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Haunted Places: Traverse City State Hospital

Updated on January 2, 2013

Traverse City, Michigan

“Beauty is therapy.” That was the phrase of the Traverse City State Hospital in Traverse City, Michigan. It was built and first opened in November 1885. It was first known as the Northern Michigan Asylum. It was then named the Willow Lake State Hospital. It was first ran by Dr. James Ducker Munson. He believed the way to put the mental patients at ease was if they were put in an environment of beauty and tranquility. Amazingly, unlike other mental hospitals, straightjackets were forbidden! I’m used to hearing all these stories of hydrotherapy and shock treatment in these types of places, so stumbling upon this is amazing to me. After over a hundred years of service, it closed down in 1989.

Before drug therapy was introduced in the 1950’s, Dr. Munson was a big believer in the philosophy of “Beauty is therapy.” Patients were treated nicely and respectfully. The Asylum had it’s own Greenhouses, so patients were brought flowers on a continuous basis. The Hospital was more like a school. It offered opportunities for patients in farming, construction, and other types of laborer jobs. The idea here was for the patients to find a sense of purpose with their lives.

Animals were purchased for the farm as well like cows, pigs, chickens, and vegetable fields. This was Traverse Colantha Walkers home, a world champion milk cow through 1910 to the 1930’s. Her grave is said to be at the end of a dirt road between the asylum and the farm. Unfortunately, the farm closed in the 1950’s and in the mid 1970’s, the farm buildings were destroyed by the state. Another interesting point is that the asylum produced it’s own heat and electricity as well.

Later on, outbreaks of diseases such as polio, influenza, typhoid, and tuberculosis started spreading in the United States. This caused the hospital to expand. The hospital was also used as a drug rehabilitation center as well as a home for the elderly. Training for nurses also took place here. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, mental patients were improving, there was a steep decline in institutionalization and fundings were being cut. By 1989, the Traverse City State Hospital closed it’s doors.

The Traverse City State Hospital is said to be haunted. Reports of disembodied voices and screams can be heard, along with lights turning on when there hasn’t been any electricity running through the building. Apparitions have been seen throughout the asylum, including children. A priest is seen in the room that was once the Chapel. It is said that the Priest committed Suicide. There is even said to be some sort of disfigured creature that appears in the tunnels and the basement area. Strangely, people have reported that if you try to take religious items into this location, they’ll be destroyed before you can even enter the building.

Even though this building is claimed to be haunted, the history of this asylum was refreshing. A place that was meant for healing actually did heal the patients. Not torture them with barbaric treatment. If you ask me, Dr. Munson was a hero to these patients. They even had a statue of him in the building when he retired and passed away in his remembrance. So if there are any spirits in this once Mental Hospital, I’m sure it’s because they enjoyed and appreciated the kind treatment that they had received in the facility. I’m glad they got the treatment that they needed and deserved. Just because people have some mental illness doesn’t mean that they should be tortured for it. Hopefully, more Dr.’s can come across the history of this man.


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      JAMES SWETLAND 3 years ago

      I went to this place to visit my moms brother,My uncle,Every year from the early 1960s to the late1970s.It was a scary place then i was 6 when we started going there.People screaming yelling i was scared out of my mind.We would just show up and a lot of times my uncle would have the hell beat out of him from the staff.I had nightmares after each visit.

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      Joe Gee Photography 3 years ago

      Nice article. I hope you don't mind that I used your text on my blog. I created a link back to this page :)

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      Aeristhecat 3 years ago

      .....that looks amazing

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      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Another spooky one. It seems like any hospital can be haunted, Good or Bad.