The Damned Story: Throughout its nearly 100-year history as a facility to treat the mentally troubled, Norwich State Hospital has seen more than its share of horrific suffering, traumatic events and senseless tragedies. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that the grounds are purported to be haunted by the tortured souls who were sent there seeking better health but instead found eternal pain.
The original facility was built in 1904 on 100 scenic acres along the Thames River on a site that apparently was an ancient Native American village. (Sound familiar?) Christened as the Norwich State Hospital for the Insane, it originally was comprised of two buildings for patients and a cottage for doctors. Over the decades, more building were added and the property was expanded; at its peak, the campus was over 470 acres and included over 30 buildings, many of which were connected by underground tunnels. The hospital's population started with a few dozen declared by the courts to be "criminally insane," but steadily grew to the point that at various times there were hundreds of patients (murderers, drug addicts, violent offenders, etc.) being "treated" here throughout most of the 20th century.
The first documented misfortune was a patient who hanged himself in 1914, but many more unfortunate deaths would follow. A hot water heater explosion in 1919 killed two employees; another employee was killed trying to cross the road; a nurse killed herself at her home; multiple patients died during their sentences or while undergoing treatment. Many more died shortly after release following a "successful" stay, usually in tragic or violent manners.
One of the most notorious buildings was Salmon Hall, which was the maximum-security facility and where some of the most dangerous residents were kept. One of the hospital's original buildings, it essentially became a prison with bars over the windows, steel doors and cell-like rooms. It was witness to many severe incarcerations and unpleasant events until it was shut down in 1971.
If the population at Norwich State Hospital wasn't troubled enough already, over the years there were numerous published reports and investigations into cruelties inflicted by the staff, including beatings, starvings, sexual abuses, overly harsh restraints, prolonged confinements and even the occasional patient being packed in ice! Not exactly an environment conducive for wellness.
Norwich State Hospital was officially closed as a treatment facility in 1996 and its remaining patients were transferred to other facilities around the state. Since then, the gorgeous grounds and former stately buildings have sat vacant as the state of Connecticut and the town of Preston have struggled to resolve what is to become of the property. Because of its desirable location on the Thames right across from Mohegan Sun, numerous developers have been interested in it, but despite proposals for everything from a movie studio to a residential and commercial complex, no actual deal has come to fruition. Apparently, the cost to clean up the property is a fairly significant stumbling block to eventual development.
As you might imagine, because of the numerous horrors and untimely deaths, many believe the property to be haunted. It seems an especially fertile spirit-hunting ground as essentially every kind of paranormal experience has been allegedly witnessed here, from reports of ghostly shapes and disembodied voices to foreboding feelings and EVPs. Oh, and plenty of spirit orbs and other unexplained mists/shapes have been recorded, also.
Among the numerous paranormal groups that have investigated the property, the Ghost Hunters visited there in May 2010, and recorded a few interesting experiences, including allegedly seeing various odd shadows, hearing multiple creepy noises and encountering objects that randomly moved. You can watch the episode on their website.
Last time we checked, after buying the site from the state for $1 -- yes, you read that correctly -- the town of Preston was attempting to find the funding necessary to start demolishing the buildings and cleaning up the grounds. Currently, the town seems to be leaning toward not developing the land and making it open space for everyone to enjoy.
For a well-researched and detailed history of Norwich State Hospital, check out Donald Carter's Connecticut's Seaside Ghosts.
Our Damned Experience: We visited Norwich State Hospital in April 2010, or should I say we attempted to visit. We drove on to the grounds, got out of our car and started taking pictures but within five minutes, two security guards appeared. As you might expect, they explained to us in no uncertain terms that trespassing is not allowed, and we were very politely asked to leave.
However, as the friendly guards told us -- and honestly, the security team couldn't have been nicer considering we were trespassing -- there was nothing preventing us from taking pictures from the road or from the commuter lot next door, as we did and you can see in the gallery below.
As you can tell from the images, the place is in complete disrepair. Dilapidated buildings are shuttered and nothing resembling maintenance has been done in ages. Overall, very creepy.
We didn't experience anything unusual, but then again, we weren't there long enough to have anything happen.
If You Go: The remaining buildings of the former Norwich State Hospital are at the junction of routes 2 and 12 in Preston, right on the banks of the Thames River directly across from Mohegan Sun Resort Casino.
Absolutely NO trespassing is allowed; the grounds are under constant surveillance and are actively guarded by a private security company hired by the town, and they will immediately escort you from the property as soon as you set foot there.
Unfortunately, you can't get in there anymore by faking crazy and being interred (a la Nellie Bly), which is probably not a bad thing.