Most Haunted Places in America: 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.