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Insane Asylums: Are They Really Haunted?

Updated on October 12, 2017

Branch Insane Asylum, Napa, California


Frances Farmer (Born: September 19, 1913, Seattle, WA Died: August 1, 1970, Indianapolis, IN) An Actress

"For eight years I was an inmate in a state asylum for the insane. During those years I passed through such unbearable terror that I deteriorated into a wild, frightened creature intent only on survival. And I survived. I was raped by orderlies, gnawed on by rats and poisoned by tainted food. I was chained in padded cells, strapped into strait-jackets and half-drowned in ice baths. And I survived. The asylum itself was a steel trap, and I was not released from its jaws alive and victorious. I crawled out mutilated, whimpering and terribly alone. But I did survive.
—Frances Farmer"

Never console yourself into believing that the terror has passed, for it looms as large and evil today as it did in the despicable era Badlam. But I must relate the horrors as I recall them, in the hope that some force of mankind might be moved to relieve forever the unfortunate creatures who are still imprisoned in the back wards of decaying institutions.

— Frances Farmer

Erie County Alms house and Insane Asylum, Wm. Wischerath Keeper, Buffalo Plains, N.Y.


Insane Asylum: Reason To Be Committed

Patients were treated very badly when they were placed in an insane asylum. Methods of the way patients were treated were being chained to walls, painful treatments, unclothed in a dungeon like an area and more. This might account for why so many insane asylums are believed to be haunted. Reasons to be committed to an asylum going back to the 1800'

Some of these reasons for committing people to insane asylum don't make sense but back then in the 1800's things were different than they are today. See the list below.

Full List Of Reasons To Be Committed

Quite a few reasons back then to be committed even though some don't make sense but mental illness wasn't really understood like it is today.
Quite a few reasons back then to be committed even though some don't make sense but mental illness wasn't really understood like it is today.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (1858 - 1994)

Richard Andrews designed the building using plan that Thomas Kirbride designed to give patients room with fresh air and light. The construction began in 1858 and was completed in 1881, however; the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum started to receive patients in 1864 ( renamed the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane) which was designed to care for 250 patients. An odd fact was the grounds were 666 acres that the hospital resided on. By the time 1994 came the place was forced to close due to the treatment of the patient and lack of care to the building as it was very deteriorated.

Patient Count:

  • 1864 - about 250 patients
  • 1880 - about 717 patients
  • 1938 - over 1,434 patients
  • 1950 - about 2,600

National Historical Landmark and has been on a few times on shows like the Forgotten Planet, Ghost Hunters, and Ghost Adventures.

Hauntings: "You will witness – whether visually, audibly, or both – the sounds emitted from the spirit world. You will know that the stories of the signs of paranormal activity are real at Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum according to A. Shiflett."

  1. First Floor Hauntings: Sometimes a whistle sound may be heard, many claimed to be pushed either slightly or shoved up against the wall, and Ruth (a patient who was strapped in a wheelchair who screamed cuss words at staff, patients and visitors) is to be blamed for the hauntings on the first floor as many believe. A previous caretaker named Sue is thought to have provoked Ruth into coming out as Sue was pushed up against a wall in front of her daughter.
  2. Second Floor Hauntings: There have been a lot of fights, suicides, and murder that has taken place which is believed to account for the haunting on the second floor. An unknown voice has been recorded saying "Get Out", and shadow figures have been witness to many visitors, and staff.
  3. Third Floor Hauntings: On the third floor was where the nurses lived and the nurse's station was located. Three people were murdered on the third floor, Nurse Elizabeth, Dean, and Old Big Jim which is thought to be the reason for the apparition nurses and shadow figures.
  4. Fourth Floor Hauntings: Many have communicated with Lily a ghost, there is a shadowy blob of an odd spirit that when using an SB-7 Ghost Box that identified the blob as a demon since when asked it answered it responds "Demon", then there is a strange spirit that crawls along the floor. Common to hearing banging also.
  5. Throughout The Building: Screaming, crying, footsteps and banging (like on pipes) can be heard throughout the building which seems to be coming from the Geriatric Building. Another thing that isn't uncommon is to hear your name called throughout the building.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Trans-Alleghency Lunatic Asylum Mission Statement (renamed the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane)
Trans-Alleghency Lunatic Asylum Mission Statement (renamed the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane)
Trans-Alleghency Lunatic Asylum Policy Statement (renamed the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane)
Trans-Alleghency Lunatic Asylum Policy Statement (renamed the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane)

Insane Asylum Abuse

H.H. Richardson Complex

H.H. Richardson Complex is also known as the State Asylum, the Buffalo State Hospital, and the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Many believe that it is one of the most haunted places in Buffalo because of the horrific trauma that the many patients suffered. Their brains were drilled into, electric shock treatments, submerged in water for hours, and therapeutic comas to eugenics were practiced on the grounds causing much of the haunting as still today patients can still be heard screaming,left behind objects moving around and shadow people can be seen.This insane asylum first opened in 1895 but was closed in 1974. Dr. Kirkbride wanted to treat the patients better by improving the lives of the mentally ill and became well known for that reason.

The Buffalo State Asylum

The Kirkbride Plan

"There is no reason why an individual who has the misfortune to become insane, should, on that account, be deprived of any comfort or even luxury..."

