HARRISBURG STATE HOSPITAL

(Pennsylvania State Lunatic Asylum)

Surrounded by South Circle Drive and North Circle Drive, Harrisburg, PA

Status: Former Psychiatric Hospital; Partially Repurposed; Partially Abandoned; Private Property

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History

The main “Kirkbride” building was constructed between 1848 and 1851 after an influx of $50,000 from the Commonwealth. It was the first public building to house the mentally ill in Pennsylvania and originally designed to hold 250 patients.

The dining rooms were removed from the main building and 2 more buildings – North and South Branch buildings – were added quickly to increase the number of patients. A 130 acre (53 hectare) farm was added to the campus providing self-sufficiency as well as work therapy for the patients.

The poor patients were charged $2.00 per week for care and between $3.00 to $10.00 a week for private care depending on the patient’s ability to pay.

As the 19th Century came to a close the hospital and State reached their goal of removing the mentally ill from the almhouses – poorhouses – and into the asylums.

As the 20th Century began – with the main building needing expensive repairs and upgrades – the hospital changed its name to Harrisburg State Hospital and adopted the Cottage Plan housing patients in many smaller buildings on a campus. The campus peaked at 1,000 acres (400 hectares) with over 70 buildings.

There was room for 2, 019 patients but at its top population the institute was caring for 2,441 with a further 440 on parole and off site. The campus was known as the “City on the Hill” became one of the city’s largest employers.

As the 1980’s – 90’s began the population of the hospital began to fall with the invention of the first anti-psychotic drugs and the beginnings of deinstitutionalization to group homes in the community. In 2006 the hospital was closed down completely.

Much of the former campus is now used by different government agencies with the entire campus up for sale. Apparently, Amazon almost reached a deal to buy it but the deal fell apart.

Entrance to the buildings – even the unused ones – is trespassing but tours have been given in the past. There were available on the hospital’s Facebook Page but the last one in June of 2021 was billed as the last one ever.

The movie "Girl Interrupted" was filmed here.

 

Paranormal Activity

The underground tunnel system and former morgue are said to be the 2 most active sites on the former campus.

Reported Activity:

Apparitions of former staff and patients; shadow figures; disembodied voices and loud screams; phantom footsteps; phantom sounds including crying, laughing and loud bangs, doors opening and closing on their own; electrical disturbances; unexplained mists; light anomalies; objects moving on their own; objects appearing out of nowhere; lights turning on and off on their own; shadows that follow you in the tunnels; unexplained blood stains appearing and disappearing in the former morgue and feelings of being watched and not being alone.