What's more intriguing than an abandoned island with a rotting castle sitting just north of New York City? Bannerman's Island sits in the Hudson, just about 50 miles north of here, and American Heritage explains "this island fortress was once the private arsenal of the world's largest arms dealer," Frank "Francis" Bannerman.

Living in Brooklyn at the time of the Civil War, he purchased "government surplus equipment at the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard" for the family business, and eventually Francis Bannerman Sons became the world's largest dealer in military goods, with the weapons exceeding the family's store space in Manhattan (occupying an entire block at 501 Broadway) and three huge Brooklyn warehouses. This is where the island comes in!

He bought the island [6.5 acres] in December of 1900 for fifteen hundred dollars from a private owner and bought seven acres more of underwater land in front of the island from the state of New York. He ringed the submerged area with sunken canalboats, barges, and railroad floats to form a breakwater.

On the island Bannerman built a huge arsenal styled after his idea of a Scottish castle. On a hill in the middle of the island he built a smaller castle as the Bannerman family home.

And they lived happily ever after on a "virtual powder keg" (with just a few fatal live ammo accidents)! By the 1960s the castle was decaying, and in 1967 it was sold to New York's Taconic State Park Commission, with all remaining arms and munitions disposed of. Soon after a fire broke out and ruined the decaying structures even more. These days the Hudson River website warns: "Do not attempt to visit...it is a very treacherous combination of buried hazards and dangerous wall conditions." Tod Seelie recently braved the island, however, and came out of it safe and sound, and with these images. (See more photos here and here.)