Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital
Marlboro was a self-sustaining community, just as many of these institutions always were. The hospital featured its own kitchen, powerplant, laundry services, irrigation facilities, farmland, and more. A chapel was constructed on site with the expectation to service all religious types. All buildings were connected to each other by a maze of underground tunnels. The hospital also had two outreach programs; Bridgeway House and Discovery House. These were aimed at being able to integrate patients back into the community after their stay at the state hospital.
Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital may be one of Jersey's most controversial locations. The hospital regularly used selective sterilization (forcing one to undergo surgical sterilization) and eugenics practices. In 1937, the hospital began to experiment with injecting unsafe levels of insulin into patients to see if it "cured" their mental disease. In 1936, it was discovered the hospital was performing autopsies on all patients who died without consent from their family. In 1979, 131 patients and 2 staff members fell ill to food poisoning due to unclean kitchen conditions. 5 patients would later die from their complications from the illness. In 1976, the town of Marlboro was placed under a state of emergency due to an outstanding 650 patients, many violent offenders, escaping from the state hospital. Reports of sexual assault, physical abuse, and even murder began surfacing. Patients were dying at the hands of neglectful staff members and patient to patient sexual abuse was also reported.
The Hospital underwent a series of investigations, most famously the Codey investigation, that eventually led to its closure. In 1963, the Monmouth County Grand Jury concluded that the staff at Marlboro Psychiatric was highly inadequate. There were no staff or facilities to treat people who were committed sexual offenses and the hospital saw plenty of patients in response to these crimes. At this time, the doctor/patient ratio was 400 patients to one doctor. In 1965, the New Jersey Tenement House Commission investigated the conditions in just one of the cottages at the hospital. They found 272 bedridden patients on one floor, staff housed on another floor, no fire escapes, and only one stairwell in the entire building. the hospital was threatened its accreditation in 1987 due to an investigation that showed understaffing and a general insensitivity/mistreatment to the patients by staff members. It also showed that staff members were being hired without any background checks, causing a danger to patients. This prompted the famous undercover investigation by the then-senator Richard J Codey of West Orange NJ. He applied to work at the hospital using the ID of a convicted felon sex offender. He was immediately hired without a background check and assigned to one of the most notorious buildings for severely regressed patients. He found speechless and immobile patients in the basement level who were once murderers, rapists, and violent offenders. Everything came to light in the 1993 executive summary that cited the questionable activities going on at the hospital. In addition to the neglect and horrid conditions, it was also found that the hospital was guilty of multiple counts of fraud via medical and insurance payments. The hospital ultimate closed its doors for good in 1998.
After its abandonment, a local legend arose of a murderous farmer who occupied the former slaughterhouse on the property. The hospital was featured in Weird NJ and became the go-to place for sighting "shadow figures" and other supernatural events. Before demolition, the US Military preformed explosives training on the property. Demolition initially started with 8 of the cottages that were considered "problem areas" due to local trespassers. By 2013, the police were receiving at least 100 calls per year of trespassing on the property. It was then ordered for the remaining buildings to be taken down. By 2015, the entire complex was demolished with the exception of the powerplant and dining hall which are to be incorporated into the active water treatment plant on campus.
I regret not having spent more time investigating Marlboro. Growing up, we studied the folklore surrounding Marlboro and other similar abandoned institutions like it was our religion. However, I consider this place to be the one that (almost) got away. It seemed every time I attempted to pay a visit, some series of whacky misfortunes would occur; almost certainly involving some sort of encounter with the local police.
At one point I figured I had nothing to lose, parked my car across the street and brazenly walked up the front gate alone like I owned the place. I snapped a few photos and peered inside the guard booth, where I was suddenly started to find a figure staring back at me! Lo and behold, it ended up being "Twilight Guy" (as I preferred to call him, or Taylor Lautner to those of you on #teamjacob). In no less than 30 seconds, I was surrounded by a crowd of police cars. It was a spectacular display, roughly a half dozen grown men with guns, lights on, asking me what I was doing. The fanfare quickly simmered down after a couple back and forths (yes, I'm alone, yes I'm just taking photos, no, I did not try to break in). The rest of the crowd became bored and drove off while I chatted with a relatively attractive young officer who ultimately lectured me about the dangers of .... taking photos? Cross the road? Being outdoors in general? I was sent on my way, just to return with some sidekicks a few days later.
Now comes strike two. We decide the best approach is to get into the woods before the sun rises and make our way up. Not my favorite kind of plan, but now I'm determined. The morning finally comes, and after some difficulties waking my accomplices, I'm stricken with quite the stomach ache. Still, I press on. It feels like it takes us years to get there and find our ways through the woods and various obstacles to the buildings, where I think proceed to barf in the bushes a few times. We cut our visit short, I'm not feeling so hot, it's freezing out, everyone's exhausted.
Little did I know that I'd never successfully make another trip back here. After that, strike three, four, five, six.... so on and so forth, I'm somehow stopped by the police or manage to become so disorientated in the woods (which is pretty unusual for me) that I never step foot back on Marlboro's campus again before it meets the wrecking ball. I will always feel like there were so many more secrets there that I never uncovered, and that making it in just that one time almost made it more frustrating than if I had never made it at all!
So long, Marlboro, it was fun while it lasted.