The Harmful Rays of the Moral Vacuum

The Harmful Rays of the Moral Vacuum
Please be advised that for your safety you must exit this blog on foot, calmly and quickly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

An Anthrax Island Whodunnit?

A tip of the hat goes to Liz for the idea for this posting.  Just off of my native Long Island lies the mysterious Plum Island.  Originally known by Dutch and other European settlers as "Plumb Island," it is the site of a quaint, historic lighthouse on the site of a light originally built at the order of George Washington.  On August 11, 1775, the island became the site of the first amphibious assault by the American military, when 120 hapless revolutionary soldiers were turned away after exchanging a single volley with British regulars.  Does this small island, which would otherwise be a historical footnote, hold some dark secrets?

During World War II, Plum Island was used as an anti-submarine base.  After the war, it was turned over to the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, the unit assigned to defend against chemical, radiological, nuclear, and biological attacks.

In 1954, the U.S. Department of Agriculture opened the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The center conducts research on animal borne diseases that could contaminate our food supply.  Examples include anthrax and foot and mouth disease.  The facility is highly secure, so none of us are likely to ever take a tour.  Until recently, most of the work was conducted in a building ominously named Building 257.  I imagine that this is also where "top men" are hard at work on the Ark of the Covenant.

All this secrecy has encouraged a cult following for the island.  Conspiracy theorists believe that any number of dirty government dealings have been conducted there over the years.  In the 1989 film The Silence of the Lambs, Plum Island is mentioned as a potential site for a supervised getaway for crazed killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter in exchange for his assistance with an ongoing investigation.  Dr. Lecter snubs the deal, referring to the site as "Anthrax Island."  And mystery novelist Nelson DeMille wrote a book that centers around the island.

Plum Island might soon be leaving government service.  In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security assumed control of the facility.  They have recommended its replacement with a new disease research center to be built in Kansas.  But the old island still has some mystery left in her.

Last week, a human body with curiously long fingers washed onshore.  The body, which was discovered by a security guard patrolling the secure government facility, remains as yet unidentified.  Chances are, the body is in no way connected to the island.  After all, why would the government report such a thing if it were connected to secret research?  Surely there would be some sort of cover up.  Those interested in learning more about the island might check out the book Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory.  The book has been roundly dismissed by government sources as pure and irresponsible conjecture.  But I'll bet it's a nutty read.  And isn't it fun to imagine mysterious things going on in our own backyard?

On an unrelated note, I went to the oral surgeon today for a follow-up visit.  The radio was playing "Bat out of Hell."  I think the music there is trying to tell me something.

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