Paranormal Urban Exploration: Insane Asylum, My Haunting Experience With The Danvers State Hospital
The human creature is very curious haunted locations. That is just a part of who we are. When we see something we find intriguing, we go look at it and poke it and mess with it. But there are certain things nobody should poke or prod. Certain places no person should visit, no matter how much their curiosity tugs at them. Though there are many places in New England that all have a very strange and dark history, none have quite the back story that the Danvers State Hospital, just outside of Salem, Massachusetts, has. I spent a good deal of my teens and twenties doing urban exploration, and of the many places I visited, this is the one place that I would suggest very few of you go, unless you like bringing home fucked up energy and bad vibes, which, with a place like this, would be the least of your troubles.
Danvers State Hospital
There is a chill you get in your bones at this abandoned insane asylum that is unlike anything I have ever felt.
Ah, the mental institutions of old were such disturbing places. Lobotomizing patients to keep them quiet, drugging people who didn’t need it. They were often treated more like criminals than people who needed help, which is what they were.
One of the worst offenders for patient mistreatment was the Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts. Long and the short is this: Many think it to be the birthplace of the pre-frontal lobotomy, a cruel and useless form of treatment that basically made people into vegetables by sticking a spike up into their brains and squishing it around. Yes, it was that crude.
The hospital was the inspiration for the Arkham Institution that H.P Lovecraft often wrote about (Pickman), which was, in turn, the inspiration for the Arkham Asylum from the Batman universe, which famously houses such classic rogues as The Joker and Killer Croc. The Danvers State Hospital was also the setting and inspiration for the AMAZING horror film, Session 9. Here, watch the trailer of this wildly underrated film.
The stuff that went on in that hospital is the stuff of nightmares.
While the building is just a shell now, having been mostly torn down in 2005, in 1999, when I went there, it wasn’t. It was still a massive, looming beast, and I went inside. Like climbing into the jaws of a creature by choice.
This is a random photo taken from inside. Yes. THIS is how creepy it was in there.
When Danvers finally got shut down in June of 1992, the place was pretty much just abandoned, as is. Everyone just sort of upped and left, and everything stayed EXACTLY where it was. There were even boxes filled with patient information if you were willing to go deep enough into the belly of the beast. The thing is, you wouldn’t. You couldn’t. Maybe it was because of the bias and fear we have implanted in us (those of who grew up in New England) about this place that made it feel so….stifling, but the place made you feel like you were crawling in your skin. I cannot stress that enough. From the minute you walked in there, you could feel all angst and madness of the place, trying to find something new to inhabit. There was a sense of dread you could almost taste (acrid) on the tip of your tongue as your traverse the ghostly hallways of this establishment. And don’t even get me started on the “unexplained” fire in April on 2007, that people could SEE from Boston. Yeah, no follow up or no explanation given to public ever about that.
There is not a single photo of this place that DOESN’T look scary. Honestly.
And it is built in the infamous “wagon wheel” design on the inside of the structure. The same circular blueprint that many architects would base medical buildings around after the turn of the last century. In other words, not only was it scary as fuck, but if you turned the wrong way at one point, it was incredibly easy to get lost in the massive structure. So basically, every single thing about it as creepy and psychologically ruining as it can possibly be. And I went there WILLINGLY.
Very few things in my life have unsettled me quite like walking these hallways did.
The other crazy part is that the building was abandoned for years before they tore it down, and it became a fairly well known spot for squatters (homeless people needing a place to crash). So half the time, if you were walking through it and THOUGHT you heard a noise, you probably did. If you thought you saw a shadow or heard something fall in a room down at the end of a hallway, you probably did. And you never knew if it was a ghost, some bad memories, or a homeless guy. And the more you walk, the deeper you get inside the place, the more you start to feel sick. You are sweating, yet you are cold. It is a true paradox in many ways. You know you are “safe”, yet you have never felt further from that feeling than when you are at Danvers State Hospital.
Even in the day time it looks like Stephen King’s meth den.
And the funny part is, (if you are not a jackass) you are with people, and you are all thinking the same thing. “I must be the only one scared, so I am not going to say anything, I am just gonna tough it out for them.” So, in essence, you are ALL terrified, but no one is talking about it, so you are not actually leaving, yet you are all uncomfortable and uneasy. And that just perpetuates itself as you go deeper and deeper into the heart of this place. The madness in there starts feeling like it is as easy to catch as a cold. At this point, you think it’s been hours, and it’s been ten minutes. I wish I was kidding.
This is an actual photo from an actual lobotomy that was being performed at Danvers State Hospital.
And you all need to understand, I was friends with a few of the guys who worked security out there (people were always breaking in and checking it out, so security was always posted around there as the result of that) so I had free reign of the place when I went, and even then, we were in there for just under an hour before I spoke up and said I wasn’t “enjoying” myself. Everyone seemed relieved, and we all finally agreed it “felt” off and left. But we all honestly thought we were in there for hours, and we weren’t even in there for one full hour. That is the part that freaks us out the most when we talk about it. Time slowed to a sickening crawl while we were in there, and none of us had any idea. I can still clearly recall what air smelled like in that place. It smelled stale, and damp, and heavy with sorrow. It is so quiet inside that hospital, that your own heart beat sounds like it is hammering inside your skull. It is the kind of place you never forget. The kind of place the settles itself into the marrow of your bones before you can leave.
Really, it is the kind of place you can physically leave, but it never really leaves you.
As you stand there, looking at the decaying walls, it feels as if they are staring back.
I never went back to Danvers State Hospital after that one day, and with good reason. I haven’t needed to. I still think about those dusty, echoing hallways and the way the darkness in there feels like it is reaching for you from the corners of every room. You can’t go back to something you never left…. it haunts you forever.