Sanatorium Stories


Signs

     During my youth growing up in the West Essex area, my folks would often drive through the sanatorium complex, using Sanatorium Road as a shortcut between Mountain Ave. and Fairview Ave. I recall the eeriness of the property, occasionally seeing a light on in the interior of a building or a misplaced person walking. On more than one occasion, during my younger years, friends and I would venture onto the grounds and survey the expansive property, conjuring up thoughts of what used to happen inside these buildings. Peering through the windows, we would see gurneys, iron beds, a barber chair, and medical supplies stored in cabinets. It was as if the hospital just walked away from the property. I can recall my last visit as though it was yesterday!

 

     It was a clear February day back in 1986, a few buddies and I trekked over the mounds of dirt blocking the access road on our mountain bikes. We pedaled our way to the buildings and into the courtyard. We secured our bikes behind some brush and climbed through a broken window into the basement of the administration building. The few of us wandered through into the hospital, wound up and down stairwells, toured the laboratories - witnessing some specimens contained in jars, wheelchairs, beds, etc. We reached the roof, the auditorium, and eventually the chapel, before heading back to the courtyard.

 

     I recall seeing many pentagrams and swastikas painted throughout the complex, and signs that rituals of some kind had been conducted in the chapel. That alone was eerie. The silence that was heard throughout the building - it was enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end! Upon reaching the basement level where we had entered, we saw that a police car was parked near our mountain bikes. That foiled our plan of a quick getaway.

 

     The police officer was attempting to load our bikes into his patrol car when we emerged. We were immediately put in custody, placed in the patrol car, and questioned. We tried the alibi "We didn't know we were trespassing, we didn't see any signs". The officer attempted to be a hard ass, threatening lockup in downtown Newark for three white boys. The officer then took us on a unexpected ride in his patrol car. He proceeded to point out to us the numerous signs posted along the perimeter of the access road - "No Trespassing". We admitted our wrongdoing as "curiosity" in exchange for being brought back to our mountain bikes, and vowing not to return.

 

     That days visit will always remain with me. Having witnessed the sanatorium during its early days of abandonment and its 20 year decline to ruin. Another great piece of history dissolved in our midst!

 

- Mark

West Caldwell, NJ

 

Busted

     Back in 2001, two of my friends and I decided to go check out the abandoned sanatorium. My friend brought along some flashlights, a paintball gun, and a BB gun. The first mile was scary as hell since the path is as wide as a sidewalk with plants touching you. When we went in, the place was quite amazing. We got to see the tunnels, towers, and a tree on the hilltop with weird squealing noises coming from it. I fired two shots into the air to try and scare it off, but it persisted to squeal. On the way out we kept getting lost, but somehow managed to find our way back.

 

     Since we were loaded with guns, I stayed at the gate while my other friend got the car from the lot. As he approached the corner, he turned around and walked back swiftly. He exclaimed, "Guys, there's a cop over there looking in my car". I hid the BB gun in my pants, and my friend put his paintball gun on the ground. All of a sudden, another cop pulls in from the main entrance with his spotlight on us. He patted us down after seeing the paintball gun on the ground, but somehow failed to notice the BB gun. When he asked if there was anything else we had on us, I told him about the BB gun, and he instructed me to lay it on his car.

 

     As I did, the other cop from across the lot almost shot me thinking I was pulling a gun on his partner. Needless to say, we all got arrested that night, but I had it the worst. My friends all got tickets for trespassing - I got a misdemeanor for trespassing with a firearm and had to go to court.

 

- Slava, Emil, John

 

Figure In Black

     I don't live near the area of the sanatorium, but my friends and I had heard stories about it, and wanted to take a trip to see the place. It seemed to take forever to walk the path up, but it was worth every second of it.

 

     When we finally got up there, it was late in the afternoon. We went to the water towers and took a few pictures. Later, when we went into one of the buildings, we started to hear footsteps running on the floor above us. It got really scary when we heard those footsteps coming down the stairs - almost as if someone/something knew we were there. We hauled our asses out of the building and ran like hell. Behind us, we heard a scream, then a loud deep voice "Get the hell out of here!" We all looked at each other and sprinted the rest of the way down the mountain.

 

     For me, the scariest part was still hearing the footsteps behind us while we were running. One of my friends also claims to have seen a figure in black running towards us. That one visit was my last. I had nightmares for a long time.

 

- C

 

Bury The Past

     I had never heard of the Essex County Sanatorium until I saw this website today. Although I knew nothing about it till now, its story is all too familiar. Similar structures of similar historical significance have met the same sad demise around my neck of the woods, deliberately allowed to deteriorate through years and years of neglect and then suddenly demolished to make way for golf courses, condos, and malls.

