Every street has that one scary house on it, usually way down at the end. It always seems dark, yet you always feel like there are eyes inside there, peering out at you. In the same breath, almost every town has an abandoned mental hospital or old asylum in it, and just like with that one scary house on your street, these abandoned facilities seem like something you dreamt up your nightmares. Colorless and cold, even something as simple as looking at them fills you with a sense of dread that chills you to the bone. It is like you can feel its haunted presence, even miles away. As much as we would all like to pretend these don't exist, they do, and we might as well make a list of them. File this one under: nightmare fuel. Here are six abandoned asylums that look like something out of a horror movie (and in one or two cases, really is).
Danvers State Hospital
Image credit: John Phelan
You cannot grow up in or around Massachusetts and not know about the Danvers State Hospital. If you are driving into (of all places) Salem, it used to loom on a hill just over the highway, and you could always feel it, looking at you. It was like some great beast that hunkered down on the horizon, warning all people to turn around before it was too late. Famous for many things, including the rumored invention of the pre-frontal lobotomy, Danvers State Hospital was everything we learn to fear about the way old sanitariums were run. Patients were often either abused or ignored, and when word finally did get out how bad it was there, the place was shut down almost immediately. The odd thing was, this also meant it being abandoned fully equipped, which somehow made it all even scarier. I know because I went. Truly unsettling stuff.
Remember in the intro I talked about how one or two of these "asylums" WAS the setting for a horror film? Well, this is that place, and the movie is called Session 9 (and it is amazing). Also, there is a level on the Xbox game Painkiller that uses the Danvers State Hospital as a setting. The place "mysteriously" caught fire in 2007, and it was a fire you could see from Boston. A very surreal ending to a very surreal (and terrifying) place.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
I have to give a huge shout out to Miss Cellania for writing up a great piece for Mental Floss about this very establishment. Seems this place was not quite sure what it wanted to be. First it was a hospital that took care of people suffering from TB. Then it became a nursing home (because nothing says "we should make this place into a nursing home" like thousands of TB fatalities). After that, they were going to build a giant Jesus statue there (hey, let's overcompensate for the death and evil with a giant Jesus statue). Of course, that fell through. Now it has become one of the most prevalent places for urban explorers and novice ghost hunters alike.
A big part of its draw for some is the death tunnel or "body chute". The place the staff would use to bring the (many) dead outside without bringing anymore duress to their patients. A very creepy place with a very creepy history. Heck, this one inspired a horror film or two itself.
Image Credit: CLK Hatcher
Residing in Connecticut, Norwich State Hospital is one of those places you see and you know you want nothing to do with it. It FEELS cold, imposing, and dangerous. Like all old mental facilities, it was built up high with bricks and wood, and looks like the building itself is ready to lurch to life at any moment. Yet it is another example of a place where its history only makes it seem that much more vile.
Rumors of physical abuse (and worse) led to its shutdown, but at its high water mark, it was THE place where all the worst offenders in Connecticut end up. Keep in mind, this meant they were often side-by-side with people who had real mental conditions that needed to be addressed. As you can imagine, things did not go well there. The giant, terrifying looking building is still there to remind people to stay in line, just by presence alone.
Trenton State Hospital
Image source: AsylumProjects
As opposed to going with a photo of the outside, as I have with most of these so far, I wanted to show a picture from the inside. You see, the state some of these hospitals were left in is half of what makes them so memorable and scary. Rarely were these places abandoned slowly over time. In most cases, the state would find out these places were doing immoral things and would shut the places down immediately. This often meant, people who needed help pushed out onto the street (which is never a good thing) and these places remaining full of most of the stuff they had when they were open. Like the above "happy chairs" for example. A dusty reminder of what must have been very colorful (and undoubtedly oft disturbing) group therapy sessions.
What really makes this New Jersey hospital so scary was the story of the owner, who lost his mind and began having all of his patient's teeth pulled because he believed all mental problems stemmed from some infection in the body. When pulling their teeth showed no results, he began having gall bladders and kidneys pulled and, well, it only got creepier from there.
The scariest part is that only certain wings of this hospital have been shut down, but most of it is still operational.
Topeka State Hospital
Image Credit: Bobbi Studstill
This Kansas Hospital is another example of a hospital where the staff seemed more into abusing their patients than doing anything that could help them. One of the more famous examples (and what supposedly lead to its shutdown) was the fact that an outsider came in and saw a man who had been strapped to a gurney so long, his skin had begun to grow around the shackles on his wrist.
If you do not find that shocking and appalling, you may need to read it again. Just seeing that building and knowing things like that went on inside sends an electric chill up my spine.
Athens Lunatic Asylum
Image source: Roadtrippers
This Ohio hospital is on this list for one reason and one reason only. It is the home of one of the most famous (or again, infamous) situations of patient abuse ever. If you look at the above photo, it says it all. A female patient snuck away into one of the unused wings of the hospital one day when no one was paying attention. She laid down in a sun spot underneath the window in the same way a cat would lay down on a warm spot. Only thing is, she never got up. They found her three weeks later, and the above photo is the permanent stain she left on the cement, that you can still clearly see to this day. Her name was Margaret Schilling, and it is a story that seems straight from a horror movie. If a patient can wander off in your hospital and go missing for three weeks with no one noticing, safe to say there is some neglect going on with the staff. Head counts are pretty important in that line of work.
The craziest part that makes it so scary and horror movie-esque is that stain. They have tried washing it, power washing it, and bleaching it. Yet the stain always comes back. Is there a better way to end this list?
I think not.