Haunted Abandoned Insane Asylums

Haunted Abandoned Insane Asylums

In these days of enlightenment it is difficult to imagine that until just a few short years ago, public institutions practicing torture, sinister experiments and cruelty existed in our society.

Founded with the best of intentions these places soon became overcrowded and hellish for the people who lived in them.

Many who walked through their doors never left. Secreted away and segregated from society they remained voiceless until death released them from their misery.

Who were these people?

Sadly they were often those who today would be diagnosed with conditions such as autism, epilepsy, and depression.

Born in a period where the science of the mind was in its infancy they were often guinea pigs for harsh and inhuman treatments. Thankfully, society has moved on.

One by one these institutions have closed their doors and their occupants returned to society. For many though salvation came too late. Left behind and forgotten in death, these ghosts of a shameful past cling to the haunted and abandoned insane asylums where they were once incarcerated.

The Ridges Lunatic Asylum, Ohio, USA

Built at the end of the nineteenth century, the first residents in this sprawling institution were veterans of the American Civil War. Although they did not know it, these early occupants were the lucky ones.

By the 1950’s the asylum was terribly overcrowded and no longer concerned with therapeutic approaches to mental illness.

Patients were routinely lobotomized and subjected to electric shock treatments in a bid to cure them. Worse still, the elderly, the rebellious and the unwanted were now accepted into its care for the feeblest of reasons.

Conditions in the asylum were barbaric and hopeless. Visit today and you can still see the legend ‘I was never crazy’ carved into a wall by a desperate inmate.

Now haunted by the ghosts of its past, the Ridges attracts those interested in the paranormal.

The Ridges First Day Shift Staff. Taken in 1873
The Ridges First Day Shift Staff. Taken in 1873

One of the most interesting features of the derelict building concerns a patient called Margaret Schilling. In 1978, Margaret somehow locked herself in an abandoned ward.

Removing her clothes and folding them neatly, she lay down upon the freezing floor at the coldest time of the year. Why she didn’t call for help or try and unlock the door, nobody knows.

A month later her body was discovered. If the staff who lost the unfortunate Margaret believed they could now wipe her shameful death from the history of the asylum, they were mistaken.

As she lay on the cold hard floor, Margaret’s body left an indelible stain which no amount of scrubbing will ever wipe clean. The perfect impression of her frail body marks her death for as long as the building stands.

Today though, it is not the building but the nearby cemetery which attracts most attention from ghost hunters. Said to be haunted by soldiers from the civil war, ghostly apparitions can be seen roaming among the gravestones.

Bizarrely, some of these gravestones have been arranged in a perfect circle for no apparent reason. Cross a little wooden bridge to a small island and you find a further cluster of isolated graves.

Rumored to be those of the criminally insane they can’t be buried on consecrated ground. Not surprising then that this cemetery with its unmarked graves, strange arrangements and spectral inhabitants now attracts those interested in witchcraft, demonology and the dark arts.

The Metropolitan State Mental Hospital, Massachussets, USA

Opened in 1930 the Metropolitan State Mental Hospital hides a grisly past. As well as the usual suffering of patients that took place as a matter of course, the hospital is the scene of a notorious murder.

A murder so shocking that it earned the institution the nickname ‘the hospital of the seven teeth’. Free to roam around the extensive grounds, one of the patients Anne Marie Davee decided to go for a walk in 1978.

The Metropolitan State Mental Hospital, Massachussets, USAIt was a walk from which she would never return. Sometime later seven teeth were found in the possession of another patient, Melvin Wilson.

Despite suspecting that Wilson had a hand in Ann Marie’s disappearance no action was taken until an investigation by the Massachussets State Senator.

Eventually, Wilson led police to the three sites where he had buried the murdered and dismembered body of Ann Marie.

Walk the beautiful grounds today and you too may get the eerie feeling that someone or something is watching you.

Numerous reports of paranormal activity have been reported by workers in the now derelict building that was once the main asylum.

Shadowy figures are seen to dart and flit about the empty rooms. Locked doors open and then slam shut again. Screams and flashes can be seen from the wards where electro therapy took place.

In a bid to placate the restless souls who wander through the building and surrounding grounds, efforts have been made to identify the 350 former residents buried in unmarked graves.

Sadly there is no evidence that it has worked yet.

Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Victoria, Australia

Originally named the Mayday Lunatic Asylum, this hospital in Victoria Australia was built in 1867 to house 1,200 patients. Closed in 1995 it has become the focus of paranormal investigators and amateur ghost hunters.

One of the most ubiquitous ghosts that haunts the asylum is Matron Sharpe. Reputed to have been a kind and caring nurse in life, she appears in different rooms and is seen walking down the long granite staircase.

A benign spirit she doesn’t make those who see her uneasy or frightened. Perhaps reluctant to abandon their workplace other former employees still hang around the asylum.

These include Tommy Kennedy a former resident and kitchen hand. Enter his kitchen uninvited and you may feel him poking you and pulling at your clothes.

Another employee, a gardener, still tends the grounds dressed in his old green jacket . He materializes pottering among the flowers and vegetables before disappearing into thin air.

Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Victoria, Australia

Sadly, the ghost of a child is often seen in the former chapel and is said to approach female visitors. Unable to speak, the poor girl tries desperately to attract the attention of women who appear sympathetic.

One can only imagine this heart breaking child was once abandoned and is still waiting for her mother to return.

