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Agnews Insane Asylum

Updated on November 5, 2012

The Ghosts of Agnews Insane Asylum

Built around 1918 after the original structure was destroyed in 1912. Workers have witnessed apparitions, strange laughter, screaming, cold spots and freezer doors flying open violently along with the ejection of the contents. Agnews developmental center was torn down and became the new site of the SUN Microsystems Santa Clara Campus.

But The Ghosts Decided To Stay On. Still Haunting The Area Today

But even today after the buildings have been torn down and new ones built people report screams on foggy nights and strange things happening in the new dorm rooms just built there. Doors open , lights are turned on and off and horrible smells just seem to come up out of the floors of the new buildings. The smell has been described as smelling like horrible rotting meat and rooms will fill with smoke for no reason. An old lady known as the lady in yellow because of the yellow dress she is wearing begs people to help her find her children. When you look close or start to question her she simply vanishes. So it seems that even though the old buildings were torn down to make room for new ones the ghosts are refusing to move and may even be angry because of the destruction of their former home.

Have You Ever Read About The Winchester Mystery House

Mrs Winchester kept building her house for 38 years to keep the ghosts entertained. Click the below link to read all about it.

Click To Read About The Winchester Mystery House

Agnews Insane Asylum

This is the Insane Asylum after the 1906 Earthquake. Notice all the damage there top left of building. It was in this area where over 100 patients were killed and where even today after the buildings have been torn down you can still hear their screa
This is the Insane Asylum after the 1906 Earthquake. Notice all the damage there top left of building. It was in this area where over 100 patients were killed and where even today after the buildings have been torn down you can still hear their screa

1906 Earth Quake , This footage is some of the earliest known from a natural disaster. Edison newsreels of San Francisco earthquake / falling buildings / taking

Aerial photograph of the Sun campus at Agnews

Aerial photograph of the Sun campus at Agnews. Above is what the area looks like today. Under the ground there are hundreds of graves they simply built over with no respect for the dead. And now it seems the ghosts are getting their revenge haunting
Aerial photograph of the Sun campus at Agnews. Above is what the area looks like today. Under the ground there are hundreds of graves they simply built over with no respect for the dead. And now it seems the ghosts are getting their revenge haunting

Agnews Developmental Center is a psychiatric and medical care facility, now located in San Jose, California.

In 1885, the center, originally known as "The Great Asylum for the Insane" was established as a facility for the care of the mentally ill. The main structure, a red brick edifice, was located on land near the village of Agnew, which later became part of Santa Clara.

During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake the center became infamous as the site of the Santa Clara Valley's greatest loss of life resulting from the quake. 117 patients and staff were killed and buried in mass graves on the site. The main building and some others were irreparably damaged. Those graves are still there to day beneth the buildings of the new SUN Microsystems Santa Clara Campus. And it appears the ghosts of those people are haunting the new buildings the same as they did the old ones.

Following this disaster, Agnews was reconstructed in the so-called Mediterranean Revival style, resembling a college campus of two-story buildings; it re-opened circa 1911 as Agnews State Mental Hospital. The facility was a small self-contained town, including a multitude of construction trade "shops", a farm which raised pigs and vegetable crops, a steam generating power plant for heating the buildings by steam, and even a fire department.

At the time, it boasted the largest population in the South San Francisco Bay area, and was served by its own train station which stood at the west end of Palm Drive across Lafayette Street; the station building remained until vandalism and fire precipitated its demolition in the 1990s.

In 1926, Agnews was expanded to include a second campus a couple of miles to the east in San Jose.

During its heyday the center was renowned for progressive and compassionate treatment techniques for the mentally ill.

Individuals with developmental disabilities were first admitted to a special rehabilitation program in 1965. Many programs for the mentally ill were discontinued statewide in 1972, as a result of controversial legislation promoted by then California Governor Ronald Reagan. Since then, the center has been utilized exclusively for the care and treatment of "clients" with developmental disabilities.

The original west campus was closed in 1998 as part of a plan to reduce and eventually close the center.

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      My daughter and I were searching for any info on Agnews Historical Site. My grandson was hired by Oracle, he's a chef. I took him to his interview it was in the clock tower. I parked and waited. I was born and raised in Santa Clara, I am now 61 yrs old. Over the years I heard quite a few stories about Agnews, as we called it. I also have close friends who worked there. I never witnessed anything until I picked my grandson up from work the next day. My daughter and I were double parked right outside the clock tower waiting for my grandson when I heard knocking on my van window. I thought it was security and we would have to move. Looked around and no one was there. I asked my daughter if she heard that and she said, " What the knocking? " My grandson then came and we left. We told him what happened and he laughed. It was 10:00 am when this happened, what a way to start that day!

