Hollywood seems to think Massachusetts asylums are the scariest places on Earth. Here’s why they’re right.
TAUNTON STATE HOSPITAL
“Taunton State Lunatic Hospital” opened in 1854 as the first Massachusetts facility built in the Kirkbride Plan, a design developed by psychiatrist Thomas Story Kirkbride that became typical to 19th-century asylums. The ornamental Victorian architecture, estate-like, multi-winged layouts, and green campus grounds were supposed to have a curative effect on patients; but they didn’t do much for Taunton’s most famous resident, Jane Toppan, a female serial killer. Nicknamed “Jolly Jane” because she seemed so gosh-darn friendly, Toppan eventually confessed to killing 31 people. As a nurse, first at Cambridge Hospital and then Mass General, Toppan would poison patients with lethal morphine mixtures. Even creepier, she’d climb in bed with victims and embrace them as they died because, Toppan admitted after her arrest, she got sexually aroused by their death throes. Toppan was caught after offing an entire Cape Cod family in the summer of 1901, and spent the rest of her life (she died at 81) at the Taunton hospital — where she lived in paranoia that the staff was poisoning her. Local lore has it that Toppan is one of many entities haunting the hospital, which saw most of its buildings closed in 1975 and demolished in 2009. (One area still holds 170 patients.) Fanning the lusty flames of paranormal fans is the fact that Taunton is centered in The Bridgewater Triangle, a swath of southeastern Massachusetts that is a hotspot for reports of (ready?), UFO sightings, Bigfoot sightings, phantom hitchhiker sightings, satanic cult activity, livestock mutilations, and Native American curses. Jeez. Makes a simple murderess sound quaint.