The history of insane asylums is plagued with terror and abuse. A multitude of asylum and psychiatric patients have lost their lives, dignity, and maybe even what was left of their minds as a result of cruel and overcrowded confinement. Moreover, the "treatment" of mental illness in the past often involved horror movie-style methods.
It's no wonder that - like the real-life homes that became haunted in the wake of horrifying events - most of the creepy abandoned buildings that once housed hundreds of mental patients now inspire many ghost stories and are home to continuous paranormal activity. This list compiles just a few of these haunted institutions that can be found around the world.
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky, was constructed in 1910 for the treatment of people with tuberculosis. Over the span of its operating years, around 63,000 patients perished inside of Waverly Hills. This sanatorium also has a special tunnel that was built for the express purpose of moving materials - like dead bodies - out of the building and down the hill it sits atop. The tunnel is now known as the "body chute," and many hauntings experienced at Waverly Hills are centered around the tunnel - whether they involve the ghosts of dead patients or of doctors who opened up and drained the patients before their transport in the chute. Many incidents involve strange shadows, closing doors, and ghostly apparitions.
One particular ghost who is known to haunt the sanatorium is a uniformed nurse who is said to tell people to leave Room 502. Apparently, a nurse had previously hung herself in that very room. Another nurse is said to have jumped from the top of the sanatorium after working in Room 502.
Pennhurst Asylum in Pennsylvania was opened in the early 20th century as a home for mentally disabled children. It was overcrowded, scantily staffed, and poorly funded by the government - which led to overworked and desperate staff members practicing cruel punishments. Children were drugged, chained to their beds, and isolated for extended amounts of time. A reporter revealed the horrors of the asylum in 1968, and it was shut down a few years later.
Though it is currently run as a haunted house attraction, previous caretakers of the property claim that the place is haunted by upset spirits. Some reports include the sound of footsteps, empty rooms emitting piercing screams, and slamming doors. Investigators of the property have experienced negative paranormal activity that may be linked to poltergeists, such as being touched or shoved and having objects thrown at them. One investigator was even scratched by an entity.
The Athens Lunatic Asylum opened in 1874 in Athens, Ohio. The asylum treated mentally and criminally insane patients. The accompanying cemetery is the burial site of many patients, and many people have reported ghost sightings and unidentifiable screams there.
A popular paranormal story linked to Athens involves a patient named Margaret Schilling. In December 1978, Margaret was playing hide-and-seek with nurses who eventually became distracted by the demands of other patients. The nurses forgot about Margaret, and a year later, her body was found by a maintenance worker. Apparently, an immovable imprint of Margaret's body, clothes, and hair remains visible on the floor despite decades of cleaning.
The Beechworth Lunatic Asylum in Victoria, Australia, dates back to 1867. Because more than 3,000 patients perished there over a span of only 128 years, the place is a hotbed of paranormal activity.
One of the more frequently seen ghosts is believed to be that of Matron Sharpe. She has been seen walking into classrooms and former dorm areas, and she has been known to glide down a granite staircase on the premises. Legend has it that Sharpe was uncharacteristically compassionate toward patients at Beechworth, and even after her passing, she could be spotted giving them comfort. Reportedly, nurses "would report seeing the Matron sitting with patients who were due to have electro-shock treatment. Those who say they've witnessed this say the room was icy cold, but her presence was comforting."
Another ghost who haunts Beechworth is Tommy Kennedy, a patient who was eventually given a kitchen-hand position. Tommy perished in the kitchen, which is now a space called the Bijou Theater. People claim to feel someone pulling their clothes or poking their ribs within this theater, and Tommy is believed to be the culprit.
A more frightening haunt is that of a patient who disappeared and was found several weeks later in a tree. Max, the resident dog at the time, was discovered chewing on a leg near the entrance to the grounds. It was here that the lost patient was found - decomposed so badly that his leg had fallen off. The ghost of this patient is known to be seen haunting the asylum entrance early in the morning.