Sunday, October 16, 2016

7 Terrifying Stories from Notorious American Asylums by Harry Parsons

Danvers State Hospital – Period Photograph Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, dignified and effective treatment for the mentally ill hasn’t always been the American standard. In fact, many insane asylums were notorious for subjecting patients to procedures that would today be considered sketchy and unethical, at best. All things considered, it’s understandable that old asylums in general often come attached to rumors that they’re haunted or otherwise unsettling.

However, some asylums have earned a higher degree of notoriety than others, and with good reason. The following are just a few of the many that make a hypothetical stay at American Horror Story: Asylum’s Briarcliff Manor sound like a walk in the park.

1.      Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – Weston, West Virginia

The situation that eventually developed within the walls of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum started out as a result of drastic overcrowding. It was originally built to house a hard maximum of 250 patients. However, by the year 1949, there were well over 2000 patients living there, instead.

An eventual investigation conducted by The Charleston Gazette uncovered absolutely abominable conditions. Among the horrors discovered were extreme neglect in regards to hundreds of the patients, patients locked in cages, and procedures like lobotomies being performed with such inappropriate tools as ice picks. Unsurprisingly, the Trans-Allegheny saw tens of thousands of deaths before it finally closed in the 1990s. However, thrill seekers can still visit and even stay overnight if they are so inclined.

2.      Topeka State Hospital – Topeka, Kansas

Topeka State Hospital is just one of the many hospitals that saw patients being subjected to unspeakable cruelty with the intent to “cure” them of their ailments. However, there was a lot of abuse that went on there, as well. Many patients were raped and otherwise physically abused. Some were left permanently restrained with leather straps to the point where their skin began to grow over the restraints themselves.

The staff at this hospital was especially notorious for castrating a high number of the patients under care there. It started just after state law greenlit castration as an acceptable treatment for the hopelessly or criminally insane in 1931 – to the tune of 54 castrations. This is especially troubling when you consider the fact that quite of few of the hospital’s patients came attached to unknown identities and conditions.

3.      Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital – Morris Plains, New Jersey

Greystone started out with the intention to provide the mentally ill with a proper sanctuary and truly therapeutic treatment. However, it wasn’t long before overcrowding became a massive issue, as it was for many asylums. Greystone was built to house up to 1600 people, but at one point housed closer to 2500, instead.

What’s more, Greystone is another asylum that chose to implement sketchy, controversial treatment options in the past to treat multiple illnesses. Examples include but are not limited to electroshock therapy for the treatment of PTSD, insulin shock therapy, and more. The hospital is also connected to many stories of rape, mysterious death, suicide, and even the escape of a rapist.

Greystone is still in operation today, although the notorious practices are no longer in use there. Also, the state of New Jersey is currently planning to replace it with a smaller facility.

4.      Bloomingdale Insane Asylum – Morningside Heights, New York City

Today, the building that was once home to Bloomingdale Insane Asylum is Columbia University’s Buell Hall. However, it was once used to house (and rehabilitate) mentally ill patients of all types.

As you might guess, there were some unsavory practices at work, many of which were officially exposed by a journalist named Julius Chambers in the late 19th century. (He had himself committed to Bloomingdale for ten days.) Among other things, Chambers talked of patients being choked, kicked, hit, and otherwise abused until they bled freely. He also spoke of patients being driven to suicide (or close to it) by the sheer cruelty on the part of the staff.

Thankfully, his work yielded positive results. Not only were twelve of Bloomingdale’s patients released (as they were not insane), but the book he wrote about his experiences – A Mad World and Its People – paved the way for badly needed reforms as far as how the mentally ill are treated in America.

5.      Byberry Mental Hospital – Byberry, Pennsylvania

In operation from 1907 all the way to 1987, Byberry was described as containing wards reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps by one Charlie Lord, a former staff member at the hospital. Lord eventually took it upon himself to expose the conditions there with 36 grayscale photographs – images that would eventually be published by Life in 1946.

Among the circumstances documented by the photos were filthy living conditions that found many patients sleeping in their own bodily waste. Hundreds were allowed to roam the halls of the facility completely naked. Thankfully, this exposure led to not only the eventual closure of the facility, but also far-reaching reform as far as the conditions associated with mental health facilities.

6.      Danvers State Hospital – Danvers, Massachusetts

Danvers State Hospital is one of the many defunct mental institutions rumored to be heavily haunted by malicious spirits, and it’s not hard to understand why. To begin with, it was built on the very grounds that saw the notorious Salem Witch Trials centuries ago. It was also a place that saw unspeakable acts of human cruelty committed.

Patients were confined using straitjackets and uncomfortable leather restraints. They were also subjected to treatments considered today to be cruel and inhumane, including but not limited to lobotomies and electroshock therapy. The hospital was even used to shoot a horror film dealing with demonic infestation in asylums – Session 9.

7.      Overbrook Insane Asylum – Cedar Grove, New Jersey

At first glance, the building known as Overbrook Insane Asylum appears to be a beautiful, house-like building. However, like many notorious asylums, it saw untold horrors being committed within its walls.

