Mental asylum. Psychiatric hospital. Mental hospital. Mental institution. There are a variety of names for these facilities that specialize in the treatment of those diagnosed with serious psychiatric illnesses.
We’ve probably seen at least one movie that featured an asylum: 12 Monkeys, A Cure for Wellness, Hellboy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Requiem for A Dream, Shutter Island, Sucker Punch, Silver Linings Playbook…the list goes on and on. We know what can go on in an asylum. Chaos can reign behind the walls. Despair can linger inside the wards. While psychiatric hospitals are supposed to treat their clients well, that’s not always the case.
Over the years, mental hospitals have been bombarded with criticisms. Some psychiatrists believe that these institutions are more like prisons than hospitals. Others have noticed the alarming amount of abuse the patients are forced to endure on a daily basis. The controversial practices of some mental hospitals have forced them to close their doors permanently.
There are quite a few abandoned mental asylums. But are they really abandoned? Or are there vengeful ghosts of former patients lurking about, unable to move on for whatever reason?
Many people would have you think so. Concerning abandoned mental hospitals all over the world, there have been numerous reports of everything from strange noises to ghost sightings. And some of these reports can be quite eerie… If you think you’re brave enough to take the risk, then check out this list of 15 creepy abandoned mental asylums that will make your skin crawl.
15. Danvers Lunatic Asylum in Danvers, Massachusetts
Nicknamed the “castle on the hill” by the locals, the Danvers Lunatic Asylum cost $1.5 million to make and opened in 1878, when the U.S. was still recuperating from the financial strain of the Civil War. At first, the hospital staff refused to use physical restraints on their patients and were vocal about their desire to cure patients instead of hiding them away like other mental asylums would do. However, things changed as the number of patients the asylum housed increased drastically. Danvers was designed to hold no more than 450 patients; by the 1920s and the 1930s, the number grew to more than 2,000. The staff couldn’t handle the serious overcrowding and the quality of care declined as a result. Patients had lobotomies performed on them and were subject to shock therapy and straitjackets. In 1992, the hospital was finally shut down.
14. Talgarth Mental Hospital in Talgarth, Wales
The Talgarth Mental Hospital used to be a unique mental institution where patients could grow their own food; now it’s a stomping ground for urban explorers. The hospital was built in 1903 and boasted its own self-sufficient services—electricity, heating, private water, and sewerage systems. Talgarth was originally a regular hospital to house patients during World War 1 but was eventually turned into an asylum. It faced sharp criticism over the years for its services and was shut down in 1999. Through the passage of time, slime now covers the walls. Some of them have drawings of cartoon characters on them which patients drew years ago. Tables and chairs are overturned and the floors are waterlogged and covered in moss. Attempts to tear down the building and convert it into something else have been met with fierce opposition from the local community for various reasons.
13. Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey
Trenton Psychiatric Hospital was the site of, essentially, a mad scientist’s lab. Built in 1848, the first mental hospital to be open to the public in New Jersey, and the first mental hospital to use the Kirkbride Plan, a program that encouraged patient privacy and a welcoming environment. But then, Dr. Henry Cotton became the institution’s medical doctor. Cotton believed that infections were the antidote to mental illness. And so, he and his staff performed surgery on the unwilling patients who were literally dragged to the operating room. Cotton and his staff removed teeth, gallbladders, colons, ovaries, testicles, and allowed infections to grow in the patients. Cotton declared to have a success rate of 90 percent but he mutilated and inadvertently killed thousands of people. The hospital continued to follow Cotton’s practices after he died, but eventually abandoned them, much like they abandoned the hospital.
12. Norwich State Hospital in Preston, Connecticut
Originally known as the Norwich State Hospital for the Insane, this institution housed 3,200 patients at its peak. The property housed more than 30 buildings which were all connected by underground tunnels, and it’s believed that these passageways were used to covertly torture patients. Even though the hospital was designed to house the mentally ill, it also housed geriatric patients and chemically dependent patients. The hospital was closed down in 1996, but according to some, it’s far from empty. People claimed to have seen apparitions of children and former patients as well as faces in windows, and have heard moaning, whispers, screams, and footsteps. The site has attracted plenty of amateur ghost hunters and was featured in an episode of Ghost Hunters.
11. Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Spring State, Pennsylvania
Pennhurst State School and Hospital had another name—Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic—which is a bit of a mouthful. Pennhurst officially opened its doors in 1908 but suffered from overcrowding not even four years after it opened. Patients included children who were mute, blind, had deformities of the face, heads, limbs, and those who just had “offensive habits.” Nearly 80 years later, the hospital was closed down due to charges on staff members physically assaulting and r*ping patients and forcing them to take psychotropic drugs. Pennhurst is supposedly haunted—paranormal activities include doors slamming against the walls, screaming, footsteps, objects moving on their own, and ghost sightings.
10. Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, California
The Metropolitan State Hospital is notorious for a murder that happened behind its walls. The hospital was built in 1927 due to the increasing need for another state hospital in the area. Even though the establishment was designed to house a little over 1,000 patients, it was already overcrowded by 100 patients just two years after the opening. That, however, wasn’t the hospital’s greatest problem. In 1978, a patient by the name of Melvin Wilson murdered another patient, Anne Marie Davee, with a hatchet, then dismembered her body and buried her body parts in various shallow graves around the hospital. Seven of Davee’s teeth were kept in Wilson’s possession. The hospital was eventually closed in 1992, leaving a dark reminder of Wilson’s horrid deeds behind.
