This Hospital in New York is One of the Scariest Places in the State


There are numerous haunted and abandoned locations in New York State, but few are as creepy and intriguing as the former Utica State Hospital. This hospital, the country’s first state-run center for the mentally ill, served thousands of patients between 1843 and 1978.

Many of them experienced neglect, abuse, and experimental treatments including lobotomies and electroshock therapy. Some died inside the hospital walls and were buried in unmarked graves on the grounds. Today, the hospital is a collapsing ruin, reputed to be haunted by the restless souls of its former residents.

History of Utica State Hospital

Dr. Amariah Brigham, a psychiatric pioneer, and the American Psychiatric Association’s first president, created the Utica State Hospital. He envisioned a compassionate and innovative facility that would offer spiritual support and occupational therapy to the mentally sick.

He also created the hospital’s main building, a huge Greek Revival edifice with a central dome and two wings. The edifice, finished in 1850, was regarded as an architectural marvel and a source of municipal pride.

Brigham’s vision quickly faded as the hospital grew overcrowded and understaffed. The hospital’s population increased from 140 patients in 1843 to almost 2,000 by 1890. The hospital also enlarged its amenities, including new buildings, cottages, farms, and a cemetery.

The hospital’s standards of care also deteriorated as patients were subjected to severe circumstances such as poor cleanliness, insufficient food, and a lack of air. Many patients were either confined, secluded, or subjected to intrusive treatments, such as lobotomies, carried out by Dr. Walter Freeman, the infamous “ice pick” surgeon.

The hospital’s image worsened considerably during the twentieth century, as it was the focus of scandals, lawsuits, and investigations. In 1972, Geraldo Rivera, a journalist, revealed the atrocities of the hospital’s Willowbrook unit, which housed children with developmental problems.

He reported that the youngsters were living in squalor, neglect, and cruelty and that they were being used as guinea pigs in hepatitis research. His report aroused public uproar, prompting improvements to the mental health system. The facility was finally dissolved in 1978 when the state approved the Willowbrook Consent Decree, which required the deinstitutionalization of mentally ill people and the establishment of community-based services.

The Hauntings at Utica State Hospital

The majority of the hospital’s structures were demolished or repurposed after its closure, except for the main building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The structure was abandoned and rotting, making it a popular destination for urban explorers, vandals, and ghost seekers. Many individuals have claimed paranormal activity at the hospital, including hearing voices, footsteps, screams, and laughing, seeing apparitions, shadows, and orbs, feeling cold spots, touches, and pushes, and smelling odd aromas like blood, rot, and sulfur.

Some of the most haunted locations of the hospital include the basement, which held the morgue and autopsy room, the fourth floor, which housed the lobotomy victims, and the dome, which housed Dr. Brigham’s office and where he supposedly committed himself.

Some of the hospital’s most notorious ghosts include the Nurse, who is seen wearing a white uniform and carrying a clipboard, the Little Boy, who is heard crying and asking for his mother, the Old Man, who is seen sitting in a wheelchair and staring blankly, and the Shadow Man, a dark and menacing figure lurking in the corners.

Future of Utica State Hospital

The Utica State Hospital’s destiny is unknown since it faces threats of vandalism, fire, and destruction. The state owns the building, however, it is administered by Save Our Structures (SOS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring historic landmarks.

SOS has been collaborating with the state and the local community to identify a suitable use for the building, such as a museum, hotel, or cultural center. However, the project confronts several hurdles, including finance, zoning, and environmental concerns. The building also needs major renovations due to water damage, mold, asbestos, and structural issues.

Despite the hurdles, SOS and its supporters are optimistic that the Utica State Hospital will be preserved and given a new life. They see the building as not just an important piece of history, but also a potential benefit to the city’s economic and social development. They also believe that by recognizing the hospital’s history, they will help heal the wounds of previous patients and workers, as well as pacify its restless ghosts.

Final Words

Finally, the Utica State Hospital, once a pioneering facility for mental health care, has a tumultuous past marred by overpopulation, mismanagement, and contentious treatments. The destiny of the surviving structure is uncertain, as it has been abandoned and is reputed to be haunted. Save Our Structures’ preservation initiatives provide hope for a meaningful future by acknowledging the site’s historical value and possible contributions to the community.

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