There is an air of mystery and horror surrounding the very real, sometimes awful treatment patients received in what were once referred to as "insane asylums." These stories are absolutely bone chilling, both in terms of the idea of the hauntings themselves, but also (maybe more so) because of what these spirits may have experienced.
The Ridges Asylum
The Ridges, located in Athens, Ohio, has served a variety of patients, from Civil War vets to violent criminals. The site of many atrocities performed under the guise of mental health care, the Ridges is connected to the story of a patient named Margaret Schilling. Margaret was somehow locked in an abandoned ward and died there. Her naked body was undiscovered for several weeks, and today the floor of that ward still shows the human-shaped stain her body left behind. Does Margaret's spirit still haunt the hallways of The Ridges? Some ghost hunters believe so.
The Ridges is now part of Ohio University and houses the Kennedy Museum of Art, along with classrooms, offices, and an auditorium. The Southeast Ohio History Center offers walking tours of The Ridges. It's recommended that visitors pre-register due to the popularity of these tours.
North Hampton State Hospital
North Hampton State Hospital in Massachusetts was reportedly haunted by residual sounds from the past. The site has been almost completely demolished, but the curious might wonder if the new residents of the planned housing community will still hear slamming doors, squeaking gurneys and tearful moans from denizens of the past.
The new construction at the site is expected to be mixed-use, shopping and residential, so anyone who's curious about whether they might see a ghost still lingering can easily take a stroll through the area.
Bartonville Mental Hospital
From Bartonville Mental Hospital in Peoria, Illinois comes the story of "Old Book," who was a patient that assisted in the burial of many other inmates and was known for wailing pitiably for their deaths. At his own death, the wailing was even louder, and many doctors, nurses, and other witnesses reported looking over at the graveyard elm to see Old Book's ghost crying in anguish.
Currently, the hospital grounds and existing 12 building of the original 63 buildings that once housed patients and staff are listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. All of the remaining buildings are currently occupied.
Traverse City State Hospital
The Traverse City State Hospital opened in 1885 as the Northern Michigan Asylum, and at maximum capacity could house up to 3,000 patients in its various buildings. Originally opened as a mental hospital, the founder of the asylum, Dr. James Decker Munson, believed in an experimental form of therapy for mentally-troubled patients. He believed that beauty could cure mental distress. So, the hospital was set in a picturesque location and the use of straitjackets was forbidden.
Over the years, however, the hospital also served patients suffering from tuberculosis, polio, and influenza.
The hospital closed down in 1989 and sat vacant for many years, though some of the buildings have recently been rehabbed to serve as apartments and shopping.
Ghost stories abound about this hospital, including seeing ghostly forms on the grounds, the sounds of wailing and pounding in some of the buildings, and an unnerving, hostile presence about what's commonly called "the hippy tree" -- essentially that the tree itself is a portal to hell, and that evil presences can be felt around it.
The site is currently home to a couple of still-abandoned buildings, some rehabbed ones, and it's also the current site of the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park, so there are plenty of opportunities to explore the area.
Byberry Mental Hospital
The miles of catacombs beneath the abandoned Byberry Mental Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania have given rise to some strange stories. One especially frightening urban legend concerns a former patient who reportedly still lives down in the tunnels. It's said he wields a large knife and chases unwelcomed explorers. Is he a ghost or tragically real? Either way, do you really want to find out?
The original building has been torn down to make way for "The Arbours at Eagle Point," which will be a senior living community.
Wernersville State Hospital
Wernersville State Hospital in Pennsylvania is also said to be haunted. This asylum is connected to tales of a headless orderly and the ghost of an elderly patient who carries a baby with her around the grounds. Supposedly there is an unmarked graveyard somewhere on the grounds.
The hospital is still in operation as a mental health care facility.
Pennhurst Asylum, Spring City, Pennsylvania (closed 1986) has a haunting history of murder, abuse and torture of patients, who were reportedly chained to the walls during their torture. Children were said to be confined to cribs regardless of age. Paranormal investigators report chilling EVPs, temperature changes, being pushed, and objects thrown across rooms.
The hospital has recently been reopened by private owners who provide tours and open the entire facility for paranormal investigations.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia was closed in 1994. In 2007, Joe Jordan purchased the facility and offered ghost tours. Some of the resident ghosts include Lily, a young girl (along with her playmates), misty forms, phantom footfalls and entities in the isolation cells. The disembodied cries and moans of wounded Civil War soldiers are perhaps the most frightening.
The asylum is now a National Historic Site and offers tours for curious visitors.
Rancho Los Amigos Hospital
Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California was originally a working farm for the poor but eventually became a hospital and mental ward. Shadowy figures and faces in the asylum windows, flickering lights, and a wandering shadow man are just a few of the paranormal activities reported.
The hospital is still in operation as a rehabilitation center.
Taunton State Hospital
Taunton State Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts is a currently operating psychiatric hospital (circa 1854). The hospital is said to be haunted by the ghosts of its frightening past. One of the few female serial killers, Jane Toppan, slaughtered 31 patients and a nurse in this hospital. Part of the hospital's macabre past includes rumors of satanic rituals performed by doctors and nurses in the basement. The creepiest story from patients is about a shadow man who crawls along the walls.
Broughton State Hospital
Broughton State Hospital (a state psychiatric hospital) located in Morganton, North Carolina is considered one of the most haunted places in the state. Still in operation, patients and staff report seeing vaporous clouds, shadows playing solitaire and blue lights. Underground tunnels used to transport patients to different buildings are also said to be haunted.
A Treasure Trove of Paranormal Exploration
The many stories of ghosts haunting the halls of asylums present investigators with a cornucopia of possible paranormal activities. Real ghost pictures and scary true ghost stories intrigue and capture the imagination with the lingering question if there life after death.