Haunted Asylums – Athens Mental Asylum
The building is old and quiet, the paint is peeling and many of the windows are broken. People who walk through the rooms do so quietly and speak using hushed tones. Tones that are usually reserved for funerals and libraries. They are cautious about where and how they step as though they are afraid of disturbing anything or anyone that might still be residing in the old rooms. This is the old Athens Mental Asylum, a building considered one of the most haunted places in the world.
Ghosts are said to haunt places where they have died or places where they experienced a traumatizing event in their lives. If that is the case, then the Athens Hospital would be home to hundreds of ghosts and many people believe that it is.
Construction of the building began in 1868, and the doors of the hospital officially opened in 1874. The hospital remained open until 1993 when it was forced to close its doors. During its many years in operation, the hospital was a place of horrors. Hundreds died while they were patients and the graves outside are testimony to this fact. Many graves have only numbers on the headstones to mark a patients passing.
Among the first of its patients were civil war soldiers who were suffering from ‘shell shock’ or what we would call today post-traumatic stress syndrome. Many of these men would spend the rest of their lives within the confines of the hospital. Other patients were children and woman who were placed in the facility by families that could no longer deal with them. Some of the early patients suffered from epilepsy or depression. How many really needed to be there is unknown, as many of the hospital’s early records are missing.
What is known about the treatment of the patients in the wards is that they were subjected to many treatments that would now be considered not only cruel and vicious but was actual torture. Treatments included electric shock therapy, water treatment and lobotomies, both normal and the later trans-orbital lobotomies. Dr. Walter Jackson Freeman II, the Doctor who is known for his ‘ice pick’ lobotomy technique practiced at the hospital. He alone preformed more than 200 lobotomies during his time at the hospital. What other experimental or new techniques were practiced at the hospital may never be known.
While these events are truly horrific they are not the only reason, the hospital has become a curiosity. What truly makes this building unique is the number of strange paranormal sightings that have occurred both inside the building and in the surrounding cemeteries.
Among its more colorful ghosts is one Margaret Schilling. Her case is very strange and mysterious. What is known about her is that she was a patient of the hospital who was given a fair amount of freedom to roam. One day, in December 1978 she simply did not return. Although a search was conducted, no trace of her was found. Weeks later in January, her body was discovered in an old closed off section of the hospital.
There are two versions of how she died. One states that she died from starvation, the other that she died of a heart attack. Whatever the cause, there remained on the floor a perfect outline of her body. Many attempts at cleaning the stain have been made but it always returned. This has been scientifically explained by the fact that her decaying tissues were actually absorbed into the concrete. Another part of her mystery lies in the reason why she was never found. There are many stories and accountants of what actually happened. One account claims that she was a deaf mute. There also is some debate about whether or not she was dressed when her body was discovered. Also thrown into the mix is whether or not the door was locked. While these things are mysteries, they are by no means paranormal.
What really makes the story of Margaret interesting is the number of times her ghost has been sighted. Since her strange and unexplained death, many people claim to have seen her wandering the halls. They also claim to have seen orbs and lights in the areas near where she died. There are even rumors that a young girl was haunted by the ghost of Margaret.
Throughout the years, there have been claims of people seeing faces and lights in the windows of the now vacant building. There have also been reports of strange unexplained noises and voices within the building itself. Visitors have also claimed that they feel cold spots and drafts, and have heard footsteps walking the deserted halls.
Many different teams of paranormal explorers have gone into the building to investigate these disturbances. Using a variety of equipment, their findings have included cold spots, unexplained voices and screams. Although none of the teams has reached any absolute conclusions or proof of the paranormal, they have certainly added to the ghostly mysteries that surround this old building.