An old Victorian decrepit cemetery, a dingy, barely habitable house in the outskirts of town with the reclusive hermit, and the ever attention-grabbing – lightning dragging, stormy night wrestling, moan infested – mental hospital. In the ghost business, we call that Yahtzee. The trifecta on which movie franchises are built on. Fortunes and careers breakout the champagne with just one of those. You only need one for a proper scream. Well, in today’s horror filled, nightmare inducing blog we’ll dive deep into the murky plunkers insane waters of the last of that legendary grouping — Nurse Ratchet’s swinging pad, colloquially known as the mental asylum or the coco-for-cocoa puff house, the Eagle’s ever-present Hotel California; “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Let’s talk about haunted mental asylums. We’ll give you the skinny on these lobotomy infested madhouses, a quick intro on their barmy history, and a wild re-cap on why most are basically gateways to hell as far as ghosts, spooks, demons, and the likes are concerned. So, stick around and find out all about the most haunted mental hospitals in the US.
Why are Mental Hospitals/Asylums Haunted?
Old-time mental hospitals were the sort of places that made Arkham Asylum look like Club Med. By comparison the Joker’s pied-a-terre was positively charming. These were places that were run, in most part, by crockpot loons that made the inmates go: “dude, you need a valium.” No self-respecting doc wanted a job at an asylum. And the staff, in most parts, were picked from what detritus the street left. “You there, on the street, nursing the bottle of firewater, how would you like a job?” The desperate on their last dime. The sort of folks that had run out of job opportunities, had run out of rope, and had rap-sheets that were miles long. We’re talking sadists, convicts, malcontents, masochists, the worst demons of humanity — and then there were the outstanding doctors or hospital supervisors; most didn’t even have a degree and some were even illiterate and failed at locating the funny bone in Operations.
Why are mental hospitals scary? Why are asylums haunted?
Well, did you know that the word asylum comes from the Greek Phrase “without the right of seizure”? It was a place that implied safety, refuge, the whole nine-yard. The reality is somewhat different — and to this day, with places like the infamous Federico Mora Hospital in Guatemala still operational – that shameful history, those ludicrous practices, are still very much active.
They were only a minority of mental hospitals that actually had any sort of decent founding – money flow. In most cases patient care was partly taken care for by donations — and those weren’t consistent. So, as a result, most hospitals were understaffed, overcrowded, and dilapidated. Patients in rags, sleeping on the floor, sitting on plastic chairs, using what they could to wipe their rears.
The treatments — Today, most mental institutions have Federal mandated policies and are supervised by the State. No quack doctor experimenting with people’s heads. A couple of years back, before mental health reformation statues – and the reason why there are so many closed down institutions of this kind, the ‘Deinstitutionalisation” movement – those assurances were a bit flexible. That’s code for doctors who could do just about anything as long as they thought it would help the patient. Most just got their jollies from being grade A monsters and being paid for it. Folks, when they think about mental hospital practices, they instantly flash to lobotomies – and sure docs’ were performing so many of those that they might as well have come to work wearing an ice-cream frock and twiddling a gelato scoop around. Nonetheless, lobotomies, compared to some of the practices these “innovators’ ‘ got up to were tame.
As far as psychosurgeries and other experimental treatments they were humane by comparison. Practices included bleeding, vomiting, purging, “the fixing of humors”; forced female hysteria treatments which in many cases included rape; electroconvulsive therapy i.e shock therapy; trephination or holes puncture into the head; mystic rituals including exorcisms; patients strapped into straightjackets and dunked for hours into ice water baths; insulin coma therapy as a way to rewire the brain; fever theory — which included infecting patients with syphilis and malaria; spinning to induce brain clogs; mesmerism. And those were just the ones documented thoroughly, in other words the ones that were common. These types of institutions attracted the worst of the worst, each with their own take on incredibly inhumane procedures that in most cases shredded the soul and mutilated the body.
The Most Haunted Mental Hospitals/Asylums in the United States.
So, let’s get this party started. Grab your virtual ghost detector, your OUIJA board, and let’s get cracking. PS, if you want more info on each entry visit our ectoplasmic-filled hub at US GHOST ADVENTURES. Also, grab a Lily Doll, or a perfectly acceptable two-year anniversary gift, the ever needful Bloody Ax for defense— now that’s couple therapy in action!
Rolling Hills Asylum – 11001 Bethany Center Road, East Bethany, NY 14054.
