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Traveling through american history, destinations & legends since 2003., haunted athens asylum for the insane, ohio.

Athens Asylum

Athens Asylum

Today, this complex, called the Ridges, is part of Ohio University, but these historic buildings once housed the Athens Lunatic Asylum. Not only are these buildings steeped in history, but some are also said to still “host” visitors from the past.

The historic hospital got its start in 1867 when the Ohio Legislature appointed a commission to find a site for an asylum in southeastern Ohio. A suitable site was found in Athens, and Levi T. Scofield was chosen as the architect. The buildings and grounds’ designs were influenced by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, a 19th-century physician who authored a book on mental hospital design. His designs were often recognizable for their “batwing” floor plans and lavish Victorian architecture.

The original design included an administration building with two wings, one that would house the males and the other for females. The building itself was 853 feet long, 60 feet wide, and built with red bricks fired from clay dug on-site. Built onto the back were a laundry room and boiler house. Seven cottages were also constructed to house even more patients. There was room to house 572 patients in the main building, almost double of what Kirkbride had recommended, leading to overcrowding and conflicts between the patients.

The administrative section, located between the two resident wings, included an entrance hall, offices, a reception room on the first floor, the superintendent’s residence on the second floor, and quarters for other officers and physicians on the 3rd and 4th floors. A large high ceiling amusement hall filled the 2nd and 3rd floors, and a chapel was included on the 4th floor. Behind and beneath the building’s public and private spaces were the heating and mechanical systems, kitchens, cellars, storerooms, and workspaces.

The site, which was first comprised of 141 acres, would eventually grow to 1,019 acres, including cultivated, wooded, and pasture land. The grounds were designed by Herman Haerlin of Cincinnati and would incorporate landscaped hills and trees, decorative lakes, a spring, and a creek with a waterfall. Not only would the patients enjoy the beautiful landscape, but citizens also enjoyed the extensive grounds. Though the facility would never be fully self-sustaining, over the years, the grounds would include livestock, farm fields and gardens, an orchard, greenhouses, a dairy, a receiving hospital, a Tubercular Ward, a physical plant to generate steam heat, and even a carriage shop in the earlier years.

The hospital, first called the Athens Lunatic Asylum, officially began operations on January 9, 1874. Within two years, it was renamed the Athens Hospital for the Insane. Over the years, its name would be changed many times to the Athens State Hospital, the Southeastern Ohio Mental Health Center, the Athens Mental Health Center, the Athens Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center, and the Athens Mental Health and Developmental Center.

Birds Eye view of Athens, Ohio Asylum

Bird’s Eye view of Athens, Ohio Asylum

During its operation, the hospital provided services to a variety of patients, including Civil War veterans, children, the elderly, the homeless, rebellious teenagers being taught a lesson by their parents, and violent criminals suffering from various mental and physical disabilities. With diagnoses ranging from the slightest distress to severely mentally ill, these patients were provided various forms of care, many of which have been discredited today. The asylum was best known for its practice of lobotomy, but it was also known to have practiced hydrotherapy, electroshock, restraint, and psychotropic drugs, many of which have been found to be harmful today.

More interesting are the causes listed for admission, including epilepsy, menopause, alcohol addiction, and tuberculosis. General “ill health” also accounted for many admissions, which included in the first three years of operation 39 men and 44 women. For the female patients hospitalized during these first three years of the asylum’s operation, the three leading causes of insanity are recorded as “puerperal condition” (relating to childbirth), “change of life,” and “menstrual derangements.” According to an 1876 report, the leading cause of insanity among male patients was masturbation. The second most common cause of insanity was listed as intemperance (alcohol). Depending upon their condition, a patient’s treatment could range from full care to amazing freedom.

Over the years, numerous buildings were added, including a farm office, a new amusement hall, additional wards and residences, a laundry building, power plant, garages, stables, mechanics shops, a firehouse, therapy rooms, and dozens of others. By the 1950s, the hospital was using 78 buildings and was treating 1,800 patients.

Athens Asylum cemetery courtesy Encyclopedia of Forlorn Places

Athens Asylum cemetery courtesy Encyclopedia of Forlorn Places

In the 1960s, the total square footage of the facility was recorded at 660,888 square feet. At this time, its population peaked at nearly 2,000 patients, over three times its capacity. However, the number of patients would begin to decline for the next several decades as de-institutionalization accelerated. As the number of people at the Asylum declined, the buildings and wards were abandoned one by one.

Comprised of three graveyards, burials began soon after the institution’s opening as there were deceased patients who were unclaimed by their families. Until 1943 the burials were headed only by stones with numbers, with the names of the dead known only in recorded ledgers. Only one register exists today, which contains the names of 1,700 of the over 2,000 burials. In 1972 the last patients were buried in the asylum cemetery. Today the cemeteries continue to be maintained by the Ohio Department of Mental Health.

In 1977, Athens Asylum made news when it housed multiple personality rapist Billy Milligan. In the highly publicized court case, Milligan was found to have committed several felonies, including armed robbery, kidnapping, and three rapes on the Ohio State University campus. In preparing his defense, psychologists diagnosed Milligan with multiple personality disorder, from which the doctors said he had suffered from early childhood. He was the first person diagnosed with multiple personality disorder to raise such a defense and the first acquitted of a major crime for this reason. Milligan was then sent to a series of state-run mental hospitals, including Athens. While at these hospitals, Milligan reported having ten different personalities. Later 14 more personalities were said to have been discovered. After a decade, Milligan was discharged. He died of cancer at a nursing home in Columbus, Ohio, on December 12, 2014, at 59.

The next year, the hospital made the news again when a patient named Margaret Schilling disappeared on December 1, 1978. It wasn’t until January 12, 1979, 42 days later that, her body was discovered by a maintenance worker in a locked long-abandoned ward once used for patients with infectious illnesses. Though tests showed that she died of heart failure, she was found completely naked with her clothing neatly folded next to her body. More interesting is the permanent stain that her body left behind. Clearly, an imprint of her hair and body can still be seen on the floor, even though numerous attempts have been made to remove it.

By 1981 the hospital housed fewer than 300 patients, numerous buildings stood abandoned, and over 300 acres were transferred to Ohio University. In 1988, the facilities and grounds (excluding the cemeteries) were deeded from the Department of Mental Health to Ohio University.

The Athens Center officially closed in 1993, and the remaining patients transferred to another facility. The property stood vacant for several years before restoration began. The name of the property was changed to the “Ridges” and in 2001 renovation work was completed on the main building, known as Lin Hall. Today it houses music, geology, biotechnology offices, storage facilities, and the Kennedy Museum of Art. Over the years, other hospital buildings were modeled and used by the University, although many others still sit abandoned.

It comes as no surprise that the buildings of this historic asylum are allegedly haunted. One of the most famous ghosts is that of Margaret Shilling, who left her body print upon the hospital floor. Her spirit is said to have appeared staring down from the window of the room where her body was found, has been seen attempting to escape, and has been known to wander various parts of the building at night. And, according to some, she is not alone. Other former patients are also said to remain in residence, with reports from visitors seeing strange figures standing in the empty wings of the former hospital, hearing disembodied voices and squeaking gurneys, seeing strange lights, and hearing screams echoing through the walls. More frightening, there are rumors of spirits of patients who remain shackled in the basement. These many spirits are thought to be those who died or suffered at the hands of staff in the asylum.

The cemetery is also said to be haunted by shadowy people and strange lights. In one area, the graves’ linear shapes form a circle, which is said to be a witches’ meeting point.

Tours of the outside grounds of the old asylum are held on the third Sunday of each month.

©  Kathy Weiser-Alexander / Legends of America , updated April 2021.

Female Ward, Athens, Ohio Asylum

Female Ward, Athens, Ohio Asylum

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WORTH THE DRIVE: Tour the grounds of a haunted former asylum and cemetery in Athens

An early photograph of the former Athens insane asylum, The Ridges.

Credit: Southeast Ohio History Center

For a few select nights in October, guests will be able to tour one of the most haunted buildings in the state of Ohio.

The Southeast Ohio History Center, located in Athens, Ohio, will be offering historical tours of The Ridges, formerly known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, from now and throughout the end of October.

The Athens Lunatic Asylum was a mental hospital that operated in Athens from 1874 to 1993. Throughout its years, the asylum provided services to a variety of patients that included Civil War veterans, children and violent criminals — all suffering from various mental disabilities. Many inhumane and outdated mental health treatments, like lobotomies, hydrotherapy (water therapy in the form of baths, etc.), electroshock treatments and early psychotropic drugs were in practice at the asylum during its years of operation.

Surrounding the former asylum are three cemeteries that contain the graves of 1,930 former patients of The Ridges. Of those graves, 1,659 were only marked only with a number until the state of Ohio began putting names, births and deaths on each stone that was missing this information in 1943. Many of the oldest stones had not been replaced until recently.

Today, the Ridges exist as a part of Ohio University and house the Kennedy Museum of Art, an auditorium and many offices, classrooms and storage facilities.

As you might imagine, the asylum is a decidedly eerie sight, and now, for a few select dates throughout October, guests will be able to revel in the ghostly glory of The Ridges on intimate walking tours. The tours are hosted by George Eberts, a long-time Appalachian Behavioral Health employee and Athens Asylum advocate.

Guests will meet in front of the Kennedy Museum of Art and Eberts will then lead the group on an outdoor walking tour of the grounds, cemeteries and various buildings within the complex. While on the walking tour, guests will learn more about the history of mental health treatment, the asylum, the cemeteries and more as it pertains to the asylum.

Tours will be taking place on Friday, Oct. 23 at 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24 at 2 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30 at 10 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 31 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 for members, $18 for non-members, $10 for students and children 12 and under are free. The tour on Friday, Oct. 30, or All Hallow’s Eve, will be $25 for members, $30 for non-members, $20 for students and children 12 and under are free.

All guests are required to wear masks and the tour takes place outdoors in order to maintain proper social distancing practices.

To reserve your spot, call Dominique at 740-592-2280, ext. 100. Space will be limited, so be sure to reserve a spot as soon as possible. For more information about The Ridges, Kennedy Museum of Art, the Southeast Ohio History Center and tour offerings, pay a visit to athenshistory.org .

About the Author

Ashley Moor is a Dayton native and graduate of Kent State University. She is a multimedia journalist for Dayton.com, and strives to provide impactful stories about the community and its people.

Large Ouija Board Planchette - Pink, Black and White

The Ridges Asylum: A Chilling Walk Through Ohio’s Dark Past

Why should you visit the ridges.

Hey there, my fellow urban explorers & paranormal investigators! I know you’re probably thinking, “Why on earth would I want to visit the exterior of an old insane asylum?” But trust me, the Ridges is one of those places that will keep you coming back for more.

First of all, the history of this place is just mind-blowing. You can feel the energy of the past as soon as you drive up to the campus. And even though the treatments that went on inside these walls were pretty horrific, the asylum is now a beautiful place to visit with walking trails. There are also two cemeteries, a pond, and even a putt-putt course. While walking around the campus, for a moment, you may not realize how dark things once were.

I know seeing the inside is usually the best part, but it’s rare to get inside these buildings unless you’re a student here. However, I may have a little secret up my sleeve about seeing the interior of the Ridges. So, if you’re ready for a truly unique and unforgettable experience, come and check out the Ridges with me!

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read full privacy policy  here .”

Table of Contents

The Main Building of the Ridges Asylum with a bright blue sky above.

History of the Ridges

The Ridges Asylum, also known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, was built in 1874 in Athens, Ohio. The facility was designed to care for people with mental illnesses and was one of the first institutions of its kind in the state.

The asylum was in operation for over 100 years and was in operation from 1874 until as recently as 1993. During this time it housed thousands of patients and was designed to provide services to a variety of patients, including Civil War veterans, children, and those declared mentally unwell.

During the early years of the asylum, the treatment of patients was considered to be progressive and humane. However, as time passed, the institution became overcrowded and underfunded, and the treatment of patients became increasingly inhumane.

Patients were subjected to harsh conditions, including overcrowding, and inadequate food. Many were also subjected to experimental treatments, such as lobotomies and electroconvulsive therapy, which were considered to be controversial at the time.

When the asylum finally closed, the buildings and grounds were left abandoned, and the site became a popular location for urban exploration.

What Type of Patients Were Here

The first patient admitted was a 14-year-old girl with epilepsy, who they thought was possessed by a demon. Sadly, Epilepsy was actually considered one of the major reasons for admitting patients to the asylum in the early years. Can you even imagine? 

