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 why Mental asylums are haunted and which are the most haunted ones in the US.
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.
- Most places had 1 nurse for every 30 to 40 patients.
- 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 general consensus, when it came to patient care, was, drug them up, sedate them and hope they don’t cause a fuzz. To what point? Most mental hospitals tended to turn a blind-eye to the use of illicit drugs by their patients.
- Then there was the abuse. All manner of physical abuses happened daily in mental hospitals —- particular for female patients. An odd turn, considering that studies have confirms that 50-80% of people who suffer a sexual abuse are later diagnosed with a mental illness. 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.
Given those criteria and the fact that mortality rates in mental hospitals were staggering, is it any wonder these institutions became magnets for ghosts and the unexplained?
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.
Rolling Hills Asylum has been the subject of numerous documentaries, ghost 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 a 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.
Topeka State Hospital – 2700 W, 6th Street, Topeka – Kansas
The Topeka State Hospital (TSH), formerly known as the Topeka Insane Asylum in Topeka, Kansas, opened in 1879. In the early 1900s, there were reports of patients being abused, neglected, or raped. Patients were either restrained or chained naked for months on end, to the point that their skin fused to the chains. Also, at least 50 forced sterilizations took place at the hospital — state sponsored forced sterilizations mind you. Another horrid story took place in 1992 — therapist Stephanie Uhlrig, was murdered by a criminally insane patient. TSH closed on May 17, 1997, and was demolished in 2010. Hummer Sports Park now stands instead.
Every corner of Topeka State Hospital is said to be haunted. Those unfortunate souls that lived in TSH have left their mark on the place— rooting it to the core. Dozens of intruders have reported being chased by an eerie shadow, as it cries for help, and reaches out its claws at them.
Willard Asylum – Willard, New York
Willard officially opened in 1869 as the Willard Asylum for the Chronically Insane. The place was erected a stone’s throw away from Seneca Lake in New York. Willard’s first patient was a woman named Mary Rote, who was insane and deformed — she spent ten years chained in an almshouse. After Mary, Willard’s other fresh newcomers included a young girl who arrived after being locked away in a cell since she was a toddler, and another creepy patient who simply showed up on their doorstep inside a chicken cage. We are not making these things up. That’s how the place was christened. With that trifecta. Willard, unlike other nuthouses, had beautiful grounds with lots of activities to choose from; nonetheless, it was still a hospital with electroshock therapies and chilling baths to “control” the patients. Unclaimed bodies were buried in the ground’s cemetery marked with numbers instead of names — and there were a few. In 1995, the asylum closed down for treatments, but some buildings remained operational thanks to the New York State Department of Corrections as a rehabilitation facility for inmates. In that same year, a cleaning lady discovered 400 old suitcases stored in the attic. All of them were left behind by patients who simply never left, most buried around the spot in the region’s mass graves or potter’s field. The asylum’s property is currently owned by the Willard Drug Treatment Campus.
So far we have criminally insane inmates, deformed killers, mysterious dames in chicken cages, and a gaggle of dead — more dead than on a killing field. Ghosts? Williard doesn’t ghosts, the type of things that stalk Willard scare the living daylights from your usual Gasper. Several inmates have reported seeing shadows move in and out of the cells almost every night. Most are too afraid to stay in Willard — mind you some are jail hardened criminals that know who long to leave toothpaste inside a microwave in order to make a decent shiv. They also reported to the guards how the corridor’s light flickered uncontrollably. Laughs are usually heard when no one is around and the sound of bowling pins crackle down the hall as well.
Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center – 181 Hutchinson Ave, Wingdale, NY 12594
In 1924, The Harlem Valley State Hospital opened its doors — and Devil made a toast in its honor. It was later renamed the Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center. The land held 900 acres and looked like a small town. It contained a power plant, bakery, bowling alley, ice cream parlor, a chapel, a golf course, and a cemetery. The compound had 80 buildings distributed throughout, holding 5,000 patients and staff. The facility treated thousands of mentally ill patients. Their go-to therapy? Innovative and experimental insulin shock therapy treatment on patients with schizophrenia and other OCD disorders. — they would literally smack the patient into a coma. In 1941, the hospital was the first one to use electro-shock therapy and also pioneered frontal lobotomies. It was rumored that the compound tunnels were used as “torture chambers” supposedly for “curing” the mentally ill. When psychotropic drugs were introduced as therapies, the public went bonkers, lobotomies, torture, comas, where one thing but cannabis and acid — by God, a line had to be drawn. The outrage was overwhelming. The center underwent budget cuts and admissions declined. The Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center closed in 1994. Then developers became interested in the property. Finally, in 2013, 503 acres were sold to a company representing Olivet University.
