Haunted Locations: Utica State Hospital, Utica, NY

Welcome back to weird Wednesday, where we like to explore the most haunted locations we can find on the internet, some near, some far, but all with rich history, disturbing legends, and ghostly residents.  Today, we explore the Utica State Hospital, the first state run lunatic asylum.

In 1843, when it opened, it was considered state of the art, however, as was often the case in those days, asylums were rarely places of carrying and proper treatment. Electro-shock therapy and lobotomies were just some of the modern and cutting-edge therapies that were taking place, along with a whole host of other unorthodox and inhumane treatments. 

Another such treatment was the Utica crib, which was a long shallow cage where they kept patients to calm them down or to punish them. The cage was only 18 inches deep, three feet wide and six feet long. It was not unusual for patients to be kept chained in small cages or pens, often naked, living in filth. They were often beaten into submission in order to keep them under control. Ironically, the treatment methods used in the 1800’s were considered compassionate, and the employees claimed to truly care about the patients, despite the obvious horrendous conditions and treatment. Thankfully, the crib was done away with by 1887.

When the asylum opened, the main building housed 420 patients but only had 41 staff members. Think about that number for just a moment, 41 staff for more than 400 mentally-ill patients. Now, reduce that number of staff by a mere 25% percent to allow for the clerical staff and doctors, which leaves roughly 30 staff of nurses and orderlies to provide the daily care for the entire hospital. Consider again that each nurse was escorted by at least 1 orderly while making rounds, handing out meds, checking on injuries, etc. and the number of staff left to watch over 4 levels of patients, is even further reduced. 

Just a few of the many reasons for commitment to Utica Lunatic Asylum was sadness due to grief, bumps on the head, intellectual disorders, and religious excitement. Alcohol abuse was another one, as well as the normal range of true mental disorders. In the time of the asylum, all of these reasons were mental disorders and they all received the same treatments. Grief was reason enough to be committed. I’ll wait while you think about that for a moment. Religious excitement is another fun diagnosis that can mean anything from a young person speaking out against their parents’ religion or a wife refusing to attend her husband’s church. 

The living conditions and methods of treatment led to many injuries and patient deaths, which can explain the many ghostly sites and sounds that are often heard within the abandoned building. Screaming is often heard from the basement, footsteps echo down empty hallways, and faces peer from the windows. 

Please visit the links below to learn more on the asylum and its history. They do host ghost tours on occasion if you would like to go see for yourself. If you do, as always remember the three rules. Respect the property. Respect the owners. Respect the residents that still walk the grounds.  Happy Hunting! 




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