 

     I can appreciate the county of Essex and their desire to sell the unused property - both for money and to rid themselves of potential liabilities. At the same time, it's a shame that at least part of the facility, perhaps some of the key buildings at least, could not have been preserved and restored as historical landmarks. Unfortunately, as we "advance" as a nation, we are often all too anxious to demolish many of our artifacts of historical significance and bury their remains beneath golf courses and luxury condominiums, lost to past history and future generations.

 

     Anyway, thanks for putting up a website which helps to keep some of the history and knowledge alive.

 

- John

 

The Wheelchair

     One night back in 1996, a couple of my friends and I decided to head on up to the sanatorium. It was dark and rainy, so we took flashlights and two of my friends brought their dogs. When we finally got to the clearing, we could see the remains of the institution. It was amazing. We were roaming around for awhile when out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move. I knew it wasn't any of my friends - they were all right next to me. I slowly got their attention and they noticed it too.

 

     We stepped a little closer to see inside the first floor of the building. There was a very old wheelchair inside moving on its own. The creepy thing was, there was no wind that night, not even a slight breeze. We all hightailed it out of there...

 

real friggin fast.

 

- lmcs

 

GET OUT!

     I've lived in North Caldwell my whole life. I always knew there was an abandoned mental institution up on Hilltop, but I never knew half of the things that went on up there. One night after a baseball game my coach, his son, and a few kids on the team were going there to play paintball. I didn't have a paintball gun, but I went to watch. I was sitting on a rock when out of nowhere, on a wall behind me, it said GET OUT!  I hadn't noticed it before. It seemed like just out of the blue it appeared there. I told my friends and we sprinted down Mountain Field and into my coaches car. I'll never forget that.

 

- A.T.

 

A Face In The Window

     My trips to the sanatorium were always reluctant ones. The place frightened me. To make matters worse, my friends knew how I felt, and they rarely missed a chance to scare the living hell out of me. We were up there on a summer afternoon sometime in the early 90's, and those bastards all hid on me. I was aimlessly wandering the halls, searching for them. To walk through that place alone, even in the daytime, was absolutely terrifying. There were strange noises coming from all directions. I could hear footsteps, crunching glass, and weird sounds like someone was dragging something. At my first opportunity to get the hell out of there, I did just that. I stepped outside into that center court with all the buildings surrounding me.

 

     When I looked towards the big building, I noticed that about 4 or 5 floors up, there was someone looking down at me from one of the windows. Their face was set back, almost into the darkness of the room, but it was close enough to the window that some light was hitting it. I could make it out just enough to see that the face was pale, almost ghostly white, with very dark eyes. It wasn't anyone I knew. It was motionless, just watching me. My blood ran cold and I froze. I wanted to run, but I sure as hell wasn't going to run back into any of the buildings. Before I could move, I saw the face slowly turn and disappear into the darkness. What instantly ran through my mind was that whoever it was is coming down to get me. I ran and never looked back.

 

     I never quite forgave my 'friends' for hiding on me that day. And although they didn't see or hear anything, they seemed to genuinely believe my account of what I saw that afternoon. None the less, they continued going up to the sanatorium for a few more years after that.

 

Without me.

 

- MOPE

 

Unplugged

     I'm originally from Butler, but I spent many a drunken excursion to the sanatorium in the frivolity of my youth. I recall one night, we made it to the roof. We unplugged some kind of electrical box. 25 minutes later, most of the Essex County police showed up. Turns out it was the repeater for their radio. It seems that we knocked out all communications for the Essex County police. After that, they started to patrol regularly.

 

- John

 

The Fog

     I recently went to the sanatorium with a few of my friends. I can tell you right now that itís about a 3 mile walk, and 2 of those miles are through woods filled with thorn bushes. When you finally get to the gate, you have to run so you don't get caught, then itís about a mile walk up the road. The night we went was crystal clear, but as soon as we started walking, a thick cold fog took over. We kept hearing weird noises on either side of us through the woods that stretched quite far. Some noises sounded like rain drops, others sounded like someone walking over branches, but nothing was visible because of the fog. We all had flashlights, but when we would shine them, the light would reflect back at us, almost like a mirror.

 

     After walking for about half a mile, we heard a noise - it sounded kind of like a muffled gunshot. Since my friends and I have heard stories about the KKK practicing there, we didnít stick around long. We began running because of the noise, and the presence that something was after us. We ran all the way back to the front gate, when a cop rolled around. We knew the consequences for being there, so we hid behind a large log. We could still hear the noises like something was coming after us. Finally, the cop pulled away and we ran the 2 miles back through the bushes like our lives depended on it.

