Haunting Images of Taunton State Hospital

Haunting Images of Taunton State Hospital

Taunton State Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts was founded as the State Lunatic Hospital at Taunton and opened in the spring of 1854. It was the second asylum in the state of Massachusetts, built to ease congestion at the hospital in Worcester.

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Taunton State Hospital’s main Kirkbride structure was designed by architect Elbridge Boyden, and several more wings were added over the years.

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Taunton State Hospital expanded many times over the years until nearly forty buildings were included in complex. The main Kirkbride building closed in 1975.

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These photos were captured by the Historic American Buildings Survey, the exact year and photographer are unknown, but it was sometime before the dome collapsed in 1999.

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A fire struck the main facility in 2006, and the bulk of the original Taunton State Hospital was demolished in 2009, despite other parts of the facility continuing to operate and treat patients under the same name.

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Lizzie Borden claimed to have been held in the asylum while she was awaiting trial (Lizzie Borden enthusiasts dispute this, the link where we got the info has now been taken offline), but records show she was never admitted to the hospital — only held in the jail. Serial killer Jane Toppan, who committed thirty-one murders by poisoning in the last decade of the 1800s, was also a patient at Taunton.

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These skywalks, designed so patients could be shuttled easily about, were one of the most striking features about Taunton State Hospital. Turn of the century asylums frequently struggled to efficiently transport patients, many who were in wheelchairs, from building to building. We visited the remains of a sanatorium in North Dakota where this was accomplished with tunnels.

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Matthew Christopher, an artist we respect and admire, visited Taunton some years back. Check out his amazing photos here.

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The photos on this page have been cropped, cleaned, and enhanced, and are copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC





38 thoughts on “Haunting Images of Taunton State Hospital

  1. I at one time lived about 20 minutes from Taunton State. They are still trying to close it down the last I knew but there are so many people that are fighting it because the next closest would be Worcester which is quite a distance. All those old buildings pictured are gone. You would never know it was where it is as neighborhoods and stores have just grown right around the whole facility. The grounds are beautiful, quiet and peaceful.Also being a Lizzie Borden buff I have never heard that she was there. Yes many criminally insane were treated there but most of them were at Bridgewater and Lizzie was not insane.

  2. I think, if you can over the fact that the building was asylum…it would make for a beautiful home or office building.The structure is very detailed in design and take off all the bars from windows to let the ghost out..now do I sound crazy..haha…

  3. I think, if you can over the fact that the building was asylum…it would make for a beautiful home or office building.The structure is very detailed in design and take off all the bars from windows to let the ghost out..now do I sound crazy..haha…whoops read more about it and the building isn’t there any more…wished it could of been saved…

  4. The confusion with Lizzy Borden staying there may be because the main road leading into the hospital grounds is Hodges Ave. The street becomes Hodges Ave extension once you drive through the gate. Lizzy Borden was held in Taunton at the Hodges Jail 2 tenths of a mile from that main gate.

  5. There used to be dances there on Friday nights and people from the community would go there and dance with the patients. A beautiful facility and definitely too bad to have had to destroy that wonderful architecture. Many people from the area worked there and lost their jobs when it closed.

  6. Lizzy Borden was held in the original Taunton State Asylum, never held at the above buildings, those buildings are the Taunton State Hospital. The original Taunton State Asylum was on Chandler Ave. just outside the gates on the hospital.

  7. The beauty of the place is long gone all the fancy building are demolished all that is left are a few out buildings and the bigger housing type buildings but the walkways and some are long gone it’s still in use these pictures were before these parts were torn down its not abandoned at all

  8. This property is not entirely abandoned, at all. I am on grounds daily, …work and live near by, some of the buildings are closed, …many still open and operating with patients, …actually the grounds are quite nice.

  9. A guy in my neighborhood (Robbie), was sent there multiple times. The cops would pick him up for one reason or another and take him there. He’d be back in a couple days and we’d be like “Hey Robbie, thought they tool you to Taunton State again?”. And he’d say “yeah, but I got bored and came home”. He would just walk out the front gate, so security there was pretty lacks to say the least.

  10. I live right near the entrance of Taunton state. Lizzie Borden was housed at the jail on hodges ave right down the road from Taunton state in what is now an elderly home. There probably is some confusion because it was on the same street just at the opposite end

  11. I have a personal interest in Taunton. My grandfather, that I never met, was a patient there from 1934 to 45 and died there of gangrene of the foot (????) and myocardits. I see these photos and can only think of him living here, walking these halls, and in an unknown physical and mental state. It hurts me to think of it. I couldn’t get any medical records as they were being destroyed – even though I m a granddaughter, or that all these years have gone by, they would not even check to see if they were still there. I have given up on that, but I did manage to get a death record. It is sad, sad, sad. If you have a video of Taunton and its halls, can I purchase a copy? I was born in 1944 and my father never mentioned his family in Fall River where he was born. He lived in Canada most of his life, his Massachusetts family also had lived in Canada and migrated to Fall River. All the years till I recently found out about family there, I had no idea they existed. What a loss for all of us.

  12. My paternal great grandfather was also there for several years and I would very much like to obtain records about his condition etc.
    Lizzie was a very close friend of my maternal great grandmother’s family and they visited her every day when she was in jail and also attended the trial every day.. I doubt very much that she was ever in the Taunton State hospital…
    I agree about the music, a bit ‘chilling’

  13. Boy I’m looking at this with tears, my mother was put here when i was very small but not small enough to forget visiting her here. I do remember her telling us when we got older what she went through and now looking at this Video i just can’t imagine any Sane person coming out in one piece.
    I remember my grandmother bringing us to see my mother, we would have to see her through the window on the lower floors because we couldn’t go in to visit. My mother was a tough person didn’t take any crap from anyone, but with the shock treatments she endured broke her spirit. She ended up helping some of the other patients to get through some tough times in there, and came out and raised us with much love. God rest her soul, seeing this just breaks my heart knowing what she must have gone through.

    1. This sounds very much like my grandmothers story. It took my father, aunts and uncles years to fight to get her out. The shock treatment did so much damage, so sad.

  14. I live near there now. My grandparents lived about 500 yards from the back entrance. Once back in the 80s a patient walked away and strolled into my grandparents house, sat down and started reading the paper.

  15. I live about a mile up the street from the state hospital. I remember going as a teenager to go and play with some of the developmentally delayed kids there. I found the staff then to be caring and loving to the patients that we visited. It was sad to leave and I always wondered where the families were of these poor children. I pass by it everyday and it looks like a road is going down there as an addition to Miles Standish Industrial Park!

    1. I think you have confused Taunton State Hospital with Paul A. Dever, which was on Bay St. (Closed for a number of years) And there is work being done on that property in conjunction with the expansion of the industrial park. Dever had developmentally delayed children but not mentally ill adults.

  16. These places turned into warehouses in later years, because of the overcrowding.
    These were not the houses of horror they later became. At the time they were built, they where state of the art, and patients did recieive quality care from caring and competent professionals.
    People forget there where then, and still are plenty of good people working in the Ma. mental health system.
    These places were at one time quite beautiful, with good quality care available. Even after they became like warehouses due to overcrowding, there were will caring and dedicated people working there.
    There are some of the Kirkbrides that have been restored and used for housing or offices, and they are very beautiful.

  17. I grew up two streets from there and use to walk the stone wall all the time to school. My grandparents met there as attendants.

  18. My 66 year old sister is living on the grounds at the Emory House . It is a beautiful setting w/ kind and caring people around her. She has been in the Emory House for many years now.

  19. I know half of it is up and running but is there a way to maybe tour this historic building. No disrespect to the staff or patients there. I’m from Washington and I am taking a trip to Cape Cod for 1 week and seeing the building would be amazing.