But it wasn’t just epilepsy that was considered a cause of insanity. Ailments like menopause, alcohol addiction, and tuberculosis were also reasons for being admitted to the asylum!

Unfortunately, women were often institutionalized for unnecessary or outright fallacious reasons. Postpartum depression or “hysteria” were labeled as insanity and they were sent to the asylum to “recover” .

Here’s something that’ll really shock you though, in the asylum’s first three years of operation, 81 men and one woman were diagnosed as having their insanity caused by masturbation. Yikes!

Today it has been reported that the words, “I was never crazy” are scrawled into various places in the building. That is absolutely devastating. 

Pond covered with green algae and surrounded by trees

The cemeteries on site have sad stories of their own. The mistreatment was terrible in itself, but even in death many of these people didn’t get the respect they deserved until many years later. 

There are over 1,900 people buried at the three cemeteries located at The Ridges. Prior to 1943, many of the headstones were only marked with a number, with no names or identifying information about the person buried there.

After 1943 they finally started to label the sites with the appropriate information, but by the 1980s the state stopped taking care of the cemeteries altogether. 

With no supervision or care, natural occurrences and vandals destroyed the headstones and the cemeteries.  Many of the headstones were left in disrepair, with hundreds left uprooted and broken. 

But in 2000, the Athens, Ohio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) stepped in to help restore the cemeteries to their original state. They discovered more information on the unidentified patients, who were mostly veterans. 

NAMI has made it their mission to honor these veterans and all of the patients buried at The Ridges. They’ve helped replace headstones, kept the grounds in proper condition, and even started organizing Memorial Day Ceremonies to give these veterans the recognition and dignity they deserve.

Today the cemeteries at the Ridges are scenic and beautiful. It’s quite fascinating to walk through and see the various headstones of the lost. 

Headstone with an American Flag next to it. Orange fall grass surrounds it.

Experience the Location

It is incredibly important to remember and learn from the past, and that’s why places like The Ridges are worth visiting and understanding their history. 

Exploring the location of a historical site such as The Ridges offers a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the past. 

As you walk through the campus and really feel this place and take in the beautiful scenery. It truly is a photographer’s paradise. You may also witness the present day activities of the Ohio State University Students, heading to class or joggers who are running their daily path.

Oh, did I not mention that part… The campus for the Ohio State University is actually built on the grounds of the former Ridges, and remnants of the abandoned Kirkbride buildings can still be seen up on this hill! Many of these beautiful old buildings are now being repurposed. They have an art museum, an auditorium and even classrooms! 

Visiting the Ridges allows for a meaningful blend of past and present experiences.

The fire escape at the main building of the Ridges

Plan Your Visit

Today you can pretty much walk the grounds at your leisure. If you want to see the buildings from the outside you are free to do that, and once you’ve finished, there are a few walking trails that you can take to see more of the outskirts of the property and cemeteries. 

Now, if you prefer a more guided experience be sure to check out their historical  walking tours .

Details from their website: 

Join long-time Appalachian Behavioral Health employee and Athens Asylum advocate, George Eberts, for an engaging tour of the grounds and cemeteries. Learn about the history of mental health treatment, from the Kirkbride Plan to the present day, as well as George’s personal anecdotes. Dates for the asylum will be as follows:

  • April 9th- 2pm 
  • May 14th- 2pm
  • June 11th- 2pm
  • July 9th- 2pm
  • August 13th- 2pm
  • August 27th- 2pm
  • September 10th- 2pm
  • October 8th- 2pm
  • October 29th- 2pm
  • October 30th-1pm
  • October 30th- 5pm

Tours meet in front of the Kennedy Museum of Art

100 Ridges Cir, Athens, OH 45701-6812, United States

****Due to the popularity of our tours we do require preregistration.****

Call SOHC at 740-592-2280 ext.100 to reserve your spot. Space will be limited. We will update the list above as tours sell out.

Ticket Prices :

  • SOHC Members: $15
  • Non-members: $18
  • Students: $10
  • Children 12 and under: Free
  • SOHC closes at 3:30pm so please plan to visit us before the asylum tour!

Reminder: this is a two hour outdoor walking tour, so please plan accordingly.

Rain Policy:  We conduct the Asylum Tour in rain or shine so please bring appropriate clothing and umbrellas as conditions require. Cancellation will take place only if dangerous weather such as lighting storm or high winds are active. In winter months, if there is a level 2 or 3 snow emergency, the tour will be canceled as well. In the event of cancellation, those with prepaid tickets can call us and choose either another tour or receive a refund. REFUND POLICY:  Refunds will be given only under the following circumstances: • Requests that are pre-paid and made at least 48 Hours prior to tour. • Active lightening storms- you will be given either tickets to attend another tour of your choice, or, ticket price will be refunded. Rain DOES NOT cancel the tours- please bring appropriate rain/weather gear. • Level 2 or higher snow emergency

Now, I’d mentioned above about seeing the interior of The Ridges. It is not a regular circumstance to be invited inside these old buildings, unfortunately. However, there are a few ways you can possibly see the inside for yourself. 

  • Enroll as a student – Obviously, this is not the most likely scenario, but students do have access for a few spots on campus up here. 
  • Visit the Kennedy Art Museum. The main building is home to the art museum, and you can go inside to see the various exhibits. -Gallery Hours are: M – F: 10am – 5pm, TH: 10am – 8pm, Sat – Sun: 1pm – 5pm. 
  • The last option is the hardest to snag, but sometimes, once per year, the historical society offers a historical tour around Halloween. They do take you through the interior, but you’ve got to be fast to snag these tickets. When this tour is offered, you can find tickets on their site. (Same as the walking tour above!) 

Potato Pizza covered in tomato sauce and cheese

Other Notable Spots

The Ridges is great all on its own, but you’re bound to get hungry! We LOVE Avalanche Pizza, and can’t recommend it enough! If you enjoy unique pizza, you’ve found your place! Here is their  menu .

If time allows and you want more haunted spots to check out, visit Lake Hope Furnace and the  Moonville Tunnel ! 

If you can’t make it out to The Ridges, watch our video to learn more! 

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Madison Seminary

Madison Seminary may look empty, but it’s said to be teeming with the spirits of its past

Madison Seminary’s Ghostly Legends

  • The spirit of a young girl can reportedly be heard in a particular room
  • A woman’s apparition has been seen and spoken to in Wittenmyer Cottage
  • The figure of a young boy has been seen wandering the seminary
  • Disembodied voices are commonly heard, sometimes whole conversations
  • Odd and unexplainable feelings have been claimed by visitors and former employees
  • Moving shadows and figures are regularly reported throughout the building
  • Sounds of doors slamming and rattling chains have been reported

Madison Seminary’s Haunting History

Tour the rural state highways outside of Madison, Ohio , and you’ll see a bright red sign beckoning you towards a curious sight: Madison Seminary.

Madison Seminary's Ohio Cottage, a haven for the infirm of its day

Madison Seminary, a collection of old brick buildings now connected to each other, has long been an imposing presence in the rural region. Time has only made the complex more intimidating as masonry cracks and fades, and windows remain darkened by abandonment. Reportedly one of the most haunted places in Ohio, Madison Seminary is now far from abandoned, as it frequently greets paranormal investigators and tourists hoping for something spooky. But just what is the story behind Madison Seminary and its legion of paranormal legends?

Timeline of Madison Seminary's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Madison Seminary through the years

haunted asylum ohio

First built as a simple wooden frame building outside Madison, Ohio, in 1847, Madison Seminary’s original purpose was education. High school and college students both could come to Madison Seminary to further their studies. Eventually, the seminary needed expanding, and a new brick building was built and adjoined to the old wooden structure and took over most educational functions. The original building went on to serve as boarding for Madison Seminary’s 150 students at the time.

haunted asylum ohio

Madison Seminary continued to function as a secondary and higher education institution until 1891, when it was purchased by the Ohio Women’s Relief Corps. The group changed the name to the Madison Home and converted the complex into a relief and charity care home. Supporting former Civil War nurses as well as the widows and children of former soldiers, the Madison Home quickly filled up with families in need of support.

haunted asylum ohio

During the ownership of the Ohio Women’s Relief Corps, the facility was again expanded. The wood section was replaced with a large, two-wing brick building still seen today. The new building was named the Ohio Cottage, and the old brick Seminary building was named the Wittenmyer Cottage. Soon, the home became too much for the Women’s Relief Corps to maintain, and they donated it to the state in 1904. Then, it took on the official name of, ‘Home of the Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Their Wives, Mothers, Widows and Army Nurses.’

haunted asylum ohio

Madison Seminary continued to function as a relief home well into the 20th century, even as social security and veterans care benefits were established. In 1962, the relief home was finally closed and the residents were transferred either back to their families or to more modern facilities. After that, ownership transferred to the Department of Corrections. The department renamed the building to Opportunity Village and used it to house low-risk inmates from Ohio Women’s Reformatory and offer them work maintaining the buildings.

haunted asylum ohio

Over the following decades, the old complex served a variety of functions ranging from an extension of Cleveland State Hospital to county government offices. By the late 1980s, local officials considered demolishing the complex. But, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so it sat in limbo rather than be torn down. A 1993 rental advertisement for the facility stated: ‘For rent, Historic building on Middle Ridge Road. Can be leased cheap, caution — building may be haunted.’

haunted asylum ohio

By 1998, the building had found a buyer, and Madison Seminary was saved from the local government’s wrecking ball. A few years after going into private ownership, the building’s local paranormal reputation instigated the first tours of Madison Seminary offered to the public. Nighttime tours and investigations soon followed, helping to grow the old complex’s popularity with paranormal enthusiasts. But just what spirits go bump in the night at Madison Seminary?

haunted asylum ohio

Spirit of Sarah at Madison Seminary

One of the most commonly encountered spirits is affectionately referred to as ‘Sarah,’ the spirit of a young former resident of the building, though some have hypothesized she may have been an elderly woman with dementia.

Visitors to her room often report hearing a child-like voice around the room, and otherwise sensing a youthful presence in the room. This is said to be especially true when visitors leave gifts and toys for Sarah, so much so that her room is stuffed with dolls and other supposed trigger objects.

haunted asylum ohio

Madison Seminary’s Phantom Spies

Another ghost who roams the halls of Madison Seminary is Elizabeth Stiles, a former spy during the Civil War. Said to haunt the Wittenmyer Cottage section of the complex, Elizabeth is often seen as a smokey white apparition in a long, 1800s-era dress.

Some visiting paranormal investigators and purported mediums have also reportedly conversed with Elizabeth’s spirit while investigating in the Wittenmyer Cottage.

Madison Seminary’s Many Apparitions

Investigators have also reported sightings of a ghostly young boy in the Wittenmyer Cottage. Referred to as ‘Steven,’ the little boy’s origin and true identity remains unknown. But he, like Elizabeth, is often seen as a shadowy apparition lingering through Wittenmyer.

haunted asylum ohio

But, Steven and Elizabeth are just two of many reported shadow figures and apparitions around Madison Seminary. Encounters with dark figures are common throughout the seminary complex. Some investigators even claim to see shadowy apparitions peeking out of doorways on the third floor. Others still have reported figures drifting listlessly around hallway corners.

haunted asylum ohio

Madison Seminary’s Ghostly Whispers

Audible disembodied voices are some of the most long-standing claims around Madison Seminary. Even back in its functional days, employees and nightshift guards reported hearing voices at strange times when they were all alone.

Others even claimed to hear whole conversations amongst invisible entities in the old office spaces. For many years, people have also claimed to feel a ‘pressure’ or a strange sense of dread in the building.

haunted asylum ohio

Echoing Specters of Madison Seminary

Voices are still regularly encountered at the seminary today, accompanied by other reported auditory phenomena. Investigators have claimed to hear the sounds of doors slamming, and other unexplained bangs, while others have also said to hear the sounds of rattling chains in the building.

Over the years, paranormal investigators have reportedly collected countless EVP recordings of these voices after investigating the building.

haunted asylum ohio

Madison Seminary Today

In recent years, Madison Seminary has become one of the most popular paranormal locations in the Midwestern U.S. Powered by a steady stream of tourists and ghost hunters, as well as features on paranormal TV shows like A&E’s My Ghost Story and Travel Chanel’s Destination Fear , Madison Seminary greets more and more visitors every year.

Through that popularity, many claims of paranormal evidence from visitors have driven intrigue around the building even further. So, if you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself amongst the ghosts and ghost hunters of Madison Seminary, we hope you bring a gift for Sarah, and maybe one for Steven too.

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The Legends Behind the ‘Ghosts’ of Athens

By: Jessica Jones Posted on: Tuesday, October 29, 2019

In the heart of all the legends and lore surrounding Athens county and neighboring towns, Ohio University is home to an abundance of haunted rumors, ghost stories, and alleged sightings. For years, students and residents alike have found themselves at some point seeking out any possible truth to the hearsay.

The Ridges, a building formally known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, has been a constant source of ghost stories and sightings for years. The building, now used as an art museum, was home to hundreds of patients throughout the late 1800s up until 1993. While The Ridges insisted that taking good care of their residents was of the utmost importance, The Ridges is known for its infamous procedures, such as lobotomies and electroshock therapy.

“I’ve been here 39 years and the ‘haunted’ business only came up in the last 10 or 12 years. I’ve lived at the Asylum, I lived there for a year. I came here as a grad student, and they had a resident volunteer program.” said Athens local Tom O’Grady, Executive Director of the Southeast Ohio History Center. He was able to live in The Ridges for free in exchange for helping out with the clients 15 hours a week. After graduating, O’Grady continued to volunteer on the grounds for another 10 years until the building closed.  “I still haven’t seen any ghosts. But I have seen the stain of Margaret Shilling.”

Margaret Shilling, one of the most well-known residents who lived at the Ridges, passed away in an upstairs attic space in 1979. Her body was not discovered until a few months later, and due to the exact location of where she passed, elements and time worked together to create a permanent stain of where her body once lay.

“There are two things people know about the Asylum: one is that it’s haunted, and two is there’s a stain, they feed into each other,” O’Grady said. “She was a person who had a family who loved her. To me, it’s rather disappointing that the university has had the Asylum for 35 years, and they’ve let the story get perpetuated without restoring her humanity.”

One of the points that O’Grady stressed was to not let these stories be remembered as only silly ghost stories because, after all, they are attached to real human beings. “I think it’s our responsibility as a community to do what we can to restore her humanity. How many people know about her only as a stain? What would we think of that?”

“There are two things people know about the Asylum: one is that it’s haunted, and two is there’s a stain, they feed into each other. She was a person who had a family who loved her. To me, it’s rather disappointing that the university has had the Asylum for 35 years, and they’ve let the story get perpetuated without restoring her humanity.” – Tom O’Grady, Executive Director of the Southeast Ohio History Center

Even before the Asylum existed, legend has it that the spookiness all began with Mt. Nebo and the Koons family spirit rooms. In the mid-1800s, roughly around 1850-1855, the Koons family of Athens County erected a ‘Spirit Room’ which was used as a place to conduct seances. The site of the Koons spirt rooms became a national sensation, drawing travelers from near and far. Some even say that Mt. Nebo is one of the world’s most haunted locations and a place of spiritual significance. Athens local Sharon Hatfield has written a book on the subject titled Enchanted Ground,  which can be purchased at the Southeast Ohio History Center in uptown Athens.

Another touristy sight to see is the haunted Moonville Tunnel. The Moonville Tunnel, located in Vinton county just outside of Athens, is home to its own collection of ghost stories. Before the Moonville Tunnel became the popular destination that it is today, one had to hike through woods or follow the tracks to get to it. Now void of trains passing through, the tunnel is much more accessible to visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of something paranormal. O’Grady told me about his own experience he had in the tunnel years ago.

Moonville

“The railroads were still running. I knew the story about the man with a lantern who had gotten run over. I was cleaning up the woods when I saw it,” he said. “Of course, I would go in that tunnel, it was cool! I was in that tunnel more than once when the train was coming, and there’s no way that thing can touch you- you hope, you think… you know you’re safe… unless it goes off the tracks. Your adrenaline is rushing, it’s an exciting experience.”

Many more alleged ghost stories exist outside of these three infamous examples, but while talking with Tom he made a point that we should all consider. The true ghosts of Athens county are not the ones in the ridges, the tunnels, or the ones wandering the West State Street Cemetery; rather they are the architects, the pioneers, the teachers and scholars, and the residents of yesteryear who called this place home and helped to shape Athens into what it is today. O’Grady is passionate about the work he does at the historical center and for the county, and the way he talks about Athens makes it very clear that he cares and is willing to educate anyone who wants to know more. While we should be able to marvel and enjoy these urban legends, we must not forget that there is more than meets the eye when discussing them.

As for O’Grady, he himself is still on the hunt for ghosts, but so far has had little luck.

“I want to see ghosts. From a distance maybe, but I want to see them as much as anybody,” he said. “I haven’t had that opportunity- but I’m looking.”

Facts-Chology

The Lost Lady at the Haunted Athens Asylum, Ohio

On December 2nd, 1978, alarms went off at the Athens Mental Health and Development Center, police arrived as the staff gathered to draw up a plan to find a missing patient, Margaret Shilling. It would be six long weeks in the grueling winter before she was found, her body frozen in the attic of the same asylum where she was lost.

But Margaret’s story wouldn’t be lost to history for when she was moved, a clear outline of her body was left in the concrete underneath. Try as they might, no one was able to remove the stain her body left. Where Margaret spent the last six weeks of her life would be ingrained in the building forever.

After the asylum closed stories began to spread that the outline of her body wasn’t the only thing the building had entrapped within its walls and now Margaret would be doomed to wander the halls with the other spirits living in the Athens Asylum.

PART 1 - The Asylum Opens

History has not been kind to those suffering from mental illness, during the middle ages many believed those suffering were beyond help or reason. Evil spirits were often thought to be the cause with a popular solution being trephination, a procedure where a piece of the patient's skull was removed in order to let the bad spirits out. It was not uncommon for patients to die from hemorrhaging or infection, others who lived now had to add brain injury to their list of ailments.

Exorcisms became common as the devil and demons were also thought to be behind such quote wicked illnesses, those that responded well to the treatment would get to live, and those that didn’t would be thought too far gone and executed, burned at the stake, or hanged, sometimes accused as witches.

During the Enlightenment the idea of mental illness being a by-product of the supernatural began to fall out of favor, unfortunately, it was replaced by the thought that those suffering were valued less than the rest of society. Many were thrown into hospitals and chained to walls or beds in less than sanitary conditions. Those who had committed crimes were tossed into prisons and left to die without help.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the idea of hospitals solely dedicated to housing those considered mad or insane gained popularity. Here, doctors tried various forms of treatment, among those attempting music or talk therapy a growing number believed there was nothing that could be done to help those they called lunatics.

In the mid-19th century, the focus was placed on where to house those suffering, Doctor Thomas Story Kirkbride would develop a design for these asylums with the intention of providing natural sunlight and fresh air to patients. The buildings were spacious, extending outward from a central administration building. From above the building would have the appearance of a bat extending its wings.

The Athens Lunatic Asylum

After the United States Civil War, with many casualties and battles causing post-traumatic stress in the population, many new asylums were built using Kirkbride’s design. One of which was the 141-acre Athens Lunatic Asylum opening on January 9th, 1874. Within two years the asylum was renamed “The Athens Hospital for the Insane” and would go on to have several different names in the following 120 years.

From the outside the asylum would appear to be operating efficiently as intended, men and women were separated into different wings and would be taught skills to help in making the asylum as self-sufficient as possible.

Doctor Kirkbride believed an effective form of therapy was doing skilled labor out in the fresh air leading to the asylum having livestock, greenhouses, a dairy barn, and a steam plant to generate its own heat. The asylum grew from 141 acres to over a thousand.

But as the decades went on and the treatment of those with mental illness became more inhumane the asylum gained a new reputation. By the mid-20th century, the asylum was overcrowded, containing an occupancy over three times its intended amount with almost 2 thousand patients at any given time. Rumors began to spread of the understaffed asylum resorting to violence and torture to maintain order and dish out punishments.

Malpractice and Murder

Reports of malpractice and murder loomed over the asylum, yet many still admitted their suffering family members into its walls. Men, women, and children were thrown in and forgotten by their families.

Even when they died their bodies went unclaimed and their names were lost to history. The grounds contained three graveyards but due to budget cuts the stones contained only numbers until the 1940s, of the two thousand buried, three hundred are still unknown today.

Within the asylum, the treatments also reflected the inhuman punishments, over 200 transorbital lobotomies were performed in the asylum in just four years. The procedure involved inserting a long metal pick between the eyeball and eyelid of a patient until it reached the bone of the eye socket.

Then with a mallet, the pick would be pounded, breaking through the bone and allowing it to enter the frontal lobe of the patient’s brain. A sweeping motion with the pick would sever and destroy the frontal lobes, with some patients later experiencing pieces of their brain draining through their nose. All of this was done without anesthesia.

Although many patients survived the lobotomy, many lost memories and aspects of their personalities, some could no longer experience intense emotion, others were left unable to speak or move, and others eventually took their own lives.

With all the stories and rumors along with the changing understanding of mental illness in the 1950s, the asylum began to drop in patient numbers. For some time it appeared the history of the Athens Asylum would be overshadowed by the depravity of other mental asylums in the country, that is until one patient went missing in the winter of 1978.

PART 2 - The Story of The Lost Lady

Not much is known about Margaret Shilling prior to 1978, being a patient for some time at the Athens Asylum, she was known to be friendly but a loner. Often she would be found at the top of the stairs standing and waving at the staff and patients who walked by.

Margaret even had open privileges, meaning she was allowed to roam the grounds freely as long as she didn’t leave the asylum. So when several of the staff didn’t see her at her usual spot on the morning of December 2nd, 1978 no one sounded the alarm. But when dinner time rolled around and Margaret didn’t show up, the staff now knew they now had a missing patient.

Margaret Shilling Athens Asylum in Athens, Ohio

Margaret Shilling

Within the hour the staff had alerted police and begun searching the thousand acres. By the next morning, the headlines told of the missing patient. Police conducted searches outside the grounds while the staff searched every room from the attic to the basement for Margaret.

Meanwhile, temperatures dropped as Ohio prepared for one of the coldest winters in its history.

Over the course of the next 6 weeks, snow and freezing temperatures hit the Athens area, and as much as thirty inches of snow forced the police to call off the search for Margaret, considering her an escaped patient in their book. On January 12th, 1979 when the staff at the asylum had just about given in to the same conclusion, a vile smell permeated through the buildings.

Following it, they were led back to an attic they had searched several times over the last 6 weeks always finding it empty. But this time in the center of the room, laying naked was the decomposing body of Margaret Shilling, next to her lay her clothes neatly folded into a pile.

Police were immediately called to the scene where they determined Margaret had somehow found herself stuck in the room at some point in the last six weeks. Being unable to escape and left without food or water in the freezing cold temperature she disrobed in an attempt to get as much of the heat of the sun on her body as possible.

Although this was a flimsy explanation for the circumstances, the public at large accepted it as the room where she was found, was in the middle of the construction and had to be kept propped open in order to prevent it from locking. Many believed she somehow found her way in, got stuck, and with construction stopping during the winter, no one found her. The staff was also considered to have neglected to look in the room as it was thought she wouldn’t have wandered in to begin with.

The Curse of The Stain

But Margaret Shilling's story wouldn’t end there. When her body was moved the staff discovered a clear outline had embedded itself into the concrete. A crew worked for several hours to remove the stain and try as they might with all different types of cleaners, the stain and the last moments of Margaret Shilling's life remained.

As the years went on and the asylum changed, closing officially in 1993 one of the only things that remained was the outline of Margaret’s body. The land was donated to Ohio University and eventually renamed the “Ridges” in 2001 but almost immediately after Margaret Shilling’s death whispers of hauntings and talks of curses began to spread.

Students of the nearby Ohio University claimed to have seen glimpses of a woman staring down from the attic window where Margaret was found. Others said they saw the shadowy figure of a woman attempting to escape the room giving looks of despair as she realized she could never leave. Stories of the staff at the asylum having seen Margaret standing on her usual spot at the staircase smiling, and waving before vanishing were passed around.

Stories of a curse imprinted in the outline of Margaret’s body also drew students' attention. Many claimed the grief she experienced of her impending death caused the stain to become cursed, just touching it would drive you insane in a matter of days. Groups of students would dare each other to spend the night in the attic, but only one, Debbie Southall, agreed.

