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The Madhouse Tour – Roosevelt Island

June 8 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Side-by-side collage of Nellie Bly and a statue of her.

A Nellie Bly-themed walking tour into the legendary journalist’s famed undercover investigation of New York’s former “lunatic asylum.”

Follow in the 1880s footsteps of pioneering journalist Nellie Bly’s “Ten Days in a Madhouse” undercover story that exposed horrific conditions at the “lunatic asylum” on Blackwell’s Island–now called Roosevelt Island.

Today seen as America’s first investigative journalist, Bly feigned insanity and was committed, then ferried across the East River to “Damnation Island” on assignment for Joseph Pulitzer’s The World. Her sensational story sparked major reforms and paved the way for her later adventure, “Around the World in 80 Days.” 

A photo of the plaque recognizing Blackwell's Island as an SPJ historic site in journalism.

We’ll get there by subway, tram or ferry and then walk or take a free bus to the Octagon at the island’s northern tip for a special tour with Roosevelt Island Historical Society president Judy Perdy.

We’ll go inside what remains of the asylum – today a beautifully renovated apartment complex known as “The Octagon.” We’ll relive Bly’s days incognito as a madhouse patient through dramatic readings. To cap it off, we’ll  visit the scenic sculpture garden, “The Girl Puzzle,” created in her honor, called a “spiritual experience” when it opened three years ago. 

After the tour, we’ll gather at a local watering hole for food, drinks, and networking. 

At a Glance

What: Nellie Bly-themed walking tour to revisit her groundbreaking undercover “Ten Days in a Madhouse” expose of Blackwell’s Island “Lunatic Asylum.” 

When: Saturday, June 8, 2024 

  • 2:45 p.m. Meet on Roosevelt Island outside the F train subway station to walk 0.9 miles to the Octagon together. Or, take the free northbound Red Bus to the Octagon.     
  • 3:30 p.m. Tour begins at the Octagon, 888 Main St., Roosevelt Island 
  • 5:30 p.m. Head to Granny Annie’s restaurant and pub back near the F train for drinks and food. Options to walk back or take the bus. 

Where: The Octagon, 888 Main Street, Roosevelt Island

Directions: Take the F trainTramway or NYC Ferry to Roosevelt Island and hop the free Red Bus northbound or walk.   

Cost: $12 for Deadline Club members; $22 for nonmembers. (Drinks/food after tour not included in ticket price.)