THE RIDGES, ATHENS, OHIO

by Christine B.

The Athens Lunatic Asylum now known as The Ridges, was a mental hospital that was in operation in Athens, Ohio from 1874 until 1993. The building sits on about 60 acres, so it is a huge complex.

When it opened the Asylum became the home of the mentally and criminally insane. Most of the original patients were admitted there by court order. At first the patients enjoyed a tranquil life at the Ridges, but not too many years after the institution opened things began to change. The huge facility became overcrowded with patients and this led to their mistreatment and the patients not getting the medical and psychological attention they needed. The patents suffered cruel treatment and ice water baths, electroshock therapy and lobotomies became normal practice.

On December 1, 1978 a patient, Margaret Schilling, was lost and was not found until almost six weeks after she went missing. Margaret was playing hide-n-seek with a nurse, and the nurse forgot to look for her until hours later. A maintenance man found Margaret’s dead body on the second floor in an area of the hospital that was not being used. When the body was removed a stained outline of Margaret’s body remained on the floor. Although many have tried to clean off the impression on the floor, it remains as a sad monument to the poor woman.

Although mentally ill patients were sent to the asylum to get well most remained there until their deaths. Hundreds of bodies of patients who had passed on at the asylum were not claimed by friends or relatives so they were buried as

inexpensively as possible on the grounds. The bodies are marked by only a number, and not a name, although there are now some headstones that have been put on the plots later by ancestors. There have been reports of spirit activity in the cemetery as well. The cemetery has been remodeled and landscaped. The National Alliance on Mental Illness hosts guided tours of the cemetery and garden area on the grounds of the former hospital.

The Ridges is no longer open to the public, so it cannot be investigated at this point. The Kennedy Museum is open, however so one can walk the grounds.

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