Creepy story of the abandoned St. Albans Sanatorium in Radford, Virginia. Written by Allison Dienstman of Colonial Ghosts.

Places where torment took place on a regular basis become hotbeds for paranormal activity, and Virginia’s St. Albans Sanatorium proves no exception. From electroshock therapy to lobotomies, the treatment for the mentally ill at St. Albans caused tremendous suffering for its patients. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that St. Albans ranks as one of the 25 most haunted places in Virginia.

Located in Radford, a small town in western Virginia, the sanatorium dates back to 1892 when it first functioned as a Lutheran school for boys. Later, in 1916 it became a hospital for the mentally insane. While the owner of the new psychiatric center had high hopes for the institution, it ended up functioning as a torture chamber more than a hospital.

Inside abandoned St Albans Sanatorium, Radford, Virginia
St. Albans Sanatorium by Rick Stillings. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

With a staff to patient ratio of 48 to 6,509, the patients certainly did not receive proper attention for their ailments. Not to mention, psychiatric medicine at that time resembled torture more than treatment. Doctors would cut open patients’ skulls and shock them into a stupor with electroshock therapy. Insulin-induced comas and lobotomies left patients brain dead… or in some cases, actually dead.

One particular room had an especially high concentration of suffering. Here, patients would receive hydrotherapy treatment that, according to today’s standards, would have had the place shut down. Some doctors would wrap patients in freezing cold towels while others would strap people down in steaming water vats, where they remained confined for days. They would also blast patients with fire hoses. No wonder this room became known as the Suicide Bathroom. Apparently, at least four people killed themselves in this room.

The building shut down in 2003 before one of its former patients purchased the property. Today, the current owner runs haunted attractions within the former sanatorium including an annual Halloween haunted house. However, not all of the ghost sightings in this building result from the staged haunted attractions.

It seems the unfortunate souls who received brutal mistreatment here in life remain trapped in the building in death. Most visitors immediately experience the feeling of depression and unease when inside the building. Others report seeing the spirit of two young females roaming the basement.

Paranormal investigators often come to St. Albans including from TV shows like SyFy’s Haunted Collector, The RIP Files, and Travel Channel’s The Dead Files. During an investigation, a woman felt the icy grip of a ghost’s hand in the Suicide Bathroom. Another team caught the video of a shadow moving down a staircase.

Do the tortured spirits continue to haunt the hallways of St. Albans Sanatorium? Those who dare can visit the former insane asylum and find out for themselves.

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. FerrumBruti

    I would like to give my thoughts regarding the reputation that St. Albans Sanitorium has when it comes to the volunteers and also the Haunted House they do.

    First off you have to consider that these volunteers are what they are, “volunteers”! Second the fact also comes what these volunteers have to deal with. Doing hours of 6p to midnight or later. On average Fridays and Saturdays with little more than bottled water, a Grab Bag for snacks, then there is also the fact of maybe a hot dog and cough drops, that’s it! And if you factor the average in two days of 600 to 800 people 20.00 per ticket. That’s about 24,000.00 to 32,000.00. Plus the building is owned by the Hagan Family, which is the same ones that own Matt Hagan Outfitters and the Hemp store at New River Valley mall. So if you consider all that? That’s money from the Haunted House suppose to go to restoration, repairs, and finally paranormal investigations. So yeah, a lot of intriguing questions to be raised. Plus in volunteering the upper staff including Andrea and Trena love to gossip. So I’d reconsider when volunteering.

    Just giving a heads up. Peace.

  2. Jessica Danielle Wilson

    Yes my name is jessica …I am the granddaughter of a former employee of St. Albans.
    My grandmother Mary F Wilson worked for St. Albans for 42 years til she retired ..she worked in
    the old building and the new one built onto the hospital…me and brother both atteneded the
    Day Care Facilities that was provided to the employees. I have been the old building numours times with my grandmother …I attended christmas parties in Gina Hall and company picincs . I can remember my grandmother telling me bout the elderly man in the Navy blue suit…and her hearing lil kids playing …she worked on the 2nd floor…she also told me she wouldnt go in the boiler room and third floor alone.


  3. Holly

    Seriously… there are so many errors in this story. Starting with, it’s not in west Va.. it’s Radford, Virginia. My mother, grandmother, and both in-laws worked there. I was there as a child a lot, due to my family trading us off at night for child care. My father in-law was there until they closed the doors and relocated. It’s was a little creepy when I was a child to go there, but it was a nice clean place at the time. It looks like a haunted “crap” hole now, because of all the vandalism through the years. The staff was like a big family and those I meet, were good people.

    1. Thanks for your comment but is Radford not in the western part of Virigina? What were the other errors?

  4. Vetra Whittington

    If I remember correctly the Rhine Research Center is at Duke University. I would love more info on this as I have watched the TWC when they were at St. Albans. No way I would go in there as a haunted house. Too many demons there for me. Even though the things done to mentally ill and TB patients in those times seem so barbaric to us now, we should realize most of the Doctors were trying to do anything they could think of to help and cure these people. Of course there were some Doctors who were evil, but evil will always exist as long as men exist. Thank-you for any info you could send me on this subject.

  5. Dr. Mason D. Perry

    Dear R. Wiseman, I cannot not send the documents and case/files on Shadow Eyes threw this page.
    However feel free to email us for information. Keep in mind there are only two of us Doctors left alive to day who had hands on Shadow Eyes in 1955, I am in my 90s now, so don’t wait to long. After my death, all of our 61 years of research and case/files on Shadow Eyes will be sent to the Rhine research Center in NC. Once they get them, they will never make their way to the public’s eyes.

    Dr. Mason D. Perry


  6. Lewis R. Wiseman

    Would love to see these documents as well. I’m with a paranormal group that loves St. Albans, and we are also going back to Waverly Hills in 2017. Any help you could give me would be invaluable. Thanks so much!

  7. GavinKelly

    We would like to get a hold of the documents on “Shadow eyes” or anything on folks that were detained at the St. Albans Sanatorium

    thank you

  8. Dr. Mason D. Perry

    Hello guy’s,,, I need you email, my files will not go threw here. You will want to