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New England’s Most Haunted Asylums

Hollywood seems to think Massachusetts asylums are the scariest places on Earth. Here’s why they’re right.
By SCOTT KEARNAN  |  October 26, 2012

Worcester

WORCESTER STATE HOSPITAL

"Worcester State Lunatic Hospital" doesn't ooze touchy-feely compassion, but after opening under that name in 1833, the facility became America's first publicly funded hospital for the insane to employ "moral treatment." The then-enlightened approach aimed to cure patients — not just confine, starve, and beat them. Ironically, in 1936 the hospital welcomed Donald Ewen Cameron as its director of research. Cameron, creator of a cruel brainwashing technique called "psychic driving," was recruited by the CIA to lead "Project MKULTRA": an illegal, top-secret mind-control program that used citizens as test subjects. (LSD dosing? Sensory deprivation? Insulin-induced comas? Check, check, check.) Less sure is whether Cameron was already experimenting with torture at Worcester. Following a four-alarm 1991 fire, the hospital's heavily damaged main buildings were closed; but exploring their decrepit wards has become rite of passage for troublemaking teenagers and amateur ghost hunters. The sparkling new, state-of-the-art Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital opened on the grounds this August, and officials are debating what to do with the historic older buildings that have gone to shit. The clock tower's floor is covered in pigeon guano, a state official told preservationists this year. Oh, the horror.

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