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The Legend of Rolling Hills Asylum Bethany NY

Updated on December 1, 2010
Rolling Hills Asylum,Bethany NY
Rolling Hills Asylum,Bethany NY

Rolling Hills Asylum has quite a bizarre history, if I don't say so myself.  In it's lifespan, the building has been an insane asylum, poorhouse, poor farm, nursing home, tuberculosis ward, orphanage, school , ward, antique co-op, and craft mall. Quite a history since the property has settled for over a hundred years now.   The history of the building has records of over a thousand people who have died on the property.  The mall, opened on the weekends has a number of strange occurrences.  People report having their clothes tugged on by an invisible force they can't explain.  Many people have seen shadows of people moving throughout the building when it is known the building to be locked up and empty. 

Genesee County purchased this property in 1826 and opened its doors to the poor in 1827. They had taken to paupers, the insane, orphans, unwed mothers, the elderly, and anyone who could not support and care for themselves.  They were a complete  a self sufficient, as they farmed on the hundreds of acres of owned by the county.  By 1950, the property was used for a nursing home only and the residents had been moved to a new facility in nearby Batavia in 1974.  By then the building sat empty for twenty years. By 1992, it was reopened as Carriage Village, a mall of unique shops. By 2002 Jeff and Lori Carlson purchased the property and in January of 2003 they had renamed it the Rolling HIlls Country Mall.  But problems arose and in 2007, the mall had closed.  Today, the Carlsons live on the premises in one of the outbuildings converted from the old carpenter shop / maintenance barn to a four bedroom home.

What Lori and Jeff Carlson didn't realize was the history and unexplained things going on in the home. Back when the Genesse County Board of Supervisors had established the Poorhouse, the staff had did their best to keep unsafe patients away from the general population, but there were many problems .  As a result, a solitary confinement cell was constructed in the building and those who lived there were often referred to as inmates.  Some of the spirits of these disturbed souls are thought to inhabit the halls of Rolling Hills.  One tragic story involves that of an inmate who once lived at Rolling Hills Asylum, by the name of Roy.   Roy had suffered from gigantism, which is a physical deformity that left with protruding facial features, large hands, and feet, and a height of over 7feet tall.  Roy was the son of a prominent banker, and his physical appearance was an embarrassment to his family.  When Roy was 12, he had been dropped off by his family at the Genesee County home and was left there until his death at the age of 62.  Roy had liked opera music and was generally kind to others.  Today his hulking shadow is said to be witnessed by visitors who report seeing him lurking throughout the building.

Other personalities weren't as harmless as Roy though.  In the infirmary wing, there is a nurse known for her cruelty.  Emmie Altworth, or better known to others then, as Nurse Emmie was hated and feared not only by the inmates, but by the staff too.  Rumors began circulating  that Nurse Emmie was involved in the dark arts and was performing black magic to satanic rituals in Rolling Hills. Many people had reported that outside the cafe area, of apparitions have been seen of an old woman who has been seen going into the women's restroom.  On the second floor of the East Wing, the sound of foot steps and sliding can be heard coming from above, but there is no third floor.   A man with a goat tee mustache as an apparition has been seen walking around too in the facility.  Shadows are seen in the early mornings of three and five AM on the first and second floors of the East wing.

One particular site of the building is the main kitchen which is in the basement.  When the facility was operating as an orphanage and as an asylum , food animals were slaughtered and butchered on site here.  During the TB epidemic of the 1940s, when the morgue was full, bodies were put in the meat freezers.  It's said that sometimes nearly dead patients were put in the freezer to die.  This is where the negative feelings are encountered in the first freezer unit.

Weeks after moving in, Lori Carlson began noticing odd things happening. It started with the simple unexplained noises coming from within the building at times when she was the only one there.  Doors would slam, to someone calling her name from down the long east wing corridor, to footsteps clearly heard above.  Then misty apparitions began appearing in front of Lori.   She thought she was overworked or losing her insanity.  However, the sightings, voices, and footsteps, still continued on. Eventually Lori did research on the property and talked to a historian at Genesee County.  The earliest she found was that of a stagecoach tavern which was located on the property from the late 1790's serving travelers between Batavia and Warsaw along Route 20.  The owners then had sold the property to Genesee  county in 1826.

