Most visitors to New York City never think of exploring the surrounding areas. But just an hour north of the “city that never sleeps,” is one of the spookiest abandoned places in the entire country.
Nestled in the hills of northern Rockland County in the Town of Stony Point are the abandoned remains of what was once considered the gem of the mental health care system in the United States, Letchworth Village.
Letchworth Village officially opened its doors to the mentally ill in 1911. The original goal of the institution was to care for the mentally disabled of all ages. However the facility quickly fell prey to the problems many similar institutions encountered at that time.
At its peak, Letchworth Village was composed of around 130 buildings, including a power plant. The ample acreage of the facility even allowed residents the opportunity to harvest and grow their own food.
Quickly though, things began to change. Within the first 10 years, overcrowding at Letchworth became a problem. In 1921, the population at Letchworth was about 1,200. By the 1950s, over 4,000 people were crammed into the already tiny resident dormitories.
Perhaps more disturbing than that is the fact that the majority of the residents at Letchworth Village were children between the ages of 5 and 16-years-old. These children were basically abandoned at the facility by their parents. Depending on their mental capacity, these children were forced to work in the fields or on various municipal projects.
This ready population of disabled children in the care of the state became an opportunity for some researchers. In 1950, Hilary Koprowski tested his polio vaccine on children at Letchworth Village. A total of 20 children at the facility had the experimental polio vaccine tested on them.
At the same time, rumors were growing about the maltreatment of patients by staff members. Visitors to Letchworth reported that patients looked malnourished, and were not properly cared for by the staff. Other reports mention patients who were unclothed, unbathed, and locked in empty rooms.
The abuse of the patients was so bad that even the staff members turned on each other. There were a number of reported co-worker assaults and rapes.
Throughout the mid-1900s, any patient who died at Letchworth was buried in a graveyard a few miles from the facility. However, most of these patients could not even have their dignity back in death. When buried, all they received was a T-shaped grave marker with their patient number on it.
After decades of rampant abuse, and countless patient deaths, Letchworth Village was permanently closed down in 1996.
I can”t believe so much patient abuse was allowed to go on for so long. It boggles the mind…
In the years since Letchworth shut down, the remains of the facility have become a local Mecca of the creepy.
What makes Letchworth Village even spookier is that the now-abandoned buildings are still full of furniture and files. It”s not uncommon for explorers to find patient files, alongside family pictures from the staff, on the floor of the vacant buildings.
Of course the insides of most of the buildings are now vandalized in some way, shape, or form.
I”m not sure the view was much a consolation to the patient who was locked in this room.
While many ideas have been floated by the local municipalities for redevelopment of the area, no plans have come to fruition.
These days, it”s so easy for us to not think twice about the terrible history behind abandoned places like this. But it”s important to remember the people who essentially spent their lives incarcerated at Letchworth Village, and places like it. I have a hard time imagining a fate worse than that.