Before being known as the Rolling Hills Asylum, this quaint property was called The Genesee County Poor Farm. It was established in 1827 as a center of refuge and support for widows and their children, orphans, minor criminals, elderlies, the disabled, mentally ill, or vagrants. By 1871, Rolling Hills had become a working farm with more than 200 acres. Records indicate that the county buried unclaimed dead bodies on the property. The facility closed in 1974. Yes, you read right — there’s a huge unclaimed cemetery on the spot. Oh joys, oh joys, EMFs meters are going to fritz out.
Rolling Hills Asylum has been the subject of numerous documentaries, paranormal investigations, and ghost hunts. Visitors have recorded seeing a hulking shadow lurking throughout the building. Another haunting is that of Nurse Emmie. It was rumored that she performed satanic rituals and black magic on the residents — to better them. She is seen walking the halls laughing like a loon with cackle-like swagger. In the old morgue, items can move about, disembodied voices are heard, and visitors report being shoved down onto the cold tile.
Rolling Hills Asylum is known as the second most haunted site in the United States.
Pennhurst State School and Hospital, known as the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic was an institution for mentally and physically disabled individuals that opened up in 1908. From its beginning, the school’s history of mistreatment and abuse was widely known. Pennhurst quickly became a quick-fix for the state to casually segregate individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from the rest of society. Not only those folks, but folks that simply didn’t fit into the mold. Most patients spent their days and nights tied to metal cribs in horrid conditions. Uncontrollable patients were drugged up to the gills, or chained to their beds. Pennhurst closed in 1987.
Years later, the property was purchased by a businessman who turned it into a haunted attraction that opened in 2010. Visitors can hear children’s cries and laughs echoed in down lonely hallway. Old medical implements – still on the property, cause the guys from Queer Eye refuse to give the place a make-over – are moved about. Visitors have also felt a hand on their cheek, a little push on their shoulders, or a tugs on their jackets. Others have experienced the heebie- jeebies as if a spirit used their body as a highway.
The sanatorium opened in 1910 as a two-story open-air pavilion to accommodate 40 patients for treatment of TB initial cases. In August 1912, tuberculosis patients from the City Hospital were sent to temporary tents on Waverly Hills grounds while the construction of the hospital for advanced cases underwent. By 1914, the hospital’s total capacity increased to 130 patients. From 40 to 130 — so the orderlies got creative, TETRIS-creative with accommodations. A new five-story building opened on October 17th, 1926 making Waverly Hills one of the biggest tuberculosis sanatoriums worldwide. Due to the antibiotic drug streptomycin, the TB cases lowered, so the patients left were sent to a sanatorium in Louisville. Waverly Hills closed in 1961.
The old sanatorium operates as a ghost tour attraction — cause, this is America and that sort of thing is normal — By the way, did we mention we own the Lizzie Borden House? If you can’t beat them, you might as well join them. Anyway, back to Waverly. Visitors can expense spine-chilling encounters like voices in empty rooms, followed by unexplained physical sensations. On the fifth floor, visitors have sensed the presence of a specter , that of a nurse that committed suicide. Sightings of a shadowed man in white wandering the corridors are commonly reported. Timmy, a ghostly boy who likes to play ball with visitors, frequently appears in hallways. Waverly Hills, too, is believed to be one of the most haunted places in America.
The Linda Vista Community Hospital opened in 1905 to serve employees of the Santa Fe Railroad. It was initially called the Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital. The hospital expanded and turned into a big campus joint. By the late 1970s, railroad workers began to use conventional medical-insurance policies, so the hospital went downhill, no one really used it. Then gangs became a fixate of the LA scene. The hospital began treating gunshot wounds and stabbings as East LA became a war zone. The hospital’s funds were cut, resulting in less staff to treat patients. The quality of care declined and in 1991, the hospital ceased operations. In 2011, the abandoned hospital was purchased and turned into an apartment complex for senior citizens called Hollenbeck Terrace.
Before renovations, the old hospital became a popular filming location for films, TV shows, and music videos. During productions, reports of unexplained phenomena started making the rounds. Moving shadows, cries in the night, and unexplained humming, the works. Three lurking spirits have been sighted on the spot: a little girl prowling the surgical room, a young woman pacing the third floor’s hallways, and an orderly making his daily rounds.
