While plenty of America's abandoned insane asylums offer spooky tours, overnight ghost hunts, and museums filled with the torturous relics of psychiatric history, there's one defunct mental hospital in Ohio that cranks the creepy-factor to 11. Sure, it has all the hallmarks of a great local haunt - rumors of spirits, beautiful decay, and even an adjoining cemetery, but it's what lies hidden on the top floor of the building that truly terrifies visitors: a human-shaped stain where an escaped patient lay dead for over a month.
The Athens Lunatic Asylum, also known to locals as "The Ridges", was once one of Ohio's largest asylums for the mentally ill, and one of the first hospitals to be built using the "Kirkbride Plan", a standardized method that governed the way mental institutions were built, and the way the patients were treated. The hospital officially opened its doors in January of 1874, and for awhile provided some of the best care available at the time, mostly to Civil War soldiers suffering from the then-misunderstood post-traumatic stress disorder. But as usually happens with places now deemed haunted, things eventually went very wrong.
As the years wore on, the staff began to realize that they could put many of their patients to work in hospital's various facilities, such as the farm, which operated on a for-profit basis. As the institute become greedier, the number of patients admitted to the hospital grew. To make matters worse, Kirkbride hospitals had gained reputations as a good places to dump family members you couldn't afford to care for. The facilities began to fill up with the elderly, the homeless, and rebellious teenagers being taught a lesson by their parents. By the 1950s, the The Ridges housed nearly 2,000 patients, over three times its capacity, yet the staff numbers never changed. Add the invention of shock therapy and the labotomy to the mix, and you have a recipe for a nightmare. Patients were regularly restained for days at a time, crowded in rooms meant for one, and beaten by cruel hospital staff.
By the time the 80s rolled around, treatments like lobotomies were shunned, and a rise in individualized care coupled with increased scrutiny from the medical community resulted in big changes to The Ridges. Many of the buildings were donated to Ohio Univerisity, and what was left of the property housed just around 300 people. In 1993, the hospital finally closed its doors, but if you ask those who've been there since, not all of the patients left...
University students would often tell tales of strange figures standing in the empty wings of the former hospital, dismbodied screams echoing through the halls, or intense feelings of dread on the premesis. The most terrifying story though, stems from the large stain on the top floor of the building, a stain that had become the subject of the most whispered rumors on the campus.
On December 1, 1979, a patient by the name of Margaret Schilling went missing. Despite the best (read: poor) efforts of the hospital staff, Margaret was nowhere to be found. It wasn't until 42 days later that her body was discovered locked in a long-abandoned ward once used for patients with infectious illnesses. Tests showed that she died of heart failure, yet she was found completely naked, her clothing neatly folded next to her body. Worse yet, to the horror of those who found her, Margaret had decayed so much that a gooey imprint of her body had seeped into the concrete. Much to their dismay, the stain couldn't be scrubbed out no matter how hard they tried, and to this day the lonely outline of her body can still be seen on the top floor of the asylum. Some say that on clear nights, Margaret can still be seen trying to escape the room where she died.