The “Stain” Athens Asylum in Athens, Ohio

The “Stain”

On Halloween night 1979, Debbie gained entry to where Margaret died and even touched the stain left by her body. The next day something came over Debbie, her personality changed dramatically becoming distant and enraged at the slightest provocation. Her friend Susan Herrington later claimed to have witnessed items moving around on their own and an inhuman shadowy figure appearing to her and Debbie.

After this, Debbie became even more distant, locking herself in her room and refusing to come out for days at a time. After an especially long session locked away, Susan broke into her room only to find Debbie had taken her own life, her body decomposing leaving its own stain on the floor.

As the story of Debbie’s possession spread, others started to see more spirits inhabiting the old asylum. Today many claim to see strange lights and figures roaming the graveyards along with hearing disembodied voices coming from the empty halls and terrifyingly the sounds of patients screaming in pain echoing at night.

But by taking a closer look at the stories surrounding the patients at the Athens Asylum and the curse of Margaret Shilling we can start to reveal the true stories underneath.

PART 3 - The Truth of the Lost Lady

The records for the patients who stayed at the Athens Asylum are legally sealed for fifty years after their deaths meaning we can’t know exactly why Margaret Shilling was in the asylum or the finer details of her death.

Many sources state Margaret was deaf alluding to the reason why she didn’t hear anyone calling for her while she was missing, others claim Margaret didn’t want to be found. Based on newspaper articles reporting her death, we know neither of these are true. What we do know is Margaret was fifty-three at the time of her death, married, had a son, and had been at the asylum for some time.

Just prior to her death, there was construction going on but the construction was not just in the one room where she was found but in an entire ward. The complex at the time included 78 buildings in total, and Margaret found herself locked in not just a faraway room but in an entire building.

The staff at the asylum don’t know why Margaret entered that building of the asylum but she did have privileges to go anywhere in the 1,000-acre facility as long as she returned by curfew. This meant once she entered that room and accidentally locked herself in, no one was going to be able to hear her screams for help.

Because she wasn’t a dangerous patient and wasn’t considered high-risk, many of the staff and police believed she had simply left the asylum for good to be with her family, something that wasn’t uncommon for some low-risk patients to do at the time.

Paradoxical Undressing

When construction restarted in the building in January, a construction worker found her in the room, naked, dead, and decomposing. The coroner determined Margaret’s cause of death was heart failure due to having to endure the freezing temperatures which helps explain why Margaret was found naked. A common but bizarre effect of hypothermia is called paradoxical undressing.

When you’re in cold temperatures the blood vessels in your body contract in an attempt to prevent loss of heat in your core as that is the most important part of your body needed for survival. It’s why your hands and feet get cold first before the rest of your body. In cases of extreme hypothermia, those muscles contracting your blood vessels fatigue and fail causing warm blood to rush to other parts of your body.

The person experiencing this feels a hot flash as if they were burning from the inside, with the confusion created by hypothermia, the victim believes undressing is the only solution. It’s believed Margaret Shilling experienced paradoxical undressing shortly before dying from the extreme cold.

After she passed, she laid in a position where the sunshine covered her entirely, the heat amplified by the glass caused her body to decompose onto the exposed concrete leaving a perfect outline of her body. A 2008 microscopic analysis of the stain published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences found the type of cleaner used in an attempt to remove the stain actually contributed to the stain being etched permanently into the concrete.

The Truth About Debbie Southall

As for the story of possession of Debbie Southall after touching the stain, that story can be traced back to an actual claim from Debbie Southall and Susan Herrington wherein they claimed to see objects moving around while at Ohio University.

But in tracing the story through newspaper articles, it turns out that the first time it was reported, the story did not include anything about Margaret Shilling or the stain, especially since the story first appeared in 1976, years before Margaret died.

Throughout the years those at and surrounding Ohio University heard the stories of Margaret Shilling and the story of Debbie Southall mixing them together as the decades passed, creating a false link between a tragedy and a ghost story. In reality, none of the stories of ghosts, shadowy figures, or the spirit of Margaret Shilling appearing in the building appear to be true.

Along with the common trope of haunted asylums, the stories stuck easily and helped create this aura of a haunted terrifying place. Unfortunately, these stories end up ignoring or downplaying the real horror that occurred in these asylums.

The treatment of patients, bound, gagged, shackled, and tortured along with the prevalent use of inhumane procedures like lobotomies is the true terror that haunts the halls of the former Athens Asylum.

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haunted asylum ohio

The Athens Lunatic Asylum “The Ridges” 

  • January 15, 2024

In a city named Athens, in Ohio, you can find the former Athens Lunatic Asylum, which was built in 1868. Today, this huge building belongs to the Ohio University and offers space to the Kennedy Museum, an auditorium, an office, several classrooms, a storage facility and… a couple of ghosts. The students have gotten used to them, well, kind of. 

The history of the Athens Lunatic Asylum  

Dan Keck via flickr public domain

The first patient to be admitted to the asylum was a 14-year-old girl with epilepsy. Her parents thought she was possessed by a demon and therefore locked her away. From 1874 to 1993 this was a facility for people with all kinds of mental illnesses. People who were admitted were Civil War veterans, rebellious teenagers, homeless people, elderly people and even violent criminals. Also, tuberculosis patients were taken care of in the seven cottages which are part of this massive terrain. The asylum  is about 4000 acres  ( 400 ha)  large, which can be compared to  800 soccer fields.

More and more buildings were added when the number of patients increased. When the building was abandoned, there were 78 buildings on the premises. The asylum wasn’t self-sufficient, even though it could have been. There were cattle, greenhouses, an orchard, a dairy farm, and the water came from self-dug wells. There are also three cemeteries on the premises, because where people live, people die.  Today, the Athens Lunatic Asylum is named The Ridges. This name was chosen in name contest which was organized in 1984. Until then, it had at least 8 other names.  

The Kirkbride Method  

Thomas Kirkbride - Frederick Gutekunst via commons.wikimedia public domain

Dr. Thomas Kirkbride believed the keywords for mental patients were rest, cleanliness and regularity. Men and women were treated separately in their own wing and even had their own dining halls. The main building could house up to 572 patients, but that is double the amount Kirkbride would advise. At its peak, over 2,000 patients were being treated, which, of course, was unacceptable according to the method. The asylum created a lot of employment for people living in the surrounding area, but this medical staff was often unskilled.

This made procedures such as the much-feared lobotomy treatments risky. During these treatments, a thick needle was drilled into the patient’s skull, into the brain, through a spot right above the eye. Apart from the fact that a wrong lobotomy could lead to death, it could also lead to a condition in which the patient would be locked inside their own body forever. Another feared treatment, called hydrotherapy, was performed daily. During this treatment, the patient would be bathed in extremely cold or extremely hot water. And  last but not least  there was the electroshock therapy method, in which a patient was exposed to a highly dosed power surge which caused the body to convulse. Sometimes these convulsions were so intense, that even bones would break.   

Reasons for patients to be admitted  

Ridges Night Shift Staff - public domain Wikipedia

Back then, there was an enormous list which was used as a manual for admitting people at an asylum. Things like the menopause, menstruation issues, alcohol abuse, epilepsy and even asthma were “illnesses” that were to be treated in an asylum back in the days. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? But the main reason people were admitted to the asylum was… masturbation. And this is no joke. When a family member was admitted, all contact was broken off. That was best for the patient according to the Kirkbride Method. That is perhaps why some people (700 women and 959 men) who died during their stay at the asylum were buried on the premises with only a number on the headstone.  

The cemeteries  

Athens LunaticAsylum graveyard - Justin Masterson via flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

A total of 1930 people were buried at the asylum’s cemeteries. Some patients were claimed by family members after they died and buried elsewhere, but most family members were ashamed of the fact there was mental illness in the family. They didn’t want anything to do with that person anymore. From 1943, headstones were given names and data. Unclear is what caused the change because before that, only a number was given. Over 80 Civil War veterans are buried there as well. They were eventually honored in 2000 by the NAMI: The National Alliance of Mental Illness. They organize an annual memorial for these soldiers. The cemeteries are now under the maintenance of the Ohio Department of Mental Health.   

Asbestoses in the walls  

Almost all buildings have been renovated when the Ohio University moved in. All, except for “Cottage B”, one of the 7 cottages used for patients with tuberculosis. The walls and ceiling of this  particular cottage  were  literally  packed with asbestosis. This is ironic, knowing this cottage was used for people whose lungs were already very sick. The other cottages were renovated into campus for students who study at the university.   

  In the news   

Athens body stain of Margaret Shilling - pinterest source unknown

The Athens Lunatic Asylum hit the news at least twice, and not in a good way. The first time was in 1977, when multiple personality rapist Billy  Milligam  was admitted. He committed several felonies including armed robbery raping three Ohio State University students on campus. His attorneys claimed his other personalities committed the crimes without him even knowing it. A year later, on December 1, 1978, the Athens Lunatic Asylum was in the papers again, this time because patient Margaret Shilling had disappeared from her department.

They searched everywhere, except on the top floor of Building 20, where her decomposing corpse was found 42 days later by a caretaker. She was found naked, on her back, with her arms crossed over her chest. Prior to her death, she took off her clothes and neatly folded them and put them on a chair.  According to the pathologist, Margaret died of natural causes. She had a cardiac arrest. Did she feel it coming? There are a lot of mysteries surrounding her death. When her body was taken away it left an impression on the concrete floor. Probably due to the decomposition in combination with the bright sun coming through the large windows. The stain Margaret left behind is impossible to clean, even up to this day.     

Ghosts of the Athens Lunatic Asylum  

Athens from above - Asoep44 via commons.wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Many people claim both the former asylum and the cemeteries are haunted. But there are more recent hauntings as well. The fact that part of the area used to be an Indian burial ground, makes it even more spooky. Some buildings are still vacant, so who knows what ghosts lurk there?  

The main building  

The main building is now called Lin Hall. Today it houses music, geology, biotechnology offices as well as the Kennedy Museum of Art. Strange figures have been seen roaming around the old floors. Others have heard disembodied voices, footsteps and screaming. Most appealing to the imagination is the basement. Some claim severely disabled patients were kept on chains in this dungeonlike place. Some say they’ve even heard chains being pulled.

There is no evidence that patients were ever chained to the walls here, but the arches in the basement sure look creepy. The ghost of Margaret Shilling has been seen looking out of the window from the place she was found, but she’s also been seen on  other  floors. Doors open and close by themselves and people hear footsteps when they are alone. People also “feel” the presence of others and shadow people are frequently seen. A man with a long, black coat creeps out students in the men’s room for years.  

Athens Lunatic Asylum wall - Sarah Hina via flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

The cemeteries have been vandalized during the time the buildings were abandoned. Shadowy figures and strange lights have been seen here. In one area, the shapes of the graves form a perfect circle, which is rumored to be a witches’ meeting point.  

Wilson Hall   

Nearly all the buildings on the West Green are haunted. This is where the Indian burial grounds were located. Wilson Hall is no exception. This is the most haunted dormitory on the campus. This hall is also right in the middle of a pentagram formed by several cemeteries in the Athens region. Most hauntings occur on the fourth floor. Apparitions have been seen, voices have been heard and doors slam shut by themselves. A student committed suicide in a room on the fourth floor.  

The Convo  

Athens Kennedy Museum of Art - Leslie K. Dellovade via wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

The Convocation Center, The Convo in short, is also located in the West Green area. This place is haunted by several ghosts, mostly in the dormitory part of the building. A Resident Assistant was supposedly killed by her boyfriend here, and she now roams the corridors. A student who died here in his sleep now tends to embrace other students while they are sleeping.     

Washington Hall   

Washington Hall is in the East Green area and the dormitory is allegedly haunted by an entire basketball team of high school girls. They were killed in a bus accident after they visited the university. Students have reported  hearing  running feet and bouncing basketballs.   

The Athens Lunatic Asylum today   

Dan Keck via flickr public domain

Today, the Athens Lunatic Asylum or The Ridges as what it is now called, is an operating campus. You cannot just visit it, but there are some tours that you can take. There’s the Asylum Tour provided by the Athens County Historical Society and Museum. This is not a ghost tour. They used to have ghost tours around Halloween, but they are very limited. Please note that you cannot explore the vacant buildings on your own. If you really want to experience the hauntings, there’s only one thing to do: go back to school!  

