choice that's just begging to be invaded by some sort of Chuck Norris, or failing that, certain species of Van Damme.
There were no great disasters that caused Fort Carroll to be abandoned. The most action it ever saw was post-WWII, when it was briefly used as a firing range. It changed hands several times after that, where various owners planned casinos, public parks or museums. These all failed for boring, economic reasons; none of them due to suave British men firing wrist-lasers into shark tanks. But still, for the discerning villain with a predilection for the classics, Fort Carroll is practically begging to be filled with sexy female ninjas, or armed men in mono-color tracksuits, depending on budget.
Again, this island is ostensibly "off-limits" to urban explorers, but there are pretty firm air quotes around that term, as you could simply take a quick boat ride or a long swim out there on any given day.
The boat ride will take you right to where the island sits, where you'll find the fort beside the Key Bridge in the Patapsco River, while the swim will take you right to the emergency room, where you'll find you have a raging case of Marine Hepatitis.