To begin with, the patients were neglected to a horrifying extent. The year 1917 saw a total of 24 patients being allowed to freeze to death in their beds. The small facility also would become dangerously overcrowded after World War II and see nearly 150 patients go missing. Overbrook is another asylum said to be very haunted today. It was used as the set for the screen adaptation for Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ghostly Book Review: The Awakening by Sara Brooke

The Awakening by Sara Brooke is a paranormal romance that was given to me by my publisher.  It was the first romance I have read with a ghost as the romantic lead and that made it engaging.

Sara Redmane is a likeable woman.  She is a quiet, bookish girl who prefers to live in the worlds that exist in the pages of a novel to the real world.  Sara’s life is turned upside down when she goes to visit her friend Bobbie Trillo in Georgia.  Sara is immediately confronted by the visage of a strange man staring at her from a window that should be empty.  Sara tries to explain her vision away, but it becomes impossible to ignore the ghosts of Trillo House when they come to her that night.   Ms. Brooke’s novel unfolds from here delicately intertwining romance and mystery.  Ghosts and spirits thrive in Georgia and Sara is forced to confront both in her friend’s family house. 

The most engaging ghost in this story is the ghost of a mysterious and darkly handsome man who Sara feels herself drawn towards.  This ghost warns Sara that danger is lurking around every corner of the Trillo family house and that an evil is trying to destroy the Trillo family.   Sara is determined to save the family from this evil.

Ms. Brooke’s writing style is clear and steady as she guides  the reader deeper into the mystery at the heart of the haunted Trillo house.  Ms. Brooke’s novel is a little more romance driven than I usually read as I usually prefer ghosts and demons to true love, but the book is engaging and the romance is passionate.  I enjoyed this book immensely and would definitely suggest it for anyone who loves paranormal romance.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

REAL Ghosts: Caught on Film

Watching ghost videos on youtube is like sifting though a series of April Fools jokes searching for something that isn't a joke.  Most of them seem to be false or doctored in some way.  I enjoy watching them, but I am always very skeptical because it is so easy to alter photographs and video footage.  I would like to pay homage to one of my favorite youtube ghost compilations today, however,  This one is by Nuke Norway.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sharon's Ghost

A friend told me this story a long time ago.  The details have been obscured by my flawed memory but her emotions remain vivid.    She was terrified by the events she described to me.  I can't remember the specific roads she named or the city she lived in, but I remember the story and the look of horror that filled her face as she told her tale.

 My friend, Sharon, was a counselor where I worked.  She was older than most people that worked at the clinic with me.  Her hair was short and she wasn't a woman who was prone to dressing herself up or making herself any grander than she actually was.  Sharon was down to earth and there was an openness about her that was rare in any professional.  She told people the details of her personal life without much hesitation.  On first meeting her, she told me about her failed marriage and her troubled childhood.  She was an open book.

The only thing she was reluctant to talk about was this ghost story.  It terrified her and took her nine months to open up and trust me enough to tell me the details of the ghost that haunted her for two years.  After her marriage dissolved, Sharon found herself struggling financially and she had to move into an old house that had been in her family for generations.  It wasn't large or fancy.  The plumbing didn't work right and there was water damage, but she had a roof over her head and that was enough.  She would have been happy if she hadn't known the house's history.  She remembered stories of her great aunt who had lived and died in the house.  Her great aunt hadn't been a pleasant woman.  She had been the kind of country, southern woman who most people steered clear of.  She had some Native American blood and people in the small town she was from thought that she would curse them if they crossed her. 

Sharon was not happy about moving into her house.  Her great aunt had been creepy to say the least.   At first, Sharon ignored the noises that crept through her aunt's old  house.  She tried to ignore the noises and attributed them to old plumbing and leaky pipes.  When Sharon first heard a child crying at night, she thought it was her daughter.  She checked on her daughter all the time. She thought that she was crying and going back to sleep.  There was no reason to worry.  However, when her daughter began complaining about the crying in the night Sharon began to get worried.  She grew even more worried when her boyfriend complained about the crying when no one was home. 

Things got worse from here.  Shadows crept up on her when she was sleeping.  The crying grew worse and worse.  There was a cold spot in the middle of the house.  Something pulled her hair while she was sleeping.  Terror consumed her every moment.  She began asking more questions about her aunt and what had happened in the house.  Legends swirled around her aunt like smoke. Her aunt was a bad woman.  People said she had a disagreement with a little girl and the little girl had gone missing. 

Sharon began looking for a new place to live.   Just before they moved, Sharon went under the house to check the ever leaking plumbing and what she found sent her from the house without even packing her thing.  Buried in the mud beneath her house, was the skeleton of a little girl.     Sharon left the house and never went back.

