Mass Grave of World War I Ammo Plant Disaster Victims
Parlin, New Jersey
On the evening of October 4, 1918, in what was then Morgan, New Jersey, a World War I ammunition plant blew up. There was a fire, and then it spread to a warehouse and freight trains packed with hundreds of thousands of artillery shells and millions of pounds of explosives -- and you can imagine what happened next.
The blasts continued for three days. Even in 1918 New Jersey was a crowded place, so putting a giant ammunition plant there turned out to be a bad idea. Over a hundred people at the plant and in surrounding towns were killed. Hundreds more, left homeless and weakened by exposure and trauma, died of the Spanish flu.
Bodies and body parts from the unidentified dead were buried under a single large stone in the nearest cemetery. Best guesses put the number at between 14 and 18. By the early 2000s the cemetery had been abandoned, but it's since been revived as an Asian burial ground and the grave near the entrance has been cleaned up.
The explosion left a legacy of unexploded shells that are still unearthed from time to time in local schoolyards; the most recent one was in 2007. Watch your step!