(St Louis City Insane Asylum)(City Sanatorium)(St Louis State Hospital)

5300 Arsenal Street, St Louis, MO

Status: Former Asylum; Government Offices; Partially Demolished; Address Given is for the Modern Psychiatric Facility Next Door


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Construction began on this grand building at the highest point in St Louis in August of 1864. On April 23, 1869 the asylum opened their doors to first 150 mentally ill patients.

The site also contained 2 Poor Houses, an orphanage and a Hospital for Social Evils which seems to have been an early attempt at a Hospital for the Criminally Insane – commonly called Forensic Psychiatric Institutions now.

An Isolation Hospital was added later for those with contagious diseases.

Historically, 1869 was the only time the asylum had as many patients as it was designed for. Like every other psychiatric facility in the late 19th and early 20th centuries overcrowding and being understaffed became major problems. As soon as 1890 there was 250 patients.

In 1907 construction began on the new wings – which have since been demolished – and the facility began to take more of a Kirkbridge design. Administration in the center with 2 wings – 1 male, 1 female – and the most violent patients put the furthest in the wing; furthest away from administration. The hospital then had room for 2,000 patients.

In the early 1920’s another population explosion led to a new building being constructed for attendants’ living space which opened up part of the main building for more patients. However, by 1940 the facility population was at 3,844 patients and over crowded again.

In 1948 the asylum, which had already been transferred from St Louis County to St Louis City, was sold by the city to the State of Missouri for the grand sum of $1. The name was changed to the St Louis State Hospital at this time.

In the 1960’s the Louis H Kohler Building was constructed with 4 floors complete with its own wings and then quickly expanded to include 6 floors. The Missouri Mental Health Office moved into the building along with the patients.

As the 1980’s began, attitudes toward mental illness began to change. The creation of anti-psychotic drugs allowed patients with conditions that had always led them to be institutionalized for life to live and function in society.

The large asylums fell into disfavor and lost most of their funding as patients were moved in group homes or reintroduced to society. All of this led to a huge decrease of patient populations for the first time in the history of the institutions.

In the early 1990’s the East Wing of the main building was demolished. In 1997 a new facility called the St Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center composed of 4 wards and 14 cottages with housing for 212 patients opened behind the original main building. The remaining patients were either moved to the new facility or back into society.

This resulted in the west wing of the main building and the Kohler Building being demolished. The hospital was now the same as original building that was opened in 1869; albeit with no patients living there. Some State Government agencies have offices in the building but large parts of it remain empty.

The building is not accessible to the public.


Paranormal Activity

Apparitions of former patients and staff; shadow figures and movement in the windows of the mostly abandoned building; possession by former patients; pushes, tugs and touches by unseen presences.

Disembodied voices including entire conversations and having your name called out; phantom noises including stretchers and wheel chairs being moved, bangs, scrapes, scratches and screams – there are reports of unexplained noises not only coming from the remaining building but also from areas where buildings used to stand; warm and cold spots; time slips; poltergeist activity including doors and windows opening and closing on their own.

Light anomalies, unexplained fogs and mists - some traveling against the air flow; feelings of not being alone, being watched – especially from the building’s empty windows, not being wanted and of being followed; empathic feelings of fear, loneliness, anger, hopelessness, sadness, being trapped and hatred; unexplained phantom smells and electrical disturbances.