Thomas Kirkbride

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium opened its doors in 1910 because of the high numbers of the tuberculosis outbreak which is a contagious infectious disease that can affect many organ systems, it mostly affects the lungs. The sanatorium was built on a high mountain in Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky which was previously owned by Major Thomas H. Hays in 1883 and served as the family home, however; he had a school built for his daughter on the property a single story which later was remodeled into a two-story building to house those affected by tuberculosis in 1908 but didn't receive patients until 1910 which housed 40 to 50 patients that were a distance from his home.

James A Gaffney was the Architect from 1863 to 1946 and Dennis Xavier Murphy from 1854 to 1933 while it was expanding due to the high breakout of tuberculosis.

Waverly Hill - Death Tunnel (Body Chute)

The Haunting At Waverly Hill Sanatorium

The Hauntings:

  • Body Chute - Actually the tunnel was used to giving easier access to the sanatorium for deliveries, supplies, and workers since it set high on a hill. The tunnel leads down to the train tracks some 500 feet down. Later it was used to transport all the dead bodies down the hill which was done by a motorized trolley to prevent patients from seeing all the ones who passed away. Workers used a stairway on the side of the tunnel. It has been rumored that as many as 63,000 people died there. Many have heard unseen footsteps, heard voices, and unidentified noises while in the tunnel.
  • The Kitchen - A man in a white coat can be seen walking into the room and the smell of food cooking yet no one is there that can be seen. The cafeteria-like the kitchen is in ruins but yet footsteps can be heard, a heavy swinging door shuts and freshly baked bread fills the air.
  • Fourth Floor - Been reported even by paranormal investigators that strange shapes can be seen, human shadows walk up and down the hallway, someone peeking around corners at you and a man walking the hall from one room to the other room.
  • Fifth Floor Room 502 - Two nurses died in this room, one in 1928 and the other in 1932; Mary Hillenburg 1928, was thought to be pregnant with a married doctor. Since she was pregnant and unwed some thought she hung herself but other rumors think the doctor performed an abortion which killed her and then staged the scene to look like a suicide. Then in 1932, another nurse plunged to her death for unknown reasons from the window. It has been rumored that she was actually pushed to her death. There have been many reports of shadows moving across the walls and floors.
  • As Troy Taylor stated " During a less than five year period, members of the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society experienced ghostly sounds, heard slamming doors, saw lights appear in the building when there should have been none, had objects thrown at them, were struck by unseen hands, saw apparitions in doorways and corridors and more."

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium

A Patient
A Patient
Believed A Nurse Jumped To Her Death From This Window
Believed A Nurse Jumped To Her Death From This Window
Patient Receiving A Procedure
Patient Receiving A Procedure
The Tunnel (Called The Death Tunnel)
The Tunnel (Called The Death Tunnel)
Variety Of Pictures
Variety Of Pictures
Waverly Hills Sanatorium Main Entrance
Waverly Hills Sanatorium Main Entrance

Types Of Treatments Preformed

  1. Fresh Air And Bed Rest - Patients were placed in large open areas no matter what the weather condition was.
  2. Nutrition Diet - Lots of protein, fresh vegetables, and fruit, plus fresh dairy products since cows and pigs were grown at Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Patients had well-balanced meals to promote good health.
  3. Heliotherapy - Natural ultraviolet light from the sun to kill bacteria.
  4. Sunlamp treatment - Used when the weather conditions were horrible outside.
  5. Pneumothorax And Thoracoplasty - This is removable of ribs and collapsing the lung. To remove all the ribs took a couple of surgeries. Even the removable diseased part of the lung was taken.
  6. Morale Boosters - A patient could make useful items like baskets, bedspreads, brooms and more to be sold at the Kentucky State Fair.
  7. Radio - The patients got to listen to music, stories, and sports.

Ghostly Figure Floating at Abandoned Asylum - Greystone Park Psychiatric Center – Parsippany Troy Township, New Jersey

History And Hauntings

Built by the Kirkbride Plan in 1871 but opened its doors in 1876, however; it was the largest building in the US until 1943 when the Pentagon was built. By 1953 the population of patients was at an all-time high 7,674. Woody Guthrie in 1956 - 1961 was admitted who was a famous folk singer who referred to the Greystone Park Psychiatric Center as Gravestone. The psychiatric center had its own dental clinic, chapel, laundry room, morgue, classrooms, and infirmary. It was shut down in 2003 due to patient abuse then demolished in April 2015 - July 2015.


  • Tunnels connecting the various buildings that transported patients and supplies give a person the feeling of being watched.
  • A young girl dressed in a pink dress can be seen looking out the window.
  • Can be 90 degrees outside but the temperature drops suddenly.
  • The air becomes heavy and the fog is so thick that flashlights can't put much light out.

Greystone Park Psychiatric Center Pictures

Greystone Park Psychiatric Center
Greystone Park Psychiatric Center
After it closed
After it closed

Do You Believe In Haunting?

Do think these types of places are haunted?

See results


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    • Annie Wright profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna Haun 

      23 months ago from USA

      Thank you. I really enjoy writing on the paranormal as some things just can't be explained. The torture those people went thru was horrible so yes I believe they are haunted, even when the buildings are no longer there, the grounds will still be haunted.


    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      23 months ago from England

      Wow! amazing hub! and just my sort of thing! and yes I do believe that these places are haunted. It makes sense. If you have that kind of emotion constantly floating around its going to make an impact for years. totally agree, and would love to visit them!


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