St. Albans Sanatorium – Radford, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

St. Albans Sanatorium

Radford, Virginia

Paranormal investigators say this abandoned asylum is the most haunted spot in the eastern U.S. 


It doesn’t take a paranormal investigator to realize this building is haunted by its past. Broken toys litter the floor, while old wheelchairs rust in corners beneath grimy, peeling walls. The whole building has a dark, eerie air to it, making any visitor instantly aware they’re treading within grounds sullied by decades of horrors.

The once-stately building was originally a Lutheran boys school. It was a terrible place to go to class, as bullying was encouraged within the increasingly competitive student body. As a result of the hostile learning environment, a small number of the students died by suicide.

After the school was shut down, St. Albans reopened as a psychiatric infirmary in 1916. It was supposed to be a better alternative to the other asylums scattered throughout the United States. It boasted a rooftop garden, bowling alley, and even a small farm to treat its patients to a healthy dose of leisurely fun.

Sadly, conditions were not as idyllic as the masterminds behind the sanatorium envisioned. Vulnerable patients were subjected to cruel experimental treatments by their doctors. People were left permanently disabled or even killed by lobotomies or insulin-induced comas. Others were shocked via electroconvulsive therapy. Still others were completely wrapped, mummy-style, in towels drenched with ice-cold water or left to soak in a tub for days at a time during routine hydrotherapy sessions.

The sanatorium was also ill-equipped to deal with the thousands of patients that entered for treatment. By 1945, its staff-to-patient ratio was 48 to 6,509. The desperately small staff and inhumane living conditions led the building to witness further suicides within its already grim walls.

By the late 20th century, the sanatorium was on a steady decline. It finally closed in the 1990s. But, according to paranormal investigators and the occasional curious visitor, not every patient seems to have left the building.

St. Albans is supposedly among the most active paranormal locations on the East Coast. Given the number of wrongful deaths that occurred within, it’s easy to imagine why this would become a ghostly hangout spot. People report seeing bodied apparitions, shadowy figures, and levitating objects while exploring within these decrepit walls. Others claim to hear voices or even feel fleeting physical contact with unseen beings.

Know Before You Go

The tours and investigations are usually on specific dates. The St. Albans website has all of the information listed about specific dates, events, and tours. Also, if you're in for a real scare, then you should come around Halloween when there's usually a haunted house set up inside the sanatorium. This location is one that you will never forget!