(Home for the Delinquents at Lakeland)(Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum)(Central Kentucky State Hospital)

E. P. Tom Sawyer State Park, Louisville, KY

Status: State Park; Demolished Asylum; Cave Not Open to the Public


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In 1869 the State of Kentucky bought a parcel of land to build a home for troubled youths near the growing city of Louisville. It was named Lakeland after a path that led to the front gates.

In 1900 the institution became an asylum for the mentally ill; a 192 bed facility. As with every other asylum in the early to mid 20th Century this hospital began to grow but not fast enough to keep up with its growing population. By the 1940’s the facility had double the patients it was built for and the rumors of mistreatment, abuse and deaths were rampant. Treatments such as cold water therapy, electroshock therapy and lobotomies were commonplace and it seemed that every other day a patient had escaped.

Escapes was where the so-called sauerkraut cave came in; it got its name because for many years it was used to age sauerkraut in barrels. It is thought the cave underneath the hospital provided many a patient the means to get off of the hospital grounds. The cave connects with a large system of caves spread out under the city of Louisville.

There is also a story telling of pregnant female patients giving birth in the cave – women who were not pregnant when admitted to the hospital and needed to be hidden away. It is possible the babies who were born in the cave may have never left it and been buried there.

In the 1970’s – as was the story of all the large asylums or State Hospitals of that time – the number of patients began to dwindle resulting in decreased funding. With the invention of anti-psychotics and other drugs life time stays in these large institutions were coming to an end. In 1986 the hospital closed its doors forever.

The huge building with its massive, easily recognized, twin steeples lay abandoned for many years becoming more and more dilapidated. In 1996/97 the hospital was finally torn down completely. The cave below, though, stayed and was open to the public as late as 2017 – it is now closed and considered a public safety issue.

There is a fenced off hospital cemetery nearby with upwards of 5000 people buried in it.


Paranormal Activity

The ghost of a large man with a beard is commonly seen. He is unfriendly – to say the very least – and has been recorded saying he will not let any of the other spirits in the cave leave.

Apparitions of other former patients have been seen in the cave and on the grounds surrounding it; meaning the former hospital grounds. Apparitions of former staff are still seen walking the former grounds as well.

Other activity: unexplained mists; light anomalies; feelings of not being wanted, being watched and being followed; empathic feelings of intense sadness, terror and loneliness; disembodied voices; phantom footsteps; unexplained noises such as crying, laughing and loud bangs; electrical disturbances; shadow figures and touches, tugs and pulls from unseen presences.

There are many who swear this is the most haunted site in the State. Even more so than Louisville’s much more famous Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium.