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Whilst there are all sorts of haunted houses, hotels, schools and castles throughout America, none are quite as nightmare-inducingly terrifying as haunted asylums and hospitals. With horrifying histories packed full of abuse, torture, sickness and death, it’s no wonder that these ten medical facilities are some of the scariest locations in the world.
Not only do many of these institutions come with a sickening past, but they’re also the location various forms of paranormal activity, including unexplained noises, bizarre shadow figures, ghost sightings and plenty more.
Without further adieu, here are the top 10 most haunted asylums in America:
10. Old Tooele Hospital, Utah
In 1897, Old Tooele Hospital started out as a family house. In 1913 it was transformed into what was known as the Country Poor House, where the elderly and those who had special needs were taken care of. By 1953, the building had changed once again into the Old Tooele Hospital which featured improved accommodation for patients, the added benefit of individual bathrooms and a dedicated morgue. Before it was closed down in 2001, the hospital made its name by being the filming spot for Stephen King’s The Stand.
Over the years, Old Tooele Hospital has been the site of a multitude of hauntings and various reports of paranormal activity. An Alzheimer patient known as Wes is said to haunt the hospital, with his favourite site being the room he was admitted to when he was alive. Many other ghostly characters have been sighted in the hospital, including a young child and Samuel F. Lee himself – the man who originally built the house for him and his family in 1897.
One of the most chilling reports at Old Tooele Hospital is the sound of a child’s voice uttering the words “Daddy, shot, sorry”. This is creepy enough on its own, but gets even more alarming when you find out that the Utah Ghost Organisation claims these words come from the ghost of child who was accidentally shot by his father.
9. Alton Mental Health Hospital, Illinois
Alton Mental Health Hospital is the only facility in this list which remains a functioning hospital to this day. Built in the early 1900s, this hospital is known for the harsh mistreatment of its patients, many of whom were subject to electrode shock therapy, lobotomies and cold water treatments – all of which were standard everyday practise at this hospital.
Many people today – including staff, patients and visitors – have reported hearing unusual noises, from doors randomly slamming shut to undecipherable whisperings. One of the creepiest reports comes from a nurse who was on duty and heard someone ask, “Who’s that?” She turned around to respond and discovered that there was no one there and no one had been in the building at the time. Later that day the exact same thing happened in the same place to a second nurse.
Since this facility is still a hospital today, tours are strictly forbidden, but people who have taken photos onsite whilst visiting patients have reportedly caught images of orbs with the pained face of a human male on the front.
8. Danvers State Lunatic Asylum, Massachusetts
Often referred to today as “the Witches’ Castle on the Hill”, Danvers State Lunatic Asylum was built in 1878 on a site which was originally in Salem Village – the first actual location of the Salem witch trials in 1962. When it started out, Danvers was renowned for its modern treatments and superb patient care, but it wasn’t long before the asylum fell victim to lack of funding, overstaffing and over-population which caused it to deteriorate into something more akin to a concentration camp.
Between 1940 and 1950, the facility housed more than 2,000 patients in a building which was designed to house 600. Patients became haggard and ghostly, often left in complete isolation for days on end. Things were so bad that dead patients would go unnoticed for days, if not weeks. In 1992, Danvers State Lunatic Asylum was closed down, demolished and renovated into the set of apartments it is today.
Despite the asylum being torn down and reconstructed as a different property, bizarre activity and paranormal sightings still abound. Residents and visitors have recorded full body apparitions, flickering lights, the sound of unexplained footsteps and doors opening and closing on their own.
7. ByBerry Mental Hospital, Pennsylvania
ByBerry Mental Hospital first opened its doors to the public in 1907, when it started off as a work farm for the mentally ill before it became a fully-fledged mental hospital in the 1920s. As more and more people were admitted to the hospital, ByBerry’s population significantly expanded which led to severe patient neglect and unbelievable levels of abuse.
Lack of funds left the hospital in a state of disrepair, with patients being forced to survive with no clothing, insufficient food and sewage-filled hallways for bedrooms. Padded cells, solitary confinement, regular beatings, electric shock treatments, restraining devices and lobotomies were the norm. In 1990, state authorities closed down ByBerry Mental Hospital after a thorough investigation revealed inhumane living conditions, yet its dark past continues on to this day.
A myriad of horror stories surround this facility. After it closed, ByBerry Mental Hospital became inundated with vagrants, gangs, thieves, satanic cults and former visitors seeking shelter. One mentally-deranged and brutally violent patient is said to reside in the miles of catacombs beneath the building, where he lies in wait with a large knife, eager to slit the throats of curious explorers unlucky enough to cross his path.
As well as this chilling legend, the hospital has also been the spot of several paranormal sounds and sightings, including human-like growling and physical scratches appearing on visitors bodies.
6. Rolling Hills Asylum, New York
Rolling Hills Asylum began life as the Genesee Country Poor Farm in 1827 – a dumping ground for the outcasts of society. Here orphans and widows lived alongside the severely mentally handicapped and criminals – all of whom were known as inmates. There are more than 1,700 documented deaths, with hundreds more unclaimed bodies believed to be buried onsite. In the 1950s, the poor farm was developed into the Old Country Home & Infirmary before it was transformed into a set of shops and later an antiques mall.
One of the strangest occurrences took place in 2007 when the Rolling Hills Case Manager, Suzie Yencer, was working on a public ghost hunt. The group was sat in a circle in the basement and as Suzie began to speak, a glow stick – the only form of light in the room – began to sway back-and-forth, a rocking horse started to move to-and-fro and several people saw a hand suddenly appear and reach for a ball.