 

     We were all pretty cut up from the thorns, and we lost a few hats and packs of cigarettes, but we didnít get caught or hurt, and we all have a great story to tell. I have one question - On the way up the road, before you get to the remaining sanatorium buildings, thereís a tiny shed/shack. Has anyone seen this or have any idea what it is? If so, e-mail me at thevamprissjay@hotmail.com and thanks for all the other stories!

 

Ham Radio

     My father was a ham radio operator. He belonged to a radio club that participated in an annual national emergency communications event/drill. The club used the Hilltop propertyís old picnic grounds every year in late June for around 20 years. The picnic grounds are down the road near the two water towers, and are now severely overgrown and unrecognizable as such, except for a small bathroom building. The picnic grounds had a large stone barbecue pit and an assortment of tables, which were in a wooded depression to the left of the road, just after the pavement gives way to a dirt trail. The picnic grounds were abandoned by the Hospital center (I can't remember when) and a new picnic area was built to the left of the paved road just before it ended. The 'new' picnic area was only used a couple of years before the whole complex was shut down.

 

     Starting in the late '60's, I went with my father and his fellow ham radio friends (then eventually with my own ham radio nerd pals) every year the radio club (Livingston Amateur Radio Club) held the event, and beyond that, after the club went defunct. I think it was 2 years after the demo, the County refused to grant us permission to use the site for our annual event, thus ending our use of the property for this purpose. So up until the early '90's, I had been to the Hilltop every year for a little over 20 years, and I got to see the slow decay of the site in sort of time-lapse fashion.

 

     I can remember wandering around the site when the sanatorium was a mental institution, and having a couple of nerve wracking encounters with patients who were let out on the grounds without supervision with "passes". I was just a kid and generally freaked out to be chatting with nut cases.

 

     Oddly enough, I never ventured into the main building after it was abandoned, and I did not know the tunnels existed until I read about them on this web site! I have been in the outer buildings many times, and although I never encountered any ghosts or spectral mists, it was very eerie to see these buildings abandoned in place with desks, beds, chairs, equipment, records, and everything else left behind, as if they were in an end-of-the-world panic and just bolted out the doors.

 

     Anyway, for myself and my friends, we had what I'd like to think of as a special connection to the Hilltop. I was, and still am, saddened that everything went the way it did. The main Hospital building was a magnificent structure to see before it was abandoned.

 

- Mike

 

Water Towers

     A few friends and I recently climbed one of the huge water towers at the Hilltop property. Let me tell you that although they appear rusty, they seem safe to climb and the metal ladders are stable. It's quite high and gives you a real rush to look down from the top. You can see nearly all of New York City to the east and mountainous western NJ as well. I've gone at both day and night and suggest this experience to anyone who is not too afraid of heights!

 

- G.C.

Verona, NJ

 

The Ghost Buildings

     Well, I don't know how to start off explaining this story, because it doesn't really make any sense to me. I'm still trying to piece it together as I write this to you. A few of my friends and I had decided to check out some local New Jersey haunted places. Of course, on the top of our list, was the Sanatorium. We departed from my house around 2pm, so we would still have enough sunlight to look around the place when we got there. Well, a 45 minute road trip turned into a 2 hour one, because of how hard the sanatorium is to find.

 

     When we finally arrived to the area, I noticed there was a sign that said "Road Closed", and right by it was a police officer. I wasn't about to quit, so my friends and I pulled the car around, parked, and cut through the woods. This wouldn't be such a big deal, but the walk took forever to get up the hill. It was getting dark when we finally arrived. In the distance, I started to see the skeletal standings of the water towers, and what appeared to be the entire facility - it held an outline in the moonlight. It was extraordinary, not to mention truly eerie, and frightening. I tried to compose myself, but fear took over me and my friends. As we continued up the path, we heard someone scream "You'll burn in hell!". We turned around in the direction of the voice, and to no surprise, there was no one there. What really scared us though, was that when we looked back in the direction of where we had just seen the buildings, we couldn't find anything. After that we left, horrified.

 

     Now, I've read the information about the destruction of this facility, and I'm not sure how to say this without sounding insane, but I went on this trip in November 2001, after most of this place had been destroyed. Is it possible that some things won't leave existence....even this ill fated building?

 

- M.H.

 

Nostalgia, From The Sanatorium

     Times spent at the sanatorium were good ones. My friends and I went up a few times one summer, but stopped after that. From the first time I went, I knew there was some sort of presence there. Not knowing what, but I could feel it all around me, boring into my skull, telling me to explore further. The more I explored, the more I liked it.

