Top 3 Insane Asylum Stories You Wish Weren't Real - Scare Street (2022)

The walls speak. The hallways echo with the sound of screams and terror. The rooms look like they had housed rabid animals and not human beings with severe mental ailments. And through it all, there’s a raging thunderstorm outside and bursting lightning that throws shadows across everything.

That’s usually the picture perceived when anyone speaks of an abandoned asylum. Most of the time, these are just the imaginations of some wonderfully twisted storytellers. But sometimes, these stories echo true.

Here are some insane asylum stories that have given us all chills!

Insane Asylum Stories that Shocked a Nation

Top 3 Insane Asylum Stories You Wish Weren't Real - Scare Street (1)A Willowbrook State School once stood on the grounds of New York Staten Island. Though replaced by the College of Staten Island, some of its abandoned buildings are still standing, rotting away, while its walls are holding within it the horrific stories of the mistreated, abused and neglected children who were once sane – until they stumbled upon the nightmarish Willowbrook.

Ironically, Willowbrook was owned by the New York Department of Mental Hygiene. But to everyone’s surprise this place was about the filthiest, freakiest, and overly crowded places they’d ever seen. Unsuitable for anyone, let alone disabled children.

Originally, it was designed to be a clean, safe home for only 4,000 patients, but it held over 6,000 patients. Given the circumstances, you can imagine how the murky rooms and halls looked like. Children were sleeping on the floor, under the beds, and sometimes naked in the hallway.

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The children who had the atrocious misfortune of staying in this place were sexually, physically and medically abused, extremely neglected, and easily exposed to murder. The universe must’ve heard these children’s agonizing, unearthly screams, because journalist Geraldo Rivera exposed the freak show that is The Willowbrook State School to the nation.

Rivera’s investigation uncovered how Dr. Saul Krugman and Robert McCollum cruelly performed inhumane experiments on these children. One of the studies had Krugman force-feeding the hepatitis virus in milkshakes to 60 healthy children; his reasoning was that the children were going to suffer from hepatitis either way. The investigation definitely did shed some light on the on-going atrocity, but that’s not all. Apparently Willowbrook was a home for the infamous serial killer, Andre Rand.

Finally, seven years later, the Willowbrook hellhole was officially shut down for good; or so we think. The College of Staten Island was constructed on the same grounds, along with some of the cursed Willowbrook’s buildings. Students claim to hear ‘shadowy figures’ yelling at them; sometimes these shadowy figures even push them.

To this day, people still hear creepy stories about Willowbrook, but listening to stories is nothing next to living them. So, if you’re ever around the area, make sure you live to tell the tale of the haunted Willowbrook.

Insane Asylum Stories with an Everlasting Corpse Stain

Top 3 Insane Asylum Stories You Wish Weren't Real - Scare Street (2)How horrific is it, that the place that promises you safety and care is the same place that abuses its power against you when you’re at the most vulnerable state?

The Athens Asylum welcomed people with open arms after the Civil War, given the dreadful state that the people were in. Anxiety, epilepsy, posttraumatic stress, and high libidos were common, but the treatments were inhumane to say the least.

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This asylum had a garden, farm fields, greenhouses, a carriage shop, a dairy, and an orchard. Initially everything that the asylum owned was meant to benefit the patients, but ironically the staff thought it’d be a good idea to put their patients on these fields to work.

That’s not all. The asylum quickly hosted 2,000 patients, which was over three times its capacity.

The number of patients surely increased, while the number of the staff stayed the same. But at least most of these staff was professionally trained to take care of mentally unstable patients, right?

Wrong. Most of the staff hadn’t had a lick of any sort of training background whatsoever. Add to that bad treatment, misdiagnosed patients, lobotomy and shock therapy to the mix, and we’ve got the perfect recipe for a cruel, insane asylum.

One can only imagine how things were with so many patients, and hardly as many staff members. Patients were neglected, beaten, and were placed in crowded rooms. These rooms were only meant to hold 1 patient instead of 10 or more.

But it gets worse! The things that the staff did in the female ward was beyond insanity. Women, who would naturally exhibit signs of sexual desire, would be later diagnosed with hysteria. These doctors believed that they were sick because of “menstrual derangement”. These women were going through their menstrual cycle, and for that they were “treated” with freezing, shock therapy, kicking, and sometimes lobotomy. Because apparently menstrual pain isn’t enough.

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One of the women, Margaret Schilling tried to escape, and went missing for 42 days. Since the asylum didn’t do anything about it, she was accidentally found in an abandoned ward that was used for patients with infectious diseases. To add to the creep factor, her clothes were found neatly folded next to her, while Margaret’s dead, decaying body lay on the floor.

Apparently her body had decayed so much that there was still a gooey imprint of her outline on the floor that still exists to this day, despite the staff’s hopeless attempts to clean it up.

