Manteno State Hospital in Manteno, Illinois

Read about this location and more in Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection

Read about this location and more in Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection

Legends & Lore of Illinois CD-ROMManteno State Hospital, one of two such facilities in Kankakee County, opened its doors in the early 1930s. It took several years after the purchase of the property in 1927 for the sprawling mental hospital to be completed. Like Peoria (Bartonville) 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 5,500 patients and 760 staff.

It did not take long for tragedy to strike the hospital. In an incident that Time magazine referred to as the “Manteno Madness,” 384 patients and staff came down with typhoid fever (47 died) in 1939. At first, Ralph Hinton, the director of Manteno State, believed the affliction to be nothing more than a common case of diarrhea, but state welfare agents stepped in as the number of ill dramatically increased. Panic gripped the hospital.

“Patients lay moaning in bed,” Time reported. “Others, whipped by mad fear, beat against the screened windows, grappled with attendants… Every night kitchen boys and orderlies disappeared. Over 45 ran away in all.”

Kankakee County State’s Attorney Sam Shapiro, who would go on to become governor of Illinois, dragged the director of the state’s Public Welfare Department, Archie Bowen, to court over the incident in 1940 even though Bowen had sent a truckload of typhoid vaccine to Manteno at the onset of the outbreak. At first, Bowen was convicted, but the State Supreme Court overturned the conviction because, as the Kankakee Daily Journal reported, “Shapiro had failed to show that the epidemic was caused by polluted drinking water.”

The Manteno State Hospital was later renamed the Manteno Mental Health Center, and closed in 1985 along with many of the other such mental health facilities in Illinois. Its campus was divided up and sold off. The north side of campus became a veteran’s home. Other buildings were consolidated into the Illinois Diversatech Campus and rented to businesses. The main administration building became a bank. Despite public health concerns, a housing project called Fairway Oaks Estates was recently built at the location.

Manteno has attracted many curiosity seekers since its closure, including its share of ghost hunters. “Over the years I have had many reports of people who entered the old buildings and saw nurses and doctors and even patients still dressed in their gowns,” Chad Lewis recently told the Daily Journal. Amateur investigators have taken dozens of strange photographs in the old buildings.

Only a small handful of abandoned buildings remain, and it is doubtful they will exist for much longer. The quiet town of Manteno has done its best to erase the memory of this place, but there will always be stories.

Sorry guys, this page is copyright Black Oak Media, inc., 2014. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.


Legends and Lore of Illinois Vol. 3 Digital Edition

Order all 12 issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois from 2009 in a special digital edition for your favorite e-readers. Places covered in Vol. 3 include Lebanon Road’s 7 Gates to Hell, Ramsey Cemetery, Elmwood Cemetery’s Violin Annie, Manteno State Hospital, the Hatchet Lady of Moon Point Cemetery, Chanute Air Force Base, Ashmore Estates, Aux Sable Cemetery, Ax Man’s Bridge, and more. Plus, read letters from our readers, adventurer’s logs, Paranormal 101, and put your knowledge of these locations to the test with challenging trivia questions. Don’t miss these classic issues.

Order it today for Kindle.
Order it today for Nook.
Order it today for Kobo.



  1. […] 2. We could drive to them. Places that initially stuck out to us were Peoria State Hospital and Manteno State Hospital. Our first investigation of a major location was in Manteno. We had a camera rolling the whole time […]


  2. […] Buick LeSabre across from a run down, brick cottage, one of dozens that once made up the campus of Manteno State Hospital. Over the previous decade, urban planners converted dozens of these buildings into businesses, […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: