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Staircases strewn with debris and walls crumbling slowly to dust, it is the island that New York forgot for 50 years. Now, in a series of extraordinarily eerie pictures, the lost world of North Brother has been brought back to life. Just 350 yards from the crowded tenements of the Bronx, it was first occupied in 1885 as a quarantine centre for contagious diseases and became the city’s only official leper colony.
The notorious 'Typhoid Mary' - the first healthy carrier of any disease ever to be identified - spent years confined in its bleak woods. North Brother Island was also witness to America's worst disaster until the 9/11 attacks - the 1904 fire onboard the passenger ship, General Slocum which killed 1,021 people, mainly women and children on a church outing.
These pictures were taken by local historian and photographer Ian Ference who was given unprecedented access to the site. He has slowly pieced together the forgotten story of this unique landscape. 'This has got to be one of America's most important places to visit,' he said. 'Historically it has had a notorious and sometimes sinister reputation. 'It was established as a forced quarantine camp for people suffering from infectious and often fatal diseases such as typhoid, scarlet fever, yellow fever and typhus. There were six people suffering from leprosy confined here in wooden huts.