Cover photo: Sarah Hina via flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 Sources:   wikipedia , legendsofamerica.com, atlasobscura.com, hockinghills.com and onlyinyourstate.com   Address : S. Plains Rd, Athens, Ohio, 45701 USA  

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Dayton State Hospital

  • 2 Images of Dayton State Hospital
  • 4 References

History [ edit ]

The Dayton State Hospital was first occupied September, 1855, with a capacity of 162, known as the Southern Ohio Lunatic Asylum. In the year 1875, it was changed to Western Ohio Hospital for the Insane; in 1877, to the Dayton Hospital for the Insane; in 1878, to the Dayton Asylum for the Insane; and in 1894, to the Dayton State Hospital and was located on a hill southeast of the city of Dayton.

The main building was built to the Kirkbride plan, consisting of the administration building, four stories in height, and the wards on either side three stories in height. The original building contained six wards, three on either side of the administration building, with a capacity of 164 patients. In 1861, the capacity of the Hospital was increased to 600 by the addition of six wards on each side. In 1891, it was again enlarged by the addition of congregate dining rooms, one on each side, which increased the capacity 170, giving a total capacity of 770. The Hospital had a frontage of 940 feet, and is uniformly three stories in height, except the administration building, which is four stories and surmounted by a cupola.

The Dayton State Hospital stood empty for many years, replaced by more modern facilities. While, in the mid-1980s, plans were being made to renovate the buildings and convert them into apartments for retirees, there was a fire in the old administration building and the cupola was destroyed. The damage to the rest of the administration building was comparatively minor and the plans to convert the buildings became a reality. But many mourned the loss of the cupola, a Dayton landmark for more than a century.

The Dayton State Hospital survives to this day as one of only a small handful of surviving Kirkbride Plan institutions in the state of Ohio. Of those remaining institutions, it is perhaps the only one in continued usage to this day. After the fire damage was repaired the building was successfully renovated into a now large retirement community called 10 Wilmington Place, and has served the Dayton area for the past 29 years. [1]

After the main hospital was closed in 1977, part of complex continued to operate as Twin Valley Behavioral Hospital, until it to was closed June 30, 2008. The property was sold in 2012 to a private Ohio based organization and reopened as Access Hospital and Access Outpatient.

Images of Dayton State Hospital [ edit ]

Main Image Gallery: Dayton State Hospital

Dayon kirk 1915 2.jpg

Cemetery [ edit ]

The Dayton State Hospital Cemetery is actually located on the backside of Woodland Cemetery on undeveloped land and is not accessible to the public. There are no grave markers in this section, only concrete circles with the grave number. Burial records are maintained by Woodland Cemetery.

References [ edit ]

  • ↑ http://www.genealogybug.net/ohio_alhn/institutions/dayton.htm
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11 Haunted Places In Ohio That Are Super Creepy

haunted asylum ohio

April is the Ohio staff writer for Only in Your State. She is an Ohio native with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. With more than 10 years of writing experience and a background in news reporting for Ohio newspapers, she's published pieces in multiple print and online publications. When she's not on deadline or chasing after her toddler, she's hunting for hidden gems in Ohio or getting lost in a good book.

More by this Author

Here in the Buckeye State, we have our fair share of all things eerie, ghostly, and just straight-up creepy making for some of the most haunted places in Ohio . The following are the scary places you won’t want to miss. Don’t be afraid to visit, though, because experiencing a haunting is just about one of the most exciting things you can do in some of these towns. And a few of the ghosts may even be friendly, too. Let’s check out some of the most haunted places near me.

haunted asylum ohio

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haunted asylum ohio

Do you know any of the most haunted places to visit in Ohio that we forgot? Let us know about some of your scary places in the comments below.

And plenty of camping options are great for exposing ourselves to some of the creepy places near me in Ohio. Do you have what it takes?

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Haunted places in ohio.

Is there another haunted hospital I can visit in Ohio?

A decaying facility, Molly Stark Mental Hospital in Louisville, Ohio, was built in the 1920s. Once a beautiful, Spanish Revival-style building is now a long-forgotten, broken-down structure with reportedly haunted, lonely hallways. Today, the surrounding grounds are a public park. Check out the drone footage of this abandoned hospital.

Are there any haunted hotels in Ohio?

Not only are there haunted hotels in Ohio, but they're also among the best places to stay in the state! One that stands out is the Golden Lamb in Lebanon. The oldest continually operated hotel in the state was established in 1803 and you'll find beautifully decorated dining rooms and historic hotel rooms where famous people have stayed over the years. Two of the ghosts that frequently make appearances include a young girl and a former Ohio Supreme Court Justice who died here and often wander through the room with the scent of cigar smoke.

Are there any haunted restaurants or bars in Ohio?

Ohio is full of a lot of haunted bars and restaurants . Schmidt's Sausage Haus is home to a friendly ghost who appears in the mirrors and brushes past guests as they dine. The Oliver House, in Toledo, is haunted by a ghost called The Captain who haunts the pool room. Crosskeys Tavern is another haunted watering hole in Chillicothe. The ghost, Harold, is known to throw drinks around, turn off lights, and have some fun testing guests' courage.

Are there any haunted trials in Ohio?

Hike or bike along this Ohio rail trail that's rumored to be haunted. Moonville is a ghost town in Ohio that was a result of the result of the railroad leaving behind an old schoolhouse, a cemetery, and an abandoned train tunnel. The 10-mile rail trail through the forested woodlands of Southeast Ohio is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of railroad workers.

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Medina County Hauntings & Legends

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On this page you will find haunted locations and legends of Medina County. Many of these are genuine and documented haunts, but others may be legend or hearsay. Remember, we do not condone trespassing. Always seek permission before entering private property. If you know of a haunting or legend not listed for this county, please submit them through our Haunting Submission Form .

NewStarSmall

 Abbeyville 

Crybaby Bridge – The train bridge on Abbeyville Road is said to be haunted. In the 1950s, a young girl threw her baby off the bridge in an effort to hide her pregnancy. Legend says that if you park under the bridge and turn your ignition off, your car will not start again until it is pushed from beneath the bridge. Reports say that you can hear a baby crying whenever it is silent night. A church next to the bridge is also supposed to be haunted, as black masses were held there decades ago. A word of warning, the bridge is still an active train crossing, especially at night.

 Brunswick 

Brunswick Haunted Mansion – A mansion that once set off a road in Brunswick was said to be haunted. Figures had been seen moving to and from the bay windows at the front of the house. Intruders had been chased out by the ghostly figure of a man who supposedly hanged himself from the old metal spiral staircase in the corner of the home. Cold spots were often felt and the sound of glass breaking was heard. The building has been demolished.

Johnny’s Pub & Grill – A spirit with poltergeist-like abilities haunts this restaurant/pub. Salt shakers have been smashed against the wall, the freezer door opens by itself, and things will be left in unattended food.

Plumb Creek Park – Before the wooded area became a park, it was reportedly home to Satanists and KKK meetings. People have reported seeing burning crosses and hearing chanting coming from the woods. Nearby residents have reported seeing people in white run across their yards at night.

Chatham House – Witnesses have seen strange figures, creatures and a “scary face” in the home. Objects hanging on the walls would fly off without explanation and doors would lock on their own after certain people would go outside. An exorcism was performed at the home in 2001, shortly before one family moved out. Related: Contribution   (credits: Tiffany Wittman)

Asylum – A negative energy surrounds the asylum deep in the woods near Whipps Ledges. Ghostly talking has been heard inside the building and some witnesses have reported seeing children peering out the windows.

Hinckley Library – The town’s library resides in a small old white house that was built in the 1840s. The sister of Doctor Nelson Wilcox, who owned the land before the house was built, is said to haunt the building along with the doctor. She died a tragic death and is sighted most often on the stairs in her old-fashioned dress. Workers reported seeing the apparitions in 1973 when the home was converted into a library. Workers at the library have reported unusual feelings and seeing small objects move unassisted.

 Interstate 71 

Interstate 71 – A ghostly hitchhiker haunts the stretch of I-71 in Medina County. He is said to look like a normal person, but he becomes transparent when you pull up closer. He is often seen wearing a light tan raincoat and has dark hair. The police in the area receive many reports of this mysterious hitchhiker and are away he’s there.

Branch Road Apartments – The ghost of a man who was murdered at the apartment complex replays his unfortunate death during the summer months. A dark, hooded man has been seen near the bathroom door of a certain apartment.  (Credits: Sammie Hayes)

County Jail – The ghost or figure of a small person has been seen in jail. It is felt to be the presence of a very calm, sad, lonely, non-hostile woman. Some believe she is a Native American.

Medina Steakhouse & Saloon – A number of witnesses have reported seeing two ghostly women and a man walking throughout the entire restaurant.

Spencer Cemetery – A real, physically here lantern has been seen floating around the cemetery. Witnesses who have approached the lantern find no apparent signs of a hoax or strings attached. A smaller lanter is sometimes seen floating next to the larger lantern as well.

Spitzer House Bed & Breakfast – Built in 1890 by Ceilan Milo Spitzer, the house is haunted by several ghosts. There are two rooms that are particularly haunted. One room is called Ceilan’s Room and the other is called Anna’s Room. Anna’s Room is where the ghost of a mentally-challenged servant girl appears on a regular basis. The dining room is also said to be haunted and is where the mysterious voices of two men can be heard.

Swift Mansion – Located in Lorain County .  (Credits: Frank Bolda)

  Valley City 

Myrtle Hill Cemetery – This is the location of the Witch’s Ball Grave. As local legend goes, a crazy woman by the last name Stoskopf murdered her family, putting poison in the well. It is also said that she may have killed them by placing arsenic in their food. After her family was dead, she threw them all down the well. When approached by authorities, she admitted to the murders and spent the rest of her life in a mental asylum. Other variations say that she was put to death by the townspeople. In either case, she was buried beneath the ball. It is said the ball is warm when it’s cold outside and cool when it’s warm outside. It is also said that leaves and snow will never fall on the tombstone. The wooded area around the cemetery is known to be the site of many strange occurrences as well.

Myrtle Hill Road Crybaby Bridge – Just down the road from Myrtle HIll Cemetery, this bridge is the site of ghostly crying babies.

 Wadsworth 

Ohio Blue Tip Factory – The Ohio Blue Tip Factory has been the location of many fires and deaths. Now an industrial park complex, witnesses have reported seeing shadowy figures and hearing unexplained voices. Some have even reported seeing people walking around who mysteriously disappear.

haunted asylum ohio

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The most haunted places throughout the state of ohio cookie -->.

April 24, 2017     By Chelsea T. 0 -->

       

haunted asylum ohio

Home > Haunted Places > Ohio Haunted Places

Who doesn't love a good ghost story? Throughout the state of Ohio, there's quite a few surrounding some popular locations, and various spots throughout the state that not too many even know about. From private residences, to asylums, hospitals, schools, cemeteries, theaters and roads and parks, there are a number of Haunted Places all over Ohio.

Whether you're looking to do some paranormal exploring in Southern Ohio near Cincinnati, or up North near Cleveland, the haunted spots are endless, and have quite a few ghost stories attached to them. Check out our Top Ten list of Ohio's Haunted Places below! 

Also known as the Mansfield Reformatory, this historic prison first opened its doors in 1886 and ceased operation in 1990. According to Dead Ohio , the location was built to "humanely rehabilitate first-time offenders." However, as time went on, the conditions inside the prison began to deteriorate and the legacy of the site became one associated with torture, abuse and murder. The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society (MRPS) took over the prison in 1995 and opened the location for ghost tours because those that died there were said to still linger in spirit. Ever since it was opened to the public, it has been considered one of the most haunted places in the United States and paranormal investigators have captured a number of orbs in photographs and haunting EVPs. Many visitors report feeling cold spots, and equipment malfunctions for no reason. Some of the most haunted locations in the prison are said to be the East Wing first floor bathroom, and the third floor of the administration building, where shadowy figures have been spotted on multiple occasions. The cell blocks are also known to house some spirits, where tons of murders and suicides took place while the prison was still in operation. 

Located in the oldest town of Ohio, The Lafayette Hotel in Marietta was originally built atop an old hotel called The Bellvue and is no stranger to ghosts. Dating back to 1892, the riverfront hotel was a beautiful gem on the corner of Front and Greene Streets, until a fire destroyed it in 1916. The new structure was built and to this day it is one of the most popular paranormal attractions in the historic town.  The hotel is believed to be haunted by its former owner and visitors have reported a number of strange occurrences, including missing items, emptied shampoo bottles and suitcases that were turned upside-down. The third floor is said to be the most haunted, some employees even refuse to go up there. This floor is ideal though for thrill seekers who are looking to enjoy a good scare during their stay!

