As the healthcare industry changes certain things become outdated, and medical facilities are not immune to these changes. Ongoing medical research constantly unearths new and innovative ways to treat people. This leaves facilities, notably specialized facilities, unneeded and abandoned. Unfortunately, many of these establishments have tragic pasts, and some are even rumored to be haunted. This Halloween we’re telling the stories of 5 abandoned institutions that are sure to make your hair stand on end.
5. Fernald State School
Said to be the world’s second largest asylum, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a dark place that admitted patients for reasons ranging from laziness to murder. The facility was equipped to hold 250 patients, but had over 2400 at its peak.
This facility was originally designed as a school for boys with mental illness. However, the school’s third superintendent was a strong believer in the eugenics movement and took in poor, unwanted children because he considered them genetically inferior.
The children received a substandard education, had no privacy, and were abused by the staff. They also did the manual labor around Fernald such as raising crops, sewing shoes, and even cutting up brains of those who died at the school.
In addition to the horrible conditions at Fernald, a strange study sponsored by the Quaker Oats Company and run by MIT exposed the boys to radioactive isotopes via the cereal and oatmeal they ate to see how radiation was absorbed by the body. The boys jumped at the chance to participate because it meant extra food and other perks like parties and trips to baseball games. The study’s full scope was never disclosed to the boys or their guardians, which resulted in lawsuits against MIT, Quaker Oats, and the government.
A separate lawsuit forced Fernald to reform and guarantee quality care at any cost. The school housed a small number of patients until its closure in 2014.
Photo by Daderot [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
4. Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane
The Willard Asylum was a rare light in the US mental health system’s dark history. After opening in 1869, Willard took in many patients with severe medical and physical conditions. While treatments like electroshock therapy and ice baths were still used, the hospital also used other regiments like musical treatment and occupational therapy.
Patients at Willard were unconfined and had access to engaging things like movies, bowling, and schooling. The campus was also self-sustaining, so patients worked to raise crops, maintain the grounds, and wash clothes.
The facility’s goal was rehabilitation, but many patients never left. This was made apparent by the discovery of around 400 suitcases in the hospital’s attic. These suitcases belonged to patients that passed away during their time at Willard and gave insight into their lives before arriving at the asylum. One theory behind the suitcases is that patients believed they were only in for a short stay.
Willard Asylum closed in 1995 and parts of the campus are still used as a correctional facility. While this rare facility treated their patients well, the suitcases still give off an eerie feeling not so easily shaken.
Photo by Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD [CC BY-SA 4.0 ],
Thousands of people died from disease, suicide, and abuse during the asylum’s 130-year tenure. The high mortality rate was partly due to overcrowding as well as patients not being separated based on their condition.
Today some of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is open as a museum with various tours available, but most buildings are not open to the public. Many believe the asylum is spiritually active as well. Stories include multiple doors slamming all at once, ghost sightings, and screams coming from the buildings.
Photo by Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant) [CC BY-SA 2.5 ],
Danvers State Hospital was once a huge 40-building facility meant to hold 450 patients. That number quickly swelled to over 2000. The staff was stretched so thin that patients would pass away and be discovered days later.
Danvers is known as the prefrontal lobotomy’s birthplace. Solitary confinement, straightjackets, and electroshock therapy were also common treatments. The facility was so horrific that it served as H.P. Lovecraft’s inspiration for the sanitarium in his fictional city of Arkham.
Danvers closed in 1992 and was demolished some years later. One building’s gothic façade is now the front of a luxury apartment complex nearby and the only artifacts of the original facility are the cemeteries. Before the demolition, urban adventurers visiting Danvers reported full body apparitions, screaming, and suddenly feeling sick while in the buildings.
Photo: Public domain – via Wikimedia Commons
1. Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Originally a one room school house called Waverly School, Waverly Hills Sanatorium inherited the name after the hospital’s board purchased the land for a tuberculosis treatment center. Waverly Hills is famous for being the world’s most spiritually active place with otherworldly sightings every day.
Patients and staff alike knew that once they entered Waverly Hills they were there to stay. The hospital had its own post office, water treatment facility, and areas to raise plants and animals for food. Waverly Hills even had its own zip code.
Tuberculosis treatments ranged from ineffective to often fatal. Doctors tried inflating balloons in patients’ lungs to help them breathe as well as removing ribs to give the lungs room to expand. When people inevitably passed away they were sent down a body chute to waiting trains below. This method discretely disposed of bodies without alerting other patients.
Many spiritual accounts are documented at Waverly Hills. Standard sighting like doors slamming and people getting scratched are reported frequently, but there are also more specific ones. People have seen the ghost of a bleeding woman in chains, doppelgangers resembling people they know, and a ghost child named Timmy who likes to play with toys visitors bring him.
The most foreboding account is The Creeper. The Creeper is a shadow that crawls along the hospital’s floors, walls, and ceilings, and gives people who encounter it a sense of impending doom. Some even believe that The Creeper is an inhuman, otherworldly entity.
Waverly Hills closed in 1961, but the current owners still organize tours and paranormal investigations.
Photo by Kris Arnold [Public domain], Check out this post where we go over some creepy outdated medical devices.