First State Asylum For The Insane

Opened in 1900, just outside of Minneapolis, MN. This facility was the first in the state created exclusively for the "care" and housing of "the insane."

Architect, Warren B. Dunnell, designed the gothic, brick "cottages" in light of the fires which claimed 18 lives at nearby St. Peter State Hospital. A vast system of underground tunnels connect the many cottages, used by the staff to conduct the day to day workings of the asylum. There are many stories of patients who tried to escape via the tunnel system. Finding themselves lost, confused and scared they would often commit suicide by hanging themselves from the pipes overhead.

It is no wonder that reports of unexplained noises, whispers and laughter have been reported in the tunnels. Footsteps are heard when there is no one there and cold spots are often felt.

The asylum is still in use today, although much of it is abandoned. A lush and idyllic spot with woods surrounding one area and a river running along the rear of the facility, the property also has it's own cemetery, to bury it's unclaimed and unwanted, which Mr. Blackwood and I searched in vain for. We did venture around the rear of a cottage near the outskirts of the facility and ran into a number of inmates sitting outside in a fully enclosed, cage-like patio. We rapidly turned back, unnoticed.

Stories like this one about a Lady In Red also pop up often from both ex-inmates and workers there: "I use to work at the state hospital, and let me tell you, the mystery of the women in red in the tunnels is so true. We use to walk pt's. thru the tunnels to get to the other buildings when the weather was bad, and lights would flicker and yes you could hear moaning at times, and in your peripheral vision, you would see some woman running and could only catch a glimpse of her. Ask anyone who ever worked there years ago..."

Pictured above is one of the many entrances to the underground tunnels.

Spotted on the 3rd floor of a cottage - not what you'd want to see in a patient's room.


  1. What a gruesome place. One has to wonder if, way back when, individuals with depression or autism were housed in places such as this. What kind of hell must they have gone through? We have a similar building here in Saskatchewan in which experimentation with LSD was carried out back in the 1950's. It is truly a creepy place to walk around in, made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

  2. Sadly, they were. Many people who had no business being in such a place were, including gay people or women and children whose husbands or parents just didn't feel like dealing with them anymore. Very few laws were in place and committing someone was not very difficult at all. This finally turned around in 1948 when the film, The Snake Pit was released.

    In addition, there was often horrible overcrowding in the mental institutions, so patients were not separated accordingly. Children were mixed in with adults and violent and dangerous patients were housed with others who were simply depressed.

    I haven't studied the history of this structure very much but I have been doing a great deal of research on the mental health care system, and one hospital, (now closed), in Southern California in particular - including speaking to and documenting accounts of patients, staff and employees. The stories are horrific and haunting, to say the least - not to say that people were not helped or healed and good came out of those places, too.