Sharon hasn't told many people this story.  It is hard for even to repeat it.  She still fears her great aunt, even in death, even now that she has moved and the ghosts are gone.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

How Valentine's Day Started with Naked Ladies and Dead Animals

It is time for my annual Valentine's Day Post.  This is my favorite post of the year because Valentine's Days origins are so interesting.  I hope you all have a happy Valentine's Day!

My favorite thing about holidays are their bizarre origins.  Most of our modern celebrations have roots in old pagan traditions.  Valantine's Day is no different.  Its pagan roots are just more bizarre than most. They are so strange I like to write about them every year.  I know it is slightly off topic, but naked people being flogged with animal hides is worth discussing in any forum. Apparently the ancient roots of Valentine's Day begins with the Romans. The Romans celebrated Lupercalia from Feb. 13 to 15. In Roman mythology Lupercus was the equivalent of the Greek god Pan who was known to be a sexy sort of fellow who promoted fertility. His holiday was a somewhat romantic kind of celebration. During Lupercalia the men would sacrifice a goat and a dog and then whip women with the hides of the dead animals. The women would line up naked in order to be whipped. They did this because they believed this ritual would make them more fertile. Afterwards, there would be lottery in which men and women would be paired up for a night of naked fun.

I know, you are now wishing we still celebrated Valentine's day this way. Enough with the cheesy cards. Where are the dead animals, whippings, and naked people? It was the Catholic Church that ruined the fun. Emperor Claudius II killed two Valentine's in different years of February 14th. Both men were martyred and the day derives its name from these two martyred saints. In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I got confused and merged the two martyrs into one person and named February 14th after them. He also absorbed the romantic traditions of Lupercalia into the day in order to soften the pagan debauchery and retake the day for Christianity. Christianity has a long history of doing this type of thing. Christmas was taken from Roman Saturnalia traditions and Norse Yule traditions. By absorbing pagan holidays rather than forbidding them, ancient Christians were able to gain new followers rather than lose them.

Chaucer and Shakespeare can be credited with further romanticizing St. Valentine's day and turning it into the romantic, kissy holiday it is today, but I will always think back to better days when women ran naked through the streets being beaten with dead animals.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The House of the King of the Sun

There is a house at the end of the street in our neighborhood.  Most people don't know it exists.  It is hidden behind tall grass and old trees and has been abandoned for years.  It sits quietly in the shadows behind a black fence.  We wouldn't have known of its existence if it weren't for a fire four or five years ago.  The house caught on fire and fire trucks and sirens made us look for their origins.    The house had burnt a little.

Tonight, some friends and I went exploring.  We don't know much about the house.  One of my friends knew the builder of our neighborhood.  She claims that the house was owned by a man from India who abandoned it and moved to Europe.  The inside of the house tells a different tale.  The house is huge.  The front room has a strange mural on the ceiling with King of the Sun written on it in French.   Two identical rooms sit on either side of the front room.  Both rooms have massive fireplaces.  There is a dual staircase and the upstairs is chilling.  It is littered with children's toys and the center rooms of the second floor look like a daycare.  The doors are cut in half and there is a sink and mini kitchen for preparing food and changing diapers  The daycare rooms are lined with cute sayings for children like "daydream". Everything is rotten and decayed.  The windows are broken and vines are creeping in through the boarded up windows.  There is a master suite with a large fireplace and several other bedrooms.   One of the other bedrooms is slightly unnverving.  The dropdown attic is open in the closet and children's toys are spilled out in a mass on the floor.  In the attic, boxes of children's toys sit surrounded by children's clothing.

I have no idea about the real story of this house, but I can't help but feel it has something to do with a family that lost a child and just left.  The man who owned the house has been gone for over a decade but the house is now condemned.   He just left the house filled with children's toys and clothing and when you walk upstairs into that nursery, you know he left something else behind.  Something not quite alive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

GUEST BLOGGER AMY LANE: 4 Spine-Chilling Unsolved Occult Murders That Will Have You Sleeping With the Lights On

4 Spine-Chilling Unsolved Occult Murders That Will Have You Sleeping With The Lights On

The detached bungalow stood eerily still as two deputy sheriffs approached the Pensacola residence, late on the night of July 31st. Neighbors had described the family that lived inside as ‘reclusive’. But when 47-year-old, Richard Thomas Smith, failed to show up at work, his coworkers became concerned.

As officers approached the door, there was no sign of forced entry. But upon entering the Deerfield Drive residence, they came across a scene straight out of a horror movie.

The bodies of Richard Smith, his 49-year-old brother John Williams Smith, and his elderly mother, Voncile Smith had been brutally butchered. They had been attacked with a claw hammer, and their throats had been slashed. According to the police, the positioning of the bodies and unreleased details from the crime scene led them to believe that the murders were related to the occult.

“Initial research has led us to believe that there was a potential that it was a ritualistic killing… The elements of the case are odd at best.” said Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. "It is witchcraft, I'll say that right now," he added.

Although police claim to have a person of interest as a potential suspect, no arrests have been made. The talk of occult murders and witchcraft has Escambia County understandably rattled.

