The Damned Story: What is it with the state of Connecticut and creepy old mental hospitals?
For decades, the abandoned Undercliff Sanatorium, a former state health facility, sat at the base of South Mountain, near Hubbard Park in Meriden. Even though it was shuttered, some claimed it was still in use—by the ghosts of former patients.
According to the Connecticut State Library, Undercliff was originally opened in 1910 as the Meriden Sanatorium and in 1918, became the first facility in the nation dedicated exclusively to treating children afflicted with tuberculosis. The name was changed to Undercliff Sanatorium in the early 1920s, and about two decades later, it began to accept adult patients. In 1954, the tuberculosis patients were transferred to other state facilities, with many children going to Seaside Sanatorium in Waterford.
Two years later, the property became part of the state Department of Mental Health and was rechristened Undercliff Hospital; more buildings were added to the main hospital, including residences for staff, and soon thereafter, it started accepting patients with mental diseases from around the region. Undercliff served in this capacity until 1976, when on May 28, the last patient was discharged and the staff was transferred to other facilities across Connecticut. It has essentially remained empty since, although a few buildings on the property are used by various state agencies, including the Department of Developmental Services.
Like many mental health facilities, even though many people were treated well and cured here, there were still dark stories attached to the property, including tales of abuse and horror, although no actual evidence of any such activity was ever been uncovered. Considering that Undercliff served for decades as a refuge for those afflicted with turberculosis and other serious diseases, no doubt that more than a few people died on the property.
Consequently, there were been numerous reports of hauntings. Some alleged to have heard the voices of children, both laughing and crying, while others claimed to have seen the shadows and spirit of children in the windows of the empty buildings. Those who ventured inside the buildings supposedly heard the footsteps of patients running from orderlies as well as the screams of the mentally ill undergoing treatment.
A few purported sightings involved the ghost of one patient who was supposedly attacked and murdered by fellow residents (again, unsubstantiated); the story went that you could see the phantom of the lost soul wandering the grounds at night. EVPs and other otherworldly manifestations were also reported to have been captured by those investigating the facility.
As it is state property, it was off limits to the general public, although it didn’t prevent adventurers from trying to investigate the place on their own. Numerous pictures and videos of Undercliff taken by amateur explorers and the curious still can be found across the internet. In July 2010, three local teenagers (and aspiring ghost hunters) made headlines when one of them was injured after jumping from a cliff near the property while being chased by police for trespassing.
Further adding to the creepy mystique of Undercliff was that it was rumored to be tied to notorious serial killer Hadden Clark. In April 2000, Clark, who evidently had lived in Meriden with his grandfather back in the late 1970s and early 80s, was taken from his prison in Maryland and brought by authorities to Connecticut to show them where he had possibly buried one of his victims, but no body was ever found. Although never stated officially exactly where the search was made, it was speculated to have been on the grounds of Undercliff.
Which totally makes sense. Where else would a cross-dressing cannibal psychopath bury the remains of his victims then in the shadow of an abandoned and supposedly haunted insane asylum?
Eventually, all the buildings connected with Undercliff were demolished and the grounds cleared. However, the stories remain, reminders of a dark past.
Our Damned Experience: We never got to visit Undercliff, and now that it’s gone, the opportunity is gone.
If You Go: You can’t, you know, until someone builds a functioning time machine.
Undercliff Sanatorium was located on Undercliff Road in Meriden. Again. The former site is owned by state, and no trespassing signs are posted. Those caught trespassing will be arrested and fined.