Places to Visit »The Northampton State Hospital

northampton state hospitalIf you've got an appetite for fear and a thirst for horror and for whatever reason you find yourself cruising western Taxachusetts, heading north on Route 5 or 10 (or west on 9, if you're coming from university-saturated Amherst), directly into the heart of rainbow-friendly downtown Northampton (it's bound to happen eventually), you just have to make a left turn right before the gothic town hall-looking structure onto Route 66, drive past the Smith physical plant and athletic fields and glance up to your left. Behold, terror of terrors!

The Northampton State Hospital (formerly known as Northampton Lunatic Hospital) was built way back in the 1850s and has a really interesting history but, like so many of this area's proud mental hospitals, it was closed years ago and the deranged inmates were set free, loosed upon an unsuspecting public.

As scary (and partially inaccurate) as that sounds, the ruins are truly creepy and certainly worth a visit. The property has been slated for redevelopment for years and the buildings are bound to come down eventually so please, embrace your gothy side and make the trip up before it's too late.

But don't repeat the mistake a good friend of mine made when he and 3 pals were arrested for breaking in and now will be cruelly taunted for all eternity by their spouses and girlfriends who have absolutely no tolerance for such stupid, childish antics. Instead of getting cuffed, stuffed, shamed and blamed, do some serious research on the state of today's urban exploration (which I can only imagine isn't quite as low-profile of a crime as it once was with the war on terror raging and any suspicious behavior, as harmless as it may be, drawing the attention of an increasingly vigilant public). Please also read this account of an urban exploration perpetrated in Canada, it's one of my all-time favorites.

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Posted on October 30, 2006

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