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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

Danvers

DANVERS STATE HOSPITAL

The (un)holy grail of haunted asylums. It opened in 1878, by cosmic coincidence, on the same hilltop spot in Danvers — formerly Salem Village — where witch-trial judge John Hathorne once lived. By the mid-1900s, the institution was nearly quadruple its intended capacity, indiscriminately packing the criminally insane alongside mildly bummed-out housewives. Danvers was plagued with allegations of abusive treatments, especially with regard to its "expert" lobotomies, which used electro-shock therapy to render a patient unconscious, after which a metal pick would be driven behind the eye socket and wiggled back and forth to sever neural connections in the brain. "The things I saw inside would make your blood curdle," says Eric Perry, founder of the Central NH Paranormal Society, who as a teenager visited his uncle, a hospital barber, there. He remembers ghastly sights — nude patients, covered in razor slashes — and grisly stories, like that of a 16 year-old girl who sliced an orderly's throat with a scalpel. Based on the so-called Stone Tape theory, such suffering made Danvers a likely haunt, says Sam Baltrusis, author of the new book Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub. "That paranormal theory speculates that the environment can absorb energy from a high-tension event, like a lobotomy or suicide," says Baltrusis. Strange activity started while the hospital was still open and flourished after it closed in 1992, becoming a deified Big Score for urban explorers, photographers, and thrill seekers. An entire horror film revolves around the place: the 2001 cult gem Session 9, about a terrorized asbestos-cleanup crew, filmed in the abandoned hospital. Eventually the asylum was demolished, save the façade of its signature spire, to make room for luxury condos. Today, say ghost-hunting groups, apartment residents have reported everything from receiving mysterious scratches to the face in the nearby patient cemetery to children with paranormal playmates.

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