Abandoned Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane New York

Abandoned Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane New York

Updated photos from a 2018 explore of another building on-site at the bottom of page

Abandoned Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane New York is on the grounds of an active prison and the property is peppered with active buildings mixed in with many very old derelict and crumbling abandoned buildings.

Many of the patients admitted to the now Abandoned Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane New York died there and were buried in graves marked not with names, but by numbers.  In 2012 I took a day long road trip with this abandoned asylum on my list of places to visit.  I had no idea what to expect when I got here or what to look for once I made the over 4 hour drive.

This abandoned asylum, which opened in the last quarter of the 1800’s was setup to provide better treatment for those who were unable to care for them self.

Rather than being locked away in squalid conditions in an almshouse, this facility promised better care for those who could not “fit in” to every day society. Like all asylums, significant budget cuts lead to overcrowding & deplorable treatment of patients. Then, after a expose in the 1970’s by Geraldo Riveria, the wheels were set in motion to start the closing of this & all other facilities.

Today this particular building along with several on the grounds have been left to rot with significant structural damage. Although the history of this place is quite sad, the building itself was at one time quite beautiful & it’s sad that is now beyond repair.




When this Psychiatric Center closed in 1995, workers discovered hundreds of suitcases in the attic of an abandoned building. Many of them appeared untouched since their owners packed them decades earlier before entering the institution.

The suitcases and their contents bear witness to the rich, complex lives their owners lived prior to being committed. They speak about aspirations, accomplishments, community connections, but also about loss and isolation. From the clothing and personal objects left behind, we can gain some understanding of who these people were before they disappeared behind hospital walls. We can picture their jobs and careers, see them driving cars, playing sports, studying, writing, and traveling the world. We can imagine their families and friends. But we can also see their lives coming apart due to unemployment, the death of a loved one, loneliness, poverty, or some other catastrophic event.

The suitcases and the life stories of the people who owned them raise questions that are difficult to confront. Why were these people committed to this institution, and why did so many stay for so long? How were they treated? What was it like to spend years in a mental institution, shut away from a society that wanted to distance itself from people it considered insane? Why did most of these suitcase owners live out their days at this asylum? What about their friends and families? Are the circumstances today any better than they were for psychiatric patients during the first half of the 20th century?

 

Part One Video of this explore takes us along the main floor of this old abandoned asylum for the chronic insane.

 

Part TWO Video of this explore takes us to the upper and more dangerous floors of this old abandoned asylum for the chronic insane.

 




2018 Return to the Abandoned Insane Asylum

I first visited this facility in November 2012 and only managed to explore one building. In 2018 RiddimRyder Photography and I finally got back and explored this other larger building that neither of us had explored in 2012.

After a good few hours and some very questionable safety decisions we got the whole place covered and had a great time doing it!

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If you are going to make questionable safety decisions while exploring, be sure to only do that when you are exploring with a friend. RiddimRyder and I made a number of said questionable choices recently while exploring an abandoned mental asylum. We both know our limits and we both know when to go with our guts If we have learned anything in our time of exploring together it’s when one says no…the other one agrees and respects that. On this day, we both probably questioned eachothers decisions, but we went with it anyway!!!!

 

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A common sight that we observed in this very old abandoned mental institution.
Crumbled walls exposing decades old brick walls.
Vines, branches and leaves growing through windows and climbing up walls.
Slats of wood and bits of ceiling that have fallen to the floor.
And open holes in the floors where the floor and all contents have dropped down to the floor below or down into the basement tunnels.
We knew safety was our number one concern, so we stepped carefully and always told the other where we woud be. RiddimRyder and I carry walkie talkies for just this reason.
Another obstacle was security, since the department of justice perform hourly patrols around this building we had to stay clear of windows and always be on the lookout for the next patrol.
As we exited this building we had watched the patrol truck drive by and we made our run for it when the coast was clear. Within minutes of our exit the patrol truck came by again, but we were in the clear by then and safely made our way out!

 

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When you are exploring an old abandoned building such as this old asylum for the criminally insane, the rooms and scenes can get very repetitive and drab.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the long hallways and decaying rooms and peeling paint.
But it is always such a pleasant surprise and shock when you walk into a room and find colour, such as this room with four chairs nicely lined up against the wall, 2 green and 2 yellow.
This room was pleasing to our eyes and both RiddimRyder and I spent a good amount of time in this room shooting.

 

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How many of have read American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis? Or…at least maybe you’ve seen the movie?
The last line in the book is “This is not an exit”
Or, if you’ve seen the movie, the final scene is Patrick Bateman sitting in the restaraunt and the sign above his head reads “This is not an exit” as he says to himself “This confession, has meant nothing”
“This is not an exit”, to me meant that even though Bateman had just confessed all of his crimes, no one believed him. Were the crimes all in his head? Or did they really happen and no one believes him? If the crimes were all made up in his head, he is clearly suppering from psychosis and he can’t escape them. If he truly did perform all of those sadistic things, he is still psychotoc – either way, there is no way out!
I thought of that book, which I have read 4 times in my life and the irony of that book, Patrick Bateman and the fact that I am seeing this inside an Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

 

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A short and narrow hallway that connects two buildings at this abandoned Abandoned Asylum for the Chronic Insane
Here is an except from the wikipedia page of the asylum
“On Oct. 13,1869, a steamboat docked …and several men led a deformed, demented woman down the gangplank; Mary Rote, the asylum’s first patient, had been chained for 10 years without a bed and without clothing in a cell in the Columbia County almshouse.
Three more patients, males, arrived at the dock that day, all in irons, one “in what looked like a chicken crate, 3 1/2 feet square. Many of the early patients had been considered difficult and were “quieted” by regular flogging, dousing and “pulleying” (hanging by the thumbs) in the almshouses. Within days of their arrival at the new asylum, however, they were bathed, dressed, fed and, usually, resting quietly on the wards.”

