An Island of Conspiracy

May, 2010 by Ray Bendici
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This story about Plum Island ran in a few papers last week as the fate of the former U.S. animal-disease research facility is about to be decided. If you're not familiar with Plum Island, it is an 840-acre island just off of the north fork of Long Island, less than a dozen miles across Long Island Sound from the Southeastern Connecticut coast (as you can see by my crudely rendered MS paint map of a Bing satellite screen capture, at right). For the early part of the 20th century, it used to be home to Fort Terry, a strategic U.S. military outpost, but in 1952, it was taken over by U.S. Army Chemical Corps, and that's when the place began to gain a mythic stature. The government has contended that within the island's 70 buildings, various animal diseases -- particularly, foot-and-mouth disease -- have been researched. Others allege that the island is a more nefarious place where various chemical and biological secret weapons were researched and developed over the course of the Cold War. Supposedly, the facility's freezers even contain samples of many dangerous diseases, such as polio, and anthrax has also been studied here. In short, it's not a place where you want to lick any of the walls -- you know, if you were prone to doing anything like that. (Just sayin'.) In 2004, author Michael Carroll wrote a book called Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory, referring to one of the research labs on the island. Carroll's book suggests that Lyme disease was let loose on the unsuspecting public from this facility because of the faulty research and poor conditions at the lab, in addition to the release of other dangerous diseases and biological pathogens. None of his conspiracy-type allegations have been proven true, then again, they haven't exactly been proven false, either. Which is were all the fun begins! Anyway, Plum Island is in the news because the government is transferring its animal disease research facilities to Kansas (lucky them!) and putting the island up for sale! Apparently, if you have $50 to $80 million -- not counting the clean-up costs -- you can have the entire place for your own. (No word if the hideous mutated creatures that no doubt live on the island are included, but you have to assume they are.) Unfortunately, those dang-blasted environmentalists want to preserve the place as a nature refuge, which probably means they'll want to destroy all the really cool supersecret research labs so that piping plovers can nest in peace. Ugh! We can only hope that some more enterprising folks will buy the place, open the beaches for sunbathing and the research labs for conspiracy-type tourists! (Besides, the birds have been around since the dinosaurs, they don't need our help.) Sounds like a win-win to me. If you're interested in getting near the island, the Orient Point to Groton Ferry passes it -- I took this photo (and others, although I can't find the rest of them right now) in the summer of 2009 while going past. The lighthouse makes for great ambiance and the beaches look really great -- with its prime location at the tip of Long Island and on the Sound, it would definitely draw the sun-loving crowd, you know, other than the dilapidated research buildings (which we would want them to keep up anyway). Definitely a place we would want to visit. Just don't expect us to drink the local tap water or lick the walls.

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I'd love to buy an island like that. Of course, at the moment, I can't afford to buy a snickers bar, much less an island. I'm comforted by the notion that, what with global warming and polar ice melt, etc., the island will probably be underwater within the next 10 to 20 years, or something, anyway. It would be a bad investment.