At Mysterious Heartland, we spend a lot of time crawling around the ruins of some of the most notorious abandoned hospitals, mansions, and schools in the Midwest. With their dark corridors, crumbling walls, and strange echoes, any one of them can be shiver-inducing, but which are the scariest? After much debate, we are happy to bring you the top 10 creepiest abandoned places in the Midwest!
10. Lake Julia Sanitarium
Lake Julia Sanitarium opened in July 1916 as a tuberculosis hospital, and operated until 1953. It was built using concrete, and despite being abandoned for many decades, it is in surprisingly good shape. Urban explorers have taken over the building. They come to explore the former hospital and find relics from the past, but sometimes they get more than they bargained for. Visitors have witnessed balls of light floating up the elevator shaft, while others have heard moaning or have seen shadowy figures. The ghost of a young girl has also been seen peering out a second floor window.
9. KD Station
Sioux City, Iowa
Located along the Floyd River, this imposing-but-dilapidated building was once the Swift and Company packing house, which opened in 1920. It served as a stockyard and slaughterhouse for over fifty years, until it closed in 1954. Several years earlier, in 1949, a leaking gas pipe caused an explosion in the packing house that killed 21 workers. The ghosts of these workers are believed to still haunt the building. In 1976, the building was converted into a shopping center and recreation area, but it is currently abandoned and undergoing demolition. Since 2004, several fires have damaged the structure. For a long time, many locals thought the building was haunted by a man named Paul Pulaski, and the building owner was not shy about advertising it. Strange sounds, often described as machinery, have been heard and the elevator reportedly moves on its own.
8. Electrolux Building (former)
First used as a hospital, this building has a complicated history that no doubt contributes to its paranormal activity. Originally the Kelso Sanitarium, Mennonite Church leaders purchased that building in 1919 after their first hospital became overcrowded. The sanitarium was renamed Mennonite Hospital, and specialized in adult long-term care. In July 1984, Mennonite Hospital combined with two other area hospitals to create the BroMenn healthcare system. In 1998, the old Mennonite Hospital building was sold to a vacuum cleaner company called Electrolux. Something from its years as a hospital remained, however. Old photographs and writing on some of the walls left by former patients have not been removed. According to former employees, there is a haunted room on the 3rd floor. Odd noises, as well as the ever-present smell of death, prevent its use. This “death room” remains locked to this day. In 2011, Electrolux closed its office in Bloomington and moved to Charlotte, NC.
7. Northern Michigan Asylum
Traverse City, Michigan
Built in 1885, this architecturally appealing building has withstood the test of time, despite being in danger of demolition since it closed in 1989. For over a century, the mentally ill were housed and treated here. According to author Linda Godfrey, electroshock therapy, lobotomies, and other experimental treatments were performed on the more than 50,000 patients who resided within those walls. Urban explorers have navigated the dark tunnels under the former asylum, and strange stories have circulated. One legend involves a tree known as the “Hippie Tree.” If you find it and walk around it in just the right way, a portal to Hell may open. The building is currently undergoing redevelopment, so it remains to be seen whether specters of the past will linger.
6. Manteno State Hospital
Manteno State Hospital opened its doors in the early 1930s. Like Peoria State Hospital, Manteno was laid out in a “cottage plan,” which meant that the patients were housed in a series of separate buildings rather than in one single institution. When it first opened, Manteno accommodated 6,620 total residents. Underground service tunnels linked all the buildings. In 1939, in an incident that Time magazine referred to as the “Manteno Madness,” 384 patients and staff came down with typhoid fever and more than 50 ultimately died. Manteno State Hospital was later renamed the Manteno Mental Health Center and closed in 1985. The north side of campus became a veteran’s home. Other buildings were consolidated into the Illinois Diversatech Campus and rented to businesses. Since the hospital’s closure, many people have visited its remains and have come away with strange stories. They have seen apparitions of patients and nurses, and have heard voices over the long-defunct intercom.
5. Ridges Asylum
Opened in 1874, this four story, red-brick building was originally known as the Athens Asylum for the Insane. There were two wings, one for male patients and one for female. The most violent patients were housed near the outer tips of the wings. By the early 1900s, Ridges Asylum was alarmingly overcrowded. Rumors of inhumane treatments at the hands of overworked staff were common. By 1981, however, the hospital had fallen out of use. It closed in 1993. Although parts of the building are in use today, much of it remains abandoned. One macabre curiosity is the outline of the body of Margaret Schilling in a room on the top floor. She became lost in an unused area of the hospital in the winter of 1978/79 and was not found for over a month. When her lifeless body was removed, it had left a stain on the floor that could not be washed away. Her ghost has also been seen wandering that room at night. Other people claim the asylum’s cemetery, which holds around 2,000 bodies, is haunted.
4. Satan’s Tunnel
Hawk Point, Missouri
Ghostly figures inhabit the dark recesses of this old underpass, or so many locals believe. The railroad tracks that once ran over the tunnel are long gone, and its rail bed has been reclaimed by nature. The entrance to the tunnel is covered with moss and graffiti. According to legend, when the railroad was there, a train struck a man walking along the tracks and he fell to his death. Another legend tells of a man who was lynched in a tree near the entrance. Still another story involves a hobo who made his home in the tunnel. He was found dead, they say, with a look of fear frozen on his face. The ghosts of all three unfortunate men are believed to haunt this old underpass. All this negative energy has allegedly attracted a group of Devil worshipers, who perform rituals there. Any one of these stories is reason enough to stay away, but all four make Satan’s Tunnel one very creepy place to visit!
3. Hotel Hell
Maribel Caves Hotel, or “Hotel Hell” as it came to be known, is located on the site of a health spa that operated in the late 1800s. The hotel itself was built in 1900 by Father Francis and Eugene Steinbrecker, sons of the designer, who died before construction started. It was built with limestone blocks, giving it a fort-like appearance. Thousands of people came there every year to drink the Maribel Spring water that was bottled next door. A fire broke out in the hotel in the summer of 1985, and it closed soon after. A whole host of legends have sprung up around its empty husk. In addition to the usual floating objects, feelings of unease, apparitions, and the touch of unseen hands, there are wild stories of occult practices as well. According to one tale, a coven of black witches opened a portal to Hell, unleashing unpleasant spirits that are now trapped in the former hotel.
2. Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory
Built between 1896 and 1910, the Ohio State Reformatory served as a detention center for young, petty criminals. The first inmates were admitted in 1896, and they helped construct the building. Several violent episodes occurred there, including the execution-style slaying of a superintendent and his family at the hands of two former inmates. One form of punishment at Mansfield Reformatory was to send prisoners to solitary confinement in “the hole”—a dark and claustrophobic room—for an indeterminate amount of time. The reformatory was closed in the late 1980s. The old superintendent’s office, where disembodied voices are heard, is widely believed to be haunted by the ghosts of Helen and Warden Glattke. In the basement, the ghost of a 14-year-old boy who was allegedly beaten to death has been reported. Visitors often experience strong feelings of dread, anger, and fear throughout the former reformatory.
1. Villisca Ax Murder House
On the night of June 9, 1912, Josiah and Sarah Moore, their children Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul, and their children’s friends Lena and Ina Stillinger, were brutally murdered while they slept by an unknown assailant with an ax. The killer was never officially found, although a traveling preacher named George Kelly was tried and acquitted of the crime. Today, no one lives at the home, but the most recent owner opened it up for tours and paranormal investigations. Dozens, if not hundreds, of eyewitnesses have reported strange encounters in the “murder house.” Vanishing blood stains on the walls, feelings of an evil presence, strange green lights, cold chills, the feeling of being pushed or pulled by unseen hands, and even apparitions have all been experienced here. Ghostly voices, presumably of the Moore Children, have been recorded on several occasions.
If you like this article, you will love Michael Kleen’s book Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection! The Legends and Lore of Illinois is an exciting and informative look at Illinois ghostlore. Join the Fallen as they visit some of the most haunted places in the Prairie State – Will they unlock the secrets of the unknown, or will they unwittingly unleash shadows from the darkest recesses of our imagination? Get ready to explore infamous places such as Bachelor’s Grove, Airtight Bridge, Resurrection Cemetery, Winston Tunnel, the Seven Gates to Hell, Manteno State Hospital, Axman’s Bridge, and many more! What adventures await you inside? Go here to order!
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