The Ghosts of Camarillo State Mental Hospital

The Camarillo State Mental Hospital was established in the 1930s. In 1932, the state purchased nearly 1,800 acres of the Lewis Ranch, which was located a few miles south of Camarillo, and began construction. The hospital was used from the mid-30s to 1997. During the 50s and 60s, it was the frontrunner of treatments for illnesses such as schizophrenia and autism. Today the Camarillo State Mental Hospital is considered one of the most haunted places in America.

Camarillo State Mental Hospital developed programs  to help patients formerly kept in institutions to leave the facility and move to group homes. In some cases, patients were able to become fully independent. It was one of the first units of any hospital in the world to deal with autism. Over the years, it continued to do extensive research on therapies and medicine.

This doesn’t mean, however, that questionable treatments still weren’t used. Unfortunately, shock treatments and even lobotomies were sometimes performed.

The number of patients grew significantly over the years. In 1936, there were only around 400 patients. The population grew to nearly 1,100 in 1937, and all the way up to 7,000+ in 1957. Camarillo State Mental Hospital typically didn’t keep violent criminals or sexually violent predators. The nearby Atascaedero State Hospital usually kept the violent criminals and predators.

In 1996, former governor of California, Pete Wilson, announced plans to close the Camarillo hospital down, citing increasing costs per patient. Numerous members of the community, including relatives of patients and staff members of the hospital made efforts to keep it open. They argued that current patients were already comfortable with the facility. Unfortunately, Governor Wilson still closed the hospital down in June 1997. The facilities and patients were moved to other locations.

This wasn’t the end of the facility, however. The state originally decided to transform it into a prison, but opposition from the community of Camarillo protested the proposed conversion. Instead, it became  California State University – Channel Islands. Many of the original mission-style buildings from the 1930s remain intact.

Over the years, the former Camarillo State Mental Hospital has been used in popular culture. In 1948, the film The Snake Pit, which stared Olivia de Havilland, was filmed at the hospital, as were scenes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Ring. It is also rumored that this is the hospital that inspired the Eagles song “Hotel California“.

There has been a lot of paranormal activity claimed at the hospital. Some of the claims include hearing children`s voices at the children’s center, dozens of apparitions have been reported as well. Including a  woman in white that is assumed to be a nurse who wanders both night and day in the hallways in and around the Bell Tower. Others include a man by the bus stop and another women seen in the restrooms in the Bell Tower. Objects and tools in the hospital have been moved with no one around, hair as been pulled and disembodied voices heard. With all these paranormal claims, is it no wonder Camarillo State Mental Hospital is one of the most haunted places in America.

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