We can all agree that movies and TV shows that are set in creepy asylums are always good for a scare. With a dark, creepy setting, weird equipment meant to torture patients, and evil doctors and staff members wandering the halls, it is no wonder they help send a few chills down our spine. But the inspiration has to come from somewhere, and in this case, some of the most notorious asylums inspire shows like American Horror Story to dig into the past and expose the horrors that went on. Lobotomies, electroshock, abuse; it all happened at one point. Here is a look at some of the past asylums who have truly dark backstories.
10. Topeka State Hospital
Views of this hospital and the treatment of its patients depended on who you decided to ask. Some heralded the Topeka State Hospital as a beacon of treatment who was on the cutting edge, while others called it a “snake pit.” Rumors of sexual assault, abuse and neglect swirled around this asylum, but that was not the worst of the horror stories to come through its doors. A reporter had the pleasure of visiting the hospital and found a patient who was confined in leather straps for an extreme amount of time. They were there so long that their skin began to grow around the straps. Patients would also sit along the hall in rocking chairs, without much else to do. They were also made to work in the garden, possibly to keep food costs down. Reforms helped make a difference in the later years, however the hospital was forced to close its doors in 1997.
9. Beechworth Lunatic Asylum
Before closing in 1995, this Australian hospital was said to have over 128 years of terror. 9,000 patients died, and people were not actually consistent with whom they deemed to be a lunatic. That meant that hardly anyone ever actually left the premises alive. With so many deaths, naturally rumors of ghostly beings haunting the premises abound. For example, many claim to see faces in the window and also see the spirits of some former employees and of a woman who was thrown out of a window and died right in front of the hospital.
8. Athens Asylum for the Insane
While we know the word hysteria means something completely different now, back during the early days of this asylum, in the 1870’s, this was the diagnoses for women who exhibited strong emotions and showed signs of extreme sexual desire. Over 132 women were patients designated as insane during the Athens Lunatic Asylum’s (also known as the Ridges) run, with issues that included “menstrual derangements.” How did the asylum treat such conditions; by freezing, shocking and lobotomizing them until they were finally cured. One patient, Margaret Schilling, reportedly attempted to escape and hid in the attic, but unfortunately died of starvation. She is said to still haunt the asylum.
7. Fernald State School
When this asylum first opened, it had the unfortunate name of The Massachusetts School for Idiotic Children. The school had a superintendent that advocated for eugenics before people even knew what that meant. The original intent was to provide a school for boys that were deemed a bit slow and wanted to give them a chance to lead productive lives; however, it ended up being more like a prison for people who were merely sent there. Prison is also the right word, since many of the patients were treated as if they had committed crimes. They were physically and sexually abused, with some of the boys being expected to pull their pants down and get beaten until their rear end was as red as a cherry. They were also forced to participate in bizarre experiments, such as eating cereal laced with radioactive tracers.
6. Willowbrook State School
Fans of American Horror Story know that the storylines and themes are often based on real-life events. The inspiration for the second season came from Willowbrook, whose horrors were brought to the attention of the public by a plucky young reporter. While AHS had Lana, the reporter in this case was none other than Geraldo Rivera. Rivera found out that people were experimenting on children at Willowbrook, that sexual and physical abuse was occurring, and that many were being neglected. There is also a rumor that a murderer named Corpsey also killed children and buried them next to the asylum.
5. Trenton State Hospital
Trenton State Hospital was formally known as the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum, and had intentions of doing good in the world. But like the others that found themselves on this list, medical abuses and other atrocities are what was left as a legacy. Dr. Henry Cotton, who was the director of the hospital in 1907, took an initial progressive attitude towards treatment. However, he soon began to come up with some pretty scary theories about the mentally ill, and eventually the hospital became one that you only see in horror movies. Cotton began to take to the notion that all mentally ill people were a result of a bodily infection, and decided that the only way he could help them was to get rid of the infection. He would take out teeth, then moved onto stomachs, testicles, ovaries, and gall bladders. He claimed a high success rate, but what Cotton actually ended up with was a high body count. Cotton was so confident about his work that he actually published papers on it.
4. Danvers State Hospital
When this asylum was constructed in the 1870’s, its aim was to treat those who were deemed mentally ill and insane with the up most of kindness. However, rumors of cruelty began to spread, with doctors being accused of such as overdosing patients using extreme shock treatment in order to control the population. Danvers was also rumored to be where the lobotomy originated. Patients also died out of the staff’s sight and were not found for days at a time while their bodies began to rot. The asylum was closed in 1992 and was then converted into apartments that could be haunted.
3. Metropolitan State Hospital
Most of the asylums on this list have some form of horrible nickname, but none were more appropriate than the one given to the Metropolitan State Hospital in Massachusetts. Known as the “Hospital of the Seven Teeth,” legend has it that Anna Marie Davee, a patient at the hospital, took a walk around the grounds and was never seen again. Two years later, a man named Melvin Wilson, who was also a patient, took police to her three various graves that had different parts of her body buried. But the most chilling of all is that he kept some of Davee’s teeth as souvenirs of his horrible act.
2. Whittingham Hospital
Housed in London, Whittingham Hospital was one of the biggest asylums in Britain. While the hospital also suffered from rumors of neglect, there were also some actions by the staff that were seen as odd and completely inhumane when compared to others on this list. For example, some patients were exposed to what was known as the “wet towel treatment,” which consisted of a wet towel being twisted around a patient’s neck, forcing them to lose consciousness. There were also allegations of patients being punched and locked in storage rooms and that nurses would set gowns on fire.
1. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Built during the Civil War times, this West Virginian building was considered a pretty impressive sight to behold structurally. It was designed to hold about 250 patients, but somehow got to the point where it had 2400 (which also included Charles Manson at one point). Lobotomies, overcrowding and physical abuse occurred, but it is also believed that people were also locked in cages and chained to different items. These abuses led to many deaths over the years, which leads many to believe that voices can be heard urging people to leave the grounds.