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South Carolina’s Oldest, Creepiest Asylum Still Stands Today And Will Give You Nightmares

Growing up I would hear about “Bull Street.” It was never called the South Carolina Mental Hospital or any other name that might have been used, it was always just called “Bull Street”. It was always understood by me, at that time, that this is the place where people were sent if they were ‘crazy’. The older I got the more I understood what went on there, and, I also learned that the place had a proper name along with an extensive history. And, it does have an extensive history, quite a few scary stories, more than a few ghost stories, and (just possibly) hope for the future. Here’s the story of South Carolina’s abandoned asylum.

In 1822, the corner stone for the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum was laid. The building had been designed by the the famous architect, Robert Mills. This made South Carolina the second state in the country at that time to put money aside for such a building for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. That one building quickly grew into a ‘mini’ city of its own accord and most of it still stands today.

Men and women were held in separate buildings. Slaves and servants had their own building. During the Civil War, the grounds were used as a prison camp for Union officers until 1865. After the war, things were on a teeter-totter at the asylum. Money was running short and supplies for the patients were hard to obtain. It’s believed that the superintendent at that time used his own money to buy supplies.

In the 1950’s it held over 5,000 patients! However, the population declined to a more manageable 3,000 by the 1970’s. There was a theatre, greenhouse, pool room, gym, canteen, church, and ice cream parlor! But, then a medical trend came about stating that it was harmful to hold patients for long periods of time. It was the call for deinstitutionalization. South Carolina did this much more slowly than other places while trying to find homes and healthcare for the patients who needed it. This left the South Carolina State Hospital abandoned for the most part.

There were reportedly never any lobotomies or sterilizations performed at this hospital, however, I’m sure that over the 200 years that this hospital has stood that it has seen and heard its fair share of stories. Today, part of the hospital has been moved to private ownership. Demolition, excavation, and new construction will ensue immediately this year.

You still need written permission to go on the grounds. I advise no one to go onto the property without this. However, with the new ownership of part of the property, this writer is unsure if they still allow you to go there at all. My mom always said that if walls could talk they would be able to tell stories of the likes you probably would never hear elsewhere. I feel the same about this place. Maybe we should be partially grateful that these walls are silent.

Gwen Tennille
Gwen is an author, artist, illustrator, graphic designer, mother, wife, and part-time super hero. She loves to tackle her dreams head on and takes life by storm. Coffee is her best friend and a good book cannot be beat! When does she have the time, you ask? Well...do you really need that much sleep?