Are you interested in discovering the most haunted insane asylums in America?
You’ve come to the right place.
Keep reading, if you dare…
Updated 9/19/2019 – In today’s world, mental disorders are openly recognized, discussed and researched.
Advocacy for the proper education and funding for said research is something Americans now strive for with pride.
But this wasn’t always the case.
Table of Contents
- 1 Sinister History: Haunted Asylums in America
- 1.1 America’s 10 Most Haunted Asylums (And Their True Horror Stories)
- 1.1.1 10) Pennhurst Asylum – Spring City, PA
- 1.1.2 9) The Ridges (formerly Athens Lunatic Asylum) – Athens, OH
- 1.1.3 8) Ranchos Los Amigos – Downey, CA
- 1.1.4 7) Rolling Hills Asylum – East Bethany, NY
- 1.1.5 6) Danvers Lunatic Asylum – Danvers, MA
- 1.1.6 5) Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Weston, WV
- 1.1.7 4) Waverly Hills Sanatorium – Louisville, KY
- 1.1.8 3) Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane – Buffalo, NY
- 1.1.9 2) Byberry Mental Hospital – Philadelphia, PA
- 1.1.10 1) Essex County Hospital Center – Cedar Grove, NJ
- 1.2 Conclusion
- 1.1 America’s 10 Most Haunted Asylums (And Their True Horror Stories)
Sinister History: Haunted Asylums in America
A part of America’s dark history pertains to how we dealt with citizens with mental illnesses, and nine times out of ten it wasn’t pleasant. Things aren’t perfect today by any stretch, there’s still a lot of work to do, but we’ve made progress.
The primary purpose of insane asylums was to house people that were considered a disgrace to their families.
A lot of times this meant Americans who were mentally impaired.
Americans who were unusual in appearance or violent in demeanor typically got sent to these barbaric facilities as well.
How inhabitants were treated varied greatly from asylum to asylum, but most operated in the confines of harsh regulations, crude punishment, and horrible medical procedures.
Most patients often died because of malnutrition, neglect or medical experiments gone wrong.
These people led sad and lonely lives and often faced brutal deaths.
And for that reason, their souls continue to live on and haunt these facilities all across our nation.
Below is a closer, and scary, look into this country’s haunted asylums.
America’s 10 Most Haunted Asylums (And Their True Horror Stories)
10) Pennhurst Asylum – Spring City, PA
In 1908 a facility was built in Spring City, PA as a means to educate the mentally and physically disabled.
Originally named the Pennhurst Home for the Feeble Minded and Epileptic, the facility was shortly renamed the Pennhurst State School.
Over the years, Pennhurst developed a nasty reputation.
Many claimed that medical and personnel staff was inhumane in their treatment of patients, and that cruel practices were routine here.
Over time, reports of paranormal encounters began to circulate regarding the abandoned Pennhurst.
It became a frequent site for paranormal investigators to go through to collect evidence.
Disembodied voices, shadow apparitions, and objects that mysteriously move on their own have all been reported multiple times.
This growing reputation sparked a new future for Pennhurst, and today it is open to the public as a haunted house attraction.
Thrill seekers who attend Pennhurst are often seen screaming and fleeing the building, certain that the entities they encountered were no longer living.
There is a frequent turnover of staff members, as many are unable to overcome the eerie experiences they have at the facility.
Several former employees have come forward to report their experiences.
One young man said the underground tunnels of the asylum are severely haunted.
When down there, he could hear the sound of wheelchairs squeaking all around him.
Another employee refused to work in the surgery room after hearing a woman’s screams in her ear.
She claims that as soon as the screaming began, she felt a horrible pressure in her skull, above her eye.
She’s certain that this screaming spirit had been lobotomized in that room.
One brave employee continues to work at the asylum, despite having the scariest encounter yet.
One night, after the end of their shift, the man ran into a female wearing bloody makeup all over her face.
