From places of healing to horror
For some people, the allure – even the eeriness – of abandoned places draws them to dilapidated destinations year-round. For others, visiting vacant Victorians and otherwise abandoned mansions, or scrolling through images of abandoned castles, is a yearly tradition that gets them in the Halloween spirit. And when it comes to spooky structures, it doesn’t get much more creepy than abandoned hospitals and asylums.
Hospitals are vacated and left to decay for a variety of reasons – maybe a larger location is needed, buildings have been damaged and repairs are too costly, or the disease the hospital was created to treat has been eradicated. Similarly, most of the psychiatric hospitals constructed in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries – previously known as ‘mental asylums’ – no longer exist. Their doors were closed in the second half of the 20th century, following the development of medications used to treat mental illness and the shift away from permanent institutionalisation and toward a community-based model of care.
But regardless of why their hallways went dark, there’s something unsettling about these empty medical facilities. Even if you wanted to visit them, most are closed to the public. So we’ve done the next best thing and rounded up photos of some of the most chilling abandoned hospitals and asylums in the world.
Old Mental Hospital
Location: Hong Kong
This eerie, now-abandoned hospital in Hong Kong’s Western District, known today as the Old Mental Hospital, has had several lives. Completed in 1892, the L-shaped building was originally constructed as quarters for the medical staff of the Government Civil Hospital. The building’s rusticated granite blocks, wide verandah and decorative pinnacles and parapets belied its next life as a psychiatric ward for the hospital’s female patients, which it was until 1961, when the Castle Peak Hospital opened. For the next 10 years, the Old Mental Hospital was used as a psychiatric outpatient treatment centre, and in 1998, work began to convert it into the Sai Ying Pun Community Complex. Though most of the complex is new, the original granite facade remains, and it was declared a monument in 2015.
District of Columbia General Hospital
Location: Washington, DC, USA
The first public health hospital in the US capital – the Washington Infirmary – was founded in 1806 as a place to care for the city’s ‘poor, disabled and infirm persons.’ Because of its role as not only a hospital but also a workhouse and poorhouse, it was renamed the Washington Asylum, and in 1846, it moved to a larger site that would become its permanent home. Over the years, the asylum was used as a smallpox hospital, quarantine station, disinfection plant and crematory. In 1922, the city constructed a new health-care facility, Gallinger Municipal Hospital, which was renamed District of Columbia General Hospital in 1953. Following the hospital’s closure in 2001, the hospital – known as DC General – was used as a shelter for unhoused families until its closure in 2018.