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The Dark History Surrounding the Danvers State Hospital

Back then, mental institutions were so famous that there was a chance that you could have passed by one wherever you went. When talking about asylums, the story does not usually go well. There will always be horrific stories surrounding a specific asylum because tools and equipment were primitive back then, and everyone had very little understanding about mental health, unlike today.

One asylum that is included in the list of the most horrific asylums is the Danvers State Hospital. Nowadays, urban explorers and ghost hunters try their luck at taking a peek inside the abandoned building in hopes of finding something creepy that the patients, doctors, nurses, and medical staff left from many years ago.

How the Hospital Started

The hospital was built in Hathorne Hills in Danvers, Massachusetts, during the 1800s. Before it was famously named the Danvers State Hospital, it was initially called the “State Lunatic Asylum at Danvers.” The asylum was part of a countrywide concept that people with mental problems had to be cured inside special facilities.

The construction started in 1874, and the first patients started coming in later in 1878. When the mental hospital peaked, 40 buildings were added to the facility, and at least 450 patients were inside, which was a lot for its time. The main objective of the asylum was to cure patients who had severe mental health problems.

The hospital had a great start with accumulating and curing patients every year. At least 125 staff members were employed, and they had treated at least 9,500 patients ever since it opened its doors to people with mental problems. The hospital became so successful that it managed to hold 2,000 patients after 20 years, even if the entire facility only had the capacity of 450 patients.

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That was when the hospital administration began to beg for money from the state to expand the hospital to accommodate more patients. However, they were unsuccessful at doing so, which slowly led to the mental hospital’s demise.

A black and white photo of the Danvers State Hospital’s front facade taken in 1893.

The Horrible Living Conditions

Since the hospital could not secure funds from the state, everything started to deteriorate within the building’s confines. The hospital had to cut budgets that led to patients walking around the halls naked. Their living conditions were so poor that they had to sleep with their filth due to lack of care and hygiene.

Doctors and nurses even used shock therapy and made patients wear straight jackets whenever they misbehaved. Hospital staff thought that shock therapy could alter the patient’s brain, ultimately curing them in the process. They also used it to scare patients, making them more submissive and cooperative. The worst part was when medical staff started doing lobotomy, performing surgery on a patient’s brain, and severing nerve pathways in a lobe or lobes.

It was not the best place to stay back then if you were deemed mentally unstable by doctors.

Lisa Less
Written By

Anna received her Masters degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland. Her writing focuses on history and general lifestyle pieces. Anna has been published in various lifestyle magazines. She spends her free time reading and furthering her knowledge about the about history.


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