He had a conversation with her about the tour that night.
When he pointed the girl out to his boss, his boss was not able to see her.
9) The Ridges (formerly Athens Lunatic Asylum) – Athens, OH
The Ridges, also known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, was thought up shortly after The Civil War.
The facility officially opened on January 9, 1874.
This facility became a hub for inhumane medical practices, including lobotomies, electroshock and the abuse of psychotropic drugs.
However, these harsh treatments were not discovered until much later, when hospital records were publicized.
The hospital was closed down in 1993, and the original buildings were given to Ohio State University.
Many Ohio State students have reported seeing shadowy figures lurk around the buildings at night.
When asked for a description, several students have said that these figures seem to walk without direction or purpose.
They move with a strange gait, and never seem aware of their surroundings.
One student has recorded these encounters on her paranormal blog.
Using an EVP recorder, the girl claims that she made successful contact with one of the spirits that haunt the facility.
She wanted to verify the findings so she had a chat with a psychic and asked the medium to channel the spirit. The result was darker than she first imagined: The spirit communicated to her that he was once a patient at the Athens Lunatic Asylum.
Diagnosed with violent episodes of epilepsy, the spirit spent many painful years enduring extensive electroshock therapy.
When asked if the entity had had any family, the spirit told the girl via the medium that he had fallen in love with another patient at the asylum.
She was a female, by the name of Annie, who was sent to Athens because she suffered hallucinations.
Annie returned the man’s affections, until five years after her admittance, when she was lobotomized.
The man jumped off the roof of the building the following day.
A few other students have encountered a spirit much more malevolent in nature.
Many no longer visit the shower facilities alone at night because an entity likes to torment them any chance it gets.
Visitors have reported the spirit likes to show up standing behind them whenever they look in a mirror.
The spirit is not visible when each student turns around, but will quickly reappear again, watching and grinning maliciously at them in the mirror.
8) Ranchos Los Amigos – Downey, CA
The Rancho Los Amigos (“Friends Ranch”) opened up in 1888.
The facility was built in two distinct quarters, known as North and South Campus.
Occasionally, the abandoned South Campus is utilized for training by the US Army and Marines.
In 2006, a group of Marines discovered a collection of mummified legs, arms and brain tissue in a freezer at the facility.
South Campus has become a hotspot for paranormal encounters ever since.
Locals who have sneaked into the abandoned facility have reported hearing footsteps which seem to follow them when they walk.
Locals have said that several people who continue to reside at North Campus continuously complain to staff that they can hear the sounds of spirits crying from the abandoned buildings.
Rumor has it that patients often tell staff that when they look out of their bedroom windows at night, they can see caskets scattered all across the field.
A small group of paranormal enthusiasts report that at certain times of night they have seen full bodied apparitions walk outside South Campus.
They make no noise with their feet, but if you dare to step close enough, you can hear them muttering nonsense under their breath.
A few nearby residents have encountered a male spirit that calls himself Bill.
When using a spirit box, Bill is known for saying the names of those present.
He seems to have a fondness for women, as if any of the living visitors are female, he will touch each of their hands.
One female eyewitness claims that Bill followed her home one night.
She woke up around 3 AM to find a shadowy figure sitting in a chair across from her bed.
When she acknowledged the entity, she felt a cold pair of hands touch her from the crown of her head, down to her toes.
Bill stayed at her house for several days, until the woman requested a local priest come to cleanse her home.
7) Rolling Hills Asylum – East Bethany, NY
The Rolling Hills Asylum, formerly known as the Genesee County Poorhouse, opened to the public on January 1, 1827.
Along with the mentally unstable, the Genesee County Poorhouse welcomed blind, lame and disabled residents, poor people, drunkards and vagrants.
Residents without external family were buried on the site; however these graves went unmarked for decades.
To this day, the cemetery registry has never been found.
The facility remained open until 1974.
Today, the Rolling Hills Asylum is open to the public.
Guided tours and private ghost hunts are available for purchase on the Asylum’s website.
Dozens of paranormal investigation groups have visited Rolling Hills, intent on capturing EVP, EMF, and video evidence of lingering spirits and entities.
Several groups have evidence of disembodied voices and EVP recordings of children and nurses, attempting to communicate with the living.
Many are directing orders to investigators, demanding them to leave the facility or the room they are in.
Many have witnessed a misty apparition traveling in and out of the Nurses Station.
Orbs are also very common.
Furthermore, there have been several reports of visitors experiencing a strange cob-web like substance on their faces.
Many paranormal investigators believe this substance to be ectoplasm—psychical evidence of a spirit that continues to live at a location.
One local who went on a tour of Rolling Hills came forward to share her experience.
She claims she encountered a dead boy where the inhabitants used to eat.
Every time she would ask a question, she could hear the boy softly giggle in her ear.
When she asked the boy how he died, she felt her throat start to close up.
Suddenly, she couldn’t breathe at all.
As she choked for air, she heard the boy whisper, “I’ll show you.”
The woman quickly ran from the room.
It wasn’t until she had made it out of the asylum that she could breathe properly again.
She considers going back to the facility, but she says she will never again visit that portion of the asylum again.
6) Danvers Lunatic Asylum – Danvers, MA
The Danvers Lunatic Asylum opened in 1878.
Located in rural Massachusetts, Danvers has gained notoriety due to the fact that many believe this Asylum was the birthplace of the pre-frontal lobotomy.
A neurologist by the name of Walter Freeman discovered that violent behavior could be quickly eradicated if a long needle was pushed through the eye and into the frontal portion of a patient’s brain.
Doctors and staff at Danvers were ecstatic when Dr. Freeman arrived to lobotomize patients.
These inhumane practices continued for decades.
Danvers was shut down in 1992.
For years, the buildings sat ignored, until reports of paranormal sounds and apparitions sparked a renewed interest in the building.
Locals claim it is now quite common to see lobotomized victims wandering aimlessly about the place.
Those who walk near the building can sometimes see entities, pounding on the windows on the second story, screaming from the pain they endured when they were alive.
Many who sneak into the facility claim they get unbearable headaches that last the duration of their visit.
One man claims that after he encountered a lobotomized spirit in the living quarters, he went temporarily blind in his right eye for a month.
Many entities at Danvers cannot speak, so they use physical touch to communicate.
Witnesses have experienced hair pulling, tugs on their clothes, even scratches down their backs.
One local, who came forward anonymously, said that the infirmary is where a majority of the encounters occur.
Moans and cries from bedridden patients occur here, and get exponentially louder the longer one stays in the room.
Many nearby residents have heard of these encounters and dare to venture everywhere in the asylum apart from that ghastly room.
A few teenagers claimed to have brought a Ouija board to the site, but every time they start to ask questions, the planchette is thrown across the room by an unseen force.
5) Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Weston, WV
Trans-Allegheny opened its doors to the public in 1864, and is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in the United States.
Due to the fact that the facility was overcrowded, sanitary conditions at Trans-Allegheny were extremely poor.
The buildings began to deteriorate, and as the necessary funding for restorations was unavailable, the Asylum was forced to close its doors in 1994.
Today, the facility is kept alive by way of public and private ghost tours.
Several teams have recorded the sounds of doors slamming through the building’s many hallways.
Disembodied whispers can be heard from the victims who were once forced to live without private rooms.
One local team has been to Trans-Allegheny on several occasions and has heard spirits call out their names by way of a spirit box.
Another paranormal investigation crew out of North Carolina has video evidence of a full bodied apparition, standing in what was once used as the female living quarters.
The apparition appears to be the spirit of a little girl.
The group asked her several questions, but was unable to discern a response on their EVP devices.
Shortly before the girl disappeared, however, a female member of the group felt a violent slap on her right hand.