Perhaps the most sinister haunting though, is that of a female patient thrown from an upper window by another inmate.

Her ghost is still seen standing on the spot where she fell and giant orbs have been photographed hovering outside the window where she was pushed to her untimely death.

The Rolling Hills Asylum, New York, USA

Built in 1827 to house paupers, drunkards, lunatics, handicapped, orphans, widows, vagrants and murderers’ the Genessee County Poor Farm as it was known, welcomed one and all.

Closed at the end of the twentieth century the former asylum was converted to shops and an antique mall. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before customers and shopkeepers began to report strange unexplained events.

A nurse wearing an old fashioned uniform was often seen striding purposefully along the corridors. Before she could be approached she would disappear, her footsteps still echoing through the air.

On another occasion a stunned employee of the mall opened a door to see an old man being bathed in a tin bath by the same nurse. Hastily closing the door, she waited a moment or two before peeking again. The room was empty.

As the incidents of disembodied voices, apparitions and shadow people became more frequent, the management of the building decided to call in experts with paranormal experience to perform an investigation.

What followed was a chilling and terrifying encounter with the supernatural.

Recounted by a manager of the current Rolling Hills complex, it took place in the basement of the building in a room once known as the Christmas Room.

Lit only by a pink glow stick, the investigators formed a circle. A small rocking horse and a ball were placed in the middle. During the evening, the glow stick and rocking horse began to move around of their own volition.

Stunned by what they were witnessing the group was further astonished when a hand and arm materialised in thin air and snatched the ball away.

Denbigh Insane Asylum, Wales, United Kingdom

This beautiful Gothic building was built in the 1840’s in North Wales, United Kingdom. Built to accommodate Welsh speakers who did not fare well in English asylums it now lies empty and vandalised in the Denbighshire countryside.

Another building constructed with altruistic intentions, it soon housed not only the mentally ill but pregnant women who had brought shame upon their families, the elderly and embarrassing relatives who needed to be hidden away from acceptable society.

Local superstition suggests that the ground on which the asylum was built was cursed by three witches who lived in the area. The most famous of these witches was Bella Fawr.

Those fascinated by witchcraft still break into the grounds of the asylum to try and invoke the spirits of the three ladies who once weaved their wicked spells and incantations.

Demons and witches have been seen screaming in the old isolation wards and a tunnel leading from the hospital is said to end under the cottage of one of the witches.

With a history that emulates that of most Victorian asylums, it is fair to say that the building has seen its share of suffering and misery.

Today, various ghosts are rumored to roam the area. These include a doctor and lab assistant who are seen in the morgue, two young students who were murdered in the grounds of the asylum and an old lady seen wandering around.

The same old lady has been seen in the little chapel built in the grounds. Witnessed walking through the church by a group performing a seance, her apparition terrified the group so much they never returned.

Pennhurst Asylum, Pennsylvania, USA

The cruel and quite terrifying practices that existed in this asylum went a long way in changing the public’s perception of the insane and their treatment.

Shockingly exposed in the 1960’s it painted a picture of neglect and inhumanity. Entitled ‘Suffer Little Children’ a television expose revealed unacceptable overcrowding and under-staffing.

Patients were tied to beds, high functioning adults were left uneducated and under stimulated and the chemical cosh was used to subdue and control those with behavior problems.

Since its closure a variety of paranormal events have been recorded. Distressed and angry voices have been heard on numerous occasions.

The terrified voices ask visitors why they have come and beg to be left alone in peace. Shadow people including that of a small child move about the empty buildings.

Chairs rock backwards and forward and doors are slammed by unseen hands. Some visitors claim to have been scratched and shoved and objects have been thrown across rooms.

One of the most compelling testimonials comes from a group of three men who witnessed a nurse appear before them. A firefighter, a police officer and a U.S. marine they were hardly the most suggestible of witnesses.


Built with the best of intentions, they became the shame of modern society. Institutions where the mentally ill were treated in the most cruel and inhumane fashion.

Experimented upon, deprived of their rights, neglected and often mistreated, those who entered insane asylums often lived a hopeless and hellish life.

If it is true that hauntings spring from anguish, despair and pain then mental institutions provide a rich breeding ground. Woven into their very fabric is the misery and hopelessness of those who once lived within their walls.

Some were lucky and escaped their atrocious existence, others sadly ended their lives in misery.

Forgotten by society their tortured souls still remain hidden and voiceless, destined to be tied forever to the haunted and abandoned insane asylums where they spent their final days.

2 thoughts on “Haunted Abandoned Insane Asylums

  1. Hi Chris,

    This is an interesting read. I’ve watched several documents of Asylums Hauntings. One especially at Penhurst Asylum as investigated by the Ghost Adentures. It gets pretty eerie sometimes watching that show.

    It’s sad how the patients were treated there, especially the children. And the mysteries one that occurred at the Ridges Lunatic Asylum, about a patient called Margaret Schilling, removing her clothing on a cold day and lay down on a cold floor, that is crazy!

    You do a lot of research on the paranormal and the strange and mysteries things. I enjoy your website. Lots of good read.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi there Rosa,

      Well it sounds like you are well up to date on your paranormal shows – good for you! I have also watched many Ghost Adventures episodes to date (I’m stating the obvious there really!).

      We do a lot of research here for our articles but that’s the most fun part – getting to hear about all these paranormal reports is great and they are extremely easy to write about (a labor of love really!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *