Strange Tales From The Toledo State Hospital

Photo Credit: Toledo-Lucas County Public Library

The Toledo State Hospital was a large complex dedicated to helping the mentally ill of northwest Ohio.

It opened its doors in 1888 as the Toledo Asylum for the Insane was made up of thirty-four buildings.

Twenty of these buildings were cottages that housed the least extreme cases. Here, patients could live restraint-free and be allowed some semblance of independence as they underwent treatment.

Other buildings on the site included a handful of wards and hospitals, as well as two “strong wards” which were used to house patients believed to be critically insane or even incurable.

The grounds of the Toledo State Hospital also included man-made lagoons, administrative buildings, a farm and greenhouse, an auditorium, and a chapel.

At full capacity, 1800 patients could be housed here at any given time. One of which, no doubt, was Harry H. Riley, whom I wrote about concerning the South Bass Island Lighthouse incident.

The Toledo State Hospital operated for many decades without much notice until the 1950s when rumors began to circulate about the mistreatment of patients. These rumors eventually made their way to Columbus and prompted the Governor to send in inspectors, some of whom were undercover.

The 234-page report that resulted from these inspections sent shockwaves throughout the state.

The report exposed a variety of horrific living conditions that patients were exposed to, including serious breaches of privacy and personal dignity.

For instance, it was common practice to simply line up patients, naked, and hose them down rather than privately bathing each one. There was also evidence of abusive restraints being used and regular shortages of the necessary, prescribed medications required by patients.

Inspections of the food preparation areas found kitchen equipment in poor working condition and kitchen workers with little to no personal hygiene. Often times, as many as fifty patients would have to share one drinking cup and the same truck used to haul garbage and soiled linens was also used to transport food. On top of all that, the water supply for the hospital was completely unsatisfactory.

Structurally, the Toledo State Hospital was just as horrible. Doors and windows throughout the complex no longer fit properly and, if they were still able to close, they did not close completely. Four of the cottages and one of the hospitals was so far beyond repair that inspectors suggested they should be condemned immediately.

Toledo State Hospital wasn’t the only facility to receive such poor marks. Many similar throughout the state were found to be as equally negligent in their care of the mentally ill.

As the ripples of these stunning disclosures swept from one end of the state to the other, it was only a matter of time before many of these hospitals began shutting down, unable to comply financially with new mandates and regulations.

In the early 1970s, Toledo State Hospital began emptying out its buildings, transferring its patients to other facilities.

The facility sat vacant and unused, and quickly became an attraction for thrill seekers, vandals, and urban explorers. And stories of strange phenomena began to circulate soon after.

Those who dared visit the old asylum would often return with a laundry list of experiences that, to some, were too good to be true. Doors were seen to open and close by themselves. Strange sounds, such as moaning, was often heard coming from a second floor room in one of the buildings. And, then there were the phantoms.

Many have claimed to have seen human-shaped shadows moving through the buildings, one room to another, day or night. Ghosts appear out of nowhere, glide along a hallway, and then fade from sight. Some claim that they heard these spirits whispering, mumbling, and sometimes screaming as they would move about the buildings. Others have reported oppressive sensations of being watched and followed by some unseen presence.

Those who would sometimes venture into the old Toledo State Hospital looking for a little adventure often found something quite different waiting for them. And, they often had no desire to return to the place.

The buildings, themselves, are no longer there. But, perhaps the spirits who inhabited them still are.

The Toledo State Hospital was demolished in the early 1990s, though two cemeteries, the oldest of the two holding the graves of 1994 former patients, still remain.

The Toledo State Hospital was located at the corner of Detroit Avenue and Arlington Avenue in Toledo, Ohio. The Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital remains on the site.

The oldest cemetery, the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery, is located on Arlington Avenue, west of Detroit Avenue. Both cemeteries are owned by the University of Toledo and attempts are being made to bring them back from decades of neglect.

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