The Haunted Elgin State Mental Hospital

The Elgin State Mental Hospital is a dark, malevolent institution that has housed and “treated” the criminally insane for over 150 years. For most of that time, the treatment for insanity was of a brutal, if not inhumane, nature. Under such circumstances, it’s not hard to believe that the Elgin State Mental Hospital is one of Illinois most haunted locations.

For the last 20+ years, the Elgin State Mental Hospital has undergone its own rehabilitation and now handles all patients in a modern, benevolent manner. The cold therapy, electroshock therapy and other torturous treatment methods are no longer in use. But that certainly doesn’t substantiate over a century of torment and anguish that the patients of the Elgin State Mental Hospital underwent.

The institution was sanctioned in 1869 when it became apparent that the state of Illinois was in desperate need of more than one asylum for the criminally insane. It was first opened as the “Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane”. The first patient walked through the doors on April 3, 1872. The first criminal patient to be committed under the judgment of “not guilty by reason of insanity” came in 1873.

The population continued to grow to the point that the institution became overcrowded. An Annex building was opened in 1891 with an additional 300 beds. In 1894, physically ill patients were being turned away. The Elgin State Mental Hospital said there were too many patients as it was, and these new patients were too sick to be admitted. The state disagreed and said that, by law, the state institution had to take them.

Things only got worse, and patients were passing away at an erroneous rate. Records went missing left and right. In fact, there are countless people, to this day, seeking death records of their relatives who they know died while in the confines of the Elgin State Mental Hospital, but there simply are no records to be found.

It is widely believed that the Elgin State Mental Hospital Cemetery, located back behind the modern day sports complex, was terribly over used. The death rate was so high that up to 5 bodies were buried in each grave, with only the upper-most body’s name being carved into the tombstone.

New additions and wings were added to the asylum over the years to keep up with the influx of patients. It wasn’t until 1910 that it was rebranded the Elgin State Mental Hospital. By this time, it was already rumored to be haunted by staff, patients and family members of both.

In 1929, Elgin State Mental Hospital became the new location of the Illinois State Psychopathic Institute. This new section taught nursing skills for criminally insane patients, hydro-therapy and other types of rehabilitation. Patients were used as guinea pigs to test new drugs and methods of treatment. The stories of horrifying abuse of the patients are simply shocking. There’s no telling how many people really died on the grounds of Elgin State Mental Hospital, but certainly the tales of paranormal activity have some serious validity due to the horrendously negative energy on the grounds.

All of the old buildings on the northern side, all but the Administration Office, were torn down awhile back due to asbestos. This is where the majority of paranormal activity took place. The southern buildings remain and are still highly active with both criminally insane patients and ghostly activity.

The claims are many. Whispers, voices, screams could be heard in the night. Lights controlled themselves. Banging on the doors when no one was there. One past patient who spent 9 months of his teenage life within its walls claims to have awoken in the night, being attacked in his bed by an unseen phantom slashing at his face. His door was locked and no one was in the room all night.

The biggest complaint is a feeling of being watched. Most staff members will tell you straight out that the place is freakishly haunted and quite a scary place to be at night. You always feel like you’re being watched whether there are any eyes near to watch you or not. Ambulance drivers who have never been on the premises come to drop off a new patient and never wish to return.

Paranormal curiosity seekers be warned; the area is guarded and patrolled by security. Admittance is only allowed to those with authorization. Anyone caught trespassing on the grounds – this includes the old Elgin State Mental Hospital Cemetery by the way – will be fined $5,000.


  • Feiga Herzog

    My mother in law was a patient there for about 18 years. I would like to get her medical records also and will be searching for how to get this accomplished. I would like to hear from anyone who has been successful.

  • Cheryl Thomas

    I used to work at Elgin State Hospital in the early 80’s and those old buildings just gave out an eerie aura…

  • Strawberry

    I went to visit the cemetary belonfing to the once operable instution. I could hear someone breathing as I placed my ear to the ground. I left the ground for a mom
    ent,and then went back to walk across the field. This seems really off the wall and may warrant me zome time in th hospital;but it was almost like i could hear someone communicating with me through telepathy. He said “I’ll cut your fucking head off man”. I kept wlk across the field,and he voice became increasingly louder and violent inside my head. As i got to the tree line, I saw the shadow of a man standing in the woods and a glint of light off of an old bayonnett. I didn’t run.I simply turned around and waited to see if thhis guy was for real. I felt cold steel on my neck and a warm breath;but when i turned to see who might be there, I saw nothing. I later went to the Mortuary near the power house and so a few apparitions inside. They were fleeing in feaf and huddling in a long dark hallway. I just looked in and said “you’re lucky I can’t get in there”. I was told to leave the grounds by security however. I most humbly obliged and vacated promptly. I think I may have been followed though. Creepy shit. lol

  • Barb bona

    My aunt Helen Wehr was a patient at Elgin. Some time in the forties until her death. Would like to have medical records and where us she buried. She was my mother sister and all siblings are deceased.would appreciate any information.
    Thank you

  • Althea Scott

    My great uncle committed suicide there in 1916. Since this is so long ago would they possibly give me his records? Thank you.

  • June Henigan

    My grandmother was a patient there for 41 years. We were never told about her until her death. I would very much like to get her medical records. I am the youngest of eight children who never got to know that whole side of my mothers family. It’s as if my mother had no parents, grandparents etc. I feel these records might fill in some of the missing pieces of our past.

  • Korre conner

    We used to practice baseball at the fields on the hoapital grounds. My dad was assistant fire cheif and i aways wanted to tour the old asylum.. That was a creepy but strangely beautiful structure. Not to mention, been to the graveyard that piece of ground was seemingly unholy..

  • Nino

    Would it be possible to conduct a investigation in the hospital? If so could you please send me a email.

    Thank you

  • judy johnson

    I was just reading some of the comments and see that several people have asked for any info on relatives. are these available to the public or to relatives. an ancestor was buried there in the cemetery. If you would let me know of any way I could find out more info. I would be so very thankful.

  • joe

    I was actually a patient here not criminal, but had some problems. I was in the closest building with the basketball hoops. I always had an erie feeling being in there. Sometimes I would sit in the dark by myself, I would not feel like myself like I was watching my body from behind my body, and I would always be attracted to one particular room. Idc if you call me crazy and all that but that was 10 yrs ago and I haven’t had anything like that again.

  • Bob

    My friend and I were driving by the old asylum many years ago and found a boarded up window missing the plywood. Needless to say, we were very curious and went inside. It was very bazaar because the peeling paint was hanging down from the ceiling and door jambs in long 8″ strips. We went up to the second floor and found very long hallway with rooms off to the side. We were inside for about 30 min before going into one of the rooms. While in the room, we heard footsteps very clear and two women talking coming our way. We ducked into the closet in the room and the voices and foot step got louder until they walked past the room we were in. We immediately peeked out into the long hallway and saw nothing. I have never had every hair on my back stand up like that in my life! Not knowing the history of the asylum, we knew without any doubt we had just encountered spirits in this boarded up paroled abandoned building. We get the hell out of there as fast as we could and now have no doubts about gosts or spirits.

    This is the truth, not made up!

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