Nicola Kirk: Author and Collector of Paranormal Stories and Other Strange Encounters

Posts tagged ‘mental asylum’


What lurks behind closed doors?

Urban legends are great fun, but it’s a shame that many of them are just that – legends.  A friend told me about a tale he’d heard regarding a mental hospital in Portreath, Cornwall.  He said that during renovations of the property a hidden room had been discovered.  Creepy.   As the builders peered into the hole in the wall they’d made, they discovered a group of skeletons sitting on chairs (what, really?).  The rumour was that they were victims of the plague that had been bricked up.  I couldn’t find any further information on this so I’m pretty sure it’s just a myth, but it’s an interesting one all the same and it got me thinking about other stories I’d heard about people being walled up alive and hidden rooms.

A hidden room with a view – Glamis Castle

Perhaps one of the most famous hidden rooms is the one in Glamis Castle, Scotland.  Apparently towels were once hung from every window in the castle but one window remained without, suggesting that there was a secret room.  So what did the room contain?  There are various stories, one being of a horrifically malformed child born to the eleventh Earl who was hidden away in the room to prevent people finding out about the tragedy.  Another story is that the family walled their enemies up in the room.  At least you would always know where to find them.

There’s more than a chill in the air at Chillingham Castle

Chillingham Castle has more than its fair share of ghosts, including the spirit of a little boy who was walled up in the castle’s ‘Pink Room’ during the time of the Spanish Armada.  The little lad is alleged to have suffered immurement along with some important documents he had been given to deliver to the Spanish.  His remains were discovered in the 1920s.  Some of the documents sealed up with the child can still be seen on display at the castle.

Borley Rectory – Home of the wandering nun

Nuns always seemed to cop the worst punishments in days gone by.  So much as wink at Brother Bob and you’re being whipped with stinging nettles and threatened with more Hail Marys than you can shake a stick at.  Borley Rectory, perhaps one of the most famous haunted houses ever, boasts the ghost of a young novice nun who was discovered having an affair with a Borley monk (I’m afraid I can’t confirm or deny if his name actually was Bob, sorry).  The monk was put to death and the nun was walled up alive in the vaults below her priory.  It would seem that her ghost managed to escape the vaults and has been seen wandering around the Rectory, as has the ghost of the monk.  I wonder if they ever manage to meet up to carry on where they left off.

Being virginal and virtuous used to be a pretty hazardous way of life.  In Rome, if a Vestal Virgin was found guilty of breaking her vow of celibacy, she could be buried alive in a small cave with nothing but a small piece of bread and a drop of water to live on.  Hey, come on, it takes two to tango.  Why not bury the man, too?  At least they can go out with a bang.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote an interesting short story about a nobleman called Montresor who, offended by a fellow nobleman, Fortunato, plots the man’s death by promising him Amontillado (sherry wine) but instead leads him into some catacombs where he walls the unfortunate man up alive.  Yes, a truly eerie tale, but for those of you who aren’t into reading the classics, I have found the following short film on YouTube for you to enjoy instead.  No giggling please, this is serious stuff:


©Nicola Kirk an 2010

Update received 11.08.2016

I have received the following message from a resident of Portreath:

“The Portreath hidden room skeleton story is true, though not as stated.  It is a house on the beach (name of property withheld), not a mental home. During the 1950’s there was some building work carried out and they found a hidden room, there was one skeleton inside! The original house was some years later demolished and a new one built in its place.”
Many thanks for that update!


Mysterious Britain – Glamis Castle

Hoosier Haunts – Chillingham Castle


Wikipedia – Premature Burial

Wikipedia – A Cask Of Amontillado


Bird’s eye view:  Cane Hill Mental Asylum

What is it about disused hospitals that’s so interesting?  I mean, I’m assuming it’s not just me who gets a strange sort of thrill out of nosing through old hospital records and inspecting questionable machinery?

Well, thanks to the wonders of the internet, it is no longer necessary for you and I to go sneaking around boarded up buildings whilst attempting to dodge security guards wielding angry Alsatians because… you can always find someone who’s already done all the dangerous stuff for you – urban explorers are worth their weight in gold!  (Health & Safety bit – I am in no way suggesting that you all go out and invade your nearest derelict hospital armed with torches and ski masks.  Urban Exploration can be a very hazardous turnout and is best left to the experts…  No, really, it is.)

One place that grabs my undivided attention with both hands is Cane Hill, an old psychiatric hospital in Coulsdon.  It opened in 1882 and was capable of holding over 2,000 patients (apparently in 1953 they had about 2,400 people stuffed in there). Cane Hill finally shut up shop in 1991.  Sadly, once it closed, the hospital suffered terribly at the hands of arsonists and a general lack of maintenance, so many of the floors soon fell through or were so spongy you took your life in your hands if you walked on them but Cane Hill still remained an incredible place.  Sadly, demolition of the vast hospital began in March 2008 and was due to have been completed in January 2010, leaving only a couple of the original buildings standing.  I guess all good things have to come to an end.

Urban Decay: A ward at Cane Hill

Both Michael Caine and David Bowie had half brothers who attended Cane Hill and Charlie Chaplin’s mother also went there until Charlie could afford private care for her.  Treatments dished out at Cane Hill varied from electroshock therapy to hydrotherapy and as time passed they even cracked out some light and art therapy, too.  I know which ones I would opt for…

The dentist will see you now…

Cane Hill was, of course, a ghost hunter magnet.  How could it not be with its deserted corridors and spooky old chapel.  There are stories of  security men patrolling the site with their hard-as-nails dogs, only to have the animals run away whimpering from a figure seen wandering amongst the trees.  Upon further investigation, the grave of Cane Hill’s first superintendent was discovered amongst the undergrowth.

My favourite urban explorer, Simon Cornwell, documented Cane Hill over the years so I highly recommend a visit to his website to see the photos (link below).  During a visit to the enormous chapel they have on site, Simon came away with some interesting ‘spectral mist’ photos, one of which I have cheekily added here:

A strange mist plagues Urban Explorers at the Cane Hill chapel

To be honest, I don’t think Cane Hill needs reams of ghost stories to enforce the fact it was a brilliant place.  As you will see from the photos on this post, and if you visit other Urban Explorer websites (from whence these photos came, thanks guys), it’s clear just how enigmatic and intriguing the place was.

The Effects of Arson and Bad Weather

Cane Hill Asylum – you will be missed…


©Nicola Kirk and 2010

Photos used on this post are linked to their original sources.


Abandoned Britain


Croydon Guardian

Simon Cornwell – Urbex


Contamination Zone

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