A couple of years ago, Sweetums and I were wandering through Georgia when we just happened upon the campus of Central State Hospital in Milledgeville. The mostly abandoned facility was as creepy as the sound of its original name: the Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot and Epileptic Asylum.
At its height, it was the largest mental health facility in the world. Now, only 45 buildings of the original 212 are in use.
We wandered around the 1,750-acre site one sunny Saturday reading the historic markers placed in front of the crumbling buildings. This once-bustling site is now very much a ghost town, where rows and rows of massive brick buildings built in the 1800 and 1900s stand silent guard over a pecan-tree grove where patients once exercised and played.
The hospital was built in 1842 and some of its earliest buildings are now missing roofs and window glass.
According to Keith Smith, a local historian who moonlights as a security guard at the property, sight-seers and ghost-seekers often visit the campus, although the closed buildings are now posted as dangerous to enter.
We also visited the cemetery where many former patients are buried, as well as early settlers, who were buried in the 1700s. The majority of the estimated 4,000 graves are unmarked. Vandals removed the numbered metal stakes used to mark graves of former patients so they were placed in neat rows to honor their memory.
The bronze statue of an angel stands over the graves, erected by members of the Georgia Consumer Council in 1997. Council members buried a time capsule beneath its base with the names of those interred there.
We were surprised to pass an abandoned prison on the property, still circled by fences topped with razor wire. I later learned four of the empty hospital buildings were converted to prisons, and one is still in use today.