This Maryland’s Forest Haven Asylum Shut Down Amid Lawsuit Alleging Mistreatment


Urban explorers have been interested in abandoned places for a long time. Do you agree that there’s something that pulls us in? There are many abandoned places in Maryland with interesting stories to tell, but the Forest Haven Asylum’s story is one of the scariest. There were terrible things that happened here for 66 years, and if these walls could talk, they would tell you about them.

This article talks about some of the bad things that happened at the Forest Haven Asylum in the past, so be aware of what you might read.

Our Vacant Series shows off the beautifully creepy work of photographer Johnny Joo from Cleveland. It also shows off other interesting abandoned places across America. These one-of-a-kind buildings were built by people but have been left empty. Nature is slowly taking them back.

Note from the editor: Many of the places in this series are not open to tourists or have already been torn down because they are abandoned. We don’t support trespassing or other illegal actions, but we do want our readers to enjoy learning about these interesting places.

Forest Haven was both a state school and a hospital for mentally ill people.

Forest Haven was run by the District of Columbia and was in Laurel, Maryland. It opened for business in 1925. When it first opened, Forest Haven was called “The District Training School for the Mentally Retarded.” The building didn’t get its new name, Forest Haven, until 1963.

There was nothing else like it when it first opened.

The 22-building campus spread out over 200 acres and held more than 1,000 patients. The original plan was to teach the inmates things they would need to know to live on their own when they got out. The people who lived there would get an education and learn how to take care of the land, which included farm animals. That looked like a great chance to help people who need care around the clock. However, things did not go as planned in real life.

Cuts to the budget were the first of many problems, and the people who lived there were hurt. Even though Forest Haven was having to deal with budget cuts and a lack of staff, it kept taking on more and more cases. Lack of funds to care for these patients and building upgrades meant that people who lived in Forest Haven were left to wander around empty padded rooms, often in nothing more than an adult diaper.

There were more than 100 jobs that needed to be filled at one point. More than 1,000 people were being helped by only two social workers. Forest Haven even hired a doctor whose license to practice medicine had been suspended to treat the people who lived there.

People who used to live there told police they were hit with bats, whipped, and had their teeth knocked out. People told the police about both physical and sexual abuse, and by the late 1970s, cases were being filed.

In 1976, the residents’ families filed the first lawsuit. The Department of Justice stopped the case, and many of the residents moved to other group homes. However, Forest Haven was still allowed to stay open.

Forest Haven was told many times how to properly feed, care for, and treat these people, but they didn’t seem to listen. The people who lived there weren’t heard or seen as equals in society. While some family members stepped up, the horrible things went on for many years. In 1981, someone on staff was charged with taking more than $40,000 from people who lived in Forest Haven. That wasn’t the end, though.

The Justice Department learned that many of the people who died at Forest Haven did so because they breathed in pneumonia.

Aspiration pneumonia can happen if you don’t feed your baby properly, like if you eat while sitting down. A lot of the time, people lived there chained to beds, cribs, and even toilets. On the grounds, many of the residents were buried in a mass grave. It was later found that at least 389 people were killed at Forest Haven.

Many cases were filed against Forest Haven, but it didn’t close for good on October 14, 1991.

The last 15 inmates were moved to a different facility on September 29, 1991. After a few weeks, the facilities closed for good.

Even though the US Park Service “maintains” the area now, Mother Nature is slowly taking it back.

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