Finally, the asylum was closed for good in 1993, and The Ohio University was built there instead.

Students say that they can hear the embodied screams; some even have seen Margaret trying to escape the room. People always feel unbearable dread when they’re around the area, and the stories and rumors only make staying there worse.

Insane Asylum Stories that Inspired H.P Lovecraft

Top 3 Insane Asylum Stories You Wish Weren't Real - Scare Street (3)If you’re familiar with Lovecraft’s work then you can only imagine how bad this asylum was to inspire such a brilliant author to write the twisted, frightening Arkham Sanitarium that still haunts our thoughts to this day.

Not only did Danvers State Hospital inspire Lovecraft, but it also inspired Batman’s Arkham Asylum. It was built in the 19th century in Massachusetts, and get this, the asylum was built in the same place where the Salem Witch Trials judge John Hathorne once lived. Creepy right?

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The Asylum’s gothic design and history might already sound horrifying, but it gets even creepier. This asylum followed in the same footsteps of any classical insane asylum. It was only meant for 600 patients, but ended up hosting around 2,400, and of course a low staff count, and of course, there’s the usual insane asylum treatments such as shock therapy and lobotomy.

Here’s the twist, though. This asylum was the first to operate the transorbital lobotomy, where an ice pick is inserted through the eye socket and into the brain. Soon enough, it started to keep patients such as the elderly, who had children that didn’t want to take care of them anymore, mentally disabled, alcoholics, drug addicts, and insane criminals.

The staff used treatments like shock therapy and lobotomies when they didn’t even need to; it was just so they could keep their numerous patients under control. Of course. due to the extreme neglect, patients started dying there, and their bodies were found days later.

Their cruelty didn’t end there; the doctors were using lobotomy to cure anything from natural ailments such as daydreaming and back aches, to delusions and depression. Visitors described how dirty the patients were, how they were creepily wandering in the halls, and sometimes blankly staring at the walls. Some of these patients weren’t even suffering from anything, and the extremity of the treatments are what drove them insane.

The asylum was of course shut down, and its buildings demolished. Some patients left the asylum, while others are spending eternity under its grounds. The asylum’s buildings don’t exist anymore, but its cemetery sure does. So if you ever want to go on a ghost haunt, you know where to go.

Truth Behind the Tales

No matter what people want to believe, one cannot deny the fact that asylums can be really scary places. Experimental medical strategies, orderlies abusing patients, and the ravings of those locked behind closed doors inside padded rooms. It isn’t hard to imagine the screams echoing through the centuries, living on forever to haunt the thrill-seeking adventurer who decides to set foot in any of the asylums mentioned above.

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Then again, maybe some of us just like being haunted…

FAQs

What is the most famous mental asylum? ›

Located in Brentwood, New York, Pilgrim State Hospital was the largest psychiatric hospital—and hospital of any kind—in the history of the world. At the peak of psychiatric institutionalization in 1954, it housed 13,875 patients (New York State Office of Mental Health, 2012).

Whats a good name for an insane asylum? ›

nut house
  • bedlam.
  • booby hatch.
  • bughouse.
  • funny farm.
  • insane asylum.
  • laughing academy.
  • loony bin.
  • lunatic asylum.

What was the first insane asylum in America? ›

1752. The Quakers in Philadelphia were the first in America to make an organized effort to care for the mentally ill. The newly-opened Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia provided rooms in the basement complete with shackles attached to the walls to house a small number of mentally ill patients.

What was life like in an insane asylum? ›

The large gothic buildings of asylums resembled penitentiaries in more ways than one. The windows were barred, the grounds fenced in, and the bedrooms were locked. A diagnosis of insanity said that you were not fit to take care of yourself, and thus you became a ward of the state, often whether you wanted to or not.

What was the worst mental asylum in history? ›

Broadmoor Hospital is a high-security psychiatric hospital in Crowthorne, Berkshire, England.
...
Broadmoor Hospital
Emergency departmentNo
Beds284
History
Opened1863
12 more rows

What is the oldest insane asylum? ›

The world's oldest psychiatric institution, the Bethlem Royal Hospital outside London, this week opened a new museum and art gallery charting the evolution in the treatment of mental disorders.

Are asylums still a thing? ›

Nearly all of them are now shuttered and closed. The number of people admitted to psychiatric hospitals and other residential facilities in America declined from 471,000 in 1970 to 170,000 in 2014, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

Are there any mental asylums left? ›

The closing of psychiatric hospitals began during those decades and has continued since; today, there are very few left, with about 11 state psychiatric hospital beds per 100,000 people.

Are insane asylums still a thing? ›

Although psychiatric hospitals still exist, the dearth of long-term care options for the mentally ill in the U.S. is acute, the researchers say. State-run psychiatric facilities house 45,000 patients, less than a tenth of the number of patients they did in 1955.

