ASSINIBOINE COMMUNITY COLLEGE

NORTH HILL CAMPUS

(Brandon Asylum for the Insane)(Brandon Mental Health Centre)

1035 1st Street North, Brandon, MB

(204) 725-8700

Status: Former Reform School; Former Psychiatric Institute; Community College

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Original Pre-Fire Asylum

Derek Gunnlaugson - Own work

Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts, built in 1923 as a Nurses' Residence


History

The original building was completed in 1890 and was intended to be a Boy’s Reform School for Manitoba and what was then referred to as the North West Territory.

There were 2 very immediate issues though; the blatant nepotism when the father of the Solicitor General was named the director and there was only 1 inmate and 8 staff.

When new boys needing to be sent to a reform school did not appear the whole institution became a rather large embarrassment for the government. Despite being completely inadequate for a large population the government changed the designation to an asylum for the mentally ill.

The 1 inmate in the reform school served out the remaining year in his sentence in the asylum; albeit housed away from the “lunatics” as they were referred to at that time.

Housing lunatics was much more lucrative than a reform school. As the population began to climb rapidly the building was enlarged in both 1893 and 1903 due to overcrowding.

One of the major issues with the institution was a completely inadequate water supply. There was barely enough for the building’s daily needs and nowhere near enough to handle any kind of emergency – even a small one.

This was to become a major problem in the near future.

Despite ongoing improvements – fire hydrants existed but were not hooked up to any supply of water – when disaster struck it was not enough. On the freezing cold night of November 4, 1910 a fire broke out in the asylum.

The official cause of the fire was electrical wiring but that is believed to be a cover up with the true cause being a patient playing with matches; which, of course, they were expressly forbidden to have.

Due to the lack of water, it was 90 minutes before the Brandon Fire Department even got water on the fire. The fireproof doors proved equally useless as the flames quickly moved to the roof where they were fueled by almost gale force winds.

Although this cannot be disproven this disaster seems to be another example of portraying Canadian history as shiny and happy where nothing bad ever happens; and if it does its just brushed under the carpet by the shiny, happy politicians.

Despite the fast moving out of control blaze it is historically reported that every single patient and staff member (approximately 700 people) got out with nary an injury much less a fatality.

A few patients went missing and 1 woman died of exposure – this is the only recorded death resulting from the entire incident.

The patient population was housed in the Winter Fair Building in Brandon while the institution was rebuilt on the same spot between 1910 and 1912.

The new 1912 asylum is now known as the Parkland Building. It was actually designed to house my mentally ill with up to date mechanical and electrical as well as a boiler housed in a separate building.

In the early 20th century, there was finally enough money available for mental health care and many new buildings built on the campus including a nurse’s residence, an acute care building – mostly for tuberculosis patients, new staff housing and state of the art laboratories.

The facility closed down in 1998 but the buildings remained in top condition and in 2009 the Assiniboine Community College and began to convert the site into their North Hill Campus.

 

Paranormal Activity

There are 2 cemeteries on site; the oldest containing people buried from the opening to 1925 – South Cemetery – and the second 1925 to close – North Cemetery. Most of the people buried in both cemeteries were represented only by markers with numbers on them; this had now been replaced by cairns with the names of the former patients interned.

It is difficult to near impossible to differentiate which cemetery witnesses are in when they witness the paranormal activity so we are combining the 2 together for reported activity.

Both cemeteries have been reported as giving off waves of eerie energy making witnesses very uneasy. Of course, this also could simply be the normal human reaction to a cemetery.

Sudden bright lights are often seen in both cemeteries that disappear just as quickly; often the light will blink in a pattern. Shadowy apparitions have been seen but always at a distance from the witness and partially faded into the surrounding background. Disembodied voices are commonly heard in both cemeteries including a little girl’s voice crying out for her father and a loud male voice yelling “go away”. Phantom laughter is also heard and often described as terrifying. Electrical disturbances including completely draining a car battery.

Other Activity: light anomalies and feelings of not being alone.

The limited number of reports, as well as the quality of said reports, cause the same issues with hauntings in the buildings as in the cemeteries. Namely, it is very difficult to say for sure which building the reported activity happened in.

The majority is thought to be from the Parkland as is built where the original asylum that burned down was, it was the original building of the 1912 asylum and it contained the morgue.

The former morgue area and the basements of many of the buildings are said to be the most active areas.

Reported Activity in the Buildings and on the Grounds: Apparitions of former patients and staff including a young woman who walks the halls of the Parkland Building but does seem to even be aware of the living; shadow figures; disembodied voices; unexplained sounds from loud bangs to whispers and heavy breathing; phantom footsteps; electrical disturbances; objects moving on their own; light anomalies and feelings of unease, not being alone and being watched.