Hutchinson State Hospital
The 1920's was a period of great expansion for the hospital center. Many additional buildings, including a school of nursing, are added to the campus. The main state route that ran through the campus was also to be reconstructed to hug the outskirts of the campus instead of straight through. Like most state hospitals, this facility was self-sustaining, basically a town within itself.
The Hutchinson State Hospital was the first hospital to see the use of insulin shock treatment. In 1926, Dr. Manfred Sakal came to the hospital from Vienna to demonstrate the method a group of physicians from various institutions. The hospital then became a teaching hospital for the treatment for other facilities across the United States. The 1950's and 60's saw the highest population in the hospital's history. A record patient census of 5,818 was recorded in 1952. Farm operations came to a halt in 1960, thus removing the status of a self-sustaining hospital. The most recent building constructed was in 1966 and was deemed a state-of-the-art medical/surgical building.
Unlike the previous centuries, the 1970's introduced the downfall of the hospital. In 1971, 3 buildings were closed and sold to a private developmental center for use one year later. Even with the advent of modern medicine and patient population declining, the hospital was recognized as a leader in the state mental health care system in 1984. By the mid-1990's, state hospitals were getting destroyed by state budgets and getting labeled as reminders of a dark past. The hospital officially closed down in January 1994, just shy of 70 years in operation.
In 2013, the shuttered hospital campus was purchased by a management company to become a satellite campus for a University. Their website claims the campus was holding classes in 2016, but with no actual evidence to prove it. Re-done buildings are now crumbling once again as the cycle of decay repeats itself.
An iconic location, well known by explorers across many generations. On a barren winter morning, I and my two best exploring partners set out for our adventure to the "Hutchinson State Hospital". 4:30 am comes quickly when you go to bed the night before after midnight. Oh well, length of sleep doesn't matter when it comes to an adventure, only work. Camera and flashlight charged and packed, I set out to meet my friends.
We all arrive at the meeting point and consolidate to one car to head out. Today we were trying a new path in, one that involved walking entirely through the woods to remain hidden. It didn't help that it had just snowed about 6 inches the very night before. We had all been saying to each other "if it snows the night before, we are calling it off, too risky of a place". Deep down, all three of us knew nobody was calling it off no matter how much snow we got. The day started off as a mild day for winter, so mild that it began to rain on our drive up. "Hey! Let's stop and get some ponchos, I'm not walking that sh*t in the rain" says one of us. So we make a detour directly next to another iconic state hospital for ponchos. We arrive at Home Depot and walk inside, grab our ponchos, but we cannot find an open register to check out. Suddenly an employee asks how we got in the store, as they aren't even open yet. Whatever, he checks us out and we walk out of the store just in time for the rain to stop.
Fast forward and we are currently on our trek (at least a two-mile walk) through 6+ inches of snow to the location. It seems like an eternity of walking through thick woods and thorns. We have to stop to check our location on our phone to be sure we are walking in the right direction. 80% of the time we were nowhere near where we wanted to be. What seemed like over an hour and a half later, we arrive at the campus and reach the first road. It's beautifully plowed, better cleared of snow than the NJ main roads and highways we awoke to this morning. We long jump on to the road, run halfway, and long jump over the other edge as to not leave footprints. Hearts pounding, we finally reach what we deem as our entrance and head in.
Through our day inside, it was quite a normal day of exploring. Suddenly it begins to become cold. Clouds roll in, winds pick up, and I really start to feel the fact that I forgot my gloves at home. The fog from the mild day disappears as the cold front moves back in. We watch the weather carefully from inside without being able to poke out the windows, as there are three very well trained guards on campus. The morgue was a sight to see, but to get to the rest of campus from the medical building, you must go through hell. Hell at the State Hospital is a crouching tunnel that goes downhill at an almost completely vertical angle. Being in this tunnel gave me vertigo, it just didn't look real. When our day came to an end, the tallest member of our group said he'd rather go to the jail for the rest of his life than take the tunnel uphill. We find a way out on the lower campus and dash light bats outta hell across the open campus to the woods.
After a full day, starting at 4:30 am, none of us wanted to try to make our way back the way we came. We get to what we think is a good distance away from the campus and find what we believe is a residential road and hop on. "Hey, all these houses are abandoned, they must be the staff cottages, we are still on campus". That's about all we can say before the guard spots us and comes driving over. After a well-executed and pre-planned story, all is good and he lets us walk the road back. We end the night stopping for a well-deserved dinner down the road as a surprise for Vacant NJ's birthday!