 

     There was the occasional room that I couldn't bring myself to enter, but my first walk through that dark hallway in the 3 story building was a thrilling one. Doors on your left and right, all black rooms beyond them. I stayed as far away from the openings as I could, but of course my friends liked to push me into the rooms - and yes, I would just about piss myself. There was something strange about that hallway. If you stood just outside, right next to the entrance, there was always a strong cold breeze that would flow out, like the souls of a thousand miserable dead people were trying to push you away.

 

     I'm sad that I didn't go and visit the sanatorium before it was knocked down, but I still have some memories of my own that I can hold onto forever. Me and every other sanatorium fanatic will never forget them....

 

- O

 

Blue Ghosts

     I remember when I was about 16 years old, my friend and I were walking behind the Medical Staff Building. We both looked down at something on the ground. I think it was a Barbie Doll with her head ripped off. I looked up first and saw this "thing". I nudged my friend and he saw it also. It looked like something out of Pac Man. It was glowing blue, no legs, just hovering there. As soon as we moved an inch, it shot down the mountain faster than any animal or human could.

 

     Scared the crap out of both of us. We ran all the way down to Fairview Ave. through the woods. To this day, 10 years later, I still swear by what I saw.

 

- Pat

 

Final Alarm

     It was on a warm day this past summer that I responded to one of my final calls on the Hilltop. It was a beautiful day for a parade. About 10 or 15 members from my department were in full dress uniform - we had just finished the parade route and were ready to get on partying and help out neighboring Caldwell Fire Department celebrate their One Hundredth Anniversary.

 

     We were walking over to the beer truck (I already had my soda - being the driver) when the alarm came in for a "working fire on the Hilltop". When the first unit arrived, they found the old garage/paint shed behind the powerhouse partially involved. We spent the next several hours (close to 5) on the mountain putting the fire out. It was less than a week later that the county informed us that the rest of the buildings were due to be demolished. It was bittersweet. As a firefighter, I knew every time we responded up there danger lurked everywhere - holes in floors, unsound structures, etc. Yet, at the same time, I was sad to see a part of history erased from the present, to be only spoken of in the past.

 

     Growing up my whole life in Verona, I was too young to have seen the full facility in its glory. From the firefighters who had relatives that worked there and responded to many of the fires which destroyed the buildings, I could only imagine the beauty they described. Now, thankfully to this site, I can appreciate that which I was never able to see in person.

 

- Matt

 

The Nurse

     Hi, I am a little spooked right now because this site resurfaced all of my experiences at the sanatorium. I would say that from 1981 to 1989, I must have made only about a dozen trips to the sanatorium - that's not a lot, considering that I lived in Verona for 25 years. It was about 5 minutes by car and about an hour by foot from where I lived. My first trip was planned with 5 of my friends on the last day of school in our 8th grade year. We heard about the sanatorium from one of my friends older brothers who used to go up there and party. He said it was an old abandoned mental hospital, but for some reason they left everything in its place, like hospital beds, paperwork, gurneys, x-ray machines, and that it was like something out of a scary movie. My friends brother had also mentioned that there were a few bums living in the sanatorium, so I was not going up there that first time without a baseball bat or something in my hand. Needless to say, I was feeling a little apprehensive, but I got a bat and we started up the mountain.

 

     When we first got to the top, I'll never forget how breathtaking and big it was, and how much real estate it took up. We proceeded to the main building, and it was all true. I could not believe what I had seen. There were 100's of hospital beds, hospital clothing, gurneys, syringes, and medical supplies all over the floor. There was broken glass, peeling paint, and patient files everywhere. I found it weird that the exit signs were still lit above the stairway doors. The clincher though, was the body parts that were in a room at the top floor of the main building. There was a brain, a heart, a slice of a lung, and a tapeworm that was removed from a 40 year old woman - from what it said on the side of the jar. They were just sitting there in formaldehyde, on a shelf, untouched. I don't get it. Why would they leave all of this stuff? It makes you think that something really shady went down, and the sanatorium was evacuated overnight.

 

     At this point, we were all getting a little scared so we started to make our way downstairs. On our way down, we started to hear LOUD noises - we got out as fast as we could. After we got home, I could not stop thinking about it and why it was there in that condition. I remember telling my other friends about it and going back up there about three more times that summer. I asked some of my older neighbors and town people if they knew any information, but not one person knew what had happened up there. Eventually, my expeditions to the hospital leaked out and my parents made the sanatorium off limits for me.

