Death, illness and tragedy have long permeated the history of American insane asylums. Beginning in the late 18th century buildings that housed the criminally and mentally insane swept the country like a plague. Now, all but lost to history, is the brutality of these institutions. Torture and abuse all but flowed freely and time has yet to erase the multitude of horror that was brought down upon each surviving soul. Take a journey into the world of asylums, see why they are some of the scariest places on earth, and join me for a road trip into the supernatural.
The Ridges, also known as the Athens Mental Health Center, is located in Athens, Ohio. Originally monikered the Athens Asylum for the Criminally Insane, this massive institution first opened its door on January 9, 1874, 135 years ago. The State and Federal Government had purchased over 1,000 acres of land from the Coates, a family who's farm had previously occupied the land.The main building, enormous in structure, was designed around the idea that it was therapeutic for patients to be housed in a facility that resembled a home. Asylums at this time were more often than not a facade of mental abuse and torture. The Ridges was a first of its kind, an asylum where bleeding, freezing,and kicks to the head were not thought of as ways to "shock" the illness out of the brain. The less disturbed patients were housed closer to the center where the administrative offices and employee housing were. The violent patients were housed at the far end of the wings away from employee housing and convenient exit and entries. The building housed over 200 patients until over crowding ensued in the early 1900's. The patient count then rose to nearly 2,000 patients in a building with only 544 rooms. The increase in popularity lead to the decline of patient treatment. Once unique in its mental practices, The Ridges fell prone to old time customs. Eventually, The Ridges reverted to hostile patient care including physical abuse, water treatment, shock therapy, and lobotomies.
By 1993 the Athens Asylum for the Criminally Insane bused its last patients out and closed its doors for good. All patients except one that is.
On December 1, 1978, a female patient named Margaret Schilling disappeared from one of the active wards. On January 12,1979, 42 days later, they found her lifeless body in the abandoned top floor of ward N. 20. The ward at the time, abandoned and closed down for years, was used for sick, infectious patients. A search was done when the women went missing but apparently the only floor not checked was ward N. 20. When a maintenance man found her body, lifeless, cold, and unclothed, she had been dead for several weeks. The official cause of death was heart failure but why still remains a mystery. A stain in the shape of a human figure can still be seen on the floor where she died. It is said that her spirit can be seen peering from the window of the room in which she spent her final moments. People have also said to hear disembodied female voices, lights, shadow people and the sound of squeaking gurneys.
Danvers State Lunatic Asylum is probably one of the most notoriously haunted and intriguing places on earth. High atop Hawthorne Hill, overlooking the scenic countryside, sits an incomprehensibly massive structure. Donned the "witches castle on the hill". Danvers State Lunatic Asylum was constructed in 1878, costing a mere 1.5 million dollars, and was considered to be an architectural masterpiece. The asylum resides in the town of Danvers, Massachusetts which many people are unaware was formerly known as Salem Village. Salem Village was the first actual location of the 1692 Salem witch trials. Unbeknownst to some, the witch trials did not begin in Salem, but in Salem Village, or present-day Danvers at a church on Centre Street. The trials were later moved to a larger building in Salem when hysteria ran rampant and onlooking spectators swarmed the church. More significantly, the most fanatical judge of the witch trials, Johnathan Hawthorne, lived in a house built by his father in 1646 at the top of the hill, in the exact location on which the asylum stands today, hence the name "Witches Castle". It has also been speculated that John Proctor and 4 other accused withches were hung on Gallows Hill in 1692 , the property on which Danvers was built. Creepy? For sure.
Danvers was the epitome of ever changing health care at the turn of the century and its humane treatment of patients earned it a brilliant reputation. But like so many others of its time it fell victim to rising cost, lack of government funding, understaffing, and over population. Its deteriorated physical state was a hell-hole likened to that of a German death camp. A once humane facility had turned dark by the mid half of the century.
Danvers, between 1940 and 1950, housed over 2,600 mentally ill patients in a structure only designed to house 600. Due to over crowding it relied on medical interventions customary to infamous asylums of that time- shock treatment, hydrotherapy, insulin shock therapy, psychosurgery and lobotomies (the frontal lobotomy was said to be perfected here) to keep its burgeoning census under control. Patients became haggard and ghostly, often spending a majority of time alone and in solitary confinement in a space no larger than a small bathroom. "Poorly clothed and sometimes naked, these legions of lost souls were shown pacing aimlessly on the wards, lying on the filthy cement floors, or sitting head in hand against the pock-marked walls" (Deutsch 1948, 41, 49). It was so bad that a lifeless patient would go unnoticed for days.
Finally in 1992, Danvers State Lunatic Asylum shut its doors for good. The remaining patients were placed accordingly in other facilities and the castle was locked down. 14 years passed as the building sat abandoned, then in 2005 the property was bought and parts of the once grandier hospital were demolished. Although still recognizable, Danvers State is now apartments and although the part of the original structure was kept, the foreboding that once emancipated from this great palace is gone.
With such a trivial history its no wonder why Danvers was dubbed one of the scariest places on earth. Although converted to apartments the lure and legends of Danvers remain. People have reported flickering lights, full body appiritions, hearing invisible footsteps and doors that open and close on their own. Whether the hauntings are residual energy burned into the atmosphere of this eerie place or whether they are intelligent , its up to you to decide!
