For the majority of the twentieth century, America’s mentally ill were institutionalized in asylums built according to the Kirkbride plan. At its inception, this system of treatment was thought of as revolutionary. Previously, mentally ill members of society were imprisoned, or locked away in their homes and cared for by their families. So the idea of hospitalization as opposed to outright imprisonment for the mentally ill was seen as absolutely humanitarian.
But very quickly into the history of the Kirkbride plan, things took a turn for the worst. Hospitals
became overcrowded. Resources became scarce. And patient abuses became increasingly more frequent. Mental hospitals went from being considered refuges of compassion and hope to dark places of despair and torment. One such place was the Buffalo Psychiatric Center in Buffalo, New York. Here the abuses were even more severe than at most hospitals. And the remains of this cursed place still stand as a reminder of how terribly things went wrong.
The facility built in Buffalo was unique even among Kirkbride hospitals. Instead of being located in a rural area, it was located only a few miles from downtown Buffalo. When the hospital opened in 1871, it was filled to its 300 person capacity. By the 1930s, things had gone horribly wrong––the hospital was home to over 3,000 patients. There was simply no time to treat every patient properly, and no room to adequately house them. Patients were left to sleep on top of each other in filthy, dank hallways. Some were even forced to sleep outdoors in cold Buffalo winters.
By the middle of the century, new drugs were being developed to treat mental illness. The asylum system was becoming obsolete. This, coupled with the
nadequacy of the hospital facilities and the patient abuses that happened time and time again, led to the hospital’s closure in the early 1970s. It still stands today, a testament to a great idea from an earlier time gone awry. Not surprisingly, rumors abound that the castle like structure is haunted by the ghosts of former patients who died there. They are said to roam the grounds frequently, and love most of all the tunnels that lay beneath the buildings, connecting them.
Photos by Shaun O’Boyle
You can read about all of New York’s other haunted hotspots and ghostly gathering places in Weird New York.