The Traverse City State Hospital's Haunted History

Why Traverse City State Hospital Is Still One Of The Creepiest Haunted Sites In Michigan:

The name Traverse City State Hospital will be well-known to the locals in the town that are more than aware of its imposing grandeur and history to those interested in the creepiest, most haunted sites in America.

The hospital makes many top ten lists for the state of Michigan and while some may believe that its hype has died down with its recent redevelopment, others would say that it has an eerie feel and past that simply cannot be covered over with a new purpose and some new paint.

One of the more common stories that is told on such “most haunted” lists is that of The Hippy Tree, a rather extreme legend of a particular tree in the grounds that reveals a portal to Hell if people walk around it in the 'correct' way.

Stories like these are what make people see Traverse City Hospital as an over-exaggerated place of legend but similar tales of ghosts and paranormal activity should not be taken lightly at all. There are enough spooky and corroborating encounters that suggest that Traverse City earns its place on these lists.

Today the building is a completely different place in terms of its purpose and design but there is an air hanging over it, a sense that the past of mental anguish and suffering has not quite been left behind.

Traverse City State Hospital is steeped in history and, despite its new identity and make-over, that history cannot be entirely left behind.

The history of this site may be fairly familiar to locals and enthusiasts of the paranormal but it is worth reiterating briefly for the timeline and the impact that its long history and initial purpose has on the events of today.

The name Traverse City State Hospital is fairly simple and brings up images of a basic medical facility, which is what it was in many respects; it dealt with great outbreaks of polio, influenza and other highly infectious pandemics and expanded greatly to meet the demand.

The other side to this institution was its place as a one of Kirkbride's mental hospitals. The grand “Building 50”, constructed in 1885, was the three-story Victorian heart of the hospital and followed the standard for buildings of the type and time. In fact, it is the last of Kirkbride's buildings to still stand in the state.

Understandably, the building quickly fell into disrepair following its closure in 1989 and was left as a sort of eerie time capsule for over a decade until work began on renovations in 2000.

The living had moved on and the horrid green of the institution's paintwork was slowly peeling away but the furniture remained in an odd display of frozen time and many believe that the souls of patients and workers were left behind with them.

The transformation of the old facilities and grounds has been a slow process from 2000 to 2012, when some of the building's condos were created for a new breed of inhabitant. Wards for scores of sick and mentally ill residents now house a handful of occupants in much nicer situations.

In many cases the changes have brought a stark contrast as the new commercial and residential blocks bring affluence and modern culture to Traverse City, such as the wine stores, restaurants and office spaces; however, hints of the old Victorian era live on and the Gothic-style architecture that is usually so appealing is given a new twist here.

A mental institution with such a long history of patients and treatments and such imposing architecture makes it the prime spot for ghost stories...and plenty of sightings too!

At its best, there was a rather pleasant association attached to Traverse City State Hospital; it portrayed its theme that “beauty is therapy” and suggested that the tranquillity of the grounds and the ban on the use of straightjackets was enough to aid patients' mental problems.

As fantastic as this sounds to the outside world, there was a much darker side to the institution, with evidence suggesting that more than 50,000 patients resided there and that they were subjected to experimentation, electroshock treatments and even lobotomies. 

This information on the treatments alters the perspective of the hospital somewhat; this is not just a hospital where patients may have passed on from medical conditions but a facility on a grand scale that caused great suffering and had a lasting effect on souls that will linger into the afterlife.

As a result, stories of ghosts and spirits are both expected and received. The nature and age of the hospital has made some locals a little blasé about the “creepy” feel yet it still brings in curious travellers and enthusiasts with its stories of ghostly activities.

Bodiless voices from the abandoned rooms and unexplained lights may seem tame to some but the story of the priest of the asylum chapel that hanged himself within its very walls in enough to give people chills with thoughts of what the man of god experienced to drive him to such measures.

Investigations by outsiders have not only brought second-hand tales from locals of the history and legendary figures still residing within these grounds but also some rather startling first-hand experiences. There are many tales from those that have set foot within Traverse City State Hospital – whether voluntarily with ghosts in mind or during other work – and they are chilling.

Reporters recording stories and statements within the building during unrelated cases have heard unexplained voices on the tapes that are insisting, in quite loud voices, that they need to leave and workmen working on the restorations have seen figures in abandoned wards and simply refused to go back in alone.

Perhaps most interesting of all is the laundry room. Stories of people feeling like they are being watched and doors slamming of their own accord are nothing new yet there is an unsettling regularity to these experiences in the laundry room that suggest this is not a coincidence and nothing more than a strong wind. 

No matter who lives there, Traverse City Hospital will always offer ghost stories.

Traverse City State Hospital has been transformed in recent years and in many ways it is unrecognisable from the institution of the mentally ill and sick that it was once.

Having said this, there is still an air to the place and a history that keep the stories of torment and the encounters with ghosts fresh in the mind. There is a reason why Traverse City still ranks so highly in Michigan's most haunted lists, despite all the renovations, and its new residents and workers should be aware of the presences that could still be around.

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