This isn’t the first time that crimes with links to the occult have taken place. Scarier still, some of them are still steeped in mystery. We explore some of the creepiest unsolved crimes with links to the occult.

Leroy Carter Jr.

In 1981, a 24-year-old man was murdered in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. He had been decapitated, with a chicken stuffed inside his corpse. A detective who was familiar with the occult believed that it was a ritual murder, related to the voodoo like practice of Palo Mayombe. She theorized that, if correct, the head would return to the same location in 42 days. Fellow officers scoffed at her claims, but sure enough, 42-days-later the head turned up at the scene of the murder. They never caught the killer.

West Memphis Three


In West Memphis, Arkansas, the butchered bodies of three local boys were found on the banks of a creek. The positioning and mutilation of the bodies lead the police to believe that it was part of a satanic ritual. Authorities and townsfolk quickly turned their attention on three local teenagers, who liked to wear black and listen to heavy metal music.
The teenagers were quickly accused of murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death. But there was no evidence to indicate that they were responsible. After they were found guilty, new DNA evidence disproved their involvement with the murders and they were freed after 18 years in prison. The real killer was never found.

Elisa Lam

What really happened to Elisa Lam? We’ll never know. We don’t even know the real cause of death. But the circumstances around the case are so scary, that the upcoming season of American Horror Story: Hotel is based around it.

21-year-old, Elisa Lam came to Los Angeles in 2013. She chose to stay at the infamous Cecil Hotel.

The history of the hotel had always been ominous. Since the hotel opened in 1927, it had been a central figure in dozens of ghost stories, with guests claiming to see paranormal activity inside the walls of the strange hotel. But who cares about ghosts when real life monsters live there too?

Satanist and serial killer, Richard Ramirez lived at the hotel while he terrorized the streets of Los Angeles in the mid eighties. It’s believed he murdered 13 people while staying at the hotel. Austrian serial killer, Jack Unterweger, also stayed at the hotel in 1991. He murdered three prostitutes during his stay. The serial killers weren’t the only stain on the Cecil Hotel’s history. During the 50s and 60s, it was a notorious suicide hotspot.
Caption: Alleged photograph of a ghost at the Cecil Hotel, taken by a guest

But nothing in the history of the Cecil Hotel was as terrifying as the incident that occurred in 2013. You might have thought it was an urban legend. Think again.

In February 2013, guests at the Cecil Hotel started to complain that the water tasted rotten. The color was off, and the smell was repulsive. A hotel employee went to investigate the water tank stationed on the roof. After climbing up a ladder, and removing the heavy door leading to the tank, he discovered why the water tasted so bad. The body of Elisa Lam had been decomposing in the water tower for 19 days. She was found naked, with her belongings floating beside her and covered in a ‘sand-like substance.’ There was no suicide note.

The door to the roof was locked and alarmed, raising questions about how she could get on the roof in the first place. Additionally, you needed a ladder and a strong arm to climb the tank and get inside. There was no ladder on the scene, and Elisa was 5.5ft and weighed only 121 lbs.

If you’re already feeling creeped out, don’t keep reading.

The case went viral after elevator footage from the hotel was released. It was the last time Elisa Lam would be seen alive. In the video, the elevator appears to malfunction and Elisa starts to act strange. At one point she peers around the corner as if someone is chasing her, and she hides from an entity that is never revealed.

As a final nail in the totally creepy coffin, Elisa’s phone was never recovered. But her Tumblr account mysteriously started to post images up to six months after she died. Images, like this one, which was retrieved from her Tumblr account:


Experts believe that she had set up her Tumblr posts automatically before her death. But it’s still creepy as hell. After postponing the official cause of death several times, it was officially ruled as an accident. That’s one freaky accident. We think we’ll avoid that hotel at all costs.

The Black Dahlia


On a brisk January morning in 1947, a local resident called Betty Bersinger walked through a vacant lot in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. She spotted what at first appeared be a discarded store mannequin. As Betty got closer, it became clear that she had stumbled upon one of the most horrific murders of the 20th Century.
Actress, Elizabeth Short, had been murdered. All of the blood from her body had been drained, and she had been completely severed at the waist. The killer had carved a smile on her face, and mutilated the body. Her cadaver had been arranged in such a way that led police to speculate that it was a ritual killing of some sort.

The killer’s identity was never discovered, although he contacted police to send some of Short’s belongings such as an address book.

Police never discovered what happened to Elizabeth, or how she had spent the week before her death where she appeared to drop off the radar. But they did have a tip as to where she was seen last. It was none other than the Cecil Hotel.

Do you think these unsolved crimes have roots in the occult, or is it just a coincidence?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Ten Most Haunted Asylums

Mental Hospitals and Asylums seem to draw ghost stories the way a light on a dark night draws bugs.  Ghost stories cling to them like moss and collect over time until the dead patients wandering the halls outnumber the living.   There is an irony to this.  These hospitals were built to be places of healing where the broken and lost could find sanctuary and solace, but these plans often go awry and accidents and apathy turn healing to hurt.  Tragedies linger in the shadows of these hospitals and collect like dust over time.

