Haunted Historic Buildings: Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital, c.1851

In honor of the ever-approaching spooooooooky Halloween holiday, we’ve been highlighting haunted historic buildings (or historic buildings that by all rights should be haunted) for you to virtually explore so you don’t have to meet the ghosties face-to-face.

One of our recent blog posts was about the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia – the state’s first attempt at humane treatment of prisoners that opened in 1829.  After implementing Penitentiaries as prison management reform, the state then turned its eye towards reformation of the way the mentally ill were treated with the opening of the Harrisburg State Hospital in 1850.

Haunted Historic Buildings

The History Behind these Haunted Historic Buildings

Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital, as it was then called, was also built by architect John Haviland (who built Eastern State Penitentiary, another haunted historic building in Pennsylvania)  The cost for patient housing (paid for by families of the patients or the county in which they lived before admission to the hospital) was $2.50 per week and the facility used an adjoining 130-acre farm for work therapy and to grow food and provide other necessities for the hospital’s operation.

Originally, the hospital was a single structure that housed all administration, staff, and patients.  In the late 1800’s and very early 1900’s, the hospital was rebuilt in the increasingly popular “cottage plan” style.  At its peak, the facility had 70 buildings spread out over 1,000 acres and was completely self-sufficient with its own farm, power plant, and stores.  This “City on the Hill” as it became known, operated as a hospital facility for mentally ill patients until 2006 and has been housing various government administration offices since then.

The Hauntings

Since the closing of the insane asylum the place has been haunted. Noises, screams, shadows, apparitions, and footsteps have all been heard and seen within this place. The basement, morgue, and the tunnels underneath the basement are the areas of heightened supernatural interest.  Blood like stains are sometimes found on the floor of the exam room in the morgue and poltergeist activity runs rampant on the property.  Paranormal activities are reported by visitors, staff, maintenance crews, contractors working on the property, etc.

So rampant that the Everyday Paranormal and Ghost Lab television crew from Discovery Channel came to investigate the building for one of their episodes.  The Ghost Lab show explores haunted buildings, which are often haunted historic buildings.  For this episode, they explored a private residence in Arkansas and the Harrisburg State Hospital.

NOTE: The segment on the Harrisburg State Hospital starts at about 6:42 in the first video.

Readers beware: this is some spooky stuff, please watch at your discretion.