Tucked away in the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest, there are some abandoned buildings surrounding by acres of land. These buildings, while beautiful in a way that only abandoned places can be, are rumored to also be home to ghosts of those who lived and died on the property. These buildings were, at one point in history, a part of the Northern State Hospital.
In the early 1900s, Washington state was in need of an additional mental hospital, as the two already open were starting to run out of space. Many places bid to host the new hospital and eventually, Sedro Woolly up in Skagit County won and construction on the 700-acre property was soon under way. In 1912, the hospital was officially open and taking patients.
The grounds included a wide variety of buildings and amenities – there was lodging for the patients and staff, a cemetery, a farm and greenhouse in which patients would work, a library, a gym, and much more. The farm, which included a variety of barnyard animals, actually allowed for the hospital to be pretty self-sufficient. The largest patient population happened during the 1950s, in which there was around 2,700 patients on site.
Working on the farm was a part of the Hospital’s occupational therapy; the idea behind it being that it would aid in the patient’s recovery and at the same time, allow them to learn a skill for the day they’d be released. However, because it was a mental health hospital operated during the 20th century, other treatments also included electroshock therapy and lobotomy. There were also forced sterilizations, following the then popular but utterly misguided notion that it was for the patient’s and society’s own good.
There are some who claim that the site is haunted – a little girl has been spotted around the old buildings and a nurse pushing a man in a wheelchair has been seen in one building. The property’s now overgrown cemetery is the final resting place of 1,500 souls but the records of who is buried there were lost when the hospital closed down in 1973. In 2006 though, locals erected a plaque memorializing all those who died and were buried on the grounds.
Can you visit?
For the most part, yes! The entire property isn’t open to the public, as some of the buildings are still being used in a variety of capacities. But much of the property is now part of the Northern State Recreation Area and the extensive trails will take you through forested lanes, open pastures, and past the now abandoned but still standing barns, cannery, and other structures. However, some of these buildings were condemned and done so for a reason – it’s important to be careful because like many abandoned buildings, these ones are filled with debris and asbestos.
The Washington Trails Association puts the round-trip hike at around 5 miles, with a gain of about 50 ft.
And that is the story behind the Northern State Hospital.
Sources and to learn more:
- Weird US – A Bughouse in Bug Town: Northern State Hospital
- Washington Trails Association – Northern State Ghost Town
- Asylum Projects – Northern State Hospital
- Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation – Northern State Hospital
- This Life in Ruins – Northern State Hospital (photos)
- Northern State Hospital Book
- Exploring history in your hiking books – Finding Northern State Hospital
- Atlas Obscura – Northern State Hospital Farm