The Haunted Tunnels of 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.


  • haleybarro

    Haunted home/office in Anoka, MN, on Monroe St. Btwn 2nd & Third Avenues, (x from Sandburg MS). Many unexplained events in back office area: typewriter started typing on it’s own; calculator running long tapes with “O’s” on it, (oH, by the way–the calculator was turned OFF!!, And no one was at the desk.), The computer in room across hall ( no one in office during the day) started dialing up internet; even after supervisor from front office went in & shut it off; About 10 minutes later it turned on again and started dial up! NO one was in that office!!
    Telephone would ring, then when answered, no one was there. Phone would ring once again, but then stop. We unplugged the phone, and it rang again!! WEIRD!!!!!!!!
    This activity occured over several months time. We called it THE AFTERNOON GHOST; ALWAYS HAPPENED BETWEEN 1-2 IN THE AFTERNOON. Wondering if it may have been child ghosts from the past who were disturbed by the unlikable tenants in the downstairs offices, (who would by the way, have strange meetings and CHANTINGS, ETC., during their business sessions). Maybe the children’s spirits were telling us they wanted those people evicted????????

  • Jason Hammer

    I spent time there for DUI ..I was laying in bed one night the only one awake .I felt something lightly touching my forehead and hair .. my hair was moving for just a few seconds ,then seen an apparition float away .I sensed it was female . I shared this story to other inmates and another person shared a similar story ..they talked about the woman in red



  • Becky

    I lived in the staff houses because my Dad ran the place in the early 60’s…. and it was very, very creepy, although there were some really nice people that worked there. I remember hearing about tunnels, too.

  • Jayne Kretzmann

    But why were the tunnels there in the first place? What was their original purpose? I heard they go all the way to downtown Anoka.

  • Sasha

    In response to Jayne: the tunnels were there for transporting patients between the buildings without having to go outside–particularly helpful during snowy MN winters. I was just there today for an observation shift at the workhouse, and they mentioned the ghost stories and history as an asylum, which is what brought me here. For what it’s worth, at least half the workers I talked to had personal accounts that all roughly matched with others’ stories. Dark stuff happened there, and I don’t have any trouble believing that it’s had an effect on the property.

  • Scott Wessel

    The tunnels had a dual purpose, 1) to transfer patients and 2 ) to provide access for electrical, steam and other systems. I have worked in the tunnel system and there are some very unsettling areas. There used to be a hospital building and 2
    Other cottages that were torn down years ago.

  • jamie l. kellison

    hi ive actually been in the Anoka state hospital back in 2003 it was an experience let me tell u my experiences: I really wasn’t suppose to go down there but a nice staff in my unit upstairs from the chemical dependency unit was nice to a group of 5 of us, he gave us the keys to get in well we went…. it was freaky you walk in by the boiler room and off to your left there was a tiny room with a dirt floor and 2 side walls with old brick we had to shine a light in there was cold, stale air, and in front of you there was a brand new brick wall and 2 concrete steps which lead up to the wall and a pipe sticking out of the celling!!!! creepy right? then we left went to the hall and there was clanging on the pipes {like metal hitting metal} so I asked it to clang the pipes once if it were a ghost it clanged once, so the ghost was nice he clanged very loud and repetive if I were going to a bad place, room, or area. we made it to a newly renovated area, I walked up to a wall that was written with sharpie “DEAD JK” and a date exaclly a year from then! CREEPY!!!!! so then I walked by a new elevator it opened holy crap! well it closed right away. then I went up some stairs I found the old kitchen/dining area, there was a green glowing light into the kitchen and a woman in white scrubs moves to a table{maybe a patient?} well she looked at me with a smile and floated away… well last experience: I went back down the stairs my friends and I talked for a minute they agreed to give me 15 more minuets to explore and go thru the double doors in that area. I magically found the right key on the second try.. creepy!!! so I had one of my best male friends hold open one of the double doors, I entered I saw a light on in a room about half way down the hall weird! well I entered the room and I was a really old rocking chair rocking back and forth and I interduced myself and ask if the spirtit wanted to leave with me as soon as I asked that the rocking chair stopped rocking! damn I was scared well that’s it pretty much.

  • Taylor

    I was with three of my friends walking towards the asylum one night, we saw a huge group of people and we actually knew some of them from school. One of them had showed me a video from a few minutes before of a ghost throwing things inside the asylum. The window was broken and there is a cement ledge with a door next to it, they all decided since im tiny I could go through the broken window and open the door for everyone. So they lifted my on the ledge and I took peoples phones for pictures inside , I looked inside and was about to go in but the ghost threw something towards me and I fell back down to the ground. Scariest moment of my life.. We had also seen a shadow of the ghost moving around in a different window. Never believed in ghost till that happened..

  • Dotty

    I worked here for years, used these tunnels to get from the nurses dorm to the cottage where i worked….transported patients through them to the cafeteria or treatment areas…NEVER saw anything weird!! I think maybe jamie needs to lay off the weed.

  • Mitch Jones

    Hi I live in Anoka and I was just wondering about how you would even get into the tunnels, does anyone know about a unblocked entrance or just any entrance and where it is? Please tell me if you do.

  • Staff

    There is nothing there, just old buildings with lots of history and LOTS of mold…there are no open entrances into the buildings or tunnels…best to leave the buildings alone. Preserve its rich history. And the tunnels have pretty much caved in, full of water, etc. Just leave it be. Sorry to ruin the fun.

  • James Franco

    I got into the tunnels, and a few of my buddies stayed the night. It was horrible. Shouting, and things being thrown. (That’s what it sounded like down there)

  • Jess

    Well this is very intreging knowing that there was many many souls that lost their lives from these tunnels a friend and I have been researching these people for sometime now and we are trying to get ghostadventures or someone out here to investigate this property and to have correct precatiouns to release all of these spirits, what scares me half to death is if the city of Anoka decides to bulldoze these buildings down then they need to perform a exorcist and release them and there could be demon spirits as well so we are working our best to figure out and we found ALL of the patient records at the historic library in downtown Anoka so if anyone is interested in learning more about their names and everything a lot of them were made up names and dates of deaths and causes of death. we will get someone out here asap because if they did bulldoze they will be releasing the spirits into the community!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Aurora Barrera

    I used to live in the neighborhood right in front of the Anoka county fair, which the hospital was right behind. The tunnels went right underneath the anoka county fair and if I looked out the window in the living room, then I saw the fairgrounds. Me and my step sisters bedroom was in the basement and me, my sisters, mom and step dad all experienced weird happenings in the year we lived there. If you drive by the fair coming from the railroad tracks and you see a blue house with pine trees in the front of it, the blue house RIGHT NEXT TO IT IS WHERE I LIVED! If your coming from the other way and you see a pink house, the next house you see that is BLUE is the one I LIVED IN! I’m not lying right now seriously. Never been in the hospital and definitely not the tunnels, and I slept in the basement, which was underground, and the tunnel went under the fairgrounds, and my house was right across from the fair. So…… yeah. Scary, really.

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