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Danvers State Lunatic Asylum, Massachusetts

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  • Danvers State Lunatic Asylum, Massachusetts

    Danvers State Lunatic Asylum, Massachusetts
    Danvers State Lunatic Asylum, Massachusetts


    The Danvers State Hospital, also known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers, The Danvers Lunatic Asylum, and The Danvers State Insane Asylum, was a psychiatric hospital located in Danvers, Massachusetts. It was built in 1874, and opened in 1878, under the supervision of prominent Boston architect Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, on an isolated site in rural Massachusetts. It was a multi-acre, self-contained psychiatric hospital designed and built according to the Kirkbride Plan.

    In spite of being included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the majority of the building was demolished in 2007.

    Often referred to today as “the Witches’ Castle on the Hill”, Danvers State Lunatic Asylum was built in 1878 on a site which was originally in Salem Village – the first actual location of the Salem witch trials in 1962. When it started out, Danvers was renowned for its modern treatments and superb patient care, but it wasn’t long before the asylum fell victim to lack of funding, overstaffing and over-population which caused it to deteriorate into something more akin to a concentration camp.

    Between 1940 and 1950, the facility housed more than 2,000 patients in a building which was designed to house 600. Patients became haggard and ghostly, often left in complete isolation for days on end. Things were so bad that dead patients would go unnoticed for days, if not weeks. In 1992, Danvers State Lunatic Asylum was closed down, demolished and renovated into the set of apartments it is today.

    Despite the asylum being torn down and reconstructed as a different property, bizarre activity and paranormal sightings still abound. Residents and visitors have recorded full body apparitions, flickering lights, the sound of unexplained footsteps and doors opening and closing on their own.

    Danvers is often given the dubious title of the "birthplace of the prefrontal lobotomy" for its use and refinement of the procedure. While some patients certainly saw stunning benefits from this so-called miracle treatment, many others had adverse effects. Visitors to the hospital in the late 1940s described the patients as aimlessly wandering the halls, or vacantly staring at walls, perhaps a result of both their poor treatment by the staff and their various medical interventions.
    Portions of the hospital were shuttered starting in 1969, with most of it closed by 1985, and the entire campus shut down in 1992. For years, the building sat empty, but eventually the property was bought up by Avalon Bay Development, which demolished most of the buildings, including the interior of the historic Kirkbride building. The Kirkbride building's facade was used as part of the new Avalon Danvers apartments. Some of the campus' tunnels, the cemetery, and facades of a couple of the other buildings remain, but the "modern ruins" version of Danvers State now exists only in photographs and videos.

    Danvers has never been a ghost hunting hotbed because the site is closed to the public. Many paranormal investigators have tried to sneak into the compound, but they got arrested before entering. The State of Massachusetts and the community police routinely patrolled the grounds. Over 120 ghost hunters have tried and failed to get access to the site.

    However, a few of them did succeed during the day. Only one team, The Rhode Island Paranormal Research Group, has investigated at night in the last 25 years. They haven’t released any evidence of that night, nor have they spoken about it.

    Today, it’s tougher for a ghost hunter to get in. In 2006, Danvers was sold to a real estate developer and they demolished most of the buildings, except the iconic steeple-topped Administration building and its adjacent wings. Now, you can rent a luxury apartment in them. The development is called “Halstead Danvers.”


    Under Danvers State Hospital, Underground tunnels.

    Security at Danvers State Hospital After the Doors Closed