Many abandoned buildings take on a feeling of malevolence only thanks to their decay, but the rotting complex of buildings that was once the Forest Haven Asylum was known as a place of death and abuse long before it stopped being used.
Opened in 1925 to serve residents of the District of Columbia, Forest Haven was initially a beacon of progress and quality in treating children who were mentally ill, handicapped, or otherwise unable to function normally in society. With over 30 structures on the 250-acre campus, the inmates were taught job skills in a communal farm colony environment that provided them with essential training and an emotionally empowering sense of community. For the first few decades that is.
By the 1960s funding for the sprawling institution began to dry up and devastating cut backs began to afflict the asylum. Recreational programs were discontinued, and the staff was reduced and replaced with unqualified employees. As the years rolled by things got progressively worse as the doctors, nurse, and caregivers began taking out their frustrations on the patients, many of whom were abused bodily and sexually, if they were given any attention at all. Eventually patients began dying of neglect and related causes. The dead would be passed through the basement morgue and eventually buried in an unmarked field nearby. Hundreds of inmates died, and according to one report, some were even the subject of medical experiments before the entire institution was shuttered in 1991.
Today the buildings of Forest Haven asylum are still standing, bearing the peeling paint, rot, and graffiti of time. A single headstone has been erected in the burial field to honor the hundreds of inmates who were anonymously put to an unceremonious rest. As if the decaying remains of this horrific asylum did not give the site a haunting air, there have also been reports of the shallow graves of the carelessly buried inmates eroding to reveal the unfortunate corpses. With places like Forest Haven, why do horror movies even build sets?
Know Before You Go
There is now a security gate preventing entry to the asylum building.
Park beside the fence next to the storage facility on Old Portland Road, look up to make sure you see a power line and then follow either of the 2 trails through the woods. After a short walk through 5' tall brush/vines the trail forks, bare right. This part of the trail will make crossing the black muck easier and then you'll see the building in the upcoming distance.