Parapsychologists have reported coming out of the joint dazed, confused and with bruises on their arms that weren’t there before. The elevators start up on their own, dogs can’t stop barking in the empty basement, and lights flicker on and off even when the area has a short-circuit or electricity has been cut off.
Rockhaven Sanitarium – 2713 Honolulu Avenue, Glendale – California.
The Rockhaven Sanitarium is located in the Crescenta Valley at 2713 Honolulu Avenue in the City of Glendale, California. The sanitarium swung its door open in the summer of 1923. It was spearheaded by psychiatric nurse Agnes Richards and branded as a private mental health sanatorium for women with mild mental and nervous disorders. Its buildings were built within big landscaped gardens to create a peaceful ambiance for patients. Rockhaven became the first only-women private sanatorium of its type in the US. The hospital involved a 3.4 acre land with a few quarters and guest houses. A total of 15 buildings were built between 1920 and 1972. Rockhaven was managed by Agnes until 1967 when granddaughter Traviss inherited it. In 2001, Traviss sold the institution to a hospital corporation and from then on, the property was bought and sold several times.
Oddly enough, unlike other joints, Rockhaven was relatively peaceful — so much so that some of its residents refused to leave, even after death. While the property was closed and in the hands of caretakers, there were reports of lights switching on and off, alarm clocks sparking awake in empty rooms, mild whispers coming from the walls, full-body apparitions, shadows appearing out of nowhere, constant rapping on doors, and objects suddenly vanishing. One of the oddest occurrences has to do with a piano. One day the piano sits in one room and the next it’s in another. Noteworthy about Rockhaven’s spooks? None of them seem malicious in nature, unlike other places on this list. There are no evil spirits, only serene and playful apparitions. One of the ghosts that is said to haunt Rockhaven? Gladys Monroe — the blond heartthrob, Marilyn’s mother.
Medfield State Hospital – 45 Hospital Road, Medfield, Massachusetts.
Medfield State Hospital, was originally named the Medfield Insane Asylum, is a former psychiatric hospital complex at Medfield, Massachusetts. Most state hospitals, at that time, were labeled – officially – as asylums — as the years went by, some Federal marketing executives decided to throw a fresh coat of paint on the whole situation and viola — “let’s call them state hospitals, it’s vague enough.” Why? Most decent folks didn’t want to buy real estate near an asylum. Medfield asylum – cause in this blog we don;t sugar coat it – was founded in 1892 as the state’s first institution for chronic mental patients. The institution was renamed Medfield State Hospital in 1914. The complex had 58 buildings and a patient capacity of 2,200. The property was closed in April 2003 and the buildings shuttered. The campus has been reopened to the public, who can walk around during the daytime. However, entry to buildings is prohibited as well as night trespassing. The Town of Medfield purchased the hospital in 2014 and it still waits for the site’s future.
While walking the grounds, visitors have witnessed ghostly apparitions through the windows. Also, flickering lights inside the buildings are constantly recorded even when there is no electricity. Visitors have also reported feeling as if someone walks behind them in most cases they even heard footsteps. Oh, and an X-Men movie was filmed in it — the cursed, often delayed, New Mutants. The crew? While filming “Literally every single person on my crew — all my grips — all those people had weird things happen to them while they were there,” said the director. Also, Shutter Island was filmed at the spot, we couldn’t get Leonardo DiCaprio or Martin Scorcese on the phone for a comment.
