Have you ever thought about using a mental hospital in your story? The reasons people were admitted to these institutions suggest many different story ideas. The cruel and inhuman way many of them were treated can also fill one’s head full of ideas about the patients, those who “cared” for them, and those who had these people admitted.
Many of these institutions are said to be haunted. The Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts and the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky are two such places. These two hospitals, no longer open for patients, are only open for tours. What happened behind these walls?
Research can be a lot of fun, and it can even suggest more story ideas to you. Delve into the histories of the following two mental institutions, and allow your muse to speak.
Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts
Medical science has come a long way. Think about how those thought to be mentally ill were treated. Electroshock therapy, lobotomies, and hydrotherapy were only some of treatments given. These treatments are now rightfully considered brutal.
Danvers State Hospital finally closed its doors to patients in 1992. Tours are given of the grounds, but no one is allowed inside this hospital that was built to hold only 600 patients but held way more of those supposed to be mentally ill. In the 1940s, it held over 2300 patients. Hundreds must have gone on to their afterlife here, so if ghosts really do exist, this is definitely a place they could be found.
The daughter of a previous hospital administrator grew up on the hospital grounds. She had a few frightening experiences that she still remembers, even though she is now close to sixty years old.
She and her sister were playing in the attic and saw the ghost of an older woman scowling at them. Too scared to move, they were still until their mother called for them to get downstairs. When this girl was older and in high school, one night the covers were yanked off her bed when she was the only one in the room. (I think I might have moved out on my own after that incident.)
Footsteps have been heard when no one else has been around, lights have mysteriously flickered off and on, doors have opened and shut, and people have reported seeing apparitions. Would you be willing to stay alone in this former hospital for just one night?
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky
This hospital was meant to care for 40 to 50 tuberculosis patients but housed over twice that number. A couple of nurses who worked there supposedly committed suicide, and I’m sure many of the patients died. Would this be enough to cause this place to be haunted?
One nurse is said to have jumped from a balcony. The reason is unknown. Could one of her former patients who died have come back to haunt her? Do you think she could possibly have mistreated any of those she cared for?
The other nurse is rumored to have hanged herself. She was unwed, found herself to be with child, and tried to self-abort the baby. Was she successful? I don’t know, but if her attempts at abortion attempt didn’t work, I’m sure the hanging took care of the obviously unwanted child.
In many horror books and movies, there are “shadows.” Shadow people or moving shadows are commonly seen here, but there haven’t been any reports of violent activity from them. Glowing orbs have been seen, and voices have been heard.
Have ghosts been sighted? Oh, yes. Some of the more common sightings are a young boy bouncing a ball, an elderly woman with chains around her wrists who is screaming for help, and a young girl with no eyes who likes to speak with people and play games with them.
You could write a story about one of the nurses who supposedly committed suicides. What drove her to do such a desperate thing? Was it because of something that she saw in the hospital?
What about the young girl with no eyes who speaks with people and likes to play games with them? What is her story? What is the story behind any of these ghosts that don’t want to leave the place where they died?
One of your main characters could be dared to spend a night in one of these deserted mental institutions. The character could meet one of the ghosts and find out the reason the place is being haunted.
Write a story that you would want to read. If you don’t enjoy it, chances are that no one else will either.