If the walls of these asylums could talk, they would speak of a gruesome and troubled past. Of course, it has never been the intention of these institutions to cause any harm. And yet, due to lack of knowledge about mental illness, the patients were often subject to prison-like conditions and treatments which seemed more like evil scientific experiments. In that regard, we are grateful for how far medical procedures have come. Asylums continue to hold a fascinating place in our country’s history, especially ones that have been around for over 100 years. Visiting these buildings today might send a chill up your spine, reminding you of the despair of the patients who have long since gone…or perhaps never quite left.
1. Rolling Hills Asylum (East Bethany, New York)
Rolling Hills Insane Asylum is considered to be one of the most haunted places in the country. The institution opened its doors in 1827 as the Genesee County Poor Farm for the handicapped, blind, and those deemed lunatics. This was also a space reserved for criminals and murderers until the 1950s. By the 90s, Rolling Hills was leased out for shops. Reports of hauntings began around 2002, when visitors began hearing strange voices and were spooked by slamming doors and misty appearances.
2. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (Weston, West Virginia)
3. Pennhurst (Montgomery, Pennsylvania)
Pennhust opened in 1908 as a school for the physically and mentally handicapped. At any given time, there could have been up to 10,000 patients on the 120-acre site. The institution was shut down in 1984 due to charges of dehumanization. According to the reports, children were left in their cribs for too long, patients were chained to walls, and there were even some instances of murder. It doesn't seem surprising that this has become one of the most haunted places in the country. Visitors report being physically touched by unseen beings, objects thrown across the room, and terrifying voices.
4. The Ridges (Athens, Ohio)
The Ridges, originally known as Athens Lunatic Asylum, opened in 1874 for patients who were considered mentally or criminally insane. It actually began as a place of relaxation until overcrowding turned the conditions grim. The staff resorted to quick and harsh treatments such as ice baths and physical violence.
5. Danvers Lunatic Asylum (Danvers, Massachusetts)
The terrifying Danvers Lunatic Asylum opened in 1878 to house criminals who were mentally unstable. By the 1930s, there were so many residents and so few staff members that the bodies of those who had died would often not be discovered until several days later. Danvers is often cited as the "birthplace of the prefrontal lobotomy" and this was a common procedure. And perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that this site used to be Salem - village of the notorious Salem Witch Trials.
6. Waverly Hills Sanatorium (Louisville, Kentucky)
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is consistently rated among the most haunted places in the country. In its time, over 63,000 deaths occurred here. The hospital opened in 1910 as a treatment center for tuberculosis; however, many deaths were also caused by mistreatment. "Death tunnels" were even built for the large volume of bodies. As you can imagine, this spot is incredibly haunted. There is allegedly video footage of a young boy named Timmy who can be seen playing in the halls.
7. Essex County Hospital (Cedar Grove, New Jersey)
Essex County Hospital was built in 1896 and originally known as the Overbrook. In 1914, a terrible tragedy occurred when the boiler broke and 24 patients froze to death. The hospital suffered from overcrowding and incredibly gruesome procedures were the norm. Several reports of ghosts and other apparitions have taken place at Essex County. Note: Presently, this site is undergoing demolition, so cannot be accessed.
8. Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital (Middletown, New York)
Middletown State opened in 1874 and, unlike many asylums in its day, used homeopathic treatments designed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann. Rather than be subject to harsh electroshock treatments, patients had a regulated diet and were given opportunities for exercise. The male patients even had their own baseball team. The tragedy came from an outbreak of fires that happened in the early 1900s. Today, the buildings are used for government funded groups. Many employees report the inexplicable feeling of being watched.
9. Taunton State Hospital (Taunton, Massachusetts)
Since it shut down in 1974, most of Taunton Hospital has deteriorated. However, its history is too eerie to miss. Jane Toppan was a notorious patient who stayed at the asylum. She was a serial-killing nurse who is reported to have murdered at least 30 patients. It seems as if the staff who worked there also had a bit of an evil streak, too. According to reports, doctors would force patients down into the basement for chilling rituals. After the hospital shut down, visitors noticed what they described as a "shadow man" looming in the halls.
10. Western State Hospital (Staunton, Virginia)
Western State Hospital opened its doors in 1828 as a tranquil space for those suffering from mental illnesses. The beautiful grounds and mountain views made for a wonderfully healing environment. However, under the jurisdiction of the new superintendent Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, things became grim. Until they were federally banned in the 1970s, Dr. DeJarnette implemented sterilization as a form of eugenics. The space continues to hold the spirits of mistreated patients and there have been countless reports of paranormal activity here.
Have you visited any of these haunted asylums? Be sure to share your experiences there!