3 Abandoned Insane Asylums You Can Visit – If You’re Brave Enough

1) Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum | Weston, West Virginia


Donnie Nunley Via Flickr


The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America. The hospital was designed to house 250 souls, but by the 1950’s it was severely overcrowded with 2,400 patients crammed into very poor conditions. Changes in the treatment of mental illness and the physical deterioration of the facility forced its closure in 1994.


Donnie Nunley Via Flickr


This asylum had lots of patients who were locked up against their will and for a number of reasons. Patients could be locked up due to jealousy, political excitement, disappointed love, and gathering in the head, just to name a few. Husband’s who were weary of their wives could commit them without proof of illness.

Many people passed away during their time of confinement. Lobotomies and shock treatment were considered normal treatment practices, with “out of control” patients often being locked in cages.

The Asylum has had apparition sightings, unexplainable voices and sounds, and other paranormal activity reported in the past by guests, staff, SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters Academy, the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Challenge.

You can arrange a tour here if you’re brave enough.


2) Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane | Ovid, New York

It was a well known fact locally, that people that were sent to the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane, would never be seen or heard from again. People lived out their lives in the asylum and were buried within the grounds.

An 1872 article in the New York Times describes a girl who was kept in a five foot by five foot cell, chained to the corner. The superintendent of the facility told a visiting doctor that the girl was destructive and disturbed, despite frequent floggings with a whip or strap. The only thing that seemed to keep her in line was a method he called “pulleying” where she was hung by her thumbs until she settled down. He also reported that she’d given birth to two children earlier in her stay by “fathers unknown.”


Via www.adwheelerphotography.com


The most frequent paranormal sighting at the Asylum is of a woman with long red hair who walks the hallways. She is thought to be a patient who started out at the asylum as a doctor. The doctor turned patient is known to let loose a spine-tingling scream in the middle of the night.

Several of the buildings are now used by the New York Department of Corrections to house incarcerated drug addicts, but it is opened once a year for tours.

3) Pennhurst Asylum | Spring City, Pennsylvania


Wheelchair – Pennhurst Asylum by Ellen Dunn Photography | Via Flickr


Pennhurst was constructed and opened in 1908 as a state school for the mentally and physically disabled. Pennhurst’s property was vast, covering 120 acres. Created to house over 10,000 patients at a point in time, Pennhurst was one of the largest institutions of its kind in Pennsylvania.

Pennhurst was often accused of dehuminazitation and was said to have provided no help to the mentally challenged. The institution had a long history of staff difficulties and negative public image. Terry Lee Halderman had been a resident of the school, and upon release, filed suit in the district court on behalf of herself and all other residents of Pennhurst. She alleged that conditions at Pennhurst were unsanitary, inhumane and dangerous and that patients were subjected to physical and mental abuse. In 1986, Pennhurst was ordered closed.

Pennhurst is allegedly so haunted, in fact, that its paranormal presences have spawned a spectral cottage industry––ghost hunting on the grounds of the old asylum.


Pennhurst 042 by Terie Christmas | Via Flickr


The S.P.R.S. is an Ocean County, NJ based team of trained individuals whose sole purpose is to find the truth behind claims of paranormal activity. They investigated the asylum and these are just some of the things they came across:

  • Recordings of voice phenomena and personal encounters with spirits. Among the recordings are the sounds of disembodies voices uttering things like  “go away”, “I’ll kill you”, “we’re upset”, and “why’d you come here?” An unknown male states, “I’m scared” while an invisible female asks, “why won’t you leave?”
  • Numerous shadows manifest and dissipate at will. These shadows include what appeared to be a small female child with long black hair, a hunched over presence with long dangling arms and the upper portion of bodies looking over or around obstacles.
  • The apparition of a woman in a old style nurse’s uniform was observed by a fire fighter, police officer and a marine.
  • Investigator was shoved from behind hard enough on a stairway to leave a deep red mark on the small of back.

If that hasn’t freaked you completely out, you can arrange a tour here.

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