9. Topeka State Hospital in Topeka, Kansas
There are countless cases of patient abuse taking place at mental hospitals, but perhaps one of the worst cases occurred at Topeka State Hospital. The hospital opened in 1872 and for many years afterward, patients were subject to all kinds of physical abuse and even r*pe. There were even reports saying that patients were restrained in straps for so long that their skin started growing around the straps. The hospital was closed down in 1997 as a result of a new mental health movement that wanted to move away from institutionalizing the mentally ill in hospitals. There’s a cemetery on the grounds which holds over 1,000 people and supposedly, their ghosts are still hanging around the building.
8. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia
Like the Norwich State Hospital above, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was also featured in an episode of Ghost Hunters. And much like the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, Trans-Allegheny also followed the Kirkbride Plan. The asylum opened in 1864 and already housed 717 patients fifteen years later. However, the institution didn’t just house the mentally ill like most asylums would; it also housed alcoholics and drug addicts. The patients suffered from poor sanitation and living conditions, which would lead to the asylum’s eventual closing in 1994. The grounds, however, are still used for the occasional fair. Trans-Allegheny is supposedly haunted and its owners offer paranormal tours six times a week and have allowed multiple paranormal investigations to take place there.
7. Magdalene Asylum in Cork, Ireland
There are Magdalene asylums in multiple countries around the world, but the asylum in Ireland probably has the most horrific case involving former patients. The Irish mental institution opened in 1765 and housed female patients known as “fallen women”, a term used to describe prostitutes and women who showed signs of sexual promiscuity. Magdalene operated relatively smoothly for over two centuries until the discovery of a mass grave was made on the grounds in 1993. This prompted media attention and the government conducted an investigation into the matter, where they discovered a long history of nuns working at the hospital committing violent and abusive acts against the patients. The investigation led to the asylum’s closing in 1996.
6. Poveglia Asylum in Poveglia, Italy
Poveglia Island, the location of the Poveglia Asylum, is known as the world’s most haunted island…and probably for a good reason too. The island was used during the 18th century to seal off people infected with contagious diseases, where they would eventually die. The Poveglia Asylum was constructed in the 1920’s and was designed to hold patients that exhibited symptoms of any kind of physical or mental illness. The doctor in charge regularly experimented on the unfortunate patients there and performed lobotomies on them. Said experiments could get pretty brutal, especially one where the doctor would stick a chisel in someone’s brain to see what moved. He jumped off the hospital’s bell tower after he claimed ghosts were haunting him—though some believe he was pushed to his death by some vengeful souls.
5. High Royds Asylum in West Yorkshire, England
The High Royds Asylum wasn’t like other mental institutions. Opening its doors in 1888, it featured its own library, cobbler’s shop, bakery, shop, many other facilities, and a clock tower that stretched 130 feet in the air. Patients worked on the farm, in the kitchen, in the laundry area, or in various other sectors around the asylum. Unfortunately, because the asylum couldn’t keep up with the contemporary psychiatric practices of the time, it was forced to shut down. In modern times, the institution has been featured in documentaries and TV shows. Countless people have reported feeling an eerie presence every time they step foot onto the grounds at High Royds, which makes them feel that the former patients of the institution are haunting the place.
4. North Wales Hospital in Denbigh, Denbighshire, Wales
Even those who don’t believe in ghosts don’t exactly want to hang around North Wales Hospital, also known as Denbigh Mental Asylum. Construction on the hospital began in 1844 and finished in 1848, fashioned to hold a maximum capacity of 200 patients. However, by the early 1900’s, it already housed 1,500 patients and staff members. Between 1942 and 1944, more than 20 patients had pre-frontal lobotomies performed on them—and one patient died from the barbaric procedure. Not only that, patients were also forced to stay in cages to prevent them from leaving their designated areas. The hospital was designated for closure in 1960 and closed down in 1995. Mathew Growcoot, a photographer who ventured into the hospital years later to take pictures, claims he’s heard many strange noises from the abandoned buildings.
3. Taunton State Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts
Taunton State Hospital was infamous for housing two infamous murderers. The hospital was built in 1851 and like a couple others on this list, it was built to curb the overcrowding present in other mental institutions in the area. The two murderers who were once patients inside the walls were Jane Toppan, nicknamed “Jolly Jane”, who murdered 33 people, and Lizzie Borden, who killed her father and stepmother with an axe. Supposedly, cult activity was present in the hospital and patients were forced to participate in Satanic rituals. The hospital shut down in 1975 after it was deemed no longer necessary. Paranormal reports in the years since include lights flickering on and off and a shadowy man climbing up and down the hospital walls.
2. Whittingham Hospital in Lancashire, England
Much like the Metropolitan State Hospital above, the Whittingham Hospital was built in response to the need of another mental hospital in the Lancashire area. Opened in 1969 and originally known as the Fourth County Lunatic Asylum, which could only hold over 2,000 patients, the institution was renamed to Whittingham Hospital in the early 1920’s and thanks to major additions to the hospital, could hold 3,500 patients. This made Whittingham the largest mental hospital in the country. But in 1965, student nurses at the hospital began complaining about conditions for patients that the Hospital Management Committee had neglected to fix. An investigation exposed the disturbing inner workings of the establishment—patients being locked in small rooms beneath staircases, in washrooms, outside the rooms, nurses lighting a patient’s clothing on fire while worn, physical abuse, vermin infestations, and more.
1. Athens Lunatic Asylum in Athens, Ohio
There’s a stain on the history of Athens Lunatic Asylum, in more ways than one. The asylum opened up in 1874 and could hold 572 patients then. Over time, the hospital expanded its property and could eventually hold about 1,800 patients. Like a few others on this list, the medical staff at Athens were more than eager to experiment with lobotomies on the patients, as well as with hydrotherapy and electroshock. The hospital ultimately closed down in 1993, but years prior to that, in 1978, there was a haunting case involving a patient. The naked and lifeless corpse of a female patient was found in an unheated room. Her body left behind an irremovable stain. Reportedly, the spirit of the woman can be peering out the window of the room.
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