This historic home on Franklin Boulevard has four stories and more than twenty rooms, and some ghost stories, too. According to Forgotten Ohio , the residence is known as Ohio's most haunted house, featuring a number of ghosts who reside there. It dates back to the late 1800s and was built by Hans Tiederman, who also included some hidden passages throughout the home. Along with being a private residence, the location also operated as a clubhouse for a Nazi Organization, and a site for bootlegging during Prohibition.  There have been a number of tragedies at the home, experienced by the Tiedemann family. Hans was believed to have hanged his daughter Katie in one of the secret passageways, and four other children of his also died in the home. Three were babies when they died, and the fourth was a teenager who died of diabetes. Eerie occurrences here include ghost sightings, sounds of babies crying, and the apparition of a thin woman in black, believed to be Katie Tiedemann. A group of men were also gunned down at the mansion following a dispute with Nazi sympathizers, and their ghostly discussion can still be heard to this day.

haunted asylum ohio

Located in the historic downtown Chillicothe, The Majestic Theatre dates back to 1853 and was built on the site of the town's first bank, which had burned down. The theater became a makeshift morgue and autopsy site in 1918 when a Spanish flu epidemic swept the nearby Camp Sherman. It has been said that the soldiers' spilled blood was pumped into the alley, which is still called "Blood Alley" to this very day. Eerie reports here include apparition sightings and foggy shapes, and even a dead body that appeared on the stage during a performance. A ghostly man wearing a dark suit and top hat has also been spotted floating down an aisle, and a little girl has been seen running through the dressing rooms. 

haunted asylum ohio

This once private residence is sometimes known as the Hartman Place and is now abandoned, but the owner will supposedly sue anyone who trespasses onto the property illegally. The brick home was built in the mid-19th Century, according to Mysterious Heartland , and has quite the history. It has been said the home's original owner treated his servants terribly and would even lock them away in the basement. The servants escaped one night and murdered their master and his entire family. Another story surrounding the home involves the owner's wife who murdered her children. The ghostly victims are believed to roam the rooms of the house and other buildings on the property. A white apparition has been spotted standing at the front windows of the house, and eerie lights have been seen moving around the upper levels. Murdered family members and ghostly slaves have been both spotted and heard here as well. Exploring is discouraged, as the area is often patrolled by police. 

8. Athens Lunatic Asylum/The Ridges - Athens, OH

haunted asylum ohio

This mental hospital first opened its doors in 1874 and has been a location full of paranormal activity for quite some time. There are three cemeteries nearby that have over 1,900 graves, all marked with just one number. Stories say that some of the mental patients at this asylum had been Veterans, victims of war violence and post-traumatic stress disorder, many of who are believed to linger the grounds in spirit to this day. The majority of patients were admitted by their family members or court ordered and according to Haunted Athens Ohio , the hospital ended up becoming the center of cruel treatment to its patients.

One patient in particular, Margaret Schilling, suddenly disappeared in 1978 and stories say she was playing hide and seek with the nurses, who got distracted and forgot to look for her. More than a month had gone by and her body was found by a maintenance worker. The stain from her dead body is said to still be there, and whenever it is scrubbed clean, it reappears. Due to its high reports of eerie activity, the asylum has even been featured on TV's paranormal show, The Scariest Places on Earth !

This private liberal arts college was founded in 1824 by Philander Chase and is believed to be one of Ohio's most haunted college campuses. It was built atop a hilltop that overlooks the scenic Kokosing River Valley and its first permanent building is now known as "Old Kenyon," which was constructed in the late 1820s. It is one of the state's top schools, but is also believed to have some ghost stories attached to it. According to Forgotten Ohio , the school's main gates, also known as "Gates of Hell," were said to be built on top of the "Hellmouth." Other stories say that the Church of the Holy Spirit or Manning Hall stand on top of the gate that leads to the Underworld. Legends say that students who pass the old pillars without touching one of them, will end up going to Hell.

Some other spots on campus that are said to be haunted are Norton Hall, where a "ghostly insomniac" wanders the corridors. The spirit is believed to be a student that committed suicide in his dorm room. Manning Hall is believed to be haunted by an angry student who died before she could attend her classes. She is known to rearrange the furniture in this building. In Lewis Hall, a freshman student hanged himself in the attic and his spirit is said to turn the lights on and off, flush the toilets and knock on dorm room doors.  The Shaffer Pool Building is where the Kenyon swimming pool was once held, and according to local legend, a student was using the high dive board when they cracked their head on the glass ceiling, breaking their neck and falling into the pool where they drowned. This story may have been twisted throughout the years, though, as no records show this incident actually occurring. Additional haunted spots on the Kenyon Campus include the Shaffer Speech Building/Hill Theater, Caples Hall, Wertheimer Fieldhouse, Delta Kappa Epsilon and Old Kenyon.

Dating back to the early 1970s, Kings Island Amusement Park is said to have the Dog Street Cemetery on its premises and is believed to be haunted by those who have accidentally died on the premises. There are a number of different spots around the park that are said to have some paranormal activity. One is The Eiffel Tower, where the ghost of Tower Johnny lingers. He had been visiting the park in 1983 on graduation night when he fell down the elevator shaft while trying to wander around one of the restricted areas of the Tower. His ghost is blamed for electrical issues today, and employees call unexplained tripped senors "Johnnies."

The parking lot and admissions area are said to be haunted by the ghost of a girl wearing a period blue dress, also known as Tram Girl. Her ghost is known to linger this area after hours. Racer Boy is another ghost, that of a little boy who has been spotted wearing white near the Racer coaster. He is believed to be attached to some of the Racer cars that originally belonged to a Coney Island ride called Shooting Stay, where a little boy fell from the ride and was found dead on the tracks below.  In 1976, a Lion Country Safari Ranger was killed by a lion and his spirit is known to wander the park. In 1992, on Black Sunday, a man, his friend and a security guard were electrocuted in a fountain that was having unknown electrical problems. Another occurrence that is said to lead to the hauntings here involves a woman who was on the nearby Flight Commander, and fell from her harness to her death after she turned to look at the commotion happening in the fountain that day.

Click here to read about more Haunted Places in Ohio! 

Disclaimer: Haunts.com does not support or endorse trespassing to visit Real Haunted Places. Before you decide to visit a local real haunt, please make sure to acquire the appropriate permits and/or permissions, and be respectful of properties that are privately owned. A number of Haunt Explorers have been arrested, ticketed and reprimanded by authorities for trespassing, and we don't want that to happen to you! To avoid this, please be sure to contact the property owners before visiting a real haunt, and respect their hours of operation, local rules and regulations. Happy Haunting!

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haunted asylum ohio

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Athens Insane Asylum Cemetery

Athens lunatic asylum (the ridges), mt. nebo athens ohio, simms cemetery athens, ohio, wilson hall room 428 (ohio university), moonville: a portal to the past.

The Ridges formerly known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum was a formal mental health hospital and it has a place were they buried the deceased patients. Locals say that there are two or three asylum cemeteries at the Ridges. Yet the most famous of them is the one located at the rear corner of the grounds of the asylum. It is the only part of the Ridges that is still in the property of the state Department of Mental Health.

Many mental institutions in the United States are said to be haunted and thus The Ridges from Athens, Ohio, is no exception to that. If you have ever watched a horror movie, you must have observed that these types of buildings are presented as hulking structures with lots of cobwebs and ghosts that are waiting and haunting at each corner. The abandoned buildings are even worse when it comes to haunting rumors. The Ridges from Athens, Ohio is one of the abandoned places that are said to be powerfully haunted.

Ohio is well known for its ghost towns. Most of them were situated around the railroad or mining industry. After the company built the houses for its employees, they suddenly let the mines run dry and the railroad was not necessary anymore. Sometimes the company left the little towns with nothing behind. This is the reason some little towns from Ohio turned into ghost towns. Some of them have a special history, such as Mt. Nebo.

One of the cemeteries in Athens, Ohio is regularly surrounded by ghost stories. It is not new information that Athens has been labeled as one of the world’s most haunted places. The city is home to hundreds of ghosts and some people believe that every spot in the community must definitely have a ghost. The town of Athens seems to deserve this label, from the college campus to the old mental asylum. The story of Simms Cemetery is one of the most popular and well-known stories in the area.

The Ohio University in Athens, Ohio is perhaps the most haunted campus in the world. The place was established in 1804, a year after the statehood. It was the first institution of superior studies located west of the Appalachian Mountains. The number of allegedly haunted places on the site is quite impressive and they are added to the numerous legends regarding Athens county. Ohio University was one of the places presented in a FOX episode of the series Scariest Places on Earth.

A look at the history and legends of the ghost town of Moonville, Ohio

Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield

Is the old Ohio State Reformatory near Mansfield one of the scariest places on earth?

Haunted Ohio! The Witch’s Tower

Atop a lonely hillside in Dayton, Ohio sits a mysterious structure. A lonely, unused sentinel,

The Ridges Athens, OH

Margaret Schilling, a patient at the Athens Mental Asylum disappeared 30 years ago. Her lifeless

The Athens Lunatic Asylum Stain | TravelwithAustin |

A brief video talking about the infamous stain at the former Athens Lunatic Asylum. Please remember Margaret was a person too.

A scene from a documentary I am working on about the ridges.

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Urbex Underground

13 Of The Most Haunted Places In Ohio [With Proof]

Last Updated on October 8, 2022 by Urbex Underground

If you’re searching for haunted places in Ohio, we’ve got you covered! Below are 13 different haunted places you can explore across the great state of Ohio along with their status and exact GPS coordinates.

1. Tinkers Creek Cemetery

2. madison seminary, 3. lafayette hotel, 4. licking county historic jail, 5. ohio state reformatory, 6. eden park gazebo, 7. athens lunatic asylum – the ridges, 8. the victoria theatre, 9. lima tuberculosis hospital, 10. the spread eagle tavern, 11. beaver creek sate park, 12. anchorage mansion, 13. witches tower.

Valley View

haunted asylum ohio

Tinkers Creek Cemetery is located on top of a large hill in the middle of a field. The cemetery is well maintained, yet there is a strong sense of an eerie atmosphere.

This haunted cemetery is the final resting place of the Sauk Indian Chief Joc-O-Sot. He died in Europe from an old bullet wound and wanted to be buried in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

Hundreds of people have experienced hauntings here, including myself, who has captured children’s voices on a digital recorder. A young boy who appears at the lake before sunset has also been reported by visitors.

Below are various ghostly voices captured on a digital recorder that was not heard in person.

haunted asylum ohio

Madison Seminary is a historic building in Madison, Ohio that once served as a school, hospital, and housing for families of Civil War soldiers. Many people believe that the building is the most haunted place in Ohio.

Visitors report a wide variety of activities that range from footsteps in the empty hallways to knocking sounds. They also report feeling as though they are being watched. It’s common for visitors to capture angry female voices on the third floor in the attic, and child spirits in the map room.

One of the many teams investigating captured this crazed laughing during a visit. It’s not uncommon to get full vocal tone and whole sentences while on the property.

haunted asylum ohio

The Lafayette Hotel is a great choice for a night of ghost hunting. Its former owner, S. Durward Hoag, is said to haunt the hotel, but isn’t the only ghost that’s been sighted.

The Lafayette is also home to the Lady in Green, a ghost who was allegedly killed by a construction worker in 1930. Although she’s long gone, the ghostly apparition continues to hunt for her husband in the afterlife.

Visitors can take a Lafayette Ghost Tour, which takes them into areas of the hotel that are usually off-limits to the public. These include the boiler room and basement floor. There have been reports of two gentlemen, as well as a little boy.

If you’re looking for proof just spend the night. There’s a large book at the front desk with dozens of people’s names, their room numbers, and what they experienced.

I personally had something grab me just after 3am while I was in bed. The next morning I had a circular bruise my on my calf. We also captured a few voices on our recorders.

haunted asylum ohio

haunted asylum ohio

The Licking County Historic Jail is one of the most haunted places in Ohio. This old jail has received national attention as a haunted location. It has even been featured on the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures.

Visitors have reported hearing strange sounds, seeing apparitions, and feeling cold spots. They have also experienced loud banging and tapping noises. Some have even heard voices screaming and pleading for help. The dungeon is easily the most active area in the jail.

The prison is open for public and private tours.