Founded in the early 1900s, this mental facility was famous or infamous — it’s all a matter of perspective — due to rampant patient mistreatment. Including: electrode shock therapy, and cold water treatments. In 1912, the State Board of Administration visited Alton looking for a site to build a new hospital for the insane. By July 1917, the construction ended and patients were brought in from other hospitals. The castoffs. Hydrotherapy and Electroconvulsive Therapy became common treatments at Alton. By 1959, the patient population increased to 1,775 with an initial capacity of 1,084. Overcrowding led to more abuse and neglect. The Department of Mental Health gained control of the hospital in 1961, changing its name to Alton Mental Health Center. Currently, it is a forensic services provider, housing 200 court-ordered patients.
Today, the old hospital is still operational— that means that patients and staff are victims of all manner of ghostly experiences. Frightening sounds, disembodied voices, slamming doors, and an ethereal whispering voice asking “who is that?” to pretty nurses. A photo taken by a nurse showed a shining orb with a vision of a man’s face in agony. Ghost investigators who have visited the hospitals have been literally pushed out by spirits into the streets.
Taunton State is a psychiatric hospital that was originally known as the State Lunatic Hospital — what a name. It opened its doors in 1854. Taunton housed notorious serial killers Anthony Santo and Jane Toppan. The hospital included over forty buildings located on a 154-acre property. The campus was structured and designed following the Kirkbride system proposed by psychiatrist Thomas Story Kirkbride. His theory conceptualized that to effectively take care of the mentally ill; the buildings must promote natural light exposure and air circulation. The main part of the hospital closed in 1975. The remaining buildings either fell into disuse, collapsed, destroyed by fire, or were finally demolished. However, the newer buildings on the campus persisted and in 2012 the place was transformed into the Women’s Recovery from Addiction Program and a substance abuse program center.
Malignant paranormal activities abound in the hospital. Those buildings still in use are spots for horrifying screams, apparitions, mysterious bangs, bloodstained handprints, and moans. Also, the ghost of a man in a white coat constantly appears lurking the grounds of the Goss building’s third floor.
Eloise Complex – Westland, Michigan
Eloise was a psychiatric complex that remained operational from 1839 to early 1982. It started as a poor house and farm to later develop into an asylum, sanatorium, and hospital. It was named the Wayne County Poorhouse, and in 1979 it officially became the Wayne County General Hospital Eloise Complex. The complex had 78 buildings on 902 acres, housed 10,000 patients, and a staff of 2,000. The psychiatric division closed in 1982. It was the largest psychiatric facility in the United States. Only the “D” – the Kay Beard Building – building remained active until 2016. In 2018, Wayne County sold the Eloise Complex to developers for just one dollar to build senior and emergency housing — one dollar, almost like they wanted to get rid of it…
Visitors have reported weird occurrences on the hospital grounds while visiting the property years after it closed. Folks have found medical waste materials such as jars containing human body parts and drawings of odd medical procedures pop out of the ground. Paranormal investigators have even visited the grounds and claimed to have seen the ghost of a woman in white on the upper floors.
Northville State Hospital – 41001 W Seven Mile Rd, Northville, MI 48167
The Northville State Hospital was considered the largest psychiatric facility of the decade. It remained open from 1952 to 2003. The hospital consisted of 20 buildings distributed over 453 acres. When the state started to cut funds for the mental health programs, Northville became overcrowded with more than 1,000 patients. Original capacity? Only 650. By the 1980s, the hospital’s condition was horrendous. Patients were treated poorly and it was rumored that they were used as test subjects for vile experiments. Sexual assaults were a daily occurrence. By May 16th, 2003, Northville closed. The state tried to sell the property, but buyers backed out when they discovered that the land was heavily polluted with chemical waste. In 2018, only the 8-story tower was demolished.
The hospital is known to hold all manner of nasty paranormal activities— the awful events that took place really did a number on it. Despite the fact that the police guard against trespassers, curious folks have managed to enter the premises. Inexplicable sounds, moanings, shadows lurking in the halls, and loud screams are the norm— few who enter manage to actually stay the whole night.
This entry on our phantasmagorical merry-go-round was constructed as a family residence by Samuel F. Lee back in 1873. By 1913, the Lees moved out, and the County transformed the house into a home for the elderly called the County Poor House. Later, the County decided to turn it into the Tooele Hospital, serving as a healing place for the sick and mentally ill. In 2001 the new Tooele Hospital was built — half of the space became a nursing home The other half became a haunted attraction called Asylum 49.
