Updated: Nov 24, 2021
THE CHILLING HISTORY OF KINGS PARK PSYCHIATIC CENTER
by Tara Gruber
Kings Park Psychiatric Center (KPPC), a now relic of Long Island, opened its doors in the year of 1885. The hospital is situated in Nissequogue River State Park, located in the hamlet of Kings Park, New York. The psychiatric hospital was initially developed to help alleviate the overcrowding that surrounded mental institutions near New York City at the time. After it was established, Kings Park Psychiatric Center was viewed as a great addition to the community and offered many jobs to local Long Islanders. By the 1930’s, 90% of the neighboring Kings Park community were employed by the hospital. In fact, the hospital had been the town’s largest employer for generations. The residents took great pride in the institution and had a very good relationship with its patients, as they interacted with them often.
KPPC, formerly named Kings County Asylum, was meant to provide a radical shift from the usual crowded and unpleasant space that many mental facilities presented with. The vision of the facility was unique. Their goal was to create a fully self-sustainable mental health commune. Patients and staff both grew their own food, made their own clothing and looked after livestock. The labor was thought to be therapeutic, keeping the patients busy and costs low.
In 1895, the state took control over the institution, leading it to grow in size. Construction began, and the hospital expanded into 150 buildings, a power plant, and a railroad spur that was used to transport passengers and materials. However, as the facility increased in size, KPPC turned into what they were trying to avoid all along, a cramped and poorly maintained facility that suffered from overcrowding. In 1954, the population peaked at over 9,300 patients, outnumbering the staff. As the patient population grew out of control, the hospital started deviating away from their original vision of recovery through farm work and moved towards more invasive methods like electroshock therapy and lobotomies.
Luckily, over the next few decades, new medication regimens started to become a popular form of treatment and these questionable methods were put to rest. Psychotropic drugs allowed for the patients to be moved into smaller facilities and the need for mental institutions diminished. This led to the psychiatric center eventually closing its doors in 1996. The last of the patients of Kings Park were released to the nearby Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center.
Since KPPC closed its doors, many of its buildings fell to ruins and have become either vandalized or demolished. The grounds, however, are still open to the public and are used by many locals for driving, walking and biking. The roads on site link to the surrounding communities, making for a coinvent commute. Many locals may pass by the abandoned facility on the regular, just to get to their homes, work, etc. The grounds are also frequently visited by urban explorers, artists and teenagers who crave a good scare or have been challenged by one another in a modern ‘right of passage’. However, the actual buildings are illegal to enter and are patrolled by local police force. The grounds also happen to be covered in asbestos. Some trespassers do still manage to sneak in despite the dangers. Visitors describe the inside of these structures as extremely eerie and unsettling. The walls of the buildings are covered in graffiti and the remanence of the old hospital is still present. Barred windows, cell room doors, old stretchers, bed frames and medical supplies are scattered throughout.
There are many accounts of apparitions witnessed at this psychiatric hospital. Many believe these to be the ghosts of patients who were mistreated or abused while receiving treatment there. In the multitude of buildings that make up Kings Park Psychiatric Center, the most “haunted” seems to be Building 93. Many supernatural events have been reported happening there.
The most well-known tale involving the hospital is probably the one of “Mary Hatchet.” Mary is said to have been a patient at Kings Park. She was committed there after murdering both her parents with an axe. She had attempted to make an escape but was gunned down by police before she could get away. Many claim she still haunts the grounds to this day. It is also believed that she could be the same Mary that is tied to the infamous Sweet Hollow Road. Mary is a name that appears often in Long Island folklore.
Next to the abandoned psychiatric center, stands the tavern D.S. Shanahan’s. Several patrons have claimed that they frequently get visited by a ghostly woman. The female apparition has been seen sitting by the bar or standing in the hallway. Though she quickly vanishes if approached.
Additional “hauntings” that visitors have experienced while at the psychiatric facility include sounds of loud banging, children laughing and the opening and closing of doors. Other times, it is said that transparent figures have been seen roaming the grounds.
Kings Park Psychiatric Center has connected many Long Islanders through participation in a variety of different groups or communities. Many Suffolk County residents have a genealogical connection in which a family member was either employed by, or committed within, the facility at some period in time. For others, it is a public museum and art studio for graffiti artist, who although create talented and expressive art, are only to be viewed by those breaking and entering. Though the majority of those who know KPPC, have probably visited for the macabre nature of the abandoned complex as well as its associated folklore. KPPS is a landmark of embodied heritage and a visual representation of Long Island’s past. If you have not yet visited the KPPC or have not been back in some time, we highly recommend the visit. The walls may be slowly decaying, but the structures are still just as beautiful, now covered in unique artwork and overgrown ivy.
How To Get There:
From 25A in Kings Park, take Old Dock Road NE towards the sound; turn right on St. Johnland Road, and then right again onto Kings Park Blvd. Make sure to follow the loop on Kings Park Blvd. in order to follow it back to the Nissequoge State Park side (access to that side is sometimes closed or restricted.)