 

     About 3 years passed before I went back, and nothing had changed. I got the same exact feelings as the first time. My friends and I had gotten our licenses, so the next few trips were just pass-by's through the grounds in a car. We did not get out, except for one night. It was around Halloween and my friends and I were having a few beers at a buddies house and we started talking about the sanatorium. There were a few people there who had only heard about it, but had never been there. We decided to take them on a drive through, but I had to go to the bathroom. My friend pulled over by the water towers and let me out. He then drove off and left me there for about 4 minutes - that's a real long time when your scared. Needless to say, it was not a funny joke.

 

     My final visit to the sanatorium was in 1989. I was in college and working a summer job in Fairfield, N.J. I met this girl who was into all that supernatural stuff and enjoyed anything scary. Once I told her about the hospital, she had to see it. One day we had lunch and took a ride up there. It was about 12:45 pm. We drove up from the Caldwell side, pulled around the main building to where it connects to the infirmary, and parked almost directly underneath that little bridge or crosswalk that was used to get from one building to another. I was telling her about my experiences when all of a sudden, I looked up and we both saw what looked like a nurse - just a dark, shadow, silhouette type of outline walking very slowly across the bridge from the one building to the next. It was in broad daylight and as clear as day. I proceeded to drive away as fast as I could. I never went back there..........ever.

 

- M

 

Love?

     I have never been to the Sanatorium, but I am a lover of historical buildings. Buildings like the Essex Mountain Sanatorium are hard to come by these days, and the mystique behind these buildings only add to there character.

 

     While reading all of the stories from visiting teens etc, and hearing them say what a beautiful building the Sanatorium is and how much "love" they seem to have for the historical site, I am forced to wonder why the hell they were setting fires and vandalizing it, instead of banding together and taking a petition around to save the building. It seems sort of contradictory that the ones who helped to wreck the buildings are saying that it's a "crime to tear them down" etc. These kids helped to have the buildings torn down, as the law officials found it to be a party palace that was becoming a real hazard.

 

     To sum up the sadness expressed in these stories I'm reading on this website, I think that all these kids are only sad that their party hangout was taken away, and they now have to find a new place to wreck.

 

I feel sad for the next historic site that they will come across.

 

- Joe B.

Canada

 

Thank You

     I used to spend countless hours/days in high school up at the sanatorium taking pictures and exploring the area. I still remember the day I was driving down Prospect Ave. in West Orange and I looked up the hill to where you could see the hospital sticking up, and I saw the wrecking balls - sucks. I also used to write a lot when I went there, so I have lots of poems about the sanatorium. It was a very sad place, but there was something that I loved so much about it. I couldn't get enough of going there.

 

     I find it so comforting (in a weird, still unable to place it completely way) to know that so many people had the same fascination/obsession with the hospital that I did/do. I haven't been up there in years, I don't know why, maybe it's just too sad. But when I read these stories, I find myself being like "Wow, that is exactly how I felt". The thrill of it, the sense of other being, and that damp rotten smell, that to me smelled so good. Every now and then I will smell it somewhere for a second and I am instantly brought back - but it hurts almost to think about it.

 

     This site is a wonderful place to share the memories and to drift away back to those times spent up there that I hold so close. It isn't just missing the buildings, it's missing a piece of your past that you can't even go back to physically.

 

- Emily

 

A Sad Place

     I am very upset about the things going on concerning these buildings. My aunt and uncle both died in one of those buildings from T.B.. It used to be a T.B. ward many years ago before it became a sanatorium for the mentally ill.

 

     It is a very sad place and I do believe that it is being haunted by the souls that died there. My aunt was 22 and my uncle was 19 when they died and as you can see it was not a very pleasant place to be in - let alone die in. Thank you for putting up pictures of it since I had no idea what it looked like. I just wish I could go there and see for myself what is left of it but I am too old to go to jail.

 

     Anyway, maybe the young people that visit this site can take a few minutes and give a little thought to all of the people that never got to leave there, especially the young ones like my relatives.

 

- S

 

"Copland"

     I've been going up to the sanatorium since 1980. It's too bad kids had to burn most of it in the early 90's and bring attention from the county to level most of it. There's been lots of strange stuff up there....bodies found, hate group meetings, an illegal dumping scandal that rocked the county and led to several officials being charged and jailed etc.

 

     The Sylvester Stallone movie "Copland" was filmed up there - I witnessed the process. They took over the hilltop for about a week, placing speed and street signs throughout. Several scenes were filmed including a police motor vehicle stop, Michael Rappaport running through the woods with Harvey Keitel and crew chasing, and a few with Stallone walking. If you ever get the chance to see it again they will jump out at you, especially the police car stop scene filmed near the old JINS building.

