Danvers State Hospital opened in 1878 as a mental health hospital, serving some 600 patients under its imposing gothic spires. While it was built with a surprisingly caring and modern attitude people with mental illness, by the 1930s the site was crowded, falling into disrepair, and regularly used cruel and inhumane treatments.
The hospital was originally designed to house 500 patients, with additional space that could potentially house up to 1,000 more. But by the 1940s, the hospital regularly held more than 2,000 patients, and overcrowding was severe. Reports came out that the hospital was using inhumane treatments including shock therapy, lobotomies, and straitjackets to treat its patients.
In the 1960s, increased emphasis on alternative treatments and community-based mental health care, the inpatient population at Danvers started to decrease. By 1985, the majority of the original hospital wards were closed or abandoned, and the entire hospital campus was officially shut down in 1992.
The building, with its gothic style and series of underground tunnels, allegedly inspired the Arkham Sanitarium in H. P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Thing on the Doorstep,” which in turn inspired Batman’s Arkham Asylum. In 2001, the director Brad Anderson used the abandoned Danvers State Hospital as the primary filming location for his terrifying film, Session 9.
In 2007, the decaying building was mostly torn down and turned into apartments. Halstead Danvers, (originally Avalon Danvers) is complete with swimming pool and, aside from a small plaque on the grounds, barely references the site’s past. Though some of the original facade remains, the rest of the building has been replaced with chintzy apartments, elliptical machines, and Ikea furniture. However, there is one piece of the former psychiatric hospital that still exists: its cemetery.
Know Before You Go
If you're facing the Kirkbride building, head right on the sidewalk through the memorial and all the short way to where the apartments stop and the condos begin. Follow the rock and gravel path downhill until you reach the farm and look to your right to find the occasionally overgrown entrance.