    • profile image

      Howard davis 

      4 years ago

      Does anyone know if a Ross Sullivan ever checked in Angus in 1969 to 1971. He was some 300 pounds!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Back in the 1980s I was a volunteer with the CCC at their facility on Agnews' grounds to help clean oil-slicked birds after a particularly nasty spill. I can't be sure but I think this was sometime between 1984 and 1987. At one point I took a break and walked away from the CCC building out on to the property some distance and wound up lying down on a stone picnic style table with a small fruit or dog wood tree near it. Some other Agnew buildings were off to my left but also at a distance, with no signs of life. Very quiet and no way for anything to be hiding in the fruit tree, not dense enough, all limbs, leaves exposed. This was early spring I would say, it was sunny but not overly warm--again, no one around, place was DEAD and dead quiet and abandoned seemingly. Lay on top of table closed my eyes and...heard this creepy gutteral sound like a cross between a grunt and a growl and a snort. Deep enough to possibly make me think it was male but not certain--but definitely human, not any other animal and the sound was coming from close enough to me it seemed to be just overhead and coming from the tree. Eyes flew open, nothing in the tree. Looked around. I could see forever in any direction, it was all lawn except for table, tree, buildings in distance. There is no way this sound came from the buildings, too far away. And no way I couldn't see someone close by if they were close by--and whatever made this sound was close to me. I honestly did not assume it was anything paranormal at the time--not my first thought. I honestly was positive at the time it had to have been an inmate or someone making fun of me but I could not for the life of me figure out how someone made me hear them without being visible. I am embarrassed to admit I even inspected the tree close up, not believing my eyes but not sure what I expected--a hidden microphone? It was just so ODD and gave me an uneasy sense of being watched. I high tailed it back to the CCC building. I even think when I got back there a few people expressed uncertainty those buildings were even occupied at that time. All I know is I never walked on the grounds again, stuck close to the CCC building. Now I read some of these comments I GET IT. I was no stranger to the paranormal, even then, but it honestly didn't occur to me in this instance until now that that was what I was experiencing. Thanks for all the other comments, very helpful.

    • profile image

      Bruno Men 

      6 years ago

      I'm here because of Basket Case clip by Green Day

    • Micheal McCall profile image

      Micheal McCall 

      6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      My name is Micheal mcCall and I was a Corpsmember at Agnews as it was being de-commissioned in June of 1995.

      On my Fourth day of COMET training I entered the shower area of the open dorms located to the right of the mess hall. As I stepped through the door, the light turned itself on. I didn't think anything of it and proceeded. To reach the showeres you had to take a very small left, and two rights, then face left to see the shower heads. There were three, and located on the right-hand side. The closest to me turned itself on, followed by the other two in succession, spraying water at full pressure.

      Within 10 seconds, the room was filled with steam to the point I could not see anything whatsoever. I placed my hands in front of my face, to look at it and could not see it to the point I touched my nose and still could not see it. I never turned around and backed out of the bathroom. As I exited the batwing doors the light turned itself off, and the shower sounds continued. I was completely dry.

      Three days later I was woken up by the dorm monitor named 'Cowboy' @ 1:12 AM. When I asked why he directed me to the bathroom mirrors. There were three other people already there, and staring at scratches on their neck, four to a side. When I asked what it had to do with me, he pointed to my neck.. I had the same scratches. I was told by him that he was not there as dorm monitor to keep us out of trouble, but to keep us from being attacked. The three employees quit the next day.

      I Worked in the kitchens in August of that year and witnessed a refirigerator door open and the fridge eject all of it's contents at once.

      In October, working @ the MT. Vision fire in Marin County, a meeting was held, and we were asked to vote on whether to stay or abandon the campus. We voted to abandon, and was told that the other Corpsmembers had done the same, we would be moving to Star Island in SF bay.

      Upon returning from the emergency, a fellow employee was walking across the quad after 9pm. I looked out from the stairway where I had been smoking cigarettes, and saw a girl of about 7-8 years old, blonde and in pigtails wearing a white dress with vertical red stripes following him about 20 feet behind him. I shouted for him to wait for the little girl to catch up, and he ran to the building. When i asked him why he had left the girl and went to find her, he stopped me and said that he had not come onto campus with a little girl.

      I was an atheist before coming to this location.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My mother was sent there in 1964 and 1965 for alcoholism treatment. This was the only thing they knew to do back then. Just treat them as if insane.

      At least twice I was told she received shock treatments while there.

      I see no mention on any site so far which refers to these events.

      It never helped her and she died at the young age of 50.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I would like to know if they saved any of the records. My Grandmother was in this state hospital.

    • Troy Skillman profile image

      Troy Skillman 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Yea when I was in California Conservation Corp from 1985 to 1986 I was stationed at agnew's State Hospital, at the Santa Clara fire center. We stayed in the dorms over by the state housing dorms for State Employees. That place was creepy on the weekends I used to explore that place, some times we would work with the agnews State employees, like the painters and the carpenters. Going into old parts of the hospital they do not use we go in their and clean out buildings I seen some weird scary stuff like the old shock therapy equipment. Their was times I had to go into the hospital with the state work crews and help fix doors residents tore off the hinges, I remember the residents were called 930's they roamed the grounds all day, I remember working in the cafeteria a resident walked in and chugged a pot of hot coffee i just made I was like damn.

    • profile image

      Earl Schmitter 

      8 years ago

      I worked at Agnews from 1967 to 1987, with both mentally

      ill and developmentally disabled from '67 to '72 and with DDs only from March '72 through June of '87. I started 9/1/1953 at Porterville and worked continuously with various Cal State programs, including a few years of outpatient work with Cal State parolees before I came to Agnews.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      @nessame- Your fears are not unfounded. I completely understand. These spirits do exist. We should have set up cameras like they do now on some of these reality shows. A movie called "The Dead Pit" avail. on was made in and near the Clocktower.

    • profile image

      xsickiatric tech 

      8 years ago

      I'm not a believer in ghosts and most of the bumps in the night and sightings at Agnews can be explained. I worked at Agnews 66-71 (Pm shift) and again 81-89 (Noc shift) and had quite a few "experiences". A walk out on the grounds at night (and a full moon) back in the 60's, there was quite a bit of screams, moans and sobbing coming from those buildings.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      @huntgoddess- the spirits at Agnew are mostly the friendly type. I worked there 30 years and never saw a spirit that was not friendly and in a good mood. It was a great place to work and socialize with those friendly and helpful spirits.

    • Huntgoddess profile image


      8 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Wow, this is amazing. I would like to know more about this. Thanks for this Hub.

      Also, thanks to the commenters. Also amazing!! I'm definitely a believer. Has anyone ever called in an exorcist?

      Also --- of course --- we must pray for these poor, lost souls.

      I guess if they're demonic, that won't help, though. That's where the exorcist comes in.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I too worked at agnews for 27 yrs, When I first started working there they had employee houseing, So after I received notice that I had been assigned a room in the clock tower wing I went over there after I got off work at 11 pm. I mistakingly thought that the rooms were in the main clocktower building , but ohh was I wrong. I opened the front door with my #1 key and went inside, turning on the light as I went in. I could hear people talking so I yelled out a Hello, no one responded but I could still hear them talking.

      I began walking up the staircase thinking that maybe evryone was on the second floor. when I reached the middle of the first staircase the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stood up a chill and feeling of dread came over me. I wanted to run out of the building but I was afraid to turn around. I had a feeling that someone was watching me.

      I slowly backed down the stairs and out of the building, never turning around.

      making myself turn out the lights and lock the door.It was only after I reach my car that I realized that I hadn't taken a breath. I never went in that building again, I turned down the room and waited for an apartment on the east side of the campus. The voices that I heard in that building and the chill that came over me that night convinced me that the clocktower is one of the most haunted places at the facility.

    • Blogging Erika profile image

      E L Danvers 

      10 years ago from Ventura, CA

      Awesome article! It looks creepy as all get-out, I'm sure I'd be scared there in the middle of the day, much less the middle of the night!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I usually dont bothering commenting on the web but I workeed at Agnews in the "80'S" and saw a the door in the cock tower shuting opening load enough that people on the first floor heard it The building was vacant except for a few janitor and supply room. it was one of the scarist things I have ever witnessed. I and my girlfriend ran out of the building and I didn't go back in till 3 years later.My theroy is ghost are left over from the earthquake of 1907 and tortured souls from all the labatomy


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