SOUTH CAROLINA LUNATIC ASYLUM

BABCOCK BUILDING

(The Babcock)

2110 Pickens Street, Columbia, SC

Status: Former Kirkbride Building on State Asylum Grounds; Formerly Abandoned; Being Repurposed into Luxury Apartments

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By <a href="//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:KLOTZ" title="User:KLOTZ">JERRYE &amp; ROY KLOTZ MD</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en">Own work</span>, CC BY-SA 3.0Link


History

This was the second building constructed on the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum campus for housing patients. The first being the Mills Building which is still use as a psychiatric hospital.

It was designed in the Kirkbride style – one side for males and the other for females with the most violent patients housed on the far ends - bat wings that stretched out from a central complex. It did differ slightly from the original Kirkbride design in that it did not have staggered blocks as that would prevented healthy ventilation in hot and humid southern climate and no patients were housed below the ground.

Construction was begun in 1858; although the first architect died before even the South Wing was completed. Another architect designed the North Wing and yet another designed the central unit.

Due to multiple designers, and the remodels done throughout the years, the building was somewhat mismatched in design regarding some interior designs like staircases, construction materials and flooring.

The building wasn’t completed until 1885; mostly due to funding and lack of materials during the Civil War. During the war itself the building was used both as a hospital for wounded soldiers and for housing Union POWs.

For its time the building was considered all but fire proof with modernized – for the time – gas lightning. The wings were used for patient housing and the central section – with it’s distinctive red 12-sided cupola that could be seen throughout the city – was used for administration, operating theaters and staff housing.

In 1916 dining rooms were constructed in the administration section.

This building housed patients until 1993 when it closed.

On the morning of September 12, 2020, a fire – which quickly became a 3 alarm blaze - broke out in the building. When it was finally put out the roof was completely destroyed and much of the 3 stories in the interior had been gutted. The famous cupola on the roof was also a complete loss.

This added tremendous cost to the developer who had bought the property with the plan of turning the building into 208 luxury apartments.

Interior construction and design continue but the first apartments were completed and ready for move-in in April of 2022.

 

Paranormal Activity

There are other buildings on this campus that are said to be haunted – many of which have been demolished now, but some still stand – but the Babcock Building is said to be, by far, the most active. The other buildings are used as offices and for the still open South Carolina State Hospital (Mill Building).

It is estimated approximately 30% of the patient population housed in this building ended their lives – by suicide, murder, accidents and natural causes – while living here.

It is too soon to know the effects of the remodel into apartments will have on the paranormal activity in the building. In the majority of cases the activity is either unaffected or actually increases.

When the building was still operating, and during the time it was abandoned, apparitions of former patients and staff were seen in the empty halls and rooms of the structure as well as looking out of the windows and wandering the grounds.

Apparitions of both Confederate and Union soldiers are also seen here with many still showing the grievous wounds that led to their deaths.

There are numerous accounts of being touched by unseen entities and at least one report of someone being bitten by something unseen while on site. Digging a little deeper reveals multiple reports of scratches and pushes by invisible entities as well.

The entire building was covered by a pallor of sadness and fear although, many people are reported this has dissipated with the renovations and redesign of the structure.

Disembodied voices are commonly reported in the once empty building as well as loud screams, laughter and crying.

Other Reported Activity: shadow figures; objects moving on their own; doors opening and closing on their own; time and dimensional slips and displacements; electrical disturbances; unexplained noises from loud bangs to scratches; light anomalies; misty forms and feelings of being watched and not being wanted.