Danvers State Hospital for the Criminally Insane opened in 1878 to serve some 600 mental patients under its imposing gothic spires. While it was built with a surprisingly caring and modern attitude toward the mentally ill, by the 1930s the site was crowded, falling into disrepair, and was using shock therapies and lobotomies on a regular basis. The addition of criminals, alcoholics, and the mentally retarded to the overcrowded hospital made it very difficult for the hospital to help cure any of its mental patients. The hospital was shut down in 1992.
The building, with its gothic style and series of underground tunnels, inspired H. P. Lovecraft’s Arkham Sanitarium, in turn inspiring Batman’s Arkham Asylum. In 2001, Brad Anderson chose the abandoned Danvers State Hospital as the primary location for his terrifying film, Session 9.
Besides the horror of H.P. Lovecraft there is yet another more modern horror story here. As of 2007 the beautiful, if decaying, building was mostly torn down and turned into bright and shiny apartments. Halstead Danvers, (originally Avalon Danvers) is complete with swimming pool and barely a reference (there is a small plaque on the grounds) to the site’s fascinating past. While, thankfully, some of the facade remains the rest of the beautiful building has been replaced with chintzy apartments, elliptical machines and Ikea furniture. It would scare even H.P. Lovecraft.
However, there is one piece of the former insane asylum that still exists: its cemetery. This is where the previous residents of Danvers were laid to rest, or as one visitor put it the “cemetery of the dead insane.” At least there is a little bit of Danvers left where Lovecraft could still feel at home.