October 27th, XLIX A.S.
Good evening everybody,
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, that I love Autumn, especially October. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of this wonderfully fun and eerie time of year. In celebration of the Halloween season of 2014, I decided this month to visit a haunted insane asylum. No, not the type of “haunted” attraction with plastic skeletons and demon clowns popping out of every corner, (those places rock though!) but a (supposedly) actually haunted location, with orbs and EVP’s and mysterious chills!
I quickly zeroed in on a place that my friend had mentioned many months ago, but that I never got around to visiting: Rolling Hills Asylum, located in the small town of East Bethany, New York, between Buffalo and Rochester. I did a bit of reading on the building’s history, on the website that current owners maintain. The facility, run by Genesee County, began as a poorhouse in 1826, and housed anyone deemed a lunatic or pauper by the standards of the time. The inmates worked on the farm that was part of the Rolling Hills facility. Not to get too far ahead of myself, but on the tour I received, I learned that Rolling Hills was later used to house the criminally insane, and in the 1950’s became a nursing home up until the 1970’s. It’s gone through a few private owners since then, and now is used for ghost tours and paranormal investigations, and acts as a museum. Anyway, after reading about the different tour options and thinking it would be fun to visit, I bought a ticket deal online for a short tour followed by a few hours of free investigation time, and set off on a chilly Thursday evening after my last class of the day. I brought a small maglight and my phone for pictures. I figured that was enough to start out with on my first paranormal investigation.
It took me a drive of about 40 minutes through beautiful rural NY, passing by serene lakes and radiant fall foliage, before I reached East Bethany, and then the asylum itself. It was a big old brick building, surrounded by woods and farmers’ fields:
All of us visitors gathered at the door marked “Entrance,” where tour guides and other staff dressed in black “Rolling Hills Asylum” hoodies checked our tickets and let us in, where we signed waivers and were split into tour groups.
Our ages ranged from around 14 to around 50, and a fairly even mix of men and women. It was still light out, but just barely, as a friendly tour guide took my group straightaway to the asylum’s basement, to the room where unruly inmates were tossed and shackled to walls until they “settled down.” He told us an introduction to the history of Rolling Hills, and introduced us to the thermometers and electrical activity sensors (don’t recall the exact name) used to detect ghosts. Alarms from these devices went off repeatedly during our tour. It was extremely dark in the basement, and we already needed our flashlights before sundown. In the basement, much of the paint was chipping and the tiles were cracked, and there were cobwebs all over the place, as you’d expect. Lots of cement. Boards over the windows. Here’s a picture from an old maintenance room we passed:
The guide showed us to the asylum’s huge kitchen, and to the morgue. We went through a tunnel and up to the residence floors. These had long and spooky hallways like you’d expect to see in such a place. As we went, the guide told us stories about ghosts people have reported seeing and hearing, including the ghost of a blind old woman, and of various small children. One ghost who stood out in my mind was that of a boy who had gigantism and was abandoned by his parents at the asylum in the early 20th century. He apparently grew to a height of over seven feet before he died. Two other points of note on the tour were that many scenes of American Horror Story: Asylum were filmed at Rolling Hills, and that the cast of one of those ghost investigation shows (Ghost Hunters maybe? There are a lot, I get them confused) visited in one episode. The guide showed us a door that slammed on one of the TV investigators. So that’s cool. A couple of teenage girls on the tour apparently found that particular investigator hot, too. They were excited to touch the haunted door. Anyway:
I could tell my fellow tourists were excited by the stories and the environment, especially as the sun set as the tour was ending. Everyone remained polite and attentive during the tour itself, but I could tell they were as eager as I was to wander off and explore on their own. I was the only person who had come alone. The guide gave us a couple last safety rules, including that we needed to find a staff member to leave to go outside for the bathroom, because the asylum is locked up tight at all times for security. Also, he told us in no uncertain terms to not attempt to incite or provoke the spirits. This seemed wise to me, as I already felt like I’d just completed the first Act of a Horror movie.
Now the sun was completely down, and I wandered off away from other people to explore, starting in the men’s wing of a newer part of the building, built in the 1950’s. This had long white/yellow walls, and rooms lining the sides, with locked double doors at the far end. Some of the rooms were decorated to look how they would have at the time they were occupied, I think. Most were barren, with a couple wooden chairs, and many dead flies. One room was filled with dolls. I definitely felt chills at how quiet and dark it was, and with the thought of how many people had suffered and died in the place I was now exploring. The only light was from my flashlight, or the occasional flash from someone else’s light far down the hall or coming up the stairs. I would uncommonly hear other people talking or laughing. I mostly preferred to be alone, and to take audio/video footage of the rooms on my own. Unfortunately, it was too dark for many pictures or videos to turn out well, as I was unprepared in my equipment.
Here are a few pictures, however:
I came to the asylum with a skeptical yet open mind about ghosts. I’ve never seen or heard a ghost before, but, I’m open to possibilities, however remote. I attempted to talk to spirits with my camera recording, especially in the rooms which the guide told us had the most activity, but, I never got any response or saw anything. (Not even when I went into an apparently infamous closet and shut the door for a few minutes with my flashlight off. I was more concerned with spiders than with any spirits.) A few other guests a few times apparently heard voices, saw shadowy figures, or got articulate responses from their dowsing rods. I can confirm none of that. The staff of the Rolling Hills “museum” all emphatically declare to see and hear ghosts regularly. Their relations with these supposed spirits are mainly positive, and the staff know many of them by their names and habits. I doubt these stories, but the staff was friendly and welcoming in my experience, and sincere about preserving the history of the Asylum.
I’d like to do an overnight investigation of Rolling Hills Asylum with a couple friends, and see if more hours and more isolation will grant us a ghostly visitation. As it was, I had a fun time doing something I never had before, and feel much more brave in the face of supposedly haunted places. I had moments of concern that my trip was going to turn into the movie Grave Encounters, (I’ll put up a review of that soon; great movie I don’t hear many people talk about,) but, I remained safe.
I recommend Rolling Hills Asylum to anyone with an interest in the paranormal, or in the dark history of old mental institutions.