Despite dangers, abandoned psychiatric hospital attracts trespassers
BY ALYSSA McMILLAN
OU News Bureau
Abandoned psychiatric hospitals have become the amusement attraction to urban explorers and ghost seekers.
Psychiatric hospitals have a stereotype of being haunted because of the depiction of mentally ill patients in movies such as “Gothika,” “House on a Haunted Hill” and “The Ring.”
State cutbacks during in recent years forced the state of Michigan to shut down psychiatric hospitals, including Northville Psychiatric hospital, which opened in 1952 and closed in 2003.
As developers work on plans to use the property, people trespass on the 414-acre facility out of curiosity, despite police warnings of the dangers.
Dr. Sunil Koneru, a psychiatrist at Walter P. Ruther Psychiatric in Westland said that the stereotypes of mental hospitals and patients are all exaggeration from movies. In film, the stereotype of the mental health patient involves mood swings, paranoia and hearing voices.
“People are out of touch with reality when it comes to psychiatric hospitals,” Koneru said.
Mental health hospitals 100 years ago were different because there wasn’t psychiatric medication like now, Koneru explained. During the last two decades, medication has changed treatment methods.
Straightjackets no longer are used because they restrict a patient’s movement. Patients are only put in restraints as a last resort.
At the closed facility in Northville, curious visitors stroll underground in the tunnels that once were used as service tunnels.
Mike Burrough, community liaison officer for the Northville Township Police Department, said urban trespassing enthusiast and thieves are a problem. The danger of dilapidated buildings worries Burrough.
“We don’t want anyone getting hurt, or the potential of some dying,” he said.
From January 2010 through December 2011 there were 134 incidents of trespassing at the former state hospital.
“We see trespassers from early teens all the way up into early 30s,” Burrough said.
Northville Township’s master plan, called Twenty21, calls for the property to become a recreational resource. Northville Psychiatric Hospital’s site has undeveloped wetlands, open spaces and wildlife. Twenty21 hopes to achieve its goal by 2021.
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