The a second floor corridor on the east wing is commonly referred to as Shadow Hallway, due to the staggeringly high number of shadow figure sightings which walk through walls and crawl across the floor. A seven-foot-tall patient with gigantism is also commonly spotted in his room, where he spent most of his life alone
5. Athens Lunatic Asylum, Ohio
The Athens Lunatic Asylum opened at the beginning of 1874, specialising in the treatment of mentally and criminally insane patients who were admitted by the court or their own families. The facility originally started out as a calm and pleasant place where patients could relax and get better, but before long it became an overcrowded institution which relied on the cruel practises of electroshock therapies, ice water baths and ice pick lobotomies.
The story of Margaret Schilling takes place in December 1978 and is just as chilling then as it is today. On this winter day, Margaret – a patient at Athens Lunatic Asylum – was playing hide and seek with the nurses who got distracted and forgot about her. In January 1979, her body was discovered by a maintenance worker. Today an imprint of her body, clothes and hair are still clearly visible on the floor, even after decades of cleaning.
Patients who died without any family were buried anonymously at the asylum’s burial site which is reported to be haunted today. Instead of names, these gravestones display numbers, a practise which has resulted in a mass of unknown and unrecorded graves. Those who have been brave enough to explore the cemetery have reported a huge number of ghost sightings and unexplained screaming in the dead of night.
4. Essex Mountain Sanatorium, Essex County
The Essex Mountain Sanatorium began as the Newark City Home in 1873, a facility which was designed to serve as an orphanage, as well as to reform the local badly behaved children. After a devastating fire, the re-construction of two new buildings and the decline in the number of girls sent to the facility, the dedicated female building was transformed into Essex Mountain Sanatorium in 1906 to care for tuberculosis patients.
Over the years, the hospital grew considerably to cater for the ever-increasing number of patients, until it was no longer in use by the 1970s. The vacant wards were used to take care of the overflow of mental patients from the nearby asylum before the sanatorium finally closed its doors in 1977.
Since it closed, many people have chosen to step foot on the grounds and explore the sanatorium for themselves. Some of the most common experiences include hearing footsteps running along the halls, seeing wheelchairs moving on their own, witnessing ghost-like faces appear at the windows, feeling a presence following you and – possibly the most terrifying of them all – hearing eerie voices shouting, “Get out!”
3. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia
Constructed between 1858 and 1881, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is the second largest in the world, originally designed to house up to 250 patients before it reached its peak in the 1950s, when more than 2,400 people were crammed into the facility. As the result of bizarre experimental treatments and severe neglect, thousands of people died here over the years. The physical deterioration of the building coupled with changes in the treatment of mental illness resulted in the closure of the asylum in 1994.
The reasons for being committed to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum were almost never-ending and included trivial things, such as falling from a horse or laziness to ridiculous matters, such as “imaginary female trouble” or desertion by husband up to serious cases, including murders and PSTD. This broad spectrum resulted in all sorts of mismatched patients being cooped up together, all with disastrous consequences.
Two decades since the asylum closed, the staff who work there claim that ghosts continue to roam the halls. The manager states that she once saw 40 doors suddenly slam shut simultaneously, whilst other visitors have witnessed a ghost boy stood in the corner of a room. As well as sightings, whispers of forgotten patients have also been reported, on top of unusual smells, the sound of squeaking gurneys and screams coming from the electro-shock room.
2. Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Kentucky
Waverly Hills Sanatorium started out as Waverly School in the late 1800s and evolved into a hospital in 1908, designed to safely accommodate between 40 and 50 tuberculosis patients. As the disease developed into an epidemic, the hospital was expanded to support at least 400 patients and was considered to be one of the best facilities at the time. In 1961, the hospital was closed down, following the discovery of a tuberculosis-curing antibiotic.
Today, Waverly Hills Sanatorium is known by many as “the most spiritually active place in the world”, with paranormal reports every single day. Some of the most terrifying reports surround the story of a nurse who hanged herself by a light bulb wire when she discovered she had become pregnant out of wedlock by the owner of the sanatorium. Many unusual sightings have also been spotted in the area known as the Death Tunnel, where dead bodies were disposed of away from the eyes of the living.
Various paranormal TV shows have spent time recording at Waverly Hills Sanatorium, including the cast of Most Haunted – one of whom had scratches inflicted upon their body during their visit.
1. Pennhurst Asylum, Pennsylvania
With a history riddled with strong accusations of neglect, abuse and torture combined with tales of mental patients being chained to the walls, children kept for years in cribs and even murders, it’s not surprising that Pennhurst Asylum is one of the scariest places in existence. The building was opened in 1908 as a state school for the physically and mentally disabled and covered 120 acres, housing more than 10,000 patients at any given time.
The facility was often accused of dehumanisation and was reported to provide no help for the mentally challenged before finally being shut down in 1986, following several allegations of abuse by residents. When Pennhurst was closed, the buildings were abandoned as they were with patients’ belongings strewn about and medical equipment left to rot.
Several reputable ghost hunter groups have visited Pennhurst Asylum, where they documented spooky audio recordings, sudden changes in temperature and the unexplained movement of objects throughout the grounds. Spine-chilling recordings of voices exclaiming: “Go away!”, “I’ll kill you!” and “Why won’t you leave?” seem tame when compared to other reports which include various objects being hurtled across the room, visitors being physically pushed and multiple EVPs.