While the rest of the NC group has returned to Trans-Allegheny, the female member who experienced this frightening encounter refuses to enter the building ever again.
Another paranormal investigation group claims to have encountered the same little girl, standing by the Nurses Station, holding a ragged teddy bear.
The batteries died on their cameras shortly before the entity appeared.
She stared at the group for a few moments, until she opened her mouth and let out a blood curdling scream.
The group was so frightened; they dropped all of their gear and ran from the asylum.
They had two hours left of their scheduled private tour, but none of them wanted to enter the building again.
4) Waverly Hills Sanatorium – Louisville, KY
On July 26, 1910, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium was opened as a safe haven for patients with tuberculosis.
In 1961, an antibiotic was discovered that treats tuberculosis.
This cure resulted in Waverly’s subsequent abandonment.
While the buildings remained intact, Waverly Hills was passed from owner to owner over the years.
However, in 2001 Waverly was purchased by paranormal investigators Charles and Tina Mattingly.
The Waverly Hills Historical Society now hosts various types of paranormal tours of Waverly every year.
Several people who have been on these tours have claimed to have encountered spirits of former tuberculosis patients.
They claim that if the group is quiet enough, ragged breathing can be heard as you pass by the tuberculosis ward.
One paranormal enthusiast successfully managed to capture a clear EVP recording.
A distinctly male voice can be heard breathing heavily for a few minutes before begging for help, and claiming that “it hurts too much to endure.”
In the morgue, a few tour groups have seen scalpels and other small, medical instruments mysteriously disappear and reappear.
One woman claims she heard the distinct sound of a small saw in this room, as if a doctor were opening the skull of a dead patient, over and over again.
Overall, the living quarters seem to harbor the most paranormal activity.
Running footsteps can be heard with the naked ear, running to and fro down the hall.
Many people experience a lot of activity on the third door from the right in the living quarters to the west.
The spirit of an elderly man can be heard, calling out for help over and over again, to no avail.
One unfortunate tour group got simultaneously ill after passing by this particular doorframe.
No matter which room you are in at Waverly, random cold spots are an everyday occurrence.
The spirits who linger at this asylum refuse to be forgotten.
3) Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane – Buffalo, NY
The Buffalo State Asylum, also referred to as the Buffalo State Hospital, was officially opened to the public in 1880.
During the 1960s, new buildings were created to improve patient care.
Several of the original outcroppings of Buffalo Asylum were demolished to make room for these new buildings.
The hospital was renamed the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, and the primarily building built in 1872 was completely abandoned.
The asylum has now become a place where local teenagers dare each other to sneak into.
Several claim that the facility is haunted by spirits, predominately female.
They report that shrieking and crying can be heard echoing off the walls, but the exact location is never certain.
One spirit in particular, named Alice by locals, is particularly vicious.
Several witnesses claim to have heard her yell at trespassers that she will hurt them all.
Within moments of encountering “Alice” a few witnesses have stated that they feel sick to their stomach, and often lose their last meal because of her.
A few residents have used a spirit box to communicate with Alice.
They claim that the words “fear”, “death”, and “run”, came up over and over again.
The group asked Alice what it was that they should run from.
The word “him!” was shouted through the spirit box a moment later.
Ecstatic about these results, the group failed to notice a misty apparition at the other end of the hall.
When someone finally noticed and pointed out the strange entity, a loud demonic sounding growl emanated from the apparition.
A couple people from the group quickly fled the scene, but the man holding the spirit box and two others remained.
He asked the entity who he was.
The apparition let out another terrifying growl but did not seem to reply.
After the group left the asylum and examined their evidence, they stumbled upon a frightening EVP recording.
A woman of the group was so frightened by the growling apparition; she had forgotten she was holding an EVP device at the time.
When her companion asked the entity who he was, the spirit answered by way of EVP.
He only said one word…”Beezlebub.”
