Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spencer State Hospital



In 1885, crowding at the state mental institution at Weston became so great, that the need for a new facility was a top priority.

Two years later, a task force was able to pass legislation to build a second hospital, located in Spencer, Roane County, WV. The land was bought from William P. Goff for a sum of $9,200 and when built, the Kirkbride building measured in at 1/4 of a mile long. It was billed as the longest continuous brick structure in America, built from native stone.


The hospital opened for patients on July 18, 1893. Named the Second Hospital for the Insane, the doors opened to 54 patients...an number that would increase to 696 over the next ten years.

In the early 1920s, the name was changed to Spencer State Hospital. Several years later a 5 bed hospital clinic was added. The renovations didn't stop there, though. Starting in 1959, the roof was replaced, drastically altering the facade of the building. In 1972 Opportunity Hall, a section for teenagers, was added, followed the next year by a new administration and food service building.

1989 saw the closure of this massive monument, and in October of 1993 everything in the building was auctioned off, including patient x-rays. Before the building was torn down, strange events were often reported, including apparitions, moaning, chain rattling, etc. Rumor has it that doctors buried patients under the dirt floor and when you enter those rooms, you can feel people breathing on your neck.


Like many similar institutions, this one hosted Dr. James Freeman, who is known as the father of frontal lobotomies.  It is said that on one visit, Dr. Freeman forgot or misplaced his hammer used in the procedure.  A wooden mallet was found in the kitchen and used in its place.  Between 1949 and 1952 Dr. Freeman performed lobotomies on over 200 patients, one dying when an out of place artery was severed.

The property does have several cemeteries, dating back to 1902. A total of 750 unmarked and 107 marked graves are memorialized by a white historical sign.

More photos and information

12 comments:

  1. I have 2 wonderful photo's from my great grandmother that she saved of 2nd hospital for the insane. If you are interested I will send them to the owner of this site.

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    1. Thank you! That'd be wonderful! You can contact me at theresarhps@yahoo.com

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    2. My great grandmother was an inmate from 1910 until her death in 1921. I would greatly appreciate any information or photo you might have. Thank You!

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    3. My grandmother lived in Spencer and I had an aunt who is admitted to the Spencer mental hospital we would sign her out as kids and take her down and buy her candy I would love any images of the hospital that you have

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  2. i think this is cool. i like stuff like this.

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  3. Aren't there supposed to be catacombs that are haunted under the current Family Health Care building? People have reported seeing and hearing things in the store some nights and the automatic doors open and close frantically, things fall off shelves, footsteps are heard where there is no one.

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    1. I have no idea. If anyone has any information on this, please let me know; I'd love to know more about it.

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  4. My Grandfather was sent there in the 40's for acting childish. He was beaten to death there. The state agreed to pay for his funeral etc.

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    1. I am so sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, such incidents happened more than what would be considered an exception.

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  5. My Great-Great Grandfather was there from 1911-1942. He died of a heart attack while in the hospital. What I am not sure of is if he was there for a physical illness or a mental disorder. He had been a coal miner, so I am guessing maybe a lung disease. His death record shows he was buried on the cemetery grounds. Not sure if his grave is marked, but would hope a patient for 31 years would warrant a marked grave. His name was Theodore F Hupp.

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