The Danvers State Hospital was one of the most notorious institutions in Massachusetts history. It is known as the birthplace of one the most controversial and troubled procedures in medical history: the pre-frontal lobotomy. Yes, that’s the one where they jab your brain through your eye with an ice-pick. The dark history behind this former insane asylum in Massachusetts will give you chills.

Located in Danvers and first opened in 1878, the Danvers Lunatic Asylum (as it was also called) was an isolated and almost totally self-sufficient hospital. One of a new kind of “compassionate care” facilities that viewed mental instability as a treatable disease, Danvers was regarded as a humane and modern place. For a while.

In the late 1930s, the hospital was filled to capacity. Over 2,600 patients crowded the building that was only built to support 500. The staff was struggling to deal with the overflow of rowdy, sometimes violent patients. Some patients were left to wander the halls nude and covered in their own filth.

Enter Walter Freeman. By 1942, Freeman had “perfected” the lobotomy and performed over 200 of the operations. His technique was surprisingly simple and shockingly brutal: by thrusting a long rod into the corner of the patient’s eye and through to the brain, wiggling the rod around a bit, then simply withdrawing it, the brain’s connections to the pre-frontal lobe would be severed. The patient would be rendered passive, calm…and zombie-like.

Danvers welcomed this solution to their problems. Over the course of the 1940s and 50s, Danvers patients were subjected to shock therapy, psychosurgery and a massive wave of lobotomies that set the stage for the procedure to be spread to other hospitals in the nation.

The hospital closed in 1992. Since then, most of the original buildings have been demolished, although several remain.

In 2007, mysterious fires began to break in the apartment complexes that had been built on the Danvers site. People claim to have seen apparitions of former patients on the grounds of the old hospital, and the spot served as the setting for the 2001 horror film “Session 9.”

Did you ever visit this former insane asylum in Massachusetts before it was demolished? Do you know anyone who worked at Danvers? Join the conversation in the comments! If you’d like to visit some haunted spots, follow this road trip to the most haunted places in Massachusetts.

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former insane asylum in Massachusetts

Can I visit any abandoned places in Massachusetts?

Abandoned places in Massachusetts are pretty abundant. If you’re up for a getaway, for example, you might want to follow the thrilling road trip to the eight most abandoned places in Massachusetts. The 238-mile road trip takes approximately 6.5 hours, but that’s without adding in stop times. Visit such abandoned spots as Clinton Railroad Tunnel in Clinton, which was built after more than 4,000 buried bodies were moved from their final resting spot. Don’t be surprised if you experience the paranormal here. The Franklin Park Zoo Bear Cages in Boston and Fort Revere in Hull are also on the itinerary.

What are the creepiest cemeteries in Massachusetts?

One of the creepiest cemeteries in Massachusetts just might be Old Hill Cemetery, which dates back to 1729. It is perhaps best known for the above ground crypt of the Pierce family. Numerous family members are buried in the crypt, which has been vandalized over the years. The desecration of the family’s final resting place hasn’t escaped their attention, and they’re said to now haunt the cemetery. Goose Hill Cemetery, in Rutland, is also worth a stop if you’re looking for some of the most haunted places in Massachusetts.

Are there any haunted hotels in Massachusetts?

How brave are you? Brave enough to stay at one of the haunted hotels in Massachusetts? Fortunately, you have a few from which to choose. The Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston, for example is the oldest hotel in Massachusetts and has seen its fair share of well-known guests, including John F. Kennedy. Local lure says that the hotel is haunted by, among others, Harvey Parker, the hotel’s founder. If you check in, expect some weird happenings – from strange whispering behind hotel doors to Harvey Parker himself peering out from mirrors, taking a peek at the guests.