Letchworth Village – Rockland County, New York
Letchworth Village was a residential institution located in Rockland County, New York. It was built for the physically and mentally disabled. It opened its doors in 1911 and consisted of over 130 buildings erected around hundreds of acres. Reports of improper care of the residents were a constant. Patients lived in filthy and horrific conditions. They were unclothed, unbathed, abused, and even raped daily. Levels of mistreatment escalated as patients were categorized as idiots, imbeciles, or morons. By the late 1950s the place was overflowing with over 4,000 patients. Saddest part? Many of the patients were young children, no older than 12 — and some of them were subjected to radical cruel experimental treatments. This situation was exposed in 1972 by Geraldo Rivera. Some stories from season 2 of American Horror Story, were based on the events that took place in Rockland. Letchworth Village closed in 1996 and most of its abandoned structures are in serious bad conditions.
Investigators and intruders have reported ghostly activities on the grounds. Investigators have experienced temperature drops while entering buildings. Eerie sounds include slamming doors, children’s cries, and furniture moving around. One visitor reported not being able to move as if something was pinning him to the floor. And, if that wasn’t enough, most residents who died were tossed in a graveyard next to the joint — which is also haunted.
Forest Haven Asylum – Laurel, Maryland
Forest Haven was a live-in facility in Laurel, Maryland for children and adults who were handicapped, mentally ill, or intellectually disabled. It opened in 1925 as a 300-acre farm with 22 buildings. It had a capacity of over 1,000 patients. By the 1960s, as funds were slashed, conditions at the asylum began to deteriorate. Staff members were reduced and unqualified employees were hired. The situation aggravated when nurses, doctors, and caregivers started mistreating patients out of frustration; many were physically and sexually abused. Multiple lawsuits were filed against the place. Eventually, death rates started to rise, caused by neglect. Dead bodies were buried in an unmarked field nearby — most simply tossed into a mass grave, one that over the years has eroded and vomited out its content. By 1991, the entire institution was shut by court order after years of alleged medical abuse and incompetence.
Even though the hospital is condemned, it has become a popular attraction for ghost seekers that don’t shy away from a “no trespassing” sign. Much of the equipment, as well as desks, beds, toys, and even medical records remain in-situs. Police guard the premises, but those who have managed to avoid them, have witnessed a lot of strange things taking shape within the complex. Shadows that crawl up to the ceilings, like that weird baby from Trainspotting. Screeching doors, wolves howling, metal cracking, and other bizarre noise. Orbs have also been photographed in the buildings. One trespasser alleged to have seen a floating specter dressed in white wandering the halls.
Molly Stark Sanatorium – 7900 Columbus Rd NE, Louisville, OH 44641
Molly Stark Sanatorium opened its gates on August 23, 1929, as a tuberculosis hospital in Stark County, Ohio. The place was named after the Revolutionary War heroine, Molly Stark. The upper floor was intended for bed-bound patients, while the lower floors were for ambulant or semi-ambulant ones. In 1948, two additional wings were built, increasing the hospital’s capacity from 128 to 230 patients. With the invention of TB antibiotics, the sanatorium was no longer needed as a tuberculosis hospital. The few remaining tuberculosis patients were transferred to a nearby nursing home in 1970. From then on, the hospital cared for non-related tuberculosis patients. The hospital continued operational until 1995 and remained abandoned until late October 2008 when the County Park Board bought it for $1 in an auction. A year later, the grounds were opened as the Molly Stark Park. The hospital is surrounded by a wire fence and awaits demolition — the job has been shelved due to the fact that asbestos has yet to be removed.
Lots of hauntings take place at Molly Stark. There have been reports of metal bed frames scratching noises against the floor as if someone was moving them, voices calling out to trespassers, shadows looking at folks through windows, or elevators running on their own. Those who have dared to trespass the property have reported being stalked by a black figure on the upper floor. Moving furniture noises and voices from the underground tunnels have also been reported.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – 50 S River Ave, Weston, WV 26452
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, later named the Weston State Hospital, was a psychiatric hospital that operated from 1864 to 1994 in the state of West Virginia, in the city of Weston. It was constructed between 1858 and 1881 and is the second-largest area complex in the world reaching 666 acres — sometimes these articles simply write themselves. It was originally designed to house 250 people, but by the 1950s it reached an overflowing capacity of over 2,400 patients. The hospital became overcrowded and patients´ mental treatments deteriorated, forcing it to close in 1994. Since then, the asylum compound has remained vacant. The hospital was bought by a developer named Joe Jordan in an open auction in 2007, changing the hospital’s name to the original one. The asylum was turned into a tourist attraction with daily guided historic tours.
