(Anoka Asylum)

3301 North 7th Avenue, Anoka, MN

Status: Former Insane Asylum; Partially Abandoned; Partially Repurposed


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Originally known as the First State Asylum for the Insane this facility opened in 1900 with the arrival of it’s first inmates – yes, like prison – of 100 men from the St Peter Hospital (now known as St Peter Security Hospital).

This hospital was designed in the cottage style as designs for housing the mentally ill were moving from the giant Kirkbride style asylums to smaller buildings spread out over a large area as the 19th century closed and the 20th century began.

From the beginning this facility was focused on care rather than treatment. Most residents admitted would die as residents – only a small minority were ever released.

The first inmate buried in the nearby cemetery committed suicide by walking off the property and into the Rum River in June of the opening year. In the beginning escapes were common as there were no bars on the windows and no fences.

In the beginning there only 15 staff who worked 12 to 15 hours a day with most of them on call 24/7.

By 1920 there were 847 patients at the hospital – 561 of them were female.

Between the 1920’s and 1940’s were the dark ages for the institution. By 1926 the population broke the 1000 mark and stayed there for almost 3 decades. This was an attempt – by a number of Countries – to remove the so-called “feebleminded” and “insane” from the general population and stop them from polluting our gene pool.

A Country called Germany took this vile idea to it’s evil end in the 1930’s – 40’s.

By the 1940’s in this facility – and many others - overcrowding and low staff numbers had turned it into Hell on Earth. Patients filling the hallways, patients restrained for days or weeks at a time, unsanitary and filthy conditions etc.

In 1948 the State Governor allowed a reporter into the hospital to see the conditions. This led to the Governor – in 1949 – visiting the hospital and setting a pile of restraints on fire symbolically ending the horrid conditions.

At least that was the idea.

More staff were hired – and volunteers came in to help with the patients – but many problems still existed that burning restraints weren’t going to fix.

91 lobotomies were preformed in the hospital between 1952 and 1962; this was an accepted treatment at the time. Other treatments now considered inhumane like insulin shock, electro-shock and cold water therapy were also used at this time.

An escape where a patient beat an elderly lady to death in 1976 finally allowed the security to be upgraded.

In the 1990’s the State Hospital came to an end. All remaining patients were moved to the new Anoka Regional Treatment Center in 1999 leaving the old buildings locked and abandoned.

In 2017 the County leased 4 of the buildings and are using them to rehouse veterans that have been left homeless. There is also a prison on site; Anoka County Workhouse.


Paranormal Activity

No one has ever done an official paranormal investigation at this location. Neither the State nor the County will give permission to do so.

Reports of paranormal activity come from former staff and visitors for the most part.

The most common activity reported is the apparitions of former patients are seen looking out of the windows of the buildings. Probably because without access to the buildings that’s literally the only activity witnessed by the general public.

Feelings of intense unease – even anxiety – is felt in the hallways, and reportedly the underground tunnels, as well feeling as if you are not alone.

Phantom footsteps are reported in the tunnels that will stop for a moment or two before moving on. People believe these are from patients who try to use the tunnels to escape but ended up just getting lost in the maze. Many are reported as hanging themselves from the pipes choosing the final escape rather than be caught.

Other Reported Activity: disembodied voices; electrical disturbances; unexplained sounds such as loud bands, whispers and laughter; light anomalies and cold spots.