Who goes to insane asylums? ›

Asylums became notorious for poor living conditions, lack of hygiene, overcrowding, and ill-treatment and abuse of patients. The first community-based alternatives were suggested and tentatively implemented in the 1920s and 1930s, although asylum numbers continued to increase up to the 1950s.

What replaced asylums? ›

The modern psychiatric hospital evolved from and eventually replaced the older lunatic asylum.

Who goes to mental asylum? ›

Private psychiatric hospitals admit a really broad range of people. They range from adolescents, through to adults through to elderly people, with a whole range of mental health problems. Common problems like depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol problems. Even less common things like schizophrenia.

What is the biggest insane asylum in the United States? ›

The largest mental institution in the country is actually a wing of a county jail. Known as Twin Towers, because of the design, the facility houses 1,400 mentally ill patients in one of its two identical hulking structures in downtown Los Angeles.

Why did all the asylums close? ›

The most important factors that led to deinstitutionalisation were changing public attitudes to mental health and mental hospitals, the introduction of psychiatric drugs and individual states' desires to reduce costs from mental hospitals.

Who created insane asylums? ›

Towards the end of the 1700s, William Tuke (1732-1822), founded a private mental institution outside York called The Retreat. It was here that the development of moral treatment and 'non-restraint' policy in public asylums began.

When was the last asylum closed? ›

Like most American asylums, all three closed permanently in the late 1990s and 2000s. Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, closed in 2008 and demolished in 2015.

Do asylums still exist UK? ›

Although this new system wasn't perfect either, the suffering that occurred at asylums all over the UK was put to an end. Now, there are hundreds of these abandoned hospitals and asylums throughout the country, many of them carrying too much historic grief and plight to be repurposed in the future.

How many insane asylums are in the US? ›

In the U.S. outpatient facilities made up a majority of the facilities available with 4,941 such facilities in 2020. Psychiatric hospitals were much less prevalent across the U.S. that year with just 668 facilities in total.

What was considered insane in the 1800s? ›

Drunkenness and sexual intemperance, having venereal disease or deviant sexuality, which was the Victorian phrase for homosexuality, were seen as significant drivers of madness. Other listed conditions included mania, dementia, melancholy, relapsing mania, hysteria, epilepsy and idiocy.

Why is Bedlam so famous? ›

Bedlam was mentioned as a hospital in 1329, and some permanent patients were accommodated there by 1403. In 1547 it was granted by Henry VIII to the City of London as a hospital for the mentally ill. It subsequently became infamous for the brutal ill treatment meted out to its patients.

What President closed insane asylums? ›

Too many people who were institutionalized for mental disorders suffered abuse, neglect and mistreatment. Gov. Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act in 1967, all but ending the practice of institutionalizing patients against their will.

What are psych ward socks? ›

The recently popularized term is “grippy sock vacation,” mostly prevalent on social media. It comes from the non-skid socks given during psychiatric hospitalization when a patient's laced shoes are confiscated for their safety.

Where do mentally ill adults live? ›

Licensed care homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes provide highly structured living for people with severe mental illness, disability or medical complications. With access to staff 24-hours a day and meals provided, residents usually pay most of their income except for a small allowance.

Do they still use straight jackets? ›

Myth #1: Straitjackets are still frequently used to control psychiatric patients. The Facts: Straitjacket use was discontinued long ago in psychiatric facilities in the US.

What's the difference between a psych ward and asylum? ›

Mental hospitals typically offer more intensive treatment. Psychiatric wards are usually less restrictive and offer more services such as group therapy and individual counseling. Our Psych Ward vs Mental Hospital guide will help you choose which is best for you.

What did they do in asylums? ›

Asylums were places where people with mental disorders could be placed, allegedly for treatment, but also often to remove them from the view of their families and communities.

What were insane asylums like in the 1800s? ›

Insane asylums were notorious for their harsh treatments, including restraints, isolation, electroshock therapy, ice baths, forced drugging, and even lobotomies.

What makes a person insane? ›

n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior. Insanity is distinguished from low intelligence or mental deficiency due to age or injury.

When was the first mental asylum built? ›

Many of the more prestigious private hospitals tried to implement some parts of moral treatment on the wards that held mentally ill patients. But the Friends Asylum, established by Philadelphia's Quaker community in 1814, was the first institution specially built to implement the full program of moral treatment.

What is a mental breakdown? ›

The term mental breakdown is often used when a person has a mental health crisis that overcomes their emotions. It can stem from other conditions like depression and anxiety but tends to be a severe case.

How were mentally ill treated in 1800s? ›

In early 19th century America, care for the mentally ill was almost non-existent: the afflicted were usually relegated to prisons, almshouses, or inadequate supervision by families. Treatment, if provided, paralleled other medical treatments of the time, including bloodletting and purgatives.

