Marlboro, New Jersey
Screams once echoed in the night from within these walls, voiced by those driven mad by their own demons. Those damned were housed in this man-made purgatory, locked away from decent folk, out of sight out of mind. And yet, though the windows are boarded and the hallways empty, something lingers. Screams are still heard without the benefit of mouths to shape them. Footsteps tread without legs attached, and around any corner, a foul wind blows, its stench turning the stomach and driving the curious away. Though it has been abandoned for many years, not all the patients, it seems, have left.
If certain theories are to be believed, then hauntings are caused by high emotions, trauma, and pain that leave scars on buildings and objects. It stands to reason, therefore, that certain structures simply lend themselves to such markings. Filled to the brim with human refuse, what happens to those places when society no longer has a use for them? They stand empty, waiting for someone, anyone, to come inside and glimpse the past, keeping its secrets until the last, and providing a home for restless souls for all eternity.
According to legend, the land on which was to be built the psychiatric hospital originally contained a slaughterhouse and cattle farm. The story goes that the owner refused to sell, until the town simply seized the land. The owner wound up an inmate in the hospital. Whether or not the story is true, the fact remains that, in 1933, the quiet town of Marlboro, New Jersey, saw the construction of the massive psychiatric hospital, which, when completed, covered nearly five hundred acres. The finished compound contained an administration building, administration cottages, a greenhouse, and many patient cottages, some of which held upward to around fifty five inmates.
At its height, the hospital contained 670 beds and employed well over 1,300 staff and doctors. However, what began as a home for the disturbed took a macabre turn when reports of abuse and neglect began to circulate, and the death toll began to rise. Beside the front gates of the institute, a small section of land was set aside as a cemetery for those that died under care in the early days. It also wasn’t long before the beds were full, and patients continued arriving.
The patients that were treated at Marlboro ranged from the slightly troubled to those with deep psychotic tendencies. As the years passed, more of the latter began making their homes on the grounds, wander the open fields, and, many times, escaping. In 1984, 151 escapes by inmates and patients prompted the surrounding community to acquire a record number of hand guns, and to file legal action against the state for the very existence of the hospital. A formal investigation was scheduled, and the findings were macabre. Inmates, according to official police reports, were treated with less rights and respect than prisoners. Many of the patients were suffering from malnutrition, including one fifty year-old woman who was a victim of cerebral palsy and unable to feed herself. When she asked for help, nurses refused, stating she was merely trying to be manipulative. When that patient died, others were soon to follow. It became routine to have patients go missing for days on end, with one turning up frozen and dead after being missing for 48 hours.
As the conditions worsened and investigations continued, it became clear that something was wrong with the hospital, and that no amount of restructuring could undo the damage done. Beginning in July of 1995, and over the next three years, the nearly eight hundred patients were moved out of the aging structure, bringing relief to some, but terror to those who knew that some of them would be set free.
Due to the number of deaths and the amount of suffering and tragedy that occurred within the walls of Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital, there is no way of knowing how many, or the identities of, the restless souls that still wander the hallways. What is known, however, is that something still remains, and those who enter the buildings have experienced many phenomena.
Among the phenomena reported by urban explorers and ghost hunting groups alike are phantom footsteps and the sounds of animals such a pigs and cows when none are present, perhaps harkening back to the days of the slaughter house. Others report hearing screaming or giggling from empty rooms, and there is certainly no shortage of EVP recordings to come out of the building. Most disturbing, however, seems to be sudden onset of a gut-churning stench that is often accompanied by cold spots and the sensation of being touched.
In 1998, much of the grounds went up for sale, but as late as 2003, nothing had come of the plans. It still sits, empty and foreboding, awaiting a developer’s wrecking ball to try to erase the pain endured there. Plans that have been considered for the property include a hotel, a golf course, and even a civic center.
As with most abandoned hospitals, the former Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital is considered to be on private property. Trespassing will likely get explorers arrested, though that doesn’t seem to stop many from venturing inside. The buildings, having been empty for less than ten years, are still in good condition, though boarded up and without power.
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