A Brief History: Danvers State Mental Asylum is located at 450 Maple St. in the town of Danvers, Massachusetts about 20 miles north of Boston. It was built in 1875 by Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, for the purpose to provide residential treatment and care to the mentally ill. It followed an architectural design system called the “Kirkbride Plan” which consists of a central administration and staff housing building with staggered wings on both sides that allow all areas to received nearly equal sunlight and fresh air. It is said looking down on the site, the structure would resemble a giant bat. The idea at the time was that by making the patients more comfortable, it would help them to get better. Later on, the hospital expanded to include a training program for nurses and a pathological research lab.
While the original designs were to house up to 600 patients, overcrowded buildings became a problem in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Population reached over 2000 causing poor treatment of patients, including starvation, abuse, and brutal therapies. It is also said that Danvers Asylum, was where the lobotomy procedure was perfected. Budget cuts in the mental health care system finally closed the hospital in 1992 and it was abandoned.
The property was bought in December 2005 by Avalon Bay Properties with the intent to build a 497-apartment complex on the grounds. Numerous court battles took place to save the buildings from demolition, but in the end all were torn down except the Kirkbride Building. They kept the outer brick part of the structure and rebuilt inside.
Haunted History: Danvers was once part of Salem Village, the site of the witch trials. One of the judges, John Hawthorne, lived in a house right on the spot the hospital was built. It was torn down. The witch trials took place in the nearby area of the where the hospital stands.
In April 2007, during construction of the apartment complex, a fire burned down four of the new buildings and partially damaged the Kirkbride Building. No cause for the fire was ever determined. Avalon has erected a monument recognizing the patients and staff of the former hospital.
There is still a cemetery with mass graves only marked with numbers. At the time, people with mental illness were no longer considered human and when they died, the grave was only marked with their registration number.
During the time the hospital was abandoned, it was very difficult to get access to the site. One can only speculate after the many deaths and poor treatment of the mentally ill, what lingering troubled energy remains on the grounds at Danvers.