I have worked at several asylums during my career as a counselor and many times these places are not creepy.  They are places of healing and the staff fights the darkness with art therapy and recreational therapy and all the things mental health professionals do to make hospitals a place of healing.    However, sometimes the sad condition of the chronically mentally ill can’t be combated by these tools and bad things happen.  Things happen that are so bad, that evil seems to remain in the old hospitals.  It seeps into the foundations of the buildings and creeps up through the walls tainting everything inside.  Bad doctors and staff turn bad things into travesties and these hospitals become places of fear.  According to many, the ghosts cling to the emotions that are kept in the hospitals.   Across the nation, there are many hospitals that are considered to be haunted.   These hospitals have tragic histories and their stories can send chills down the spines of even the bravest souls.  Here are a few of my favorite haunted asylums:

1. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

This is considered by many to be the most haunted hospital in the United States.  This hospital was founded in Weston West Virginia in 1864 and was then called The Weston State Hospital.   The hospital had 250 beds and houses some of the sickest patients in the region.   Although the hospital was built to house only 250 patients, by 1950 overcrowding turned the hospital into something out of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the building housed as many as 2500 sick souls.  Even Charles Manson spent some time at this notorious hospital.   The hospital witnessed all the worst of the early treatments for mental illness and frontal lobotomies and water shock treatment were the mainstays of early treatment here.  However, the worst tragedies occurred when the patients hurt each other.  There were several patient to patient killings here and one nurse vanished only to have her body discovered under the stairs two years later.  Death became common place at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.  In 1994, the hospital was considered unusable and it was close.   Those that have visited this hospital say that they hear phantom noises throughout the hospital.  They hear ghostly screams and wails.  Full body apparitions have been seen wandering the hallways and strange noises come from the darkness.

2. Bryce Hospital for the Insane

Alabama Hospital for the Insane was designed to be a refuge for the mentally ill. Its architecture was designed based on the ideas of Dorothea Dix and Thomas Story Kirkbride. It was meant to be moral architecture that would contribute to the healing process within the hospital. The hospital opened in 1861 and for a while it held to the ideals of Dix and Kirkbride. The first superintendent, Peter Bryce, was an idealist and he had studied mental health in Europe. He believed that patients should be treated with respect kindness. He even abandoned the use of restraints. The hospital was later named for Bryce and it went on to be the model for progressive mental health care.
 Time quickly eroded Bryce' legacy, however. By 1967, there were more than 5200 patients residing in a facility that was never meant to hold that many. Observers described Bryce as a concentration camp and a model for human cruelty. In 1970, one patient named Wyatt started a class action law suit against the Alabama's other mental hospital, Searcy State Hospital. This lead to major change in the way the mentally ill were treated in Alabama. The number of beds was cut drastically and humane treatment of the mentally ill became an absolute necessity. The landmark Wyatt v. Stickney Case would change Bryce drastically. The lawsuit was brought on by a patient and set minimum standards of care of inpatient populations and would improve the treatment of the mentally ill drastically over time (

Old Bryce was the African American portion of Bryce Hospital and was notorious for being even crueler than its white counterpart. After Wyatt v. Stickey and desegregation, Old Bryce was shut down entirely and other buildings were used. The African American patients were integrated into the white population.

Old Bryce still sits quietly deserted, however, as a reminder to the old days when patients were held like prisoners with no rights. It is covered in graffiti and has been vandalized many times. It’s even been set on fire. Trespassing is forbidden here, but the curious have reported seeing all manner of horrors coming out of the dark around Old Bryce. Lights flicker on an off in the building that has no electricity. Phones ring in rooms with no phones. Phantom lights drift from room to room. Furniture moves on its own and footsteps echo through the abandoned hallways. The living patients may be gone, but many believe Old Bryce is still filled with the ghosts of those who once suffered in its walls.

3.  Norwich State Hospital for the Mentally Insane

Norwich Hospital for The Mentally Insane was built in 1904 in Preston, Connecticut and is known for the dark ghosts that live inside of it.  The Norwich Hospital was designed to house the worst of the criminally insane patients in the state and, until 1971, it did just that.  It was home to murders, rapists, and other violent offenders.  The hospital is situated on 900 acres of woodland and is utterly isolated and crumbling.  This façade has added to the horror stories that have built up around the violent people that lived within the hospital and has created a collection of ghost stories so large they could fill a book.  Suicides and murders fill the history of Norwich Hospital and those who have died there never seem to leave.  Witnesses describe hearing screams in the darkness Faces appear out of nowhere and strange mists and lights are seen in the halls.