 

     Also, some "Soprano's" scenes were shot there, before the county executive banned them from filming on county property.

 

- J.K.

 

Memories

     My friends and I have been visiting Overbrook / Essex Mountain for several years now. I could tell you a hundred stories about weird sounds, sights, being chased out by cops, misadventures in the tunnels, etc.  What I would like to say is this though; to tear these buildings down is criminal. We always found this to be a place of refuge and great beauty, albeit a terrifying one. Thanks for including a photo of the Mozart quote I spray painted in the one building.

 

- Allison Rice

 

The Demolition

     It's such a shame. These buildings have so much in them, not material wise but spirit wise. There's so much that has gone on in these buildings, and for them to just destroy the area is awful. I'm not saying there's ghosts or anything like that, but as soon as I walked onto the areas perimeters, I felt such a sad feeling. That feeling came without even knowing its history. The first time I went I didn't even know what this place was, a few friends of mine just took me. The last time I went, I almost got arrested. The cop was really cool though, he let us go.

 

     We were asking him questions and he said they were considering putting a golf course there....isn't that awful? A golf course of all things. You cant just eliminate a place like this and make it a golf course. I dunno, maybe I'm just really opinionated on it....not much I or anyone can really do though.

 

- Joanna C.

 

Visits 1996 - 1997

     During 1996-97 my friends and I used to visit the nurse's quarters and the other buildings that still remained. We had no idea what this place was called (we thought it was called Overbrook). The last time we were there, a group of about 5 of us went there around midnight and walked up the long dirt road.

 

     As we neared the buildings we heard a baby crying and then some strange sounds. We saw some black shapes in the trees so we ran back down the road. As we neared the park by the exit, we ran into about 5 other people going up for a thrill. We all went back together (all 10 of us) and were approached by several dark figures. We all ran and I haven't been there since.

 

     The atmosphere of this place was incredible and I'm glad I got to see it before it was totally ruined. The basement was incredible...that distant spot of light at the end, the asbestos snow on the ground, and the pitch black rooms. I'm getting goose bumps and it's been 4 years. Oh yeah, Mike T., if you read this...this is Will from Montville, you should submit the horror movie you made in the old buildings before they were wrecked.

 

- Will B.

 

Essex Mountain

     I remember back in the late 80's I visited this place. I was with a bunch of guys from Seton Hall Univ. When I first came to the top of this mountain I could not believe the size of the buildings. I also remember the view from looking out one of the windows. I remember walking thru the halls and looking into rooms with very old furniture and iron bar bed posts.

 

     Also there seemed to be small x-ray prints all over the floors and in cabinets. It was really creepy. I was not in this place for long, but I will always remember Essex Mountain.

 

I found your website in Weird NJ magazine. Thanks for the memories.

 

- Kenny  

 

Shoes

     In the mid 80's, I spent a great deal of time at the sanatorium. Back then, all of the buildings were standing and you didn't have to worry about getting caught. There was really no security and the gates to both entrances were always open (I assume this was because Turning Point was occupying the Male Home at the time). We could just simply drive up and park in the main parking lot.

 

     I wish I could describe how it felt to drive up to those huge, ominous skeletons of buildings, with the striking contrast between its cream colored exterior and the blackness of its broken windows. They were like hundreds of black eyes - looking at you. Every time we would pull into that lot my heart would skip a beat and my stomach would sink. It was really intimidating.

 

     In '86 or '87, on one of our trips, while pulling in we saw that the whole main parking lot was filled with piles and piles of shoes - BIG piles. Some of the piles must have been 15 feet high! All different kinds and sizes of shoes put into piles - it was weird. I don't know why they were there, or where they went. On one of our next visits, all of the shoes were gone. The piles had disappeared. It isn't much of a ghost story I know, but the image of seeing all those piles of shoes has always stuck with me. It was very odd.

 

- C.L.

 

The Chain

     I remember the room that had the pull chain in it. The room was on the top floor of the big building (the administration building?) and it had a chain hanging from the ceiling. I think it opened a huge vent in the attic or something and if you pulled it it would make this horribly loud noise that sounded like the whole building was falling down. Anytime me and my friends were bringing somebody up to the sanitarium for the first time we would always bring them into that room and pull the chain. They would always be terrified even before we pulled it but when we did they would completely lose it.

     

     I remember one time we pulled it and this girl that was with us ran out of the buildings screaming and wouldn't go back in and waited the whole rest of the night down at the car. To this day, the sanitarium is by far the creepiest place I have ever been.

 

- Tommy

 

The Blue Cloud

     One time when I was up there with two of my friends, they supposedly saw a ghost. Some weird blue cloud that came around the corner of the building closest to the High School (not sure which) and then whipped down the mountain at about 80 mph. I didn't get to see it, but they both freaked at the same time and we all took off.

 

- Tim

 

The Sanatorium

     It has been more then 6 years since I was at the sanatorium but I have never forgotten it. It was winter time and being from the South I was not used to all of the gloomy snow, which really just set the mood. This friend I was visiting suggested that if I really wanted to see something of a local legend we could go to what he said was an old abandoned "Mental Hospital". The original plan was to go at night because me being brave, informed my friend that I did not believe in ghosts or any other such nonsense and this place could not possibly be as creepy as he described it. I was all for a nighttime rendezvous with the sanatorium. Due to heavy snow we could not go on the night planned and I was leaving the following evening. The only option was to go the next day, weather permitting. The following morning the snow had let up and we drove to the point where we had to get out and start walking, the snow was almost knee deep. I was starting to get a little apprehensive just on the walk up there. From viewing your pictures I believe I was headed to the administration building. 

 

     So after walking what seemed to be miles, we reached a building. I took one look and didn't even want to go in. This was straight out of a B horror film. My companion insisted I do just that after walking all that way and after listening to all of my bravado about not being scared of ghosts. I went in a few rooms (I recognized that peeling institution green color paint) and down a long corridor and partially up some stairs. I was just too freaked out to do anymore than that. I couldn't get out of that place fast enough! I was petrified that something or someone was going to reach out and grab me. Needless to say I almost ran the entire way back.

 

      I have remained fascinated by the place all these years, it has never left me. I was going to do some research on it years ago (before the explosion of the Internet) the old fashioned way, at the library but never got around to it. I have remained curious about the places history so I was fascinated by your website. I looked at each and every picture and now I remember why I never went any further inside then I did. I heard stories about brains in glass bottles and all sorts of gross things, I never did see any of that but I didn't give it enough of a chance. I just wanted to tell you how cool it was to go back and revisit this creepy place and learn a little bit about it!

 

- Thanks

 

The Tunnels

     My mother used to be an intern at the sanatorium back in the 60's while in med school. I showed her your website and she identified every picture. She said it was kinda scary being there even back then. She says the scariest things were when they had to travel the tunnels to the different parts of the asylum and having to deal with the patients. Also, the walls were peeling paint even back then, they never really kept the place up, it was always a hole.

 

- Phil

 

Nightmares

     Utterly amazing. It gave me chills up and down my spine, as while growing up in Verona, I visited the Sanatorium on several occasions -- and every time, I was scared out of my wits. I have also experienced the "Hauntings" -- odd sounds (LOUD sounds) that had no explanation. Suffice to say, I never stayed around long enough to find out what they were. Believe it or not, in my early teens, I started to write a fiction short story based on my experiences at the Sanatorium. It was never finished. That place gave me nightmares, and simply looking at the photos on this site sparked intense emotions of fear and fascination into me.

 

     The history of this institution has always fascinated me as well, as have the urban legends that were created as a result of its existence.

 

- Mike

 

"Doctor's Row"

     Sometime between 7th and 10th grade (which would have been between 1975 and 1979) my school bus used to pick up a doctor's son who lived in the Medical Staff Building on the Hilltop. I recall there was not much going on up there at the time. In fact, the Medical Staff Building and the Garage behind it may have been the only actively used buildings from the Sanatorium during that time period. The medical staff living there worked down below at Overbrook. 

     

     When the Sanatorium closed, I think the County took it over with an eye towards expanding Overbrook, but all they used was the Medical Staff building, and one of the smaller buildings for The Turning Point, which I think may have also gone by the names of MICA, and ALANON. The last time I was up there was 1989 or 1990, pre-demolition. The buildings were very vandalized, but still structurally sound and salvageable. I recall there not being much fuss about the demolition at the time. Were they to attempt something like that today, less than ten years later, I think the public would have fought them hard. I'm puzzled why they left a handful of mostly smaller buildings standing though. Most likely the County ran out of money for the project, ceased activity, and forgot about them.

     

     I agree that it was an incredible waste of an historic feature to tear those buildings down. One of those structures could have made a fantastic Community Center, County Offices, etc. It would have been surrounded by one of the largest parks in Essex County. My gut feeling is the County will only want a wooded reservation, with no improvements. That's still a huge improvement over yet another subdivided development to clog our local streets with traffic.

 

Thanks for the great website, and the memories.