Due to a mandate by New York State in 1824, all the counties in the state were charged with the care of the poor and told to find property to house them.  The properties had to have acreage for farming, and be self sufficient.   By January 1827, the Genesee Poorhouse opened its doors to its first recipents of care.  During the 1800's new buildings were added to the county home, and had continually evolved.  The home also cared for the insane, a separate asylum made of cobblestones had been built, but was later destroyed by a fire.  Orphans were brought to the home, removing them from the streets of towns and villages where they were beggars.   One of the most intriguing piece was that of the 1800's in which the property was used for the insane, the orphans, sick and dying, the aging, and the poor all slept, worked and ate together.  The overcrowding was a point of concern and a special investigation was conducted eventually by New York State with the focus being on the Genesee County Home.

This explained a great deal of issues to Lori Carlsonof the strange events that were going on in the property.  She understood and realized the conditions of the past residents that had lived and died under these circumstances.  Lori had no understanding of the "afterlife", and eventually joined a local paranormal investigating team.  This in turn, helped her to communicate with "her ghosts".  Lori had opened the doors to the public at Rolling Hills in 2004, holding ghost hunts.  Rolling Hills is the first historical site in New York State to open its doors to the public for overnight ghost hunts.  Such television shows, like "Ghost Adventures" has investigated  Rolling Hills Asylum with great EVP's to capturing their own audio sounds. Something I love to watch today and recapture myself for memories.

In light of this buildings history, there are many unsettled souls wandering the property and within its remaining structures.  Many souls will never rest in Rolling Hills here, and will continue to haunt the property.


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    • profile image

      Ben Long 5 years ago

      Looking for pictures of Roy. who had gigantism

    • profile image

      Thomas J Butler 5 years ago

      My grandmother (Frances E. Roberts) was a 'patient' at Rolling Hills in the mid 1960's. She suffered from diabetes, and often went into a 'sugar rage'...she despised the nurses there and it was reported she would scratch them with her fingernails...she would not let the nurses clip them. Before she became "ill" she was a sweet woman but had led a "hard life".

      She had been living with Milton Kittle in Lyndon,who worked for the local railroad, but after his passing she had nowhere to go, so she had been sent to Rolling Hills.

    • profile image

      Brandon 5 years ago

      The picture they have of Roy is strange because the guy standing next to him in the pic isn't an average sized man, he looks like a midget so why wouldn't he be standing next to a guy with an average height to show how tall he was?

    • profile image

      Ben 5 years ago

      Hey everyone i live near here and it not all that great. yeah its scary and all but in sure that you wouldn't want to go in there alone. the Carlson no longer live here. they have now moved to florida. in my sightings at rolling hills are very weird! Me and my friends have goon out there a couple of times. we have seen doors open and close, heard people talking and laughimg in dead silence, taken pictures and printed out orbs. ect. sometimes people don't even remember being or leaving there!!!

    • profile image

      Ingine 6 years ago

      I've always been facinated about ghosts and paranormal activity. I'd really enjoy doing a ghost hunt and capturing some cool footage or even some evp's. I've had some unexplained thing's happen that i just could'nt explain over the last 25 years. I think it would be awesome to see Roy and to witness it for myself. We don't have too many hauntings here in Australia though,obviously cause our country is still quite young compared to America, England or Germany that have been around for century's.

    • profile image

      alicia mosier 6 years ago

      hi i thought it was great

    • Gypsy1witch profile image

      Christine Marie 6 years ago from Milton, NY

      @ Kathy: Bethany, NY is west of Rochester,NY. though i never been out there myself i had sources who helped me write this as they had been out there themselves.

    • profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago

      Can you tell me how to get there

    • Gypsy1witch profile image

      Christine Marie 7 years ago from Milton, NY

      yeah too bad though that some of these TV producers don't check OUT NY too often. I read a great deal of true hauntings in NY here and i'm pretty surprised myself of some of the horror stories that would make a great story as the "Amityville Horror" did!

    • profile image

      mazzastick 7 years ago

      This sounds like the makings of a good horror movie. Abandoned building, tuberculosis hospital, orphanage, insane asylum, ghosts touching people. I love to check out old abandoned buildings. There is just something cool about them.

    • profile image

      dee 7 years ago

      Ghost Hunters will be there soon !

    • rotl profile image

      rotl 7 years ago from Florida

      Awesome... I love haunted places. I would love to visit if I were every up there!


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