Tour guides and visitors claim that spirits roam the hospital. The manager reported seeing how 40 doors all of a sudden slam shut consecutively. Others have claimed to have happened upon a translucent boy who has been seen wandering the old children’s ward. Old nurses and patients’ spirits have also been reported, as well as strange smells, the sound of screeching gurneys, and shouts coming from the electroshock room. The joint has been featured on multiple shows including Destination Fear, Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Lockdown, Ghost Hunters, and Portals To Hell.
Athens Mental Hospital – Athens, Ohio
The Athens Lunatic Asylum was a mental institution in Athens, Ohio from 1974 until 1993. The asylum was originally built on 141 acres of land, which by the 1950s, expanded to 1,019 acres and 78 buildings, housing 1,800 patients. The institution performed all manner of horrific practices the least of which were electroshock therapies, ice water baths, and ice-pick lobotomies. It’s quack doctors liked to experiment on patients. These cruel procedures and the use of mental health facilities declined during the 1950s as the availability of psychotropic drugs and alternative psychological therapies were introduced, allowing patients to be treated outside asylums. Thanks to all of that, the Athens Mental Hospital closed its doors in 1993. By that year, the asylum’s property was deeded over to the Ohio University and later named The Ridges. Renovation underwent in most buildings, turning them into classrooms and administrative constructions — as if college life wasn’t stressful enough, why not add ghosts and goblins to the mix. As an added bonus: “There are 1,930 people buried at the three cemeteries located at the Ridges. Of those, 700 women and 959 men lay under the headstones marked only with a number.”[
One of the spookiest stories is that of patient Margaret Schilling. On a winter day on December 1, 1978, she was playing hide-and-seek with the staff who simply got distracted and forgot about her. 42 days later, her dead body was found by a janitor in an abandoned ward. Even though the autopsy revealed that she died of heart failure, her body was found completely naked, and her clothes folded next to her. No one knows what happened. Today an imprint of her body and her clothes stains the exact spot of her death even after decades and millions of cleaning attempts. Her spirit appears every night staring out a window — the window of the room where her body was discovered. Visitors have also reported spine-chilling apparitions lurking in empty rooms, hearing incorporeal voices and squeaking wheelchairs, quivering lights, and hearing screams through the walls. In the asylum’s burial site lots of spirits wander and inexplicable screams are heard at night. The gothic revival building has inspired countless B-Movie Horror flick.
Royal Hope Hospital – St. Augustine, Florida
The Spanish military hospital in Old St. Augustine, Florida operated from the late 1700s until the early 1800s. Unsuspectingly, the hospital was built on top of an ancient Native American burial ground. The building was demolished in the early 19th century, but a replica was later built to house the Seminole Wars and the Civil War victims. The replica was named Royal Hope Hospital and is said to be haunted. Investigators believed that since buried bodies unearthed and moved some of the land was cursed thanks to the desecration.
Visitors and medical staff have reported the hospital as haunted. Hospital staff have gone on record saying how beds move on their own even with patients laying on top of them. How they have seen full-bodied apparitions of soldiers taking a smoke break around the hospital’s grounds. In the surgical room, surgeons have felt a man clinging to their clothes while operating and surgical equipment moves on their own. In the ward, beds have been known to jump smashing visitors in the face. Visitors have also claimed to have seen a specter lurking in the corner. Another haunted site is the mourning room. As nurses pass by the empty room, they have heard praying and weeping coming from inside. Other visitors have experienced being scratched on their backs by invisible hands — when the wound heals the scar spell out the word “help” in Spanish.
When did it all change?
When did it change? Stay tuned as we continue with that tale, and jump onboard this link and continue this straight-jacket infused rollercoaster as we give away that answer and a 13 more haunted hot-spots. Also, Check out our other post, or books, on the weird, the bizarre, the spooky and the unexplained at US Ghost Adventure — the number one source for hauntings in the United States. Also, if you’re brave enough, why not book a room in Lizzie Borden’s actual muder house? Stay the night. We double dare you, it’s a scream.