  20. In 1960 my family moved to the 3rd floor flat at 46 Hodges Ave. We were walking distance to the Taunton State Hospital. My dad drove thru the grounds because it was a shortcut to another street. I was 11 years old. My sister and I experienced numerous repetitive unexplained occurrences. The most frightening was the ‘banging on the street’ as we called it. This only happened at late night and early morning hours when it was still dark. It woke us up. We went to The room that faced the street to find out what this was. The banging sounded like metal on metal. It came from the vicinity of the hospital and traveled down the street. We ‘watched’ the sound come down the street. It stopped right in front of our house. We ran back to our room. This happened periodically and we always went to see. Until this. We doubted whatever it was so brought our dog to the window. She watched as we did. The fur from the top of her head all down her back stood up and she continued to growl especially when it stopped in front of our house. As usual it traveled down the street. Where it went or if it returned I don’t know but we never went to ‘watch’ again. It still woke us up but we never went back to the window and it never stopped in front of our house again. There are other things on that street that happened but this was the most memorable

  21. I also live down the street from the hospital. I did once go on the grounds (beautiful) and saw the “numbered” graves. Just little blocks in the ground covered by grass. These unfortunate souls passed — there was no one to claim them so they buried them in numbered graves. I read that the records of these deaths no longer exist but there was a contingent in the City trying to rectify that tragic situation. I don’t think they ever succeeded. For all I know, they moved the graves. I saw a couple of posts above mine where their family members were “committed” here. I hope their relatives aren’t one of the “unknowns”. God Bless.

    1. Excuse me but “numbered”?! That is so… ominous. I’ve never seen that before! And, as you mentioned, “the records of these deaths no longer exist”. Adds to the rumor of things unchristian/satanic, or illegal experiments happening there.

  22. I lived at Taunton State Hospital from 1955 to 1959. My father, Aydin Demirsar, was a psychiatrist. My parents and I lived at the doctors’ residence, a brick building about 200 yards from the main building. Most of the physicians at the hospital at the time were foreign nationals.

    Metin Demirsar, Gemlik, Turkey

  23. From someone who has visited the grounds myself, lives a block away from the hospital itself (as of this post), and knows a lot their stuff. When I last visited the grounds of the hospital, I felt very unwelcome. As if a million eyes were watching me and my grandfather as we biked around the area inside. I have seen the area where it is atop a very large building on a very high up hill, in-fenced in the tallest grid, barbed wired fence I had ever seen.
    I have also seen on the west side of the grounds a very small ancient secretary’s office or check in office or something (I couldn’t even read the sign it was so old). The place is fascinating if you live in Bristol County for a long time (like myself, been here since birth) or raised there for quite a long time, it is a treat to go there and experience it for yourself when you have the time ^u^.

  24. Not sure if you are interested in this but I do have some information about the architects who added the two wings to the original main building in 1871-1873. They were Henry W. Hartwell and Albert E. Swazey, Jr. (Hartwell and Swazey), Boston-based. I think the wings and the walkways to the wings were designed by them. based upon the style. If you need too verify the information you can in the “Eighteenth Annual Report of the Trustees of the State Lunatic Hospital at Taunton,” October, 1871, By Taunton Lunatic Hospital (available in digital form from Google). There are a lot of statistics in the report also. Some are daunting. Your website is interesting and well done. — Bonnie

  25. my dad was in taunton state in the mid 1950s for a few months, he had what they then called a “nervous breakdown”, and he was forced to endure electric shock treatments, at that time a barbaric practice… his breakdown was in all likelihood caused by the war, the things he experienced during his time in the pacific finally caught up with him when he was under extreme stress caused by attending college, having four children and owning a business, way too much for one person to take on, but he was a go getter of the first order and my hero forever!! … he graduated from college in 1957 with a degree in chemistry and we moved to san diego CA there is much more to the story and it does not end well for my dad but he was an amazing, sensitive and very intelligent human being…. I miss him terribly and I know his heart was broken when my mom divorced him, such a sad end to his incredible life

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