Weird NJ Marks 1902 Flood of Hillside Cemetery

This week in history, 'coffins float in the town's streets.'

The 1902 flash flood of Hillside Cemetery in Madison was 110 years ago, but it still gets an annual mention from Weird NJ magazine because of the gruesome aftermath.

The flood washed out more than 50 graves and residents waded through the flood waters to retrieve corpses that separated from their coffins, according to the publication's account of "The Hillside Cemetery Spill of 1902."

Legend has it one Dugald MacDougall made a particularly grisly find:

...MacDougall and a worker heard an “awful hair-raising noise.” They discovered a decomposing corpse caught in the bushes, in an upright position. What they had heard was the wind whistling as it blew through the throat of the deceased. MacDougall was quoted as saying, “I never heard a sound like it before or since.”

Photos of the flood were posted on RoseNet.org, and an archived version of that page is still available.

The Aug. 12 New-York Daily Tribune report, headlined "Many Coffins Washed Up: A Grewsome Result of Sunday Storm at Madison, N.J.," said at least 81 coffins were recovered and Mayor Albright ordered the Board of Health to take charge of the situation.

One of the saddest stories from the flood, it said, was that the waters washed away the newly dug grave where a 17-year-old girl, the daughter of the village baker, was to be buried next to her sister. The funeral was postponed as they searched for the sister's remains.


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