The Damned Story: Although there are thousands of state residents who have attended the University of Connecticut, very few are familiar with the story of the Depot Campus, and how it was formerly the Mansfield Training School. Or how the buildings belonging to the former mental hospital are believed by some to be haunted.
In a demonstration of how political correctness is a 21st-century invention, the Mansfield Training School originally started in 1860 as the "Connecticut School for Imbeciles," and was located in Lakeville. As hard as it is to believe, that name eventually offended someone, and in 1915 it was re-christened the "Connecticut Training School for Feebleminded." (Yeah, that's much better.) In 1917, it was merged with Connecticut Colony for Epileptics in Mansfield, where the new 350-acre campus was opened under the official banner of the Mansfield Training School and Hospital.
With its isolated location and bucolic setting, the Mansfield Training School was an ideal place to treat those afflicted with mental disorders. For the next 60 years it was home to residents who suffered from all sorts of mental afflictions. At the height of its use, it housed over 1,800 residents and featured over 50 buildings, most of which were devoted to patient treatment. It also had a small farm that provided occupational therapy for some of the epileptic patients in addition to food for the facility.
Sadly, like other hospitals that dealt with mental illness, there were allegations of poor conditions and abuse, although many, many more people were helped rather than hurt during their stays. Overall, the facility appeared to have a dedicated, caring staff and a good reputation.
After numerous lawsuits and concerns about the conditions, however, the Mansfield Training School was closed in 1993; patients were sent to more modern facilities and institutions throughout the state. A few of the most dilapidated buildings were demolished while others became part of the University of Connecticut as its Depot Campus. Another part of the original campus was annexed by the Bergin Correctional Center, a level-2 minimum security facility for male offenders.
In 1987, the Mansfield Training School was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Again, despite the mostly positive, caring work that went on here (and at other similar facilities), there seems to be a story or two of negative incidents, any one of which is enough to initiate stories of restless souls and troubled spirits.
Consequently, there have been reports of spirit mists and orbs here, as well as experiences involving unexplained voices, sounds and shapes. The building of the former Knight Hospital is one place where unexplained phenomena is still allegedly observed.
Paranormal groups, such as PROOF, have also investigated a few of the buildings, and claim to have found evidence confirming paranormal activity, for what it's worth.
Our Damned Experience: When we visited UConn's Ballard Institute of Puppetry in 2010, we mentioned that the museum was located in an old, seemingly abandoned area on the Depot Campus, which as it turns out, was part of the Mansfield Training School. So we were there without even realizing it!
As we mentioned when we visited, that area of the campus feels a bit like a forgotten part of the campus. Now we have a reason to go back and explore a bit!
If You Go: The grounds of the former Mansfield Training School are now part of UConn's Depot Campus on Route 44 in Storrs, and thus are open to the public. As mentioned, the Ballard Institute of Puppetry is here, in addition to the Center for Clean Energy Engineering, Human Resources, Community School of the Arts and Chaplin Cottage.
On the other side of Route 44 is the Bergin Correctional Center, which also features some of the former training school campus, although it's not exactly open to the public in the conventional sense.
On the UConn side, some of the old structures remain empty, and have been overgrown by weeds and ivy. Obviously, visitors are vigorously discouraged from entering these buildings.