Haunted History: Exploring Abandoned Asylums and Institutions

By Sophia Maddox | February 8, 2024

The Byberry State Hospital, Philadelphia

If you listen closely to the sound of history, the echoes of despair reverberate through the forsaken corridors of abandoned institutions, where debt-laden souls were callously cast into frigid confinement. The grim legacy persisted as the shadows of mental illnesses seized others, drawing them into the desolate embrace of institutional walls. Within these cold confines, the weight of cognitive disorders became a silent torment, an indomitable force driving inhabitants into bleak isolation. Afflicted by specific contagious maladies, some were marooned, left to wither in the solitude of abandonment. Today, these spectral structures stand as poignant monuments to human suffering, lonely sentinels scattered across desolate landscapes, silent witnesses to the forgotten and discarded chapters of our shared past.

Let's explore the desolate remnants of these forsaken institutions and asylums, where the haunting solitude and abandonment permeate every crumbling brick and echoing corridor.



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Byberry State Hospital was a seemingly idyllic refuge when officials inaugurated it in 1903. It promised solace for those grappling with mental illnesses. Little did anyone know, it was about to take a nightmarish nosedive into the abyss. One of the first patients was William Kirsch, who staff shackled in a four-point restraint chained to a wall for three years. 

The staff at Byberry were different from your average caregivers. Instead, they were masters of the macabre. They would wrap a wet towel around a patient's neck, twisting it relentlessly until consciousness decided to take a vacation to the dark side. They also had a unique talent for dentistry because they would extract teeth without painkillers. They were also big fans of overmedication, turning hapless patients into real-life Sleeping Beauties. 

Even with caring staff bravely going to the media with reports, it seemed the world just shrugged and went about business. Byberry State Hospital wasn't where nightmares occurred just in your dreams. They lurked behind every door. It's a cautionary tale that reminds us: when choosing a mental health facility, check the Yelp reviews first.


Kings Park Psychiatric Center, Kings Park, New York

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The New York Times

Kings Park Psychiatric Center emerged in 1885 as a solution to the overcrowded turmoil of Brooklyn hospitals. Yet, an unforgiving 1893 report laid bare the dreadful truth: "unsuitable and unhygienic buildings, inadequate facilities, insufficient and poor-quality clothing, and often food unfit for human consumption." The solitude within those walls became an oppressive force, engulfing all who walked through its gates. Officials cast individuals into the asylum for offenses as trivial as lacking the means to care for themselves or bearing a child out of wedlock. 

Within the sinister embrace of Kings Park, doctors engaged in macabre practices masked as treatments. Hostility extended to orderlies using pillowcases as instruments of suffocation, snuffing out the feeble flicker of life in their tormented victims. The facility reached a haunting peak, imprisoning up to 9,300 souls simultaneously. The chilling legacy of Kings Park Psychiatric Center finally came to an end in the 1950s. Yet, the building remains standing as a testament to the individuals who lived there.