The Damned Story: Opened in 1931 to help alleviate the overcrowding at other state mental hospitals, Fairfield Hills housed “mentally ill” (aka “the criminally insane”) patients from across the state. Built on over 770 bucolic acres, the 16 buildings—all connected by underground tunnels—were home to over 4,000 patients when filled to capacity. Like many of its patients, Fairfield Hills projected an outward image that seemed quite pleasing; what was happening inside behind closed doors and out of the public eye, however, was allegedly much darker and disturbing.
As you might expect, Fairfield Hills was typical in its treatment of the mentally ill—electric shock therapy, hydrotherapy, psycho-surgery and frontal lobotomies were common early on, resulting in a few suicides and “mysterious” deaths. Stories of abuse and cruelty were rampant. In short, it wasn’t a happy-smiley, fluffy-kitty and shiny-rainbow type of place.
With less and less patients being treated there, Fairfield Hills was closed by the state in 1995. And that’s when it seems the troubles began.
Because of its classic stately hospital look (red brick buildings, tall white columns, etc.), and its long, cruel history, it was used as a setting for the movie Sleepers as well as for MTV’s “Fear.” And as any abandoned mental hospital that’s been on TV will do, it’s brought a bevvy of paranormal investigators, psychics, abandoned-site explorers and other trouble seekers, who have claimed to have found evidence of hauntings, although no specific ghost/spirit/story is synonymous with the place.
Old hospital, underground tunnels, cruel history—must be haunted, right? Right? As with many hauntings, no definitive proof or evidence, just a lot of odd experiences and unusual claims.
In 2009, the town refurbished the property to an extent. The tunnels were filled in and a few of the buildings were renovated; some now hold municipal offices while others are used for commercial purposes. The property was also cleaned up, hiking trails and sports fields have been added, and much of the grounds are open to the public as a recreational area.
Although the original history casts a shadow for some, most visitors now just enjoy a peaceful, parklike and family-friendly site.
Our Damned Experience: Are the Hills alive with the sound of patients past? We have yet to be checked in for an examination.
If You Go: As mentioned, the Fairfield Hills Campus has seemingly had its demons exorcised by the city of Newtown, and is now open to the public. Some buildings are still closed off, but the majority of the property is open to exploration.
Be warned, however: If you listen carefully, you still might hear shrieks and screams—of kids playing and having fun.