There’s an odd thing how paranormal landmarks work. There’s an ebb and a flow to the popularity of locations which draw people in. Whether it’s the Lizzie Borden’s Bed and Breakfast or Eastern State Penitentiary, these locations have a tendency to flare up, become very popular and eventually take a backseat to the next supernatural trend. Usually it’s due to television and media exposure, and much like a hot trend on television for the season, unless there is a deep rooted sense of community or legend within the story behind the location, it is almost impossible to keep the momentum.
Metropolitan State in Massachusetts is a lot like that. Obviously when the hospital was still open reports from there were frequent. When you consider its closing aligned with the rise of ghost hunting television shows and the founding of investigation groups, it’s no wonder it became one of the most popular legends in the Metro Boston area. The longer it sat unoccupied, the more the stories grew. The larger the fence was around it grew, the more people needed to see what was behind it. It was even featured in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. Then nothing.
After I found this old article, I tried to connect with some of the people I had spoken to about it and research whether things were still being spread the old building. People I spoke to who research and investigate in the area had to look it up when asked about it. Met State’s time has come and gone. It will be interesting to observe what might happen to it as time passes. These things tend to go in cycles.
Asylums feed into our very idea of terror. The insane, the locked doors, the masked doctors performing treatment we’d rather not think about. To hear the word conjures up images we try and block out. The buildings, designed to be inviting and practical, fit into our worst visions of these asylums, and as they fell into ruin they became more and more intimidating. The torment that went on in them and the patients who died without names and without peace create a settling ripe for ghosts and ghost stories.
Although not as famous as its nearby cousin Danvers State Hospital, Metropolitan State Hospital in Middlesex County, Massachusetts has become known itself for the type of ghosts and ghostly legends that give people nightmares. No one knows what went on behind the cement walls of that building, but our imagination has created its resident’s lives. When reports started to come out about the strange happenings on its grounds, Metro State was labeled as haunted, and since its closure in 1992 those rumors have been confirmed time and time again. Trespassers inside the building and people just interested in the beauty of the land say the same things doctors and mental health workers had said for decades. Metro State is haunted.
When looking at the hauntings at Metro State Hospital, it is important to separate the facts from the legends that now surround them. The rundown buildings lie in Waltham, Belmont and Lexington, Massachusetts, cutting into the landscape of three very different communities. It was originally opened in 1930 and functioned successfully for decades.. Although many mental health treatments in the past century seem ludicrous to us today, Metro was always on the cutting edge of the field. As methods changed, Metro changed with them, and when severe financial cutbacks hit the state in the 1980’s, Metro felt them as much as the other institutions in the state. The buildings were plagued with overcrowding and understaffing. Unlike other hospitals that could be converted to prisons or juvenile detention facilities, Metro State was hampered by the design that had made it unique. The building was finally closed in the early nineties.
During the time it acted as a functioning hospital, its residents suffered horrible conditions and saw the worst of human sorrow. Lost souls filled the rooms, giving in to homicide and suicide by its residents. Doctors tinkered with experimental treatments like mind-altering drugs and electroshock therapy. The poor died without family around them to grieve. The psychic energy amassed in within its walls makes the hospital a prime area for the appearance of ghosts.
The reports started while the building was still open. Several employees spoke of shadowy figures seen at night. Described as a looking like a tall slender man but having no solid form, the unknown visitors would walk through walls or appear in locked rooms. Residents reported the same shadow, but the reports were ignored as delusion. Then nurses and security officers began seeing them too. One woman described at least three different men who all walked differently. She stated it became common knowledge around the main buildings and were talked about but ignored.
Other residents reported hearing the screams of residents who had passed, especially those who had suffered electroshock treatment at the hospital. One employee went to assist a certain patient he had had a close relationship with. The man was screaming about his mother, but when the worker, recently back from a vacation, went into the room a different man was there. His resident had died over the week.
Underneath the hospital runs a network of tunnels once used to travel to different parts of the 23 acre grounds. The tunnels were lit by intermittent bare light bulbs, and patients were often found in them after having wandered off. There were also reports of deviant workers would take willing and unwilling patients down there for sex. Whispers were often heard down in the tunnels although no people could be found. One man described always feeling as if there was someone behind him or in front of him, but he never saw anyone there.
Not all the spirits in the yard are happy. Poorer patients without families were buried on the site. Hundreds of bodies were laid to rest in unhallowed ground with nothing but a marker stating their religion and a number. Although there have been recent attempts to find their identities and give them a proper burial, their souls seem trapped. Glowing red and green figures have been seen in the areas of the old and new cemeteries. The emotions of these people are felt throughout the grounds. People have heard whispers and footsteps and one woman stopped walking near the grounds after she continuously saw visions of the patients while near the building. Although she walked without really thinking about what went on there, she would see them inside her head and feel what they had felt.
The reports continued after Metro State’s closing. The longer it remained closed, the more the main building looked like a stereotypical haunted house. What was once a beautiful and intriguing piece of architecture was became covered with graffiti with broken windows and crooked doors. Adventure seekers and paranormal investigators found their way in. Inspired by their own fears and the media coverage of the asylum, they broke in. Equipment has registered activity such as EMF readings, bizarre changes in temperature and ghostly photographs. They have experienced the same shadows and screams reported while it was still open, but they have also felt sudden sadness and depression hit them and seen objects in plain sight move by themselves.
The ghosts are not confined to the buildings. There have been numerous sightings made on the grounds. Designers envisioned a active yard where patients would receive occupational therapy and grow their own crops. Touch and sensory treatment was also utilized. This positive energy has also been imprinted at Metro State. In the daytime there have been reports of people with a glowing aura picking flowers with smiles on their faces. These people disappear when approached and have even been seen floating slightly off the ground.
Like other asylums throughout the East coast, the grounds at Metro State are being recycled. AvalonBay Communities Incorporated has purchased part of the land and is converting it to apartments and a golf course. Buildings are already being torn down and construction has started, giving rise to a new chapter in the land’s history. The same company has been buying old hospitals and building homes, laying the foundation for a new set of hauntings and legends. Instead of a haunted house being on what was once an old Indian burial ground, people will begin to talk of houses built over the sunken remains of old asylums.
If a society is judged on how it treats its sick and helpless, should it not also be judged on how it remembers it? Metropolitan State began as an experiment in curing those society had cast away. The souls trapped in the hospital may never find peace and those walking the grounds may never find rest. That then remains the legacy of Metro State; a reminder of what we tried and a living ghost of just how far we need to go.