 

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When RiddimRyder and I made our way into this old abandoned asylum, this was the first room that we walked into.
Walking into this sight, we knew we were in for an adventure and navigating the destruction, decay and dangerous obstacles was going to be a challenge.
As you can see, the ceiling in this room has almost entirely collapsed, full of sharp edges, rusty nails and sharp splinters, we had to plan every step.
This room however was not the worst, our biggest concern was the main hallways where the floors in some spots had dropped down to the basement, and even more dangerous were the upper level floors in some spots.

 

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These beauty salon hair dryers can be found all over the place in the multiple buildings of this abandoned asylum for the chronic insane.
I had to do some research on the term “Chronic Insane” to see what exactly that means…or meant.
Besides being a really awesome Death Metal band name, I was able to find this….
“Early mental health specialists differentiated between the acute insane–curable–and the chronic insane, for whom they felt little hope.
Alienists (Psychiatrists) believed that insanity was curable if it could be caught and treated early, and were eager to get patients into institutions as quickly as possible. The beautiful, elaborate institutions they supervised were specially constructed to jolt someone who had recently become insane from his or her mindset, and restore it to health.
Even though it was seldom cured, chronic insanity was still a problem society needed to address. Alienists argued that it was far cheaper to house the insane in large institutions that were nearly self-sustaining, than to throw them in prisons or poorhouses where there was little opportunity for them to help earn their keep.
Additionally, some chronic insane would be cured in an asylum, thus saving society the expense of housing them for a lifetime. Because of these arguments, several states built asylums specifically for their chronic insane.”

 

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Posting all of these pictures from the Abandond Asylum for the Chronic Insane has me wondering all kinds of things these last few weeks.
I read a book two years ago called “Brain on Fire”, it’s a 2012 New York Times Bestselling autobiography by New York Post writer Susannah Cahalan.
The wikipedia for the book states:
“The book is about Cahalan’s issues with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis and the process by which she was diagnosed with this form of encephalitis.
She wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the events of the previous month, during which time she would have violent episodes and delusions. Her eventual diagnosis is made more difficult by various physicians misdiagnosing her with several theories such as “partying too much” and schizoaffective disorder”
I remembered a few parts of the book where she was diagnosed as bipolar, schizophrenia and other mental issues. She spent a great deal of time in the psychiatric ward of a hospital under constant supervision.
She mentions in the book, after having realized her actual diagnosis…
“How many people throughout history suffered from my disease and others like it but went untreated? This question is made more pressing by the knowledge that even though the disease was discovered in 2007, some doctors I spoke to believe that it’s been around at least as long as humanity has.”
Makes you wonder over the past century and more, how many people have been misdiagnosed and tossed into a place like this to live out their lives??

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Abandoned Asylum for the Chronic Insane Staircase
This Abandoned Asylum for the Chronic Insane in New York is on the grounds of an active prison and the property is peppered with active buildings mixed in with many very old derelict and crumbling abandoned buildings.
Of the three buildings remaining this is the largest and you are looking at the main entry directly in the middle of the building.
The page on my website for this location is one of my most visited pages and is growing bigger and better with every photo and bit of info that I add.

 

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A lone yellow chair and ladder found just like this in a badly decaying room inside an abandoned asylum for the chronic insane.

 

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Why can’t you hear a psychiatrist using the bathroom? Because the “p” is silent.

 

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Abandoned Asylum for the Chronic Insane Lonely Chair
Natural light shines on a lonely chair in a patient room of an abandoned asylum for the chronic insane.

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Willard Asylum Cemetery

Exploring the Historic, Derelict and Tragic Willard Asylum Cemetery

5,776 patients, or inmates of the asylum are buried in a large plot of land only marked by numbers. The cemetery is divided up into sections for Jewish, New Protestant, New Catholic, Old Protestant, Old Catholic, etc.

Of the 5,776 inmates buried here over 1,500 of the graves were dug by one man, a patient named Lawrence Mocha. Lawrence is the only person in the cemetery who now has a name after the tireless efforts of a small group who are attempting to give names to the 5,776 numbers. Lawrence’s grave , Marker 45, row 2 is the only one with anything but a small number, as someone has placed a lantern at his grave.

You can read more about Lawrence and the group who are looking to give names to the numbers here:

Years ago, the graves were marked my spiked metal markers with numbers, but to make it easier for the groundskeepers to cut and maintain the lawn, they were replaced by small numbered concrete markers in the ground. In an area with trees you can still visit graves with the original spiked markers.

One whole side of the cemetery has not been maintained, so you are not able to find the markers since the grass has not been cut.

In another far corner of the cemetery the land is potted with small trenches and holes all in perfect lined formation where, assumingly, the caskets have given to the weight and the earth has dropped.

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Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane Cemetery, Inmate Grave Number 97.

 

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The handful of remaining spiked metal grave markers in the large cemetery for the now abandoned Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane,
The field is peppered with numbered grave markers as they dead were not identified upon burial.
Years ago the groundskeepers decided to get rid of the large spiked markers and replaced them with small surface level round concrete markers so that they could cut the grass without navigating around the metal markers.
These ones were left in place as they lay in a tree’d area where they won’t have to cut the grass.

7 thoughts on “Abandoned Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane New York

  1. I’m just curious if have you seen some ghosts events at the time you was there… =/
    Creepy creepy stuff

  2. So many eerie stories in this photo series but oh my gosh. ..my heart broke when I saw the birthing chair/gurny. Thanks for sharing.

  3. These are a stunning collection of photos. The one floor looked really dangerous and in fact was sinking dangerously. Thanks for this look at something long passed. Great shoot!

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