Remembering Undercliff Sanatorium, Meriden

The state of Connecticut is home to many well-known abandoned mental hospitals. For decades, the Undercliff Sanatorium, a former state health facility, lied at the base of South Mountain, near Hubbard Park in Meriden. Even though it was shuttered, some claimed it was still in use….by the ghosts of former patients. It was originally opened in 1910 as the Meriden Sanatorium and, in 1918, became the first facility in the nation dedicated exclusively to treating children afflicted with tuberculosis but also measles, chickenpox, and smallpox. The name was changed to…

Read More

Sanatorio Durán: one of the most haunted places in Costa Rica

We are along the road to Irazú Volcano, 7 kilometers north of the city of Cartago, Costa Rica. It’s said Carlos Durán Cartín, an eminent physician who briefly served as president of Costa Rica (1889-90), opened this tuberculosis hospital in 1918 hoping to treat his own daughter who was suffering from the disease, for which there was no known treatment in Central America at the time. Others say that she contracted the disease after the hospital opened but, in any case, he chose a remote location complete with good weather,…

Read More

Hellingly Mental Hospital: the story of an asylum

We are in the village of Hellingly, in East Sussex, England. Here, on 20 July 1903, the Hellingly Mental Hospital was inaugurated: an asylum, the best in the area because, apparently, the most innovative treatments were experimented there. It was also the refuge for patients who had to flee West Sussex due to the First World War. The main complex comprised an administrative block, central stores, kitchens, a recreation hall and the assistant medical officer’s residence. Like most large institutions of this age and type the sexes were separated into…

Read More

Roosevelt Island Lighthouse: a little lighthouse in New York surrounded by mysterious stories of insanity-driven construction

Built in 1872 and known then as the “Blackwell Island Lighthouse”, the 15-meters-tall stone lighthouse at the northern tip of Roosevelt Island was constructed, if the legends can be believed, by the deranged occupants of a nearby insane asylum. But what’s not in doubt is that it was built by the city as a navigation aid for boats avoiding the rocks in the so-called “Hell Gate” waters. Historically, for nearly two centuries, Blackwell was the name that identified the island that lies in the East River just off Manhattan. For…

Read More

Z Ward: a perfectly preserved abandoned criminal asylum in South Australia.

In the sleepy suburb of Glenside, Adelaide, South Australia, rests a building long abandoned and protected from trespassers by a wall far taller than it first appears, the only complete Ha-Ha Wall in Australia. The wall doesn’t look too high from the outside but, once over it, it is soon discovered that on the other side, a deeper moat hinders any escape. The building is known as Z Ward, and it was for years closed off to the public, even though recently, access to the building was allowed to the…

Read More

Nellie Bly: the Journalist who let herself be interned in Asylum to save the patients

Elisabeth Cochran Seaman (1864-1922) is probably not a well-known name, although perhaps the pseudonym with which she signed her articles, Nellie Bly, is better known. She became popular all over the world in 1890, when she left on behalf of her newspaper, the New York World, for a world tour: she wanted to turn into reality the story of Julius Verne (Around the world in 80 days). It took her 72 days, almost always traveling alone, which was unusual for a woman of the time. However, before this adventure, Elisabeth…

Read More

Portraits from Bedlam: 17 photographs from one of the most infamous mental hospital of the 19th Century

It was called Bethlem Royal Hospital, but it was nicknamed “Bedlam”, London’s famous horror hospital. Founded in 1247, It was the first mental health institution to be set up in Europe, and reaches up to the present day, resulting still active today in the heart of the English capital. Among the most famous treatments are the “rotational” treatments, invented by Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of the most famous Charles, which involved positioning the patient on a chair suspended in the air that was turned for hours, with the declared aim of…

Read More

Tranquille Sanatorium in British Columbia: a haunted place?

The Tranquille Sanatorium and its surrounding quarters were built in 1907 when the sanatorium was established to treat patients with tuberculosis (also known as the white plague), during the time when TB was treated with exposure to fresh air. The area itself, just outside Kamloops city limits, where the North and South Thompson meet and flow into Kamloops Lake was purchased in 1905. It seems that Tranquille was the name given to an Indian chief, “Sanquil”, who had formerly called the property his territory. “Tranquille” is the French word for…

Read More

Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane of New York: Its history and the 400 found suitcases.

Perhaps the Victorian buildings may be falling to pieces, but the contents inside them betray a lot about the sometimes happy, sometimes tragic lives of patients at Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane. Even if asylums often carry connotations of dark and terrible existences, Willard and other institutions like it were intended to be a better alternative to systems in place for taking care of the mentally ill. Historically, in the early 19th century, those without anyone to care for them and incapable of taking care of themselves were left…

Read More

Riverview Mental Hospital: More From British Columbia~

Abandoned insane asylums are some of the most chilling urbex destinations, and the West Lawn building of Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, British Columbia, abandoned since 1983, isn’t an exception. At one time Riverview Hospital was known as Essondale Hospital, for Dr. Henry Esson Young (1862-1939) and the neighbourhood where the hospital is located also became known as the Essondale neighbourhood, still today. There is a curious collection of stories and anecdotes from the staff of Riverview Hospital, called Riverview Reminisces and published in 1992. These are example of the stories…

Read More

Trenton Psychiatric Hospital: the “madhouse of horrors” in New Jersey

Founded on May 15, 1848, It was called New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum, then it was renamed Trenton State Hospital and, after a few years, it took on the simplest name of Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. It is located in Trenton and Ewing, New Jersey, and this last name leaves no room for doubts about the intended use: it was a madhouse, but with lot of peculiarities surely not nice. Not an asylum like many others in the world, it was the first structure built in the USA according to the…

Read More

Vercelli Psychiatric Hospital

Historically, Vercelli mental asylum was built in the 1930s and was closed in 1978 after the Basaglia Law, that abolished mental hospitals in Italy. Of its 21 buildings, scattered over an area of 25,000 sqm, only one is still in use and it hosts the office of the environmental association ARPA, while the local health authority, which officially still manages the complex, left the area during the 1990s. This place is well known for the massacre of a group of fascist soldiers that happened between 12th and 13th May 1945…

Read More

Bethlem Bedlam: the London Horror Hospital

If thanks to a time machine you could visit the 15th century Royal Bethlem Hospital, you might think of seeing a horror movie scene. The notorious institution, which was the first to specialise in mental health treatment in Europe and later inspired the 1946 horror film Bedlam, was founded in 1247 during the reign of Henry III. Bethlem was the only institution in Europe that sheltered people rejected by society, those who had mental or even criminal problems. The term “bedlam”, the definition of “chaos and confusion”, was coined in…

Read More