Spooky Places: Danvers State Hospital (Arkham Asylum)
Whenever someone thinks of a mental asylum, they usually picture a large, non-descript building or a large, imposing, cathedral-like bastion. H.P. Lovecraft, noted horror writer, wrote and imagined a place much like the one pictured left. In fact, it is widely believed that he based Arkham Asylum on the very real Danvers State Insane Asylum, pictured. The Batman franchise world would further popularize it as the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The Thing on the Doorstep
While the name Arkham isn't real, the bricks and mortar that made up Danvers stood sentry since 1874 until 2006.
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Photo by: Dhasson
The Story of Danvers
Danvers opened its doors in 1878. Danvers was a completely self-contained psychiatric hospital based on the Kirkbride plan. Many of these buildings survive today, and are really quite beautiful. None of the other Kirkbride buildings have the infamy that Danvers garnered through some of the horrific acts that happened there.
Danvers was slowly shut down starting in the 1960s, finally closing its doors on June 24, 1992. Most of Danvers has been demolished, but some of it still stands to this day, and was being turned into an apartment complex.
Picture: The Kirkbride complex, Public Domain
The Danvers Tuberculosis Tunnels
Most of Danvers is connected by a series of underground tunnels. This was so that during the winter, one would not have to go outside in the freezing cold. Many of these tunnels remain today, but blocked off. The tunnels twisted and turned as you walked along, due to many being added after the buildings were already in place.
Think if you had worked there. It's the middle of the night and you are needed at another wing. The woefully unkept tunnels are dark, damp, and cold. Most of the facility is connected, so an escaped patient could be lurking down there. Eerie.
Below is a quick video to give you an idea how the tunnels looked.
Does Danvers deserve the bad press?
In the 1920s, the superintendent of Danvers decided that mechanical restraint was harmful to patients. What would later happen as a result of refusing to use traditional restraints, and having to find alternative means of controlling patients was chilling.
First, shock therapy. Shock therapy is now a recognized treatment for many things, but the techniques used then were quite rudimentary. These treatments would induce full-blown convulsive seizures, memory impairment, and at times fractured or dislocated bones.
Danvers is rumoured to be the birthplace of the Pre-frontal lobotomy. The most popular and used method in the United States is the Transorbital lobotomy, known as the "Ice Pick" method, and it is just as bad as the nickname sounds. I will spare you the gory details, other than to state they go in through the eyes and that a hammer is involved.
Where has Danvers or Arkham been in literature or the movies?
The start of Arkham Asylum. The name Arkham comes from a fictional town in Massachusetts.
Ghosts of Danvers showing their displeasure?
Demolition of Danvers started in 2006 and seemed to be going relatively well, despite protests. The plan was to build an apartment complex, named "Avalon Danvers."
Strangely enough, on April 7, 2007 at 2:03 in the morning, a webcam at Danvers cut out. Placed by the development company, I suspect the webcam was for security, as the demolition of Danvers was been very unpopular and has gone through court proceedings.
A fire started, burning much of the construction and trailers. The fire was so large, it was visible from Boston, over 20 miles away. It is still unclear how the fire started, and no one has been charged. The webcam possibly failed due to overheating, but we will probably never know for sure.
Pictured: Avalon Danvers, 2007 by D. MacIver
If you liked this page you will probably also enjoy this page about a ghost town in Pennsylvania that was so spooky that it became the setting for the video game series and horror movie "Silent Hill."