Haunted: Norwich State Hospital for the Insane

Built atop the remains of an ancient Native American village, Norwich State Hospital for the Insane in Preston, Connecticut, harbored some of the worst examples of civilized man’s inhumanity to man, all in the same of medicine. It’s one of the most notorious state hospitals of its time. 

Several professional paranormal investigative teams, including SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, have been invited here to conduct investigations. The evidence they and other groups discovered while investigating there firmly places Norwich State Hospital in the realm of Connecticut’s five most haunted places.  

A Brief History of Norwich State Hospital for the Insane

Norwich State Hospital
Norwich State Hospital, Preston, CT

The hospital was built in 1904 primarily as a treatment facility for the criminally insane. Its original two buildings eventually expanded to include over 30, spread over 470 acres, with many of the buildings connected by underground tunnels. 

Norwich State Hospital was built according to the ‘cottage plan’ rather than the Kirkbride Plan, with a central administration section and wards rating off to the sides like batwings. Cottage hospitals looked more like college campuses, with several cottages connected via underground tunnels, with each cottage housing a different type of patient, 

The campus also contained doctors’ housing, attendants’ housing, laboratories, a greenhouse, a barbershop, an auditorium, a bakery, a chapel, recreational facilities, and a dance hall. The patients growing their food made the Northwich State Hospital state-of-the-art for its time. But that didn’t last long. 

What was supposed to be a hospital for those adjudicated as criminally insane instead grew into a massive complex to treat the mentally ill, adolescents, people with epilepsy, geriatrics, tuberculosis, and violent populations. Overcrowding was typical, and unfortunately, so was torture.

From 1909 to 1963, Norwich State Hospital performed sterilizations as part of the eugenics movement. Nazi Germany comes to mind when people think of eugenics, but the United States was one of the first nations to practice eugenics via sterilization. And this practice, meant to control human procreation, was executed at Norwich State Hospital. Vasectomies and ovariectomies were performed on patients against their will to keep ‘less desirable’ and ‘defective’ human beings from procreating, eliminating them from the gene pool. 

The facility’s closure began in the 1970s; then, the state completely shut the facility down in 1996 because of a state-wide deinstitutionalization mandate to provide community service to the mentally ill instead of treatment in an institutional setting. Only two original buildings remain today, and both are brimming with paranormal activity

Thirteen deaths have occurred at Norwich State Hospital, whether by accident, suicide, murder, or as the result of prematurely released or escaped patients. It was truly home to Connecticut’s worst criminally insane patients, and many of their ghosts still bear witness to that insanity. 

Deaths Associated with Norwich State Hospital

  • A water heater explosion killed Teamster Fredd Ladd and night watch attendant Thomas Duggan.
  • Rachel Brooks was killed by her husband, Solomon Brooks, who escaped from the hospital.
  • Patient Edward K. Arvince hung himself with torn bed linen attached to an iron grating. 
  • Hospital cook, Fred Smith, was struck by a car and killed by the supervisor of a nearby tuberculosis sanatorium.
  • A trained nurse and former patient, Anne Prudential, committed suicide with a knife only days after discharge. 
  • After being given a mistaken sedative by an attendant, William Smith died from a fatal overdose. 
  • Sheriff Michael Carroll was killed with a shotgun by Leonard Gosselin, who was about to be committed. Gosselin then killed himself. 
  • Patient Gregory Gillepsie killed Shereese Weatherby less than a year after his release.
  • The patient, John Franklin, was granted the ability to leave and killed Leonard Flannery eight months later. 
  • Two police in Spencer, MA, were killed by Robert Layne, who escaped the facility. 

A doctor who prefers to remain anonymous claims that many inmates were chained to chairs in the tunnels for days. Aides beat others, and some were burned with cigarettes. Still, others endured the torture of failed experiments. 

Four women patients were incarcerated for brutally killing their children.

The Salmon Building – Salmon Hall

The Salmon building was the most notorious building here and served as a maximum-security facility where the most dangerous patients were kept. It had bars on its windows and heavy steel doors and was essentially a jail for the criminally insane. Orbs are seen floating, doors slam shut, and moaning can be heard as well. It is an exceptionally fertile paranormal hunting ground.

Research Building and Morgue

Shadow people are witnessed here; footsteps have been captured on digital recorders, and so have EVPs. The Research building once housed rats, mice, dogs, and monkeys for experimentation. SyFy’s The Ghost Hunters recorded the sound of a dog whimpering as if someone had kicked it. They could hear animals crying and the sounds of footsteps running down the stairs. 

The Earle Building

Maintenance used this building to store machinery and other tools of the trade needed to keep a large facility running smoothly. Heavy metal doors slam with a force that would suggest a large angry man was taking out his frustrations, yet no one is there; tools fall from their shelves; orbs dart through open spaces. When the team from SyFy’s Ghost Hunters investigated there, they described the number of EVPs they recorded as “Out of Control.” 

Today, Norwich State Hospital is in a state of disrepair and decay. Not much of it remains. Although Norwich Hospital was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, buildings remain shuttered, paint is peeling, and graffiti is emblazoned upon whatever walls are left. Maintenance of the grounds has not occurred in decades. Of the 30 original buildings, only two remain standing. The others lay in ruins or have been demolished. It has become a ghost town where real ghosts dwell, which is why it’s one of Connecticut’s five most haunted places.

Leave a Comment