The green-capped towers rise high into the sky, looking more like a backdrop for a gothic vampire movie than a hospital. Opened in 1880 near the heart of Buffalo, the hospital was revolutionary in its day.
Like many of the insane asylums built during this period, the Buffalo State Asylum, later renamed the H.H. Richardson Complex, was part of the Kirkbridge Design. The building layout follows the aspirations of Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbridge, a respected psychiatrist in the mid 1800s who hoped to advance the design of mental facilities by separating patients by gender and severity of illness. In a typical Kirkbridge building, a central administration building stands front and center, with long infirmary wings extending off either side, providing fresh air and sunlight to all of the patient rooms. Prior to his design, the mentally ill were often housed in county jails and in the basements of public buildings, where they were often neglected and forgotten.
Unfortunately, even a well-intended vision couldn’t prevent the abuse and mistreatment. Overcrowding and lack of funding often left patients sleeping in fecal soiled bedding with little to no care. The Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane was a prime example of this. The hospital was so overpacked, many patients slept on top of one another in tiny beds, covered in filth.
Treatment for the mentally insane during this era consisted of nothing more than inhumane experiments. Doctors would cut into patient’s heads to incapacitate portions of the brain, turning them into living zombies. Other methods involved frying their brains with electricity or submerging them in tubs of water for hours on end. It’s no wonder some of them continue to haunt the facilities.
The Buffalo State Asylum has been closed down since 1974, but whispers of the dead can still be heard behind the towering brick walls. Thrill seekers, risking arrest for trespassing, report hearing blood curdling screams echoing down the abandoned hallways. Some have reported that the interior of the hospital looks as though it was evacuated swiftly, leaving behind rusting metal beds, equipment and even a dollhouse sitting in the middle of the floor, serving as a haunting reminder of the lives that passed through the arched brick doorways.