4. Searcy State Hospital

Searcy State Hospital is located in the most Southern part of rural Alabama.  Prior to being a state hospital the old hospital has a long and dark history that is very difficult to find, but easy to see upon casual observation. The hospital is encased in long, chipped, white walls that seem as old as anything in the United States. From outside these walls, you can see a battered watchtower that gives testament to the fact that the hospital is in the same location as a 300 year old fort. The fort bears witness to American history and was originally a Spanish fort. It switched hands during the Louisiana Purchase and became a US fort. After the US took possession of the fort it was converted to a military arsenal and became known as the Mount Vernon Arsenal. The Arsenal switched hands again several times and was taken by the Confederates during the civil war only to be passed back over the United States again in 1862. From 1887 to 1894, The Arsenal became a Barracks and was used as a prison for the captured Apache people. The most famous of the Apache people to be held in these barracks was Geronimo. The infamous Aaron Burr was also held at this secluded prison at some point.

In 1900 the Barracks were transformed once again and the prison became a mental hospital. Searcy hospital was built as the African American mental hospital in Alabama. Conditions in the hospital were beyond questionable and at one time there were over 2000 patients in the crowded hospital and all were seen by one psychiatrist. All patients were expected to work in the fields.

The hospital was desegregated in 1969, but its history is all around it. The hospital is still used today, and although the residents live in new buildings, many tell stories of ghosts and devils that linger in the white walls and abandoned buildings that surround the new facilities. These stories are usually ignored, because the patients are crazy, but I’m not the only sane person who saw a few ghosts while they were working there.
Searcy served as the inspiration for my new novel, Circe. Its tragic history and haunted atmosphere serve as a backdrop to the chilling tale of a young intern slow decent into madness. If you would like to read more about Searcy, you can find my book at:

5.  Rolling Hills Asylum

Rolling Hills Asylum in East Bethany, New York, is one of the most haunting asylums in America. In 1827 it opened its doors  and was known as the Genessee County Poor Farm.  It provided housing for all manner of lost souls.  The poor, the blind and the mad were all kept here.  In the 1950's it was turned into the Old County Home and Infirmary. The property has had many owner since then.  It was an antique mall for a while and was finally bought by the Carlson's.  The Carlson's were the first to really describe the paranormal activity in Rolling Hills. The Carlson’s describe strange phenomena, with reports of disembodied voices, doors slamming and being held shut, footsteps, shadowy figures, and misty apparitions.

6. Pennhurst Asylum

Pennhurst Asylum had a long history of patient abuse and neglect.  The sorrows in the hospital had built up like a mountain on its steps.  Stories tell of patients that were chained up and children that were caged in cribs.  There are even rumors of patients being murdered here.

Pennhurst opened its doors in 1908 and was called The State School for the Mentally and Physically Handicapped.  At one time, it housed more that 10,000 patients that were poorly cared for and abused.  In 1986, the hospital was shut down due to allegations of patient mistreatment, but the ghosts of those who were hurt here seem to find no justice in this closure.   Stories of the haunting here include moving objects, hostile voices,  and ghosts pushing and touching those that dare enter Pennhurst's haunted halls.

7.  Danvers State Hospital

Danvers State Hospital was another asylum built with the best intentions and structured based on the theories of Thomas Story Kirkbride.  Like Bryce Hospital, Kirkbride's theories of compassion and advocacy only lasted a brief period of time in Danvers State Hospital and the hospital eventually succumbed to overcrowding and rampant patient abuse.

Danvers State Hospital is located in Massachusetts and served as the inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft's famous Arkham Asylum which eventually inspired the asylum in Batman. The building was used in the movie Session 9 and served as the inspiration for the game Painkiller.

By 1939,  Danvers housed 2,360 patients and was so crowded that patients were known to die and their bodies would go unnoticed for days.  Electroshock therapy was used as a means of regular punishment and a way to control the patients and treatment was lost in the need to keep the patient population under control.  Danvers was known as the birthplace of the prefrontal lobotomy and numerous patients had a small pick shoved up through their eye socket in this hellish procedure that severed the frontal portion of their brain.

Danvers was closed in 1992 and most of the hospital is gone now.  But the cemeteries, tunnels, and remains of this institution that inspired some of the darkest asylums in modern fiction still remain host to haunting stories.

8.  The Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry

Byberry was started as a small work camp for the mentally ill.  In 1936, the hospital was turned over to the state and named The Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry.  Like all of the hospitals on this list, conditions here gradually declined until they became deplorable and horrific.  Patient abuse and neglect were standard of care.  Photos documenting care at this hospital showed patients kept naked in hallways lined with feces.

In his 1948 book, The Shame of the States, Albert Deutsch described the horrid conditions he observed:

"As I passed through some of Byberry's wards, I was reminded of the pictures of the Nazi concentration camps. I entered a building swarming with naked humans herded like cattle and treated with less concern, pervaded by a fetid odor so heavy, so nauseating, that the stench seemed to have almost a physical existence of its own."

The hospital was closed in 1987 and eventually demolished, but the miles of tunnels that were built beneath the facility remain and stories of the horrific haunting in these tunnels will send chills down your spine.  On account says the ghost of a man with a knife still takes victims in these tunnels.

