A favorite location of modern horror movies and television shows, insane asylums have captured our imaginations for ages. They terrify us, but we can’t seem to get enough of the mysteries surrounding them.
Many of the most famous mental institutions have sordid histories, with famous patients, terrifying ghosts, and scads of abuse. Abandoned asylums have become popular tourist spots, but one thing is for certain: You don’t want to be caught stuck inside the following asylums’ walls when night rolls around.
Ranchos Los Amigos
Located just a few miles from downtown LA, Rancho Los Amigos was originally created in 1888 to assist people living in poverty. Here, they could work in exchange for care from the local government. Over time, the grounds were extended and the space evolved into a hospital. Eventually, it grew to include a mental hospital. Though the hospital itself is still in use, it has moved to another location.
In the 1950s, it began to shut down its wards, including the mental hospital. Along the way, some gruesome secrets were discovered. In 2006, during a training exercise, Marines uncovered a freezer in the morgue. Inside, they found mummified amputated limbs and brain tissue samples that were left behind from when the hospital was abandoned.
Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital
Creedmoor Psychiatric opened in 1912 as the Farm Colony of Brooklyn State Hospital and is still running in Queens. There are some places that have been abandoned to rot: most notably, Building 25, which the hospital ceased using in 1975.
This ward gained its reputation from a series of reports documenting brutal treatments of patients. In the 1970s, rumors began to emerge about an abundance of patient abuse including rapes, murders, suicides and beatings. In 1984, a nurse’s aid hit a patient in the throat with a blackjack. The man, Robert Venegas, was restrained in a straitjacket at the time, and died due to asphyxiation--the aide had crushed his throat.
Shortly after, the asylum was closed for good. Intrepid explorers still explore Building 25, which is now covered in pigeon excrement and filled with detritus from its former days--and maybe even a few ghosts.
Athens Lunatic Asylum
Built in 1874 and originally intended for tending to tuberculosis patients, Athens Lunatic Asylum housed patients far over its capacity for most of its functioning years. This overcrowding caused the care for each patient to decrease, until the hospital began abusing its patients.
Athens, also called the Ridges, is notable because of its famed physician Dr. Walter Jackson. Dr Jackson was a big fan of the transorbital lobotomy, calling it the cure-all for every mental illness. He performed over 200 lobotomies during his time there.
While there were hundreds of deaths when the hospital was open, the most famous is that of Margaret Schilling. She went missing while on the ward, and either no one noticed or cared. Over a month later, her body was found in a locked room in an abandoned part of the tuberculosis ward. Her body left a gruesome stain on the ward floor that can still be seen today.
Fairfield Hills State Hospital
Opened to ease the overpopulation of the other two mental hospitals in Newtown, Fairfield Hills quickly became overcrowded itself and resorted to unconventional methods of treating its patients. Aside from the then-normal lobotomies and Thorazine prescriptions, this hospital became known for its use of hydrotherapy. You’re thinking that’s not so bad, right? Not exactly.
Used as a calming method, this treatment involved patients being submerged in ice water sometimes for more than a full day. They were not permitted out, even to relieve themselves.
Many locals believe the remnants of the Fairfield State Hospital to be haunted--especially the tunnels used to shuttle patients, dead and alive, throughout the sprawling campus. Fairfield Hills shut down in 1995.
Related: Whispers of Fairfield State Hospital
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Aslyum
The Trans-Allegheny hospital opened its doors in 1864, just in time to begin admitting soldiers from the Civil War. At the time, there was no understanding of shellshock or post traumatic stress. The doctors treated their understandably traumatized patients by doling out lobotomies and other brutal tactics.
During the century it was running, thousands of patients died there. Most were buried in mass graves on the grounds. Its most famous patient, Charles Mason, lived there in the latter years of the hospital’s functioning. After decades of mistreatment and abuse, the Trans-Allegheny closed its doors in 1994. You can now visit the Trans-Allegheny with one of their ghost tours--maybe don’t stay overnight, though.
Related: Corridor of Horrors: The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Feature photo of Athens State: Mike / Flickr (CC); Additional photos: Joan Andersen, Abandoned NYC, Historic Mysteries, Patrick Rohe / Flickr (CC)