Thousands of people in Brooklyn will tell you how great Brooklyn used to be. I never took those people seriously. Until I heard how once, pot plants "as tall as Christmas trees," grew in "anonymous vacant lots" in Brooklyn.

Librarian Ben Gocker of the Brooklyn Public Library uncovered a hidden stash of news clippings about the sticky history of the most populous borough, telling the story of Brooklyn's "marijuana plantations," and their downfall in the summer of 1951, when 41,000 pounds of pounds of weed was burned up by the city.

Some 17,200 pounds of it came from Brooklyn, where—in the words of the Brooklyn Eagle—"daring marijuana farmers" were attempting to grow bud in vacant lots. (The article clipping above tells the story of some Greenwich Village beatniks who plucked their weed from a lot "somewhere in Brooklyn" and proceeded to "prepare" it "in a frying pan." The 50s were wild, man!) A specially-designated "White Wing Squad" of sanitation workers was tasked with cleaning up the "plantations" and incinerating the marijuana.

And, alas, they seem to have been all too successful. Marijuana is no longer one of Brooklyn's cash crops, and the "daring marijuana farmers" have been replaced with, I guess, daring marijuana smokers. But some nights, when the moon is full and the wind is high, you can hear the ghosts of those Christmas tree-sized pot plants, whispering, "Do you want to watch Videodrome?"

[Brooklynology via Carroll Gardens Patch/NYM]