Bartonville State Hospital

     Apparently Bartonville State Hospital was a nice place to visit and quite a few souls decided to stay.  I say this because of the progressive medicine that Dr. Zeller was known for, and quite simply human kindness, which was something that you normally did not find in an insane asylum in the beginning of the 1900’s.

     Construction began in 1885, and resulted in a large, foreboding castle –like building.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, this original building was later torn down in 1897, having never been used because of structural flaws.  It appears that this original building had been built on top of an abandoned coal mine and suffered much when the shafts began decaying and collapsing.

     The hospital was then re-built and opened to the public in 1902.  Gone was the foreboding castle and in its place was a more modern structure. In addition to the main building there were at least 33 cottages used for the housing of patients.  Also there were no bar on the windows or restraints.  This type of treatment for mental patients was practically unheard of that time. 

     In addition to the progressive treatment of patients, Dr. Zeller also instituted on site cemeteries for patients were unclaimed at the time of their death.  In the end there were four cemeteries located behind the main building.  It was in the oldest cemetery that the first documented haunting occurred.  As a matter of fact, Dr. Zeller himself documented it.

     Dr Zeller created a burial corps, composed of staff members and a few patients.  It was one these patients that our tale is about.  His name was simply Bookbinder, and whenever the corps buried someone he would mourn for that person, even if he didn’t know them.  He would go to an old Elm tree, that had been in the midst of the graveyard for many years, and mourns the passing of the fellow patient, sobbing loudly.

     Time passed and the Bookbinder eventually did too.  Because he was so well liked by the staff and his fellow patients a large funeral was held.  With close to four hundred witnesses in attendance, as they lowered the coffin into the open grave, a low moaning was heard.  Many turned in the direction of the old Elm tree; there stood Bookbinder, mourning as he had also done.  Astonished, Dr.Zeller, immediately had the coffin opened in front of those who had not run in fear.  Inside, of course was the corpse of Bookbinder.  Those who were still watching the tree observed as the apparition disappeared.  Shortly thereafter, the old Elm tree began to try.  Eventually it was decided to remove the tree, but as the axe was swung a low moan was heard.  It was then decided to burn the remains of the tree, but once again the Bookbinder had his say. For as soon as the flames were set, the crying began.  The flames were quickly extinguished.  The old dead elm still stands in this graveyard.

     In 1972 the asylum closed its doors for good a remained empty until 1980.  At that time the prosperity was sold and the buildings were demolished.  While the institution was empty it became a lure for vandals and ghost hunters alike.

     In addition to Dr. Zeller’s documentation of the haunting, one can also look into the information provided by Rob Conover.  Rob is a former Marine as well as a private investigator.  He was actually able to videotape an apparition living within the walls of the old sanitarium.

One thing to consider in this case of haunting is that we are dealing with mental patients, People who were unstable to begin with.  One has to ask the question, how much did these people understand about themselves and the world around them.  One has to figure that in death they are just as confused as when they were living.  There is no realism to begin with, so it stands to reason that in death they are still looking for the safe haven that they found in Dr. Zellers care.

I look forward to investigating more mental institutions in the future to see if there is a correlation between instability of the person’s mental health and the haunting exhibited.


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