What were straight jackets used for? ›

A straitjacket is a garment shaped like a jacket with long sleeves that surpass the tips of the wearer's fingers. Its most typical use is restraining people who may cause harm to themselves or others.

Is a schizophrenic? ›

Overview. Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling.

What are the 2 biggest psychiatric hospitals in the US? ›

Top 10 psychiatric hospitals by number of staffed beds
RankHospital# of Staffed Beds
1DSH - Metropolitan1,004
2Western State Hospital771
3Spring Grove Hospital Center639
4InterCommunity Blue Hills617
6 more rows

How did people treat mental illness in the 1930s? ›

The use of certain treatments for mental illness changed with every medical advance. Although hydrotherapy, metrazol convulsion, and insulin shock therapy were popular in the 1930s, these methods gave way to psychotherapy in the 1940s. By the 1950s, doctors favored artificial fever therapy and electroshock therapy.

What was mental illness like in the 1930s? ›

In the 1930s, mental illness treatments were in their infancy and convulsions, comas and fever (induced by electroshock, camphor, insulin and malaria injections) were common. Other treatments included removing parts of the brain (lobotomies).

Can I admit myself to a mental hospital? ›

You are a voluntary patient (sometimes called an informal patient) if you are having in-patient treatment in a psychiatric hospital of your own free will. You should have capacity to understand that you are going into hospital and agree to treatment for your mental health problem.

Are asylums still a thing? ›

Nearly all of them are now shuttered and closed. The number of people admitted to psychiatric hospitals and other residential facilities in America declined from 471,000 in 1970 to 170,000 in 2014, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

When was the last asylum closed? ›

Like most American asylums, all three closed permanently in the late 1990s and 2000s. Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, closed in 2008 and demolished in 2015.

What happened at Forest Haven asylum? ›

Investigators found that patients were being fed while restrained in a lying down position, causing food to enter their lungs. The asylum shut its doors for good in 1991, after over three decades of institutionalized horror.

What happened to all the insane asylums? ›

After a century of growth, insane asylums experienced decline in the early twentieth century. Large state institutions began as facilities where those with mental illness could come not only to receive treatment, but also to recover. By the end of the century, however, these hospitals had become custodial facilities.

What are psych ward socks? ›

The recently popularized term is “grippy sock vacation,” mostly prevalent on social media. It comes from the non-skid socks given during psychiatric hospitalization when a patient's laced shoes are confiscated for their safety.

What are asylums called now? ›

The modern psychiatric hospital evolved from and eventually replaced the older lunatic asylum.

Where do mentally ill adults live? ›

Licensed care homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes provide highly structured living for people with severe mental illness, disability or medical complications. With access to staff 24-hours a day and meals provided, residents usually pay most of their income except for a small allowance.

Are straitjackets still in use? ›

In real life, straitjackets appear far less often — and very rarely, if ever, in psychiatric hospitals. Largely considered an outmoded form of restraint for people with mental illness, they've been replaced with other physical means to prevent patients from injuring themselves or others.

Who Ended mental institutions? ›

In 1981 President Ronald Reagan, who had made major efforts during his Governorship to reduce funding and enlistment for California mental institutions, pushed a political effort through the U.S. Congress to repeal most of MHSA. The MHSA was considered landmark legislation in mental health care policy.

Why do people go to mental hospitals? ›

Common problems like depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol problems. Even less common things like schizophrenia. One of the reasons people come into hospital is things like suicidal ideas where there's a real risk and danger.

Why did Forest Haven shut down? ›

The site was opened in 1925 and closed on October 14, 1991, by order of a federal judge after years of alleged abuse, medical incompetence, and several deaths from aspiration pneumonia.

Why was Forest Haven asylum shut down? ›

Under-staffing issues were common, and for decades reports of resident abuse and neglect went ignored. The District treated Forest Haven like a dark secret nobody wanted to discuss. A combination of budget cuts and lawsuits eventually forced the institution to close in 1991 after 80 years.

What year did Forest Haven close? ›

On October 14, 1991, Forest Haven's doors were closed for good. The total death count will never be known, due in part to the quick practice of hauling bodies to the morgue and then burying them en masse outside.

Do insane asylums still use straitjackets? ›

Myth #1: Straitjackets are still frequently used to control psychiatric patients. The Facts: Straitjacket use was discontinued long ago in psychiatric facilities in the US.

What's the difference between a psych ward and asylum? ›

Mental hospitals typically offer more intensive treatment. Psychiatric wards are usually less restrictive and offer more services such as group therapy and individual counseling. Our Psych Ward vs Mental Hospital guide will help you choose which is best for you.

Why do hospitals get abandoned? ›

Hospitals are vacated and left to decay for a variety of reasons—maybe a larger location is needed, buildings have been damaged and repairs are too costly, or the disease the hospital was created to treat has been eradicated. Empty, derelict hospitals can also be found in abandoned cities.

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