The most common paranormal experience is banging and knocking which has been captured on video various times.

haunted asylum ohio

Ohio State Reformatory, also known as Mansfield Reformatory, was built between 1886 and 1910. It operated until 1990, when a United States Federal Court decision forced it to close. It’s dark past easily makes it one of the most haunted places in Ohio.

The Ohio State Reformatory is also home to the Escape From Blood Prison, a 45-minute spooky walk through the prison.

The tour takes place on Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to midnight, and on Sundays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Guests may purchase tickets online or at the venue.

The tour takes about 45 minutes, and the proceeds from the haunted event help to maintain the Reformatory.

Various teams of investigators have captured unknown angry voices and heard banging on the cell doors at night.

haunted asylum ohio

In 1927 Imogene Remus was gunned down in Eden Park by her enraged husband who didn’t want to wait for the divorce to finalize. Her husband was George Remus, known as the “Bootleg King” who amassed his fortune from booze running.

Little in terms of proof has been captured, but if you have evidence please let us know!

haunted asylum ohio

The Athens Lunatic Asylum was an operating mental institution that once treated patients who exhibited odd behavior. Though the hospital is no longer in use, its campus remains an important historical and cultural landmark.

Tours are offered by the Athens County Historical Society and Museum. Tours are conducted on selected dates during the fall and winter months. Paranormal investigators have documented haunted lights and disembodied voices in the former asylum buildings.

As one of the most haunted places in Ohio, it’s no surprise that so many people have captured voices and heard strange sounds. Below are a few disembodied voices from the asylum.

haunted asylum ohio

The history of the Victoria Theatre is filled with cryptic events, including a suicide that occurred on the stage. During a performance, a young man named Vicky walked off the stage, wedged a knife into the seat in front of him, and then threw himself on the seat.

This incident prompted the theater to be haunted, and the spirit of this young man has been seen by several people. Other ghostly happenings have included staff members hearing mysterious sounds and smells of roses. The ghostly presence of the theatre’s founder is also believed to haunt the venue.

haunted asylum ohio

The District Tuberculosis Hospital in Lima, Ohio, opened its doors in 1911. It was one of the first hospitals in Ohio to treat tuberculosis and helped start a 50-year battle against tuberculosis. In 1927-28, the hospital expanded and remodeled the building. 

 Visitors have reported seeing the ghostly figures of former patients in the basement. The hospital is not accessible to the public, and security guards often patrol the property. Visitors will be ticketed for trespassing.

You can read more about the location’s history here .

haunted asylum ohio

The Spread Eagle Tavern and Inn is an imposing building with a rich history of hauntings. Built in 1837, it’s a fine example of Federal Period architecture.

It was also a key stop for the Underground Railroad and is filled with period decor and furniture. Its five period-decorated rooms are named after US presidents, and the building is rumored to be haunted by several ghosts.

The ghosts of an eight-year-old girl, a former slave, and a former innkeeper are all said to haunt the establishment.

41.78585, -91.30821 Status: Semi-Abandoned

haunted asylum ohio

In Columbiana County, Ohio, a 2,722-acre public recreation area sits near the banks of Little Beaver Creek. In the park, you can see remnants of a historic canal. However, it’s not just a beautiful place to hike – it’s also haunted.

According to Chris Woodyard, a ghost investigator and author in Cincinnati, Beavercreek has several hauntings. One such haunt is the “Lusk’s Lock” in the Beaver Creek canal system. A dead worker has been reported to haunt the lock. Witnesses say they have seen him walking along the lock in his work clothes.

Another haunted place in Beaver Creek is the Peters Cartridge Company, which was built in 1916. The company produced ammunition and gunpowder during the Civil War. The ghosts of workers killed in accidents are believed to haunt the building. Some people have even reported hearing footsteps through the windows.

A third haunting is the Mushroom Lady, a ghostly woman who killed her lover with poison mushrooms in a stew. Her lover was never able to remove her wedding gown after the wedding, and when he returned to her home, she was dead.

We couldn’t find any concrete evidence of paranormal activity, but if you have some you’d like to share, we’d love to add it to our list.

haunted asylum ohio

The historic Anchorage Mansion is a haunted house located in Marietta, Ohio. This mansion is a former home to a prominent railroad, banking, and real estate magnate.

Douglas Putnam built the mansion for his wife Eliza. He commissioned it to look like a New England-style home, and it cost $60,000 to build. Today, the mansion is owned by the Washington County Historical Society, but many believe the ghost of the former owner of the mansion still haunts the property.

Although the mansion has been in the same location for more than a century, the hauntings are still present today. According to legend, the ghost of Eliza Putnam still walks in the bright tower of the mansion. The historic mansion is located on a hillside in Marietta, Ohio. The mansion is surrounded by smaller buildings.

I have visited this location myself and have captured some shy female spirits upstairs. While the building is creepy, nothing malicious crossed my path the night I visited.

Below the owner asks if the spirits going to turn the lights on again. Immediately after you hear a fermale say “turn them on” followed by the Oculus triggering in response to an EMF burst.

haunted asylum ohio

The Witches Tower is one of the most haunted places in Ohio. This lookout tower was built in the 1940’s and has a view of the surrounding area. There have been a number of cases where people have been jumped to their death or struck by lightning while on the tower.

The Tower is located near Dayton and is steeped in local lore. A woman who died in the tower has been rumored to haunt it. The building is sealed and crumbling, but many people have experienced strange apparitions and sightings while visiting.

Go out and explore!

That concludes our list of haunted places in Ohio, but there are plenty of other haunted locations located across the country.

If you’re having trouble finding haunted places be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Finding Abandoned Places , or explore other ghost towns across the country .

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America’s Most Haunted Asylums & Hospitals

Whilst there are all sorts of haunted houses, hotels, schools, and castles throughout America, none are quite as terrifying as haunted insane asylums and hospitals.

With horrifying histories packed full of abuse, torture, sickness, and death, it’s no wonder that these ten haunted asylums are some of the scariest locations in the world.

If you want to witness a ghost hunt at some of the nations’ most haunted locations then we have started offering overnight ghost hunts !

10. Old Tooele Hospital, Utah

Old Tooele Hospital, Utah

In 1897, Old Tooele Hospital started out as a family house. In 1913 it was transformed into what was known as the Country Poor House, where the elderly and those who had special needs were taken care of. By 1953, the building had changed once again into the Old Tooele Hospital which featured improved accommodation for patients, the added benefit of individual bathrooms and a dedicated morgue. Before it was closed down in 2001, the hospital made its name by being the filming spot for Stephen King’s The Stand.

Over the years, Old Tooele Hospital has been the site of a multitude of hauntings and various reports of paranormal activity. An Alzheimer patient known as Wes is said to haunt the hospital, with his favorite site being the room he was admitted to when he was alive. Many other ghostly characters have been sighted in the hospital, including a young child and Samuel F. Lee himself – the man who originally built the house for him and his family in 1897.

One of the most chilling reports at Old Tooele Hospital is the sound of a child’s voice uttering the words “Daddy, shot, sorry”. This is creepy enough on its own but gets even more alarming when you find out that the Utah Ghost Organisation claims these words come from the ghost of a child who was accidentally shot by his father!

9. Alton Mental Health Hospital, Illinois

Alton Mental Health Hospital, Illinois

Alton Mental Health Hospital is the only facility in this list which remains a functioning hospital to this day. Built in the early 1900s, this hospital is known for the harsh mistreatment of its patients, many of whom were subject to electrode shock therapy, lobotomies, and cold water treatments – all of which were standard everyday practice at this hospital.

Many people today – including staff, patients, and visitors – have reported hearing unusual noises, from doors randomly slamming shut to undecipherable whisperings. One of the creepiest reports comes from a nurse who was on duty and heard someone ask, “Who’s that?” She turned around to respond and discovered that there was no one there and no one had been in the building at the time. Later that day the exact same thing happened in the same place to a second nurse.

Since this facility is still a hospital today, tours are strictly forbidden, but people who have taken photos on site whilst visiting patients have reportedly caught images of orbs with the pained face of a human male on the front.

8. Danvers State Lunatic Asylum, Massachusetts

Danvers State Lunatic Asylum, Massachusetts

Often referred to today as “the Witches’ Castle on the Hill”, Danvers State Lunatic Asylum was built in 1878 on a site which was originally in Salem Village – the first actual location of the Salem Witch Trials in 1962. When it started out, Danvers was renowned for its modern treatments and superb patient care, but it wasn’t long before the asylum fell victim to lack of funding, overstaffing and over-population which caused it to deteriorate into something more akin to a concentration camp.

Between 1940 and 1950, the facility housed more than 2,000 patients in a building which was designed to house 600. Patients became haggard and ghostly, often left in complete isolation for days on end. Things were so bad that dead patients would go unnoticed for days, if not weeks. In 1992, Danvers State Lunatic Asylum was closed down, demolished and renovated into the set of apartments it is today.

Despite this haunted insane asylum being torn down and reconstructed as a different property, bizarre activity, and paranormal sightings still abound. Residents and visitors have recorded full body apparitions, flickering lights, the sound of unexplained footsteps and doors opening and closing on their own.

7. ByBerry Mental Hospital, Pennsylvania

ByBerry Mental Hospital, Pennsylvania

No.7 on our list of haunted mental asylums is ByBerry Mental Hospital. ByBerry Mental Hospital first opened its doors to the public in 1907, when it started off as a working farm for the mentally ill before it became a fully-fledged mental hospital in the 1920s. As more and more people were admitted to the hospital, ByBerry’s population significantly expanded which led to severe patient neglect and unbelievable levels of abuse.

Lack of funds left the hospital in a state of disrepair, with patients being forced to survive with no clothing, insufficient food and sewage-filled hallways for bedrooms. Padded cells, solitary confinement, regular beatings, electric shock treatments, restraining devices, and lobotomies were the norm. In 1990, state authorities closed down ByBerry Mental Hospital after a thorough investigation revealed inhumane living conditions, yet its dark past continues on to this day.

A myriad of horror stories surrounds this facility. After it closed, ByBerry Mental Hospital became inundated with vagrants, gangs, thieves, satanic cults and former visitors seeking shelter. One mentally-deranged and the brutally violent patient is said to reside in the miles of catacombs beneath the building, where he lies in wait with a large knife, eager to slit the throats of curious explorers unlucky enough to cross his path.

As well as this chilling legend, the hospital has also been the spot of several paranormal sounds and sightings, including human-like growling and physical scratches appearing on visitors bodies.

6. Rolling Hills Asylum, New York

Rolling Hills Asylum, New York

No.6 on our whirlwind tour of haunted mental institutions is Rolling Hills. Rolling Hills Asylum began life as the Genesee County Poor Farm in 1827 – a dumping ground for the outcasts of society. Here orphans and widows lived alongside the severely mentally handicapped and criminals – all of whom were known as inmates. There are more than 1,700 documented deaths, with hundreds more unclaimed bodies believed to be buried on site. In the 1950s, the poor farm was developed into the Old Country Home & Infirmary before it was transformed into a set of shops and later an antique mall.

What are the reports in this real haunted asylum? One of the strangest occurrences took place in 2007 when the Rolling Hills Case Manager, Suzie Yencer, was working on a public ghost hunt. The group was sat in a circle in the basement and as Suzie began to speak, a glow stick – the only form of light in the room – began to sway back-and-forth, a rocking horse started to move to-and-fro and several people saw a hand suddenly appear and reach for a ball.

The second-floor corridor on the east wing is commonly referred to as Shadow Hallway, due to the staggeringly high number of shadow figure sightings which walk through walls and crawl across the floor. A seven-foot-tall patient with gigantism is also commonly spotted in his room, where he spent most of his life alone.

5. Athens Lunatic Asylum, Ohio

Athens Lunatic Asylum, Ohio

Coming in at no.5 on our journey through the top old haunted insane asylums is The Athens Lunatic Asylum in Ohio. The Asylum opened at the beginning of 1874, specializing in the treatment of mentally and criminally insane patients who were admitted by the court or their own families. The facility originally started out as a calm and pleasant place where patients could relax and get better, but before long it became an overcrowded institution which relied on the cruel practices of electroshock therapies, ice water baths, and ice pick lobotomies.

The story of Margaret Schilling takes place in December 1978 and is just as chilling then as it is today. On this winter day, Margaret – a patient at Athens Lunatic Asylum – was playing hide and seek with the nurses who got distracted and forgot about her. In January 1979, her body was discovered by a maintenance worker. Today an imprint of her body, clothes, and hair are still clearly visible on the floor, even after decades of cleaning.