 

- Rob

 

"The Hell Hole"

     I remember this place. I used to go up there with a bunch of middle school friends. We used to go up there in groups. I remember going up to the top floor in the main building and looking out over New Jersey. Wow, it was a sight. But I do agree with everyone that has said anything about this place, it was scary!!!!!

 

- Pat

 

Window Shades

     Go to "Submitted Pictures" and look under the name Tara. I'm the guy who made that drawing. It was sometime early in 1999. It looks like they probably took that picture sometime before I showed up to finish the drawing later that same day. 

     

     As I was drawing it the day before, the Essex County SWAT team showed up to use the complex to run some drills and they kicked me out. I came back the next day (I believe it was a Sunday) to finish the drawing. The SWAT team had put up paper targets all over the place that they had shot with paintballs. I finished the drawing, including the phrases "No me habres" and "Sangre es verdad". At some point after I finished the drawing, I actually took it with me to show to some friends, but I put it back later. It was stolen shortly afterwards.

     

     I also did another window shade drawing earlier in a room on the second floor. It was a sort of self-portrait with my tongue being nailed to a brain in which you can read "Happiness at any cost?". I have a good deal of video footage of the "Happiness" drawing, but I have no documentation of the other. If anyone can help me out with photos or the actual shades themselves (both were taken from the building), please contact me at kc@dumbhuman.com

 

Thanks.

 

- K.C.

 

Road Trip

     My roommate from college was from Caldwell, NJ and we took a road trip to visit his home town. This was in 1988-89 and he was telling me about this place on the hill. Being naturally curious about the site he knew a way to get up there by car that was not obstructed by a pile of dirt in the road. It was a rainy October day when we went up there and really didn't get to walk around that much. He told me how the local kids would head up there and drink beer and that someone had painted a graffiti picture of his friend "Brady" in there. Also something about finding a straight jacket and strapping him into to it or something.

 

     I've often thought about how interesting it would be to return and really check it out. I'm sorry to hear that it was torn down, it really was an intriguing property.

 

- Wally

 

Cat Found At Sanatorium

     I appreciate your website because me and my friends have been fans of the asylum for quite along time now, it's our laser tag grounds. I would also like to tell you of a recent story about the garages behind the powerhouse, towards the trail heading down to the apartments below near the high school. One night while playing laser tag we ran across the most horrible sound ever coming from the garages. After carefully searching the area we limited the sound down to one garage where we found a crawlspace with new locks and hinges on it, where someone was starving a baby kitten to death.

 

     Luckily, me and my fellow friends where able to rescue it and bring it back to health. Well anyway, thanks for the website and if you ever see anyone heading up there with kittens please take care of them.

 

I appreciate it.

 

- Cud

 

Goodbye

     I was up there in mid-late July, 2001. Not much was left. My friend and I were there a little less than a year ago, in Aug. 2000 and we could not believe how much more the place had deteriorated in a little less than a year's time. The building across from the garages was almost in the woods from all the overgrow. The building down the road from the bridge (the nurses house?) was charred! The roof and the top floor had been burned off. Other buildings had been recently torn down, they were still there just in big debris piles. The water towers looked in good shape, other than the rust. 

 

     What a friggin shame. This place deserved better. Essex County should be ashamed of itself. I have an article from 1993, of how this place was eligible to be included on the national register of historic places. But that did not happen. The county let it rot and deteriorate and all the assholes who trashed the place over the years. We were there for a few hours, and as we were leaving a police car came up the road straight at us! The old black cop was cool and let us go. He told us we were trespassing and it's a $150 ticket. He told us just to find our way out. As we were walking down the main road he passed us again and asked us if we wanted a ride. He drove us down to the gate where the ball field is on Mountain Ave. then he parked right at the gate and stayed there.

 

     We were shocked to see that police car turn the corner out of nowhere. We lucked out. Just before that happened we said that this would be our last visit, the place was too trashed and would all be gone soon. We were ceremoniously escorted out for our last time.

 

GOODBYE TO THE ESSEX MOUNTAIN SANATORIUM.

 

- Rollo

 

Our Sanatorium

     The sanatorium was our home for a lot of us for many years and to watch it go through its stages of being knocked down is killing a part of who we are/were. I will always remember this place fondly. I will never forget when I saw the morgue or pushing my friends around on gurneys in the tunnels. Smoking j's on the roof, drinking beer or partying up there. This place was of great historical value, both because of what happened there and architecturally. I, for one, will forever be saddened at the loss of one of my friends.

 

- Uno

 

Got a story from the Sanatorium?  Submit it Here

 

Home    Pictures 2001