9.  Wernersville State Hospital

Wernersville State Hospital in Pennsylvania has a less horrific history than many of its predecessors.  However,  the ghost that is said to roam its hall is so terrifying room has to be made for it on the list.  The ghost of a headless orderly who died there is said to wander its halls.  Wernersville is still home to 185 patients and despite its ghost stories, is said to take good care of its patients.

10.   Peoria State Hospital

Peoria State Hospital has gone by many names.   The hospital was completed in 1902 and was then called The Illinois Hospital for the Incurably Insane.  It is also know as Bartonville State Hospital.   This haunting asylum was built based on a cottage system plan and had 33 buildings, a store, a power station and a community utility building.   More buildings were added over time and the grounds currently consist of 47 buildings.  The ghost that is said to haunt Peoria is named Manuel A. Bookbinder.  He is commonly called Old Book.  He is a patient who worked burying all the patients that died in the hospital until his own death.  According to local lore,  he cried for all the deceased he burred and that upon his own death over one hundred witnesses saw him crying at his funeral by an elm tree.  It is said his weeping can still be heard today.

True Shoals Ghost Stories: Volume 3

Come join me celebrate the release of Debra Glasses next book tonight!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Personal Post on Finding Time to Write.

I have been slow in writing on my blog lately, but I am getting ready to start writing weekly again.  I recently went through many comments on my old blog posts and published them.  I wanted to thank everyone for their wonderful comments that have augmented my stories and often added new light to the research I have done.  Your input is very appreciated.  Everyone's continued following of my blog despite my not finding time to write like I used to is also appreciated!

My slowness has been largely due to my focus on my day job.  I have taken a break from writing to open my own practice. You can learn more about it at:

I have been focusing on helping the community and giving back to others by opening a clinic that offers psychological, counseling, and medication management on a sliding scale basis so everyone has the opportunity to get the mental health care they need.  We even offer sessions over Skype.  Although this has been a long time dream of mine, it has essentially stopped my writing on this blog and in general.

However, the many amazing comments that I have gotten recently and the fact that my book, The Accidental Witch made the Kindle Best Seller List have encouraged by to find a way to juggle my clinic and my passion for writing and ghost stories.  Finding time to write has been my greatest struggle lately, but as I have also found much of my inspiration in other amazing writers.  I have been inspired to follow in their footsteps and prioritize writing and this blog.  I hope to hear more comments as I return to regular blogging!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Little Girl Who Saw A Ghost

A friend and coworker told me a story today that sent shivers down my spine.   She was driving through downtown Decatur with her daughter one day last week when her daughter said something more than a little odd.  The little girl is only five years old and was looking out the window at The Old State Bank when she asked, "Mommy, why was that lady in the black dress murdered?"

Of course, my friend asked the little girl what she was talking about.   The little girl responded by asking, "Can we quit talking about this now?"  My friend was disturbed by this little discussion but just kept on driving.  After this she did some research on Decatur to find out its haunted history.   According to the Alabama Paranormal Association, The Old State Bank is one of the most haunted places in Alabama.  According to them, the two most commonly seen ghosts at the Old State Bank are a weeping lady and a lady in black. 

My friend didn't know any of this when her daughter asked about the murdered woman in black.  She just knew it was creepy, but it is even more chilling knowing that her daughter saw a woman in black at the exact location of a place famously haunted by a woman in black.  Apparently the little girl did more than see the woman in black, she heard her as well.  She heard her well enough to know that she had been murdered. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Banshee in the Night

Some of the best ghost stories are the kind of stories you hear around campfires and before bed at night. They aren’t linked to a haunted place with a history that is confirmed or well researched. They are just stories told by people that have had encounters on lonely country roads or in bed at night. One of the best ghost stories I have been told recently was told by a woman whose husband comes home late at night. Every night he drives the same old country road home alone. A few weeks ago, he was driving home with three of his children in the back of the car. He was tired and so were they, but when they saw something that looked like a woman crouched over on the side of the road they slowed down to try to help her. When they pulled up next the woman they could see her more clearly. The woman was crouched down in the fetal position and was all skin and bones and completely nude. This made the family very concerned that she might have been hurt or injured. The teenage son opened the door and the woman turned. At this point, he slammed the door shut. The woman’s face was not human. It was humanish but was twisted and distorted and she opened her mouth into a terrifying wail. The family sped away as quickly as they could. Upon arrival at home, the woman’s daughter ran to her crying. The family relayed the story to her tearfully. They were clearly very scared, but the woman couldn’t entirely believe it. She thought that maybe shadows and fatigue had played tricks on them. She was worried that an injured woman might have been left on the road so she got in her truck and went looking for her. She drove up and down the road for a while until she saw the figure. She didn’t slow down, the very sight of the hunched over, skeletal form sent a chill down her spine that she could feel in her very soul. The thing was clearly not human. She sped away and held her family close. They haven’t seen the creature they now call the banshee again, but they always look and they never forget that lonely night.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The White Cat and The Ouijia Board

I haven't written in a while.  I was promoted at my day job in November and supervising a team of therapists has proven to be much harder than just being a therapist.  Working ten hours a day is more haunting than any ghost and living people's emotional problems are far more consuming than any phantom tragedy I know. I have missed writing here and when I heard this story I knew it was time to pull myself away from life and write a story.  It is also my goal to have at least one story a week on this blog from now on.