Patients who died without any family have buried anonymously at the asylum’s burial site which is reported to be haunted today. Instead of names, these gravestones display numbers, a practice which has resulted in a mass of unknown and unrecorded graves. Those who have been brave enough to explore the cemetery have reported a huge number of ghost sightings and unexplained screaming in the dead of night.

4. Essex Mountain Sanatorium, Essex County

Essex Mountain Sanatorium, Essex County

And the next location on our tour of America’s haunted abandoned mental hospitals is the Essex Mountain Sanatorium. The sanatorium began as the Newark City Home in 1873, a facility which was designed to serve as an orphanage, as well as to reform the local badly behaved children. After a devastating fire, the reconstruction of two new buildings and the decline in the number of girls sent to the facility, the dedicated female building was transformed into Essex Mountain Sanatorium in 1906 to care for tuberculosis patients.

Over the years, the hospital grew considerably to cater for the ever-increasing number of patients, until it was no longer in use by the 1970s. The vacant wards were used to take care of the overflow of mental patients from the nearby asylum before the sanatorium finally closed its doors in 1977.

Since it closed, many people have chosen to step foot on the grounds and explore the sanatorium for themselves. Some of the most common experiences include hearing footsteps running along the halls, seeing wheelchairs moving on their own, witnessing ghost-like faces appear at the windows, feeling a presence following you and – possibly the most terrifying of them all – hearing eerie voices shouting, “Get out!”

3. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia

Constructed between 1858 and 1881, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is up there with the scariest asylums in the world. It’s also the second largest in the world, originally designed to house up to 250 patients before it reached its peak in the 1950s when more than 2,400 people were crammed into the facility.

As the result of bizarre experimental treatments and severe neglect, thousands of people died here over the years. The physical deterioration of the building coupled with changes in the treatment of mental illness resulted in the closure of the asylum in 1994.

The reasons for being committed to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum were almost never-ending and included trivial things, such as falling from a horse or laziness to ridiculous matters, such as “imaginary female trouble” or desertion by husband up to serious cases, including murders and PSTD. This broad spectrum resulted in all sorts of mismatched patients being cooped up together, all with disastrous consequences.

Two decades since the asylum closed, the staff who work there claim that ghosts continue to roam the halls. The manager states that she once saw 40 doors suddenly slam shut simultaneously, whilst other visitors have witnessed a ghost boy stood in the corner of a room.

As well as sightings, whispers of forgotten patients have also been reported, on top of unusual smells, the sound of squeaking gurneys and screams coming from the electroshock room.

Without a doubt it’s one of the most haunted places in West Virginia .

2. Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Kentucky

Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Kentucky

Waverly Hills Sanatorium comes in at no.2. It started out as Waverly School in the late 1800s and evolved into a hospital in 1908, designed to safely accommodate between 40 and 50 tuberculosis patients. As the disease developed into an epidemic, the hospital was expanded to support at least 400 patients and was considered to be one of the best facilities at the time. In 1961, the hospital was closed down, following the discovery of a tuberculosis-curing antibiotic.

Today, Waverly Hills Sanatorium is known by many as “the most spiritually active place in the world”, with paranormal reports every single day. The terrifying reports surround the story of a nurse who hanged herself by a light bulb wire when she discovered she had become pregnant out of wedlock by the owner of the sanatorium. Many unusual sightings have also been spotted in the area known as the Death Tunnel, where dead bodies were disposed of away from the eyes of the living.

Various paranormal TV shows have spent time recording at Waverly Hills Sanatorium, including the cast of Most Haunted – one of whom had scratches inflicted upon their body during their visit.

1. Pennhurst Asylum, Pennsylvania

Image of the haunted Pennhurst Asylum in Pennsylvania

And lastly, the most haunted asylum on our list, Pennhurst Asylum in Pennsylvania. With a history riddled with strong accusations of neglect, abuse and torture combined with tales of mental patients being chained to the walls, children kept for years in cribs and even murders, it’s not surprising that Pennhurst Asylum is one of the scariest places in existence. The building was opened in 1908 as a state school for the physically and mentally disabled and covered 120 acres, housing more than 10,000 patients at any given time.

The facility was often accused of dehumanization and was reported to provide no help for the mentally challenged before finally being shut down in 1986, following several allegations of abuse by residents. When Pennhurst was closed, the buildings were abandoned as they were with patients’ belongings strewn about and medical equipment left to rot.

There are plenty haunted asylum stories emanating from this foreboding building. Several reputable ghost hunter groups have visited Pennhurst Asylum, where they documented spooky audio recordings, sudden changes in temperature and the unexplained movement of objects throughout the grounds. Spine-chilling recordings of voices exclaiming: “Go away!”, “I’ll kill you!” and “Why won’t you leave?” seem tame when compared to other reports which include various objects being hurled across the room, visitors being physically pushed and multiple EVPs.

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Lunatic Asylum 1885

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  1. The Haunted Ridges Insane Asylum , Athens Ohio

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  3. 10 Haunted Places in Ohio that will Scare you Out!

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  4. The Haunted Ridges Insane Asylum , Athens Ohio

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  1. A HAUNTED Jail In OHIO Paranormal Nightmare Tv

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  4. OHIO'S MOST HAUNTED JAIL 😱🫣 #paranormal #ghosthunting #ghosts #ghosthunter #paranormalinvestigation

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COMMENTS

  1. Haunted Athens Asylum for the Insane, Ohio

    The historic hospital got its start in 1867 when the Ohio Legislature appointed a commission to find a site for an asylum in southeastern Ohio. A suitable site was found in Athens, and Levi T. Scofield was chosen as the architect.

  2. This Creepy Asylum In Ohio Is Still Standing

    What was once the Athens Lunatic Asylum is now owned by Ohio University, but parts of the facility still hold shadows, stains and spirits of former mental patients who often suffered from violent treatments such as lobotomies.

  3. Tour The Ridges former insane asylum in Athens

    By Ashley Moor Oct 23, 2020 X For a few select nights in October, guests will be able to tour one of the most haunted buildings in the state of Ohio. The Southeast Ohio History Center, located in Athens, Ohio, will be offering historical tours of The Ridges, formerly known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, from now and throughout the end of October.

  4. Athens Lunatic Asylum

    The Athens Lunatic Asylum, now a mixed-use development known as The Ridges, was a Kirkbride Plan mental hospital operated in Athens, Ohio, from 1874 until 1993. During its operation, the hospital provided services to a variety of patients including Civil War veterans, children, and those declared mentally unwell.

  5. The Ridges Asylum: A Chilling Walk Through Ohio's Dark Past

    History of the Ridges. The Ridges Asylum, also known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, was built in 1874 in Athens, Ohio. The facility was designed to care for people with mental illnesses and was one of the first institutions of its kind in the state. The asylum was in operation for over 100 years and was in operation from 1874 until as recently ...

  6. Athens Lunatic Asylum (The Ridges)

    The Ridges from Athens, Ohio is one of the abandoned places that are said to be powerfully haunted. The Mental Medical Centre opened here on January 9th 1874 and it specialized in the treatment of criminally and mentally insane patients. It was then known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum.

  7. Madison Seminary: Haunted Ohio Asylum Open for Investigators

    Ohio's famously haunted Madison Seminary has history dating back to the Civil War, now known for ghost sightings it offers investigations and tours ... Over the following decades, the old complex served a variety of functions ranging from an extension of Cleveland State Hospital to county government offices. By the late 1980s, local officials ...

  8. The Legends Behind the 'Ghosts' of Athens

    (Jessica Jones/WOUB Public Media) The Legends Behind the 'Ghosts' of Athens By: Jessica Jones Posted on: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 < < Back to In the heart of all the legends and lore surrounding...

  9. The Lost Lady at the Haunted Athens Asylum, Ohio

    The Lost Lady at the Haunted Athens Asylum, Ohio. On December 2nd, 1978, alarms went off at the Athens Mental Health and Development Center, police arrived as the staff gathered to draw up a plan to find a missing patient, Margaret Shilling. It would be six long weeks in the grueling winter before she was found, her body frozen in the attic of ...

  10. The Athens Lunatic Asylum "The Ridges"

    The Athens Lunatic Asylum "The Ridges". December 25, 2023. Ohio, USA. In a city named Athens, in Ohio, you can find the former Athens Lunatic Asylum, which was built in 1868. Today, this huge building belongs to the Ohio University and offers space to the Kennedy Museum, an auditorium, an office, several classrooms, a storage facility and ...

  11. 14 Scary Places In Ohio That Will Terrify You

    1. The Ridges: The former Athens Lunatic Asylum sits close to the Ohio University campus where students and visitors alike often dare to explore the place known for several paranormal sightings and the beginning of the infamous lobotomy procedure. Justin Masterson/Flickr The Ridges are a fascinating contribution to the local landscape.

  12. The Athens Lunatic Asylum

    At its peak, the Athens Lunatic Asylum served fifteen Ohio counties. The Asylum's Patients The first patient treated at the hospital was a 14-year-old girl with epilepsy, which was considered to be caused by the possession of a demon. Epilepsy was a reason for admission in the early years of the asylum.

  13. Dayton State Hospital

    3 Cemetery 4 References History The Dayton State Hospital was first occupied September, 1855, with a capacity of 162, known as the Southern Ohio Lunatic Asylum.

  14. 11 Haunted Places In Ohio That Are Super Creepy

    Beaver Creek State Park, 12021 Echo Dell Rd, East Liverpool, OH 43920, USA Pat/Flickr Parts of Ohio's canal built in the early 1800s can be found throughout this park and two canal locks, in particular, are said to be haunted by ghosts of canal workers who died on the job. It's one of the scary places in Ohio.

  15. Athens Insane Asylum Cemetery

    Athens Insane Asylum Cemetery. The Ridges formerly known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum was a formal mental health hospital and it has a place were they buried the deceased patients. Locals say that there are two or three asylum cemeteries at the Ridges. Yet the most famous of them is the one located at the rear corner of the grounds of the asylum.

  16. Medina County Hauntings & Legends

    Hinckley Asylum - A negative energy surrounds the asylum deep in the woods near Whipps Ledges. Ghostly talking has been heard inside the building and some witnesses have reported seeing children peering out the windows. Hinckley Library - The town's library resides in a small old white house that was built in the 1840s.

  17. The Most Haunted Places Throughout the State of Ohio

    1. Ohio State Reformatory - Mansfield, OH Photo by Ian McKellar, via Flickr Also known as the Mansfield Reformatory, this historic prison first opened its doors in 1886 and ceased operation in 1990. According to Dead Ohio, the location was built to "humanely rehabilitate first-time offenders."

  18. Athens Lunatic Asylum (The Ridges)

    The Ridges from Athens, Ohio is one of the abandoned places that are said to be powerfully haunted. The Mental Medical Centre opened here on January 9th 1874 and it specialized in the treatment of criminally and mentally insane patients. It was then known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum.

  19. Haunted Ohio: Athens County Ohio Lunatic Insane Asylum

    #HauntedOhio,#AthensLunaticAsylum,#DocumentaryOn Sunday October 13, I traveled to Athens Ohio where one of the most Haunted places in America is located. I...

  20. Haunted Athens, Ohio

    Many mental institutions in the United States are said to be haunted and thus The Ridges from Athens, Ohio, is no exception to that. If you have ever watched a horror movie, you must have observed that these types of buildings are presented as hulking structures with lots of cobwebs and ghosts that are waiting and haunting at each corner.

  21. 13 Of The Most Haunted Places In Ohio [With Proof]

    Ohio State Reformatory 6. Eden Park Gazebo 7. Athens Lunatic Asylum - The Ridges 8. The Victoria Theatre 9. Lima Tuberculosis Hospital 10. The Spread Eagle Tavern 11. Beaver Creek Sate Park 12. Anchorage Mansion 13. Witches Tower 1. Tinkers Creek Cemetery Valley View History:

  22. The Most Haunted Asylums & Hospitals in America

    In 1992, Danvers State Lunatic Asylum was closed down, demolished and renovated into the set of apartments it is today. Despite this haunted insane asylum being torn down and reconstructed as a different property, bizarre activity, and paranormal sightings still abound.

  23. Lunatic Asylum 1885

    1. Lunatic Asylum 1885 Marker. Inscription. The language used to describe those considered mentally ill in the 1800s included words like lunatic, idiotic, insane, or epileptic. Modern interpretation of mental illness requires placing labels in historical context or understanding the reasons that influenced the ideas of the past.