2) Byberry Mental Hospital – Philadelphia, PA
Often compared to Nazi Concentration Camps, Byberry (or Philadelphia State Hospital) has a tragic history that most people simply do not know about.
The buildings were very much overcrowded and patients began to live in hallways.
Reports of abuse began, and visitors of the facility witnessed masses of naked patients huddling in the halls, surrounded by their own feces.
The facility gained national attention in 1945, when a gentleman by the name of Charlie Lord took photographs within the hospital, exposing how vile living conditions were.
The hospital officially closed its doors in June of 1990, when the facility failed a state health inspection for the second time in a row.
For several years, Byberry sat abandoned.
The facility became a place for satanic groups to come and conduct rituals.
Locals say that Police patrolled the area, and often found the carcasses of animals sacrificed, deep in the bowels of the facility.
Several urban explorers have been brave enough to speak about their personal experiences at Byberry.
Many believe that among asylum hauntings, the entities that continue to live at Byberry are among the most violent and angry.
Many have been physically attacked while exploring the site, photographing scratches on their arms and torsos.
One explorer claims he encountered a very strong spirit in the tunnels.
He was walking when he heard a harsh chuckle in his left ear.
His flashlight died moments later, leaving the tunnel pitch black.
Suddenly the smell of rotting flesh surrounded him in the dark.
As he coughed and gagged at the stench, he felt two hands shove him violently from behind.
The man was rammed into the tunnel wall and rendered unconscious.
When his fellow urban explorers found him the following morning, they were shocked to see that his uniform had long tears all over it.
Deep gashes were discovered all over the man’s body.
The man received hundreds of stitches, and was briefly hospitalized for his head wound.
1) Essex County Hospital Center – Cedar Grove, NJ
In 1896, the Essex County Hospital Center was built.
Originally, the facility was designated as a general hospital.
It ran with much success until tragedy hit in the winter of 1917.
The hospital’s boilers broke down and twenty four patients froze to death in their beds.
Despite this occurrence, the hospital remained open.
During the mid-1920s, the general hospital, which is sometimes referred to as Overbrook, transitioned to being a permanent facility for the mentally disabled.
The mental facility remained open until its sudden and mysterious closing in the winter of 2007.
Some local residents believe that the hospital was closed due to the excessive number of paranormal experiences that have occurred.
Several are convinced that this facility is haunted — by the twenty four patients that froze to death, in particular.
Former employees of the hospital have come forward to discuss their experiences now that the facility is closed.
Many have claimed that several sections of the hospital would remain permanently cold, no matter the season.
Staff members did not like to be at the nurse’s station alone, because they would often feel cold fingers graze the back of their necks as they worked.
One doctor that used to work at the hospital has come forward with a downright frightening account.
He said he was on the second floor of the building, finishing up some reports when he heard a strange murmuring on the other side of the desk of where he sat.
When he stood and looked over the counter, he saw a full bodied apparition of a girl, crawling with her arms on the floor below.
As terrified as he was, the doctor continued to stare at the entity in horror.
He realized that the girl’s legs were severely broken and bent upwards toward the ceiling.
When the doctor yelped in fear, the broken girl turned to face him.
Her mouth was curved up in a sinister grin.
Her nose appeared to be severely broken.
But the worse part of her face was her eyes.
Instead of having ordinary pupils and irises, the girl had black, empty sockets.
The doctor submitted his resignation the following morning.
It’s small wonder that mental asylums remain primary locations for paranormal experiences and encounters with the dead.
Our history is littered with decades, even centuries, of medieval medical experimentation and inhumane treatment of patients.
Souls that endure untimely or violent deaths often linger in the world, seeking revenge or fearing the unknown beyond.
In asylums all across our nation, the mentally and physically disabled were treated like walking diseases instead of human beings.
It’s imperative to understand and respect these tragic and angry souls, especially if one wishes to meet them on their own turf.
You never know when your next investigation could be your last.