This story was brought to me by a gentleman who read my commentary on Ouijia Boards.  He read my story and told me about a night that he decided to be a little wild and try to summon the dead.  He and a group of friends thought that it was a brilliant idea to take the Ouijia Board to a cemetery at midnight because they believed they would be able to contact more spirits this way.  Of course, what they didn't know was that trouble can come from summoning spirits in such an open place.  According to Voodoo and Hoodoo folklore, going to a cemetery at midnight without salt for protection can lead to trouble. 

The young men were a little drunk and set about attempting to contact the spirits.  When they first put their hands on the planchette, a white cat leapt onto the board.  The young men shoed the cat away.  They were a bit perturbed about the incident but they kept going and the cat jumped on them again.  They threw the cat away a second time.  After the third time the cat jumped on them, they gave up and went home.  It was only later that it occurred to this man that the cat might have had some meaning.  Reasearch into Chinese and Egyptian folklore shows that cats are said to drive away evil spirits.   The man researched the event and after learning the significance of the cat now believes the cat was protecting him from the dark spirits that were summoned by his nocturnal wanderings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Ouija Board: Good or Bad?

I watched the movie Ouija this weekend.  It wasn't a particularly wonderful movie.  It was one of those movies driven by the utter stupidity of the protagonist.  I did enjoy it, however.  It also made me think about the Ouija Board and its history.

The Ouija Board was first created during the spiritualist movement of the late nineteenth century.  It was designed as a tool to help communication with spirits.  Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard were the first to patent the device.   In 1966, the device's patent was sold to Parker Brother's who still own it.   Ever since its creation the Ouija Board has been controversial.  The most famous case of demonic activity with Ouija Board was the case that was later the inspiration for a book The Exorcist.  I've blogged about this case before.   A little boy named Robbie and his aunt attempted to contact a deceased relative and the resulting demon possession was legendary.

I remember my first experience with the Ouija Board was fairly typical.  I was at a slumber party and one of the girl's brought out the board.  We all took turns asking questions.  I can't remember them all.  They were mundane girly questions like "will Billy Bob ask me to the dance,"  or "Will I be a doctor when I grow up."   At the end,  the girl who brought the board out told the spirit thank you and said that she would give it all her Halloween candy as a way of saying thank you for all its help.   She put her bucket of Halloween candy by the board and we went upstairs to play light as a feather stiff as a board.  When we returned,  all the candy was gone.  The wrappers were still there.  They were still  sealed, but the candy was gone.  I'll admit,  this could be some kind of slumber party prank, but I don't know how this girl, who was pretty clueless pulled it off.

Almost everyone you talk to has a Ouija board story and almost all of them are bad.  Mine was quiet and stupid, but almost everyone I talk to about the board agrees that it opens doors that shouldn't be opened.   My grandmother passed away recently,  which had lead to much contemplation on her life.   She was a woman who always dabbled in the supernatural and believed firmly in ghosts.  In fact,  she had a relationship with a ghost named Alonk that lasted years via the Ouija Board.  She forced my mother and her sister to help her continue this relationship.  Alonk told her he loved and sent her love stories.   It really creeped my mother out, although my aunt grew fond of Alonk.

There are a million Ouija Board stories.   One local story, involves a teen that used the board regularly.  One night the sofa he stored the board under burst into flames,  burning down the entire apartment complex he lived in.    Another story I found in a book, describes a young man's interaction with a spirit via the board.  During this interaction, the spirit said the board was specifically designed to communicate with those in hell.  Only spirits that had been damned could be contacted using the board.

I have heard a few good stories about the board.   One woman at a paranormal meeting I went to said she talked with a playful girl spirit that had lived in her house before her.  She said the interaction was positive and helped bring peace to herself and her daughter who had been afraid of the ghost before the conversation via the board. I know that some people must be having positive experiences with the board, because it still sells very well.  There is even an online version of the game now that allows you to play alone using your mouse.   However,  the overwhelming bulk of the stories are terrifying.   Which brings me to the question.  Is the Ouija Board a gateway only to evil or can it be used for good?  Are people being swayed by the abundance of negative stories or are there any possible good uses for this tool?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Vintage Halloween Postcards

I have been doing this blog for some time now and I noticed that every Halloween I do a series of Halloween posts that feature vintage Halloween postcards as the image.  I love vintage Halloween postcards.  They speak of the history of my favorite Holiday and breath an old magic into the spirit of the Holiday.   Here are a few of the postcards I have featured in my past posts.  I hope they bring the same magic to your Halloween as they've brought to mine.