FORMER DANVERS STATE HOSPITAL

(State Lunatic Asylum at Danvers)(Bradlee Danvers)(Halstead Danvers)

1101 Kirkbride Drive, Danvers, MA

Status: Residential Complex

Official Danvers Hospital Website

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By Period photograph, Public Domain, Link


History

This hospital was built in 1874 at a cost 1.5 million dollars ($40.4 million in 2023) to alleviate the over crowding at the State’s other asylums. It was built on Hathorne Hill where the infamous Judge Hathorne from the Salem Witch Trials once lived. In fact, it is thought that the corn which was infected with mold causing hallucinations was also grown on this very hill. Eating the corn is one theory as to what caused people to see things and accuse their neighbors of being witches.

Danvers was once part of Salem.

There is also a legend that the Native Americans considered this hill a cursed area; although that cannot be substantiated by history.

Being the home of one of the worse judges in the witch trials and the possibility that infected corn was grown here the hill was generally avoided by the ancestors of the original European settlers. Building an insane asylum here only cemented the reputation.

Danvers was built using the Kirkbride Plan (a plan in which wings were built in both directions off of the central building making the hospital look rather like a bat from above – the most violent patients were housed at the end of the wings while the most complacent were housed the closest to the staff in the center building). It was considered the upmost in patient care at the time – restraints were not supposed to be used and the rooms had windows allowing views and ventilation.

At the time the site was chosen the hill was part of a farm belonging to the Dodge family; Mr Dodge was "convinced" to sell to the State. When completed the main building was 700,000 square feet and designed to house 450 patients. The locals referred to it as “the castle on the hill”.

The hospital first opened in May of 1878.

By the 1920s and 30s the original plans for the institution were all but abandoned. Overcrowding had become a serious issue with over 2,000 patients being housed in the building and treatments such as lobotomies, electro-shock therapy and strait jackets becoming the norm. The number of staff had not increased with the patient population and the general state of care went from good to bad to abysmal.

As an example, in 1939 the hospital’s population was 2,360 and 278 patients were listed as having died.

As the 20th Century continued the buildings began to fall apart and – despite administration’s desperate requests for money – the State did nothing to prevent the deterioration of both patient care and infrastructure.

Entire wards in the massive facility – over 40 buildings by the time it closed – were sealed off as patients began to be moved to other institutions. With the advent of more and more psychiatric and anti-psychotic drugs more patients were moved to halfway house and/or put back on the street.

Despite being put on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1984 the original Kirkbride Building was closed and sealed up in 1989 with the remaining patients moved to the nearby Bonner Medical Building. In 1992 the State completely closed the facility down for good. Many patients were simply put on the street and with no where else to go they returned to the grounds and lived in the empty buildings.

For 13 years the property remained abandoned until in 2005 Avalon Bay Development bought it. Their plan was a 12 million dollar development to turn it into condos. In 2007 a fire broke out for unknown reasons destroying most of the newly constructed buildings and the construction trailers. The fire was so huge it could be seen from Boston.

In 2008 construction was completed and the new tenants began to move in. Complaints started appearing on the internet soon afterward of badly constructed buildings and rent being raised quickly without explanation. There are also rumors of above average complaints of violent behavior including domestic abuse; and paranormal activity.

In 2014 the site sold for 108 million dollars to the DSF Group and renamed Halstead Danvers.

If are looking for a now historical experience of the original site before it was converted to condos watch the movie “Session 9” which takes place primarily on site – both inside and out – and provides the best visual record of a property now lost. The actors and crew have told many stories of strange and unexplained activity which got stranger and more disturbing as time went on. At least one actor thought seriously of quitting the movie due to his experiences. The movie was shot on site in 22 days due both to budget and the fact that everyone just wanted to get away from the abandoned asylum.

All that remains of the original property now is the front façade of the Kirkbride Building, several blocked tunnels, the cemetery, D wing and G wing.


Paranormal Activity

Every imaginable facet and level of paranormal activity has been recorded at this location. I will divide it into what was reported before and after the demolition and change to condos.

The tunnels – many of which still exist under the current developments – are said to be the most active on this site. Strangely enough the cemetery is the least haunted; there are no reports of paranormal activity in the cemetery.

You may also ask why – if this former asylum is so haunted – are there are so few photos of paranormal activity?? The main reason, security was very tight when it was abandoned – no less than 120 would be investigators were caught on site and charged (most minutes after entering the property).

Before

A child of the main administrator of the hospital lived in a house on site with her parents – she had the covers pulled off of her bed by an elderly scowling woman. She did not feel threatened by the ghost.

Apparitions of former patients, apparitions of former staff, shadow people, being touched, tugged and pushed by unseen forces, feelings of unease, intense sadness, fear, anger, physical illness, nausea, being watched, wanting to leave, not being wanted and not being alone, phantom smells, mysterious mists including some moving against the wind, cold spots, warm spots, unexplained sounds including – voices, laughter, foot steps, screams, weeping, something being dragged and banging, time slips, dimensional shifts, unexplained light phenomena, sudden movement in the peripheral vision, doors and windows opening and closing on their own, objects moving on their own, objects disappearing and reappearing, unexplained winds and breezes etc.

After

Cold spots, unexplained breezes, being touched, tugged and pulled by unseen forces, feelings of being watched, anger, sadness and not being alone, phantom smells, electrical disturbances, unexplained light phenomena, phantom voices and weeping, shadow people and unexplained mists.