Haunted Asylums in New York State
Rolling Hills Asylum
Rolling Hills Asylum is located in East Bethany, New York, near the Great Lakes of Ontario and Erie and between the cities of Buffalo and Rochester. The Haunted North America Organization has rated this asylum as the second most haunted site in the United States. It was originally a farm where the Genesee County Poor House was established in 1827. Widows and orphans lived there along with lunatics. There were more than 1,700 documented deaths and hundreds more that were never recorded. The unclaimed dead were all buried on the property.
Since its beginning on New Year’s Day in 1827 the building has been used as an infirmary, a nursing home, an orphanage and a tuberculosis hospital. Some of the paranormal activity experienced here includes shadow people, ghostly touches, bull body apparitions, footsteps, doors slamming, and disembodied voices. There have also been many EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) recordings.
The building itself just looks haunted.It has four stories and red brick. The slate roof is pockmarked and many of the windows are broken. There is a newer section of the building at the back with the look of an abandoned hospital.
Sharon Coyle, the present owner, has shared some of her personal experiences on the property. There are several areas she calls “hotspots.” On the first floor of the East Wing is “Hattie’s Room.” Sharon left a tape recorder in the room. When she retrieved the recorder later she heard the very distinct voice of an old woman saying “Hello.” Hattie had been blind and she would call out “hello” to get the nurses’ attention.
Roy Crouse is the favorite apparition of everyone who works there. He is a seven-foot-tall shadow man. It is supposed that Roy had gigantism which is caused by a tumor growing in the pituitary glands. He died here when he was only 52 and almost seven and a half feet tall. Sharon told a story of running into a rat in the infirmary. She promptly ran away screaming. The next day she found the bloody rat lying on the stairs with its neck broken. She thinks Roy killed the rat for her because there was a large bloody handprint on the wall.
The men’s dormitory was located in the East Wing on the second floor. There is a corridor there known as the “Shadow Hallway.” If you look down the hallway toward the infirmary the shadow people can be seen moving about. They range from very light grey to solid black. Some are human shaped and some are just blobs. They walk up and down the hall and in and out of doorways.
The morgue is another area with quite a bit of activity. The place is full of ghostly voices and things move around apparently by themselves. There have even been reports of people being shoved off their feet. The land around Rolling Hills is said to be haunted too. There was a cemetery here full of people with no family to bury them. There are no records and the exact location of the graveyard is no longer known as nature has reclaimed it.
Utica Lunatic Asylum
The Utica Lunatic Asylum was one of the first asylums in the country. Designed by Captain William Clarke, it opened in 1843. It was also one of the first to try to treat mental illnesses.
The asylum focused on farming because it was thought it would give the insane a sense of peace. The first director was Dr. Amariah Brigham. He called the fields “pleasure gardens.” The asylum contained clothing shops, a library, parlors, a slaughterhouse and a theater. There were two other wings that housed the patients. This is where the strait jacket and the crib were invented. The crib was a lot like a coffin. Patients were locked in it for days and some of the patients said it actually calmed them down.
The building is now abandoned after closing in 1978. Visitors often report seeing faces in the windows and that there is an overall feeling of sadness throughout the building. One group that entered the building were able to take pictures of orbs and figures. They also got shadowy figures on video and some EVP recordings. The famous author Edgar Allen Poe was almost committed to the asylum in the 1840s when he was suffering from depression. His friends thought he had “become deranged” and they felt he would benefit from treatment at the asylum. Fortunately, he recovered on his own and was never committed.
Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane
Construction of the Buffalo State Asylum began in 1872. The hospital began admitting patients in 1880 while it was still under construction.
Little was known about how to treat mentally insane patients and “treatment” amounted to little more than inhumane experiments. Patients would have their brains cut into to “deactivate” portions of the brain, basically turning them into zombies. They were also treated with electric shock and being immersed in water for hours on end. When the asylum officially opened it was immediately filled to its 300 person capacity. By the 1930s the hospital had over 3,000 patients. That’s more than ten times the amount it was capable of treating.
The asylum was shut down in 1974. Ghost hunters regularly risk arrest by trespassing on the property. There have been reports of blood curdling shrieks echoing in the hallways. It appears that the hospital was evacuated in a rush. There is still equipment and rusting beds and even a dollhouse in the middle of the floor. Shadowy forms are seen moving around and sometimes the items that were left behind move around apparently under their own power.
It is said the ghosts' favorite places to wander are the tunnels beneath the asylum and connecting the various buildings.
Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital
The Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital opened in 1874. Its purpose was to offer something different to patients who suffered from mental illness. A German physician named Samuel Hahnemann had developed a protocol using homeopathy to restore mental health. The method involved proper diet, drugs, and recreation. They even had a men’s baseball team.
The hospital was smaller than other similar use facilities and only had 69 patients in the beginning. One hundred years later there was a staff of over 1,000 and almost 1,400 patients. During this era fires were commonplace, mostly because of a lack of fire prevention tools such as fire doors and fire extinguishers.
In 1905 a fire destroyed the furnishings of one room. In 1921 there was an explosion causing much more damage in a laboratory. Another fire that same year destroyed the Administration Building. It was rebuilt in 1927.
Some of the buildings of the large property are still being used by some government funded groups. In the late 1980s a building was used by the National Guard and soldiers reported an uneasy feeling like they were being watched.
The hospital closed in 2006 and burned on July 12, 2015, being completely destroyed by the night of July 14.
Letchworth Insane Asylum
Letchworth Village is in Thiells, a small hamlet west of Haverstraw. The first phase of construction was completed in 1911. This “state institution for the segregation of the epileptic and feeble-minded” sat on 2,362 acres. The Minnesceongo Creek divided the grounds into two areas, one for male and one for female. The sexes were never supposed to mingle. There were separate training and living facilities for the infirm, children, and able-bodied adults. The houses were not to be more than two stories tall and couldn’t have more than 70 patients in them. Up until the 1960s, the physically able worked on the farm. They raised enough livestock and food to feed everyone at the institution.
Part of the Letchworth plan was experimentation. Many children were used as guinea pigs. in 1950 they ran the first human trials of a polio vaccine that was still experimental. The brains of the deceased were removed and then displayed in jars of formaldehyde. By 1942 the population had grown to twice the intended occupancy. The facility was underfunded and many residents became malnourished and seriously ill due to the overcrowding. It got so bad that 500 patients were sleeping on mattresses in the dayrooms and hallways.
The institution closed down in 1996 after relocating most of its patients to group homes. The dilapidated structures were scheduled for demolishment in 2004 but the plan fell through. The entire main building is said to have ghosts that grow stronger the more fear you show. The central hallway upstairs is the worst place for that. If you attempt to leave they come up behind you. If you look at them directly they will come closer.
There is a sign pointing to the “Old Letchworth Village Cemetery.” It is full of T-shaped markers with no names on them. Stage agencies and advocates have funded the installation of a plaque with the names of the dead and the epitaph: “To Those Who Will Not Be Forgotten.”
Hudson River State Hospital
The Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane, as it was called when it opened in 1871, was in Fairview, New York. The property had several buildings during its 132 year history, including its own morgue with refrigerated chambers. It also had a power house and a church. There was housing for the criminally insane and a tuberculosis hospital. The buildings were abandoned after fires in 2007 and 2010.
The area is fenced off, but trespassers that have sneaked in claim to hear whispered voices coming from all directions and slamming doors. One man said he heard a male voice yell, “Get out!” but no one was there. The trespasser obeyed immediately.