Founded in 1866 this hospital was the first hospital in Kansas for the treatment of mental illnesses.
In March of 1863 2 County Commissioners were tasked with finding a suitable site for the building of a Kansas State Asylum. They were limited to Miami County in the vicinity of Osawatomie so it wasn't exactly a challenge.
Part of the original parcel of land was donated by the people of Osawatomie and the rest of was purchased by the State of Kansas. The original site was about 170 acres.
A farmhouse was the original asylum – with bars on the windows – and there were only 4 inmates (what patients were called in that time period). With 2 storeys and 8 rooms it was intended to hold 10 – 12 patients.
This final use of the house was as a polio isolation structure before being torn down.
When it opened on November 1, 1866 it was known as both the State Lunatic Asylum and the State Insane Asylum.
In 1868 Kansas came up with the funds to build a Kirkbride Building – a design by Thomas Kirkbride with administration in the center and 2 wings out of the central (one male; one female) with the most violent patients housed at the far end of the wings – on the site.
This massive building was constantly being built and expanded over the next 18 years with the patient population constantly expanding. As with other institutions in North American and Europe overcrowding was an ongoing issue.
In 1869 the main administration building was begun and called “The Old Main”. It provided offices, staff housing, a chapel, a kitchen and laundry facilities. A fire burned out the center of the building in 1880 and it was 18 years before it was completed.
In 1892 and 1895 the 2 Knapp buildings were constructed named after a previous superintendent of the facility. They were used for housing the incurable male patients.
Also, in 1895 the Adair Building was opened for housing the incurable female patients.
By 1900 the site had increased from 170 acres to 720 acres and numerous buildings had been built all over the campus.
In the early 20th century nurses were finally given a 2 year training course and female nurses were allowed to care of male patients.
Previous to this both the male and female attendants worked 16 hours a day for 19 days before getting one day off and sometimes responsible for over 100 patients each; plus they had absolutely no training.
Without training many of them feared the patients and kept them in restraints like straitjackets for days at a time.
Electrotherapeutics were also approved for patient treatment at this time; the pretty name for electro-shock therapy.
By 1945 the overcrowding in the asylum was so bad the ratio of doctors to patients was 1:854.
In 1905 the Asylum Bridge was built leading to a brick road that led to the eastern entrance of the asylum. It was abandoned in the 1970s but the bridge remains – albeit gated off – as well as pieces of the original brick road. For many of the patients this bridge was the last time they saw the outside world.
In the later half of the 20th century the invention of anti-psychotic drugs preceded the movement of many patients out of the giant asylum system and into group home settings. Many patients could now use prescribed medications to live a normal life and go home again.
The facility's population began to decline quickly.
In 2010 the State demolished the majority of the old buildings on the site including “Old Main” and the Kirkbride Building. There are still a few left like the infirmary which dates back to 1902 and remains abandoned on the site.
Osawatomie State Mental Hospital is now a state of the art facility in the treatment of the mentally ill. Facilities range from outpatient day programs to those confined to the facility by court order.
This facility is an operational mental health facility and access to the hospital and land is restricted.
The reports of the paranormal activity today are in the old buildings that still stand – some of which are part of the modern facility – and areas of the campus where the old buildings stood before being demolished.
Reported Activity: apparitions of former patients and staff have been reported throughout the campus; ghostly faces looking out of the empty windows of the old buildings: this was also reported in the buildings that have been demolished; touches, tugs and pulls by unseen entities; electrical disturbances; time and dimensional shifts; empathic sensations of sadness especially near the asylum bridge and the site of the Kirkbride Building; phantom footsteps in the old buildings; disembodied voices, screams and cries; unexplained sounds from faint whispers to loud bangs; light anomalies; mysterious mists; sudden temperature changes; unexplained smells like smoke, ozone and decomposing flesh; unexplained breezes and feelings of not being alone and being watched.
Removal of any material from the grounds is inadvisable as they are stories of people experiencing paranormal activity in their homes after removing souvenirs.