Nurses who worked at the nursing home have reported being spooked several times by weird stuff. Many patients also stated how they were attended by a nurse dressed in white. But the nurses on staff never wear white. The hauntings include shadowy figures that have crawled up onto the ceiling, orbs, and a spiritual portal — really macabre Ghostbuster level activities. Former hospital patients’ spirits still wandered the corridors. Also, Samuel Lee’s ghost waltz about and is sometimes accompanied by his young son Thomas, who loves playing jokes on the visitors.
The Danvers State Hospital, originally known as the State Lunatic Hospital, was – you guessed it – a psychiatric hospital. It was built in 1874 and opened in 1878. The facility held 40 buildings for a maximum of 450 patients. Between the 1930s and 1940s, overcrowding became a serious issue. Over 2,000 patients were housed at the asylum. Funds were solicited to build more quarters and hire more staff, but money was denied. Consequently, patient care went downhill fast. Patients lived in their filth, treatments stopped, and symptoms got worse. Shock therapies, straitjackets, lobotomies, and drugs became the go-to policy to keep patients under control. The hospital closed its wards in early 1969. By 1985, the majority of the asylum was either in ruins or abandoned. The rest of the hospital was permanently shut down on June 24, 1992. In 2005, a residential developer bought the property and demolished most of the buildings that were left. The renovations turned the land into the Avalon Danvers Apartments.
Danver´s gothic design is said to be the actual inspiration for Batman’s Arkham Asylum. That alone is worth the price of admission. When the asylum shut down and the apartments went up paranormal activities skyrocketed Residents and visitors have recorded ethereal voices, flickering lights, and slammed doors.Visions of former patients have been seen prowling the halls, and a creepy atmosphere sensed on the grounds as well — all of this has lead real-estate agents to dub the property as “it has a spirit of its own. One of a kind. Really homey.”
Byberry Mental Health Hospital – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry was a psychiatric hospital located on Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mentally ill and criminally insane patients were housed at the facility. The first buildings were built around 1907 and mid-1920s, while the newer ones between 1940 and 1953. The hospital had over fifty buildings as the patient population grew rapidly, exceeding its capacity. By 1960, the loony grouping had reached over 7,000. The hospital’s conditions were dismal and poor. Accusations of patient abuse and inhumane treatment were frequently made. Documented photos have shown dozens of naked men bunched up together, and human feces lining the hallways. Patients were continuously abused, neglected, and tortured. The atrocious hospital finally closed in June 1990. Byberry stayed abandoned, it was vandalized from 1990 through June 2006 when it was finally demolished by a developer company. A priest wasn’t handy that day so no Holy Water was sprinkled on the land. Guess what it became? That’s right, single homes retirement community.
Tons of horror stories creep out of this facility. Legend says that a mentally-deranged spirit resided in the catacombs beneath the buildings, with a large knife, fervent to slash the throats of trespassers. Also, as if that wasn’t enough, residents constantly complain about “that racket” — human-like howling and night-time scream. At least it’s not hoodlums playing that damn ZZ-Top.
Essex Mountain Sanatorium – Verona, New Jersey
The Essex Mountain Sanatorium’s history began as The Newark City Home, a children’s reformatory established in Verona, New Jersey in 1873. Unfortunately, on January 9, 1900, the home was burned down. A separate “cottage system” was later built for boys and girls. The “Newark City Home for Girls” was laid on the highest point in Essex County, on October 30, 1900. Due to lessening enrollment, in 1906, the cottage was phased out, and the building was unused. for a couple of years On January 21, 1908, the building was refurbished as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, orphaned children, and the mentally ill. Back then all those people were bunched together — peas in a really bizarre pod. Since TB cases kept increasing, 11 new buildings were built in 1917. The facility practiced shock therapy treatment, full-frontal lobe lobotomies, and physical beatings on all of its patients. Patients were poorly cared for and could be found laying on filthy cement floors. When Streptomycin, an antibiotic drug that cured Tuberculosis, was discovered in the early 1950s, intakes began to drop. Consequently many wards were closed. In 1977, the sanatorium shut its doors and since then it has been completely abandoned.
Although the asylum is guarded and trespassing is forbidden, ghost hunters have been granted permission to explore the old site. “Get out” by god knows what has been heard, ghostly children wander on the 3rd floor, apparitions out of nowhere, and a wheelchair seemingly moves on its own — basically just another Tuesday when it comes to haunted mental hospitals.
Stay tuned for part two to find out about the other hauntingly historic hospitals and asylums that made the cut for our ‘Most Haunted’ list! In the mean time, check out our blog or maybe you’d be more interested in getting up close and personal with spirits in your city with one of our ghost tours!
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