Haunted Places in America: Anoka State Hospital
The Anoka State Hospital in Anoka, Minnesota has gone by several names over its century of existence – First State Asylum for the Insane, Anoka State Asylum, Anoka State Hospital and its current name, the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center – but aside from its reputation as being an insufferable sanitarium, it is also known to be haunted by the ghosts of many who died within its sinister walls.
The ‘First State Asylum for the Insane’ was built after a state legislation was passed in 1898 calling for the construction of a state mental institution in Anoka, Minnesota. The asylum opened in 1900 and for the next 5 decades was solely a patient-transfer hospital.
Beneath the asylum is a virtual maze of tunnels, which are where most of the ghostly hauntings of the Anoka State Hospital are said to take place.
Mental patients were transferred from overcrowded asylums looking to downgrade the population. The first 100 patients were all males from St. Peter State Hospital, all deemed “chronic incurables”. In the next six years, 115 female patients were also transferred over from the same sanitarium.
By 1909, the state decided to use the Anoka State Hospital for female transfer patients only, while all males would be sent to the state hospital in Hastings. When the asylum received an additional wing in 1925, that rule was reversed and male patients were once more accepted. By then, the First State Asylum for the Insane had been rebranded the Anoka State Asylum (1919).
In 1937, it was renamed once more, this time to the Anoka State Hospital, presumably to sound less abrasive for the patients and their families. It wasn’t until 1951 that the institution was established as a receiving hospital, admitting new patients rather than transfers only.
There is likely a long string of abuse, physical and mental mistreatment and experimental methods that occurred at the Anoka State Hospital. Being less infamous than some other mental institutions of that era, you don’t hear much about the way patients were treated in Anoka, but an astounding track record for diabolical neglect and intentional cruelty tends to follow all insane asylums in those days.
It is said that patients used the underground tunnels to attempt breaking out of the Anoka State Hospital. Within these tunnels, those who could not find a way out, as so few would, often reverted to suicide as their new escape route. There are several accounts of patients hanging themselves from the heavy pipes that ran along the ceilings of the tunnels.
Reports of strange noises, sinister whispers and eerie laughter have been reported down in the tunnels. Footsteps approach, but no one is there when you turn around. The air feels suddenly cold, and just as suddenly returns to its previous temperature.
This seemingly paranormal activity continued for many years, and is still reported today by those with access to the tunnels. They have been closed off for years, but are still accessible, when necessary, by maintenance workers and security personal.
Today, the Anoka State Hospital – which underwent yet another name change in 1987, henceforth known as the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center, likely for the same reasons as its prior rebranding – continues to admit patients from the Anoka area and beyond, including Hennepin, Ramsey and Sherburne counties.