In Rockland County New York, there is an area known as Letchworth Village. Built in 1911, Letchworth Village was once a thriving institution for the physically and mentally disabled, and still contains well over 100 standing buildings. The institution functioned for 85 years until it was shut down in 1996 for horrific conditions and experimental patient testing. Thanks to a help of an ABC news reporter back in 1972, a light was shed on the inhumane ways the patients were being treated, or in many cases, neglected.
While the area is a popular site for today’s urban explorers, the grounds have been largely taken back by nature. Nearly all of the buildings are covered in vines and, consequently, aren’t the easiest to get in to. Then again, the boarded up windows and doors don’t make it easy either.
On the east end, the hospital, one of the largest structures in the area, is found in a picturesque location. While that may be an odd way to describe a place where such horrific events occurred, the entire village is quite beautiful. Once an area of great potential, the community’s setup is quite nice – the area covers 2,362 acres, and is actually a popular place to jog and walk the dog. However, these visitors aren’t exactly going into the abandoned buildings.
The insides of many of these buildings are quite – for lack of better word – creepy. In 2011, the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures visited the area to document their findings. Because the majority of patients were children, among the ruin you will find toys and other items that add to the already sinister atmosphere.
Besides what you see, Letchworth is more about what you feel. Being in the community gives you a sense of uneasiness – that heavy, dark feeling, if you know what I mean. All jokes aside, I’m not a fearful type of person, but the basement of the hospital literally turned me right around. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees and there was no way I was walking into the darkness to explore that one.
Even if you aren’t interested in going into any of the buildings, try and schedule a visit to Letchworth. As I mentioned, the institution itself is a wonder to look at from the outside. All around Letchworth Village is Letchworth State Park, which has some amazing hiking trails, including the Footbridge Trail that crosses the Genesee River. Take a moment to stop by and stroll through the area and think of its tragic history. Located on the area’s edges, a cemetery can be found that mourns the patients who were lost in the institution, displaying a memorial reading, “Those that shall not be forgotten.” Let’s do our part.