Byberry Mental Hospital is located on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Byberry was first constructed in 1906 and opened its doors to its first patient in 1907. It began its humble beginnings as a work farm for the mentally ill but between 1910 and 1920 construction of a large asylum was begun and completed. As asylum popularity grew through out the country by the mid 1930's, Byberrys population quickly expanded and with it came tales of patient abuse and neglect. Insufficient funds left the asylum in disrepair and patients wound up unclothed, starved, and sleeping in raw sewage filled hallways. Many patients were forced to live huddled in decrepit, dingy rooms with no socialization or supervision. Every mental institution nightmare you can imagine came true. "Padded cells, restraining devices, solitary confinement, beatings by brutal warders and violent inmates, lobotomies and electric shock " were just some of the horrid treatments used. Byberry became known as a "real life house of horrors" as murder , suicide, and brutality reigned.
Finally, in 1990, state authorities were forced to close the doors of Byberry after a thorough investigation advertised the despicable living conditions within Byberrys' walls. Yet, its dark history continued on and remains to this very day. The crumbling buildings that once housed hundreds of mentally insane patients and the subterranean tunnels that connected them were left vacant and forgotten. Until now.
There are a multitude of horror stories surrounding Byberry. After it closed it became a magnet for all sorts of unwelcome visitors– thieves, vagrants, gangs, satanic cults, and possibly former inmates in search of shelter (less mentally ill patients were tossed to the street after Byberry closed). The miles of catacombs beneath the abandoned asylum have also given rise to some very creepy stories. One freakishly scary urban legend concerns a former mentally, violent patient who reportedly still lurks the tunnel below, hiding in wait, wielding a large knife, to slice the throats of any unsuspecting explorer that should cross his path. It is also said that a gang of satanic occultists have taken refuge in the dilapidated building. The satanic rituals that are said to take place here have possibly opened up a door to hell within these walls as growling sounds and bodily welts and scratches have been reported.So take caution should you adventure in at night , ghosts are not the only thing lying in wait.
Yes, I've decided to save the best for last. Welcome to Waverly Hills.
In Louisville, Kentucky, perched high upon a massive hill sits Waverly Hill Sanatorium. This reigning fortress of doom, in its decaying state, cast an eerie feeling upon the city below. The atmosphere surrounding Waverly creates a sense of foreboding and is further darkened by a chilling history.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium was built in 1924 to replace an existing hospital, built in 1910, that became over populated due to the rapid spread of a plague like disease, tuberculosis. Although Waverly hills was considered the most advance tuberculosis sanatorium in the country, hundreds of adults and children still perished at the peak of the epidemic. Ultimately the deaths occurred because of lack of medicines. A cure for tuberculosis wouldn't come until 1940 and although treatments were performed to help alleviate the condition of the patient, most times they were just as horrific as the disease itself and most patients did not survive.
By the late 1930's a decline in tuberculosis occurred and then in 1943 a cure for the disease was made available worldwide. Patients were treated accordingly and when healthy were released. Then in 1946 after tuberculosis was under control Waverly Hills shut down. Yet, that was not the end of the story, it was later re-opened as Woodhaven Geriatrics Sanatorium in 1961. During this time there were many stories of patient mistreatment and unusual experiments . By 1982 Waverly was shut down indefinitely . Today it sits abandoned, ravaged by time.
With 64,000 deaths under its belt its no wonder why Waverly Hills is considered to be one of the most haunted asylums in the country. As if death wasn't enough to cause a haunting it has also been speculated that satanic rituals have taken place with in it's walls. Shadow people lurk with in its corridors accompanied by disembodied voices and slamming doors. Here are a few well known occurrences at Waverly:
An elderly women is often seen, in spectral form, crying for help, bleeding with her wrist and ankles chained.
The Third Floor
It is said, depending on who is speaking, that either a ghostly little boy (Robert) or girl (Mary) haunts the third floor. Often times people report seeing this ghostly apparition playing with a ball; others have only heard the ball bouncing on the floor or down the stairs.
The faint voices of Children are often heard singing "ring a round the rosie" on the roof.
The Fifth Floor & Room 502
Stories say that in 1928, the head nurse in Room 502 was found dead in her room. She had committed suicide by hanging herself from the light fixture. She was 29 years-old at the time of her death and allegedly, unmarried and pregnant. Her depression over the situation led her to take her own life. It’s unknown how long she may have been hanging in this room before her body was discovered. Then in 1932, another nurse who worked in Room 502 was said to have jumped from the roof patio and plunged several stories to her death. No one seems to know why she would have done this but many have speculated that she may have actually have been pushed over the edge. There are no records to indicate this but rumors continue to persist. It is reported that people have seen her full body apparition on this floor. Feelings of despair are often times felt in this area as well as voice growling "get out"!
The Fourth Floor
The fourth floor is regarded as one of the most creepy, scary and "active" areas in the hospital. Doors are reported to slam for no apparent reason in an area of the fourth floor that is off limits to human occupants due to the unsafe nature of the area. Ghostly shadow like silhouettes are also said to be seen lurking the halls in this area as well.
Hope you enjoyed your ride through the world of asylums. If you'd like to continue on your ride you can read more here in the second part:http://hubpages.com/hub/Haunted-Insane-Asylums-Some-Of-The-Scariest...
Waverly Hills Sanatorium photo taken by a paranormal investigation.
The old Traverse City State Mental Hospital, also known as the Northern Michigan Asylum. (photography by James Howe)
Taunton State Hospital built in 1854 in Taunton, Mass. Built according to the Kirkbride plan of mental asylums. The breezeways were added in the 1890's to connect the neo-classical buildings. After abandonment, most of the buildings burned down. The rest were demolished in 2009.
Hellingly Hospital was a large mental hospital in the village of Hellingly, east of Hailsham, in East Sussex, England. The hospital, also known as East Sussex County Asylum or just Hellingly, was opened in 1903. Its architect was GT Hine, one of the great asylum architects of the era. Photo by Romany WG.