Mansfield Training School, Mansfield

February, 2016 by Ray Bendici
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Courtesy of the National Register of Historic Places

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.

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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.

Courtesy of National Register of Historic Places

Paranormal groups 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. 

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.

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Comments

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Submitted by Pat Lynch (not verified) on
I started working for the Telephone Company (SNET) in 1966, MTS was one of the places I would work at through the years. I have been in almost every building and steam tunnel on campus. The mechanical step office was in the Basement of the New Administration Building. My mother and sister worked at MTS for many years, I knew about the place long before I worked there. It was an emotional place, patients locked into ( Day Rooms), mens and womans buildings, mens and ladies rooms that were completely open with no privacy. Sometimes we would have to work on the phones in the locked charges office, all glass looking out to the very disturbing open ladies of mens room, I will never forget the smell. Low grade patients don't make it the the bathroom all the time. The sex drive of some of these patients was very high, I would find condoms all over the place, a MTS security guard told me they would have to separate them when they had a dance. Yes a dance with men and women. There was a very pretty black woman in her late teens in one building, I asked one of the aids what her story was, I talked to her and she seemed normal. They said she was screwing half the guys in the North End of Hartford and her parents had to take her off the street.

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Submitted by lauren (not verified) on
UCONN is no doubt haunted. I’m a sophomore and I’ve been staying at Holcomb Residence Hall for two semesters now, and I have never had the experiences like I’ve had here–in my entire life. When I moved in here in the Fall of ’13, I loved it. Its an old building–the oldest on campus, I believe it was built in the 1920′s, and a lot of the wood work and framing is still the exact same as it was when it was built. It is a quiet part of campus, and I never suspected that anything had ever happened in the building until late November of this past year. It was during thanksgiving break and most of the building was vacant. There were maybe four (tops) people staying in the building. One morning, at about 7:30am, I woke up to a clicking noise on the outside of my dorm, and then a clicking on my dorm knob. When I opened my eyes, I saw a black mass float across my wall to the opposite side of the room. I felt so freaked out that I walked down the ladder (beds are bunk beds) and turned on my light. I walked over to the window and opened the blind and when I turned my head over, my lotion bottle was hanging from the bottom of my mattress by the pump, swinging like a pendulum. I grabbed my cell phone and filmed the remaining motions of the lotion bottle and left. I went downstairs and found the lady who manages the five buildings at east and asked her if anything ever happens in this building. I then told her what had just happened. She told me that Sprague and Holcomb are both haunted, and that two females had committed suicide in Holcomb and there is regular ‘ghost activity.’ (Two students have ended up leaving Holcomb in my building for similar reasons as what is happening in my dorm right now.)One of the females killed herself on the third floor, the other on the second. I am on the second–and I am almost certain that something happened in my room. I ended up sleeping in the student lounge during the rest of break, and now things have started to get worse. My perfume went missing Friday night and I opened a drawer that I NEVER open and it was placed in there. My roommate said she didn’t do it. Noises are common as I’ll hear my name being called or I’ll hear deep breathing. Its not uncommon for me to wake up to flicking under my mattress, but I have to say, last week I didn’t enjoy waking up to what felt like an imprint of something laying beside me. I have one video recording of the deep breathing, and several photos on my phone of apparitions, some of the faces are really clear. One is so clear that I can tell she is yelling at me. I don’t think I’ll be staying here next semester…

Submitted by Morris (not verified) on
I leave a leave a response each time I like a post on a site or if I have something to contribute to the conversation. It’s caused by the fire communicated in the post I looked at. And on this post Mansfield Training School, Mansfield. I was actually excited enough to write a comment :-) I do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay. Could it be just me or do a few of these remarks appear like they are coming from brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting at additional online sites, I’d like to keep up with you. Could you make a list every one of all your shared sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

Submitted by Anna (not verified) on
o the people who write on this forum, I have worked in the labs here. Also, I find the vandalism that has taken place very sad. The buildings are beautiful and historic. The university needs to clean up the mold and asbestos in these buildings as they promote severe health risks. Presently, the university is cleaning out the buildings. The police monitor all these blogs and patrol these areas because of the vandalism and the threat to safety. One officer that I chatted with wanted to see all these buildings torn down. In my opinion that would be horrible. I think the safest and historic buildings should be preserved. It is sad what happened to the former patients in any institution. Please do not put anyone down. Thank you.

Submitted by Lauren (not verified) on
Wow Lauren, that sounds a little disconcerting. I’ve had some para normal experiences in some of the houses I’ve lived in, but nothing quite as intense as that. I would live off campus next semester, if that is possible because it might get worse, or maybe you could change rooms.

Submitted by Richard (not verified) on
sorry Lauren, I mistakenly entered your name as the author in my comment above.

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on
I don't get why this article goes out of its way to say how good the staff at this place were. If the staff were good, it wouldn't have gotten shut down for abuse! I currently work for a company that operates 20 group homes for mentally disabled people in the eastern part of CT. A lot of our older clients came from the Mansfield Training School. I've heard horror stories from several of them, including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse that would make your skin crawl. Hearing these kinds of things from one person might mean they're rare, but unfortunately I've heard them from several of my clients. The abuse was widespread. And it's heartbreaking because my clients are wonderful people and it is absolutely awful to hear that they were abused by the people that were supposed to help them.

Submitted by Stephanie Carlson (not verified) on
First of all i loved the episode abt mansfield training school on paranormal witness. I havnt had the pleasure of seeing P.R.O.O.F. yet but i intend to :) Im not easy to make uneasy but this episode made me uncomfortably tense the whole time. It. Was. Awesome. This is all my own opinion but i wanted to contribute just the same: I agree with everyone who also wished there was more physical evidence on the atrocious events that allegedly happened there. But lets face it. There cant be much out there ...n if there is ..only miniscule scraps of it that will only leave us more curious. I definitely believe HORRIBLE things took place just based on the logic of the terms used in the name of the place itself. "Imbecile"." Feeble-minded" ...so cruel and demeaning. That is not a place anyone would willingly put themselves and rationally expect to be treated ethically especially back in those times...the terms seemed to be applied so loosely. This was not a place to find compassion...not saying every resident was harmed but there was bad treatment all the time whether it was out of cruelty or just ignorance...but i totally expect there to be some tension in the air..that place doesnt sound like a place where the patients were given a way to defend themselves...or anyone to listen to them...or believe them. I could rant all day infact im sure i already have about how strongly i believe that place is truly haunted. The study of mental health n how we perceive it has progressed...but ofcourse it has a past of foul treatment based on cruelty n ignorance. Im sure iv bored alot of u but it felt good to say something.thanks for reading

Submitted by ben (not verified) on
I drove by here tonight to check it out and noticed that there was no security or police. Do police regularly patrol every hour or so? Any information on the security patterns?

Submitted by Kacee (not verified) on
My mother worked here as a nurse for several years when it was open. The tales of abuse go beyond just a few incidences! According to here there was a group of navy guys who would come in on the premise of caring or the patients, while in reality they were raping male patients. Of course no one knew this was happening at the time in order to put a stop to it. While there were many caring staff member and patients were for the most part helped to create better lives there was still a good deal of psychological surgery (lobotomies, shock therapy etc..) and experimentation that went on, as with any State run mental hospital at the turn of the century and up until the 1940's-1950's. My mother's co-worker actually dated a man who lived in the Superintendent's house as well, and she reports having seen bones poorly buried in the basement of the house. There is a documentary about that I guess. I can provide names and contact info if the owners of this site email me.

Submitted by Pat Fedorshak (not verified) on
I was part of that PROOF investigation. AND I WILL NEVER FORGET MY EXPERIENCE!!!! I spent a night on the second floor. I had a VERY HARD TIME even looking up from the first to second floor. But spent the night up there in the name of investigation. I was sharing a full bed with AMANDA. Sometime in the early morning hours, I felt Amanda sit up. She was saying something in a low whispering voice " not her own"!! I was TERRIFIED, beyond ability to move!! She then laid back down I DID NOT SLEEP THE REST OF THAT NIGGT! This event WAS CAUGHT IN VIDEO!!! About 2 months after that night I had a heart attack/ stroke/ and on life support a week. Miraculously I recovered. Since I have NOT done any investigations. Many photos were taken the days there and around old buildings. Many apparitions spotted!!! Tunnels caved in. Joe be careful in your investigations, GOD BE WITH YOU! Love and likes Pat F.

Submitted by Gregory Cariglib (not verified) on
I live in Mansfield now. In 1969 my family moved from South Mansfield to STORRS. I was ten. The School was disparingly called "The Bughouse" and on Friday nights they showed movies in one of the many buildings. Patients sat in the lower theater while "visitors" watched from the balcony. The facilit was very much in use when my friends and I explored the facility as adolescents and again as teenagers. It was quite a scary place then. Many town residents worked there including my friends LARRY and TED, no last names because they told me some of the abuse the residents endured. Otherwise MTS received great accolades including many from the Kennedy family. President Kennedy's sister was mentally impaired so they considered the facility one of the BEST. A few years ago I saw the shoes on Cable about the haunted mansion on the property. IN fact my brother looked into buying it. The residence was beautiful but in need of repair. Eventually that family bought the home and started repairing the house. I drove by the home everyday on the way to work and watched the improvements being done. One day everything stopped. About a year later it seemed to start again. So I imagine during that time they had their paranormal experiences. Recently I drove through the entire campus (except the prison area) eventually ending my journey at the CREEPY hospital building, which was boarded up well so I couldn't get in if I wanted to... Which I didn't because as soon as I approached the building I felt as if I were being watched. I could hear noises and voices in the wind. The closer I got the more overcome I became with fear and dread. You can see into some of the windows where shadows and black shapes scurried across the floors. While I was there no one else was around or inside, after thirty minutes of frightening hell, the window on the third floor started breaking. From the inside out. I left !!! You can go there anytime but you can't go in. But you can see the boarded up windows that broke to pieces in front of me though they are now boarded up. I've always had perceptive abilities and this place scared me the most. I recommend every one go see it. !!!!

Submitted by Cheryl Belding (not verified) on
I worked at Mansfield training School from 1986 to 1989. I mainly worked 3rd shift and traveled thru out the school . There are certain areas there that I would not return to and decided it was in my best interest to keep strange things that I have seen or felt to myself . I will say that abuse or misconduct to the residence was NOT tolerated by most people working there but you always work with a few that needed to be removed. Also for you do some research into why some of the residents were placed there for the most shocking reasons. I am the type of person who has always been curious about ghost and the other side but manfield training school puts a whole different twist to curiousity

Submitted by Chelsie (not verified) on
Just wondering if it's worth my while to head out there. Trying to plan a group event and this sounds like a blast for around Halloween. Does anyone know if it's still open to the public?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I believe I am better qualified to speak about Mansfield because I was a "mental retardation aide III in Rogers, Johnstone, Sequin and Cambell hall's, (also one that's name escapes me), on third shift for over six years, and the PBX telephone switchboard operator for over two years. (Located in the administration building). I got three activity reports nightly from security and hourly from every building charge aide or nurse by phone. I never heard of or even heard hinted at, any paranormal activity. I would have noted it as I belonged to a paranornal research group at the time. The membership was composed of students from UConn and Eastern. Our whole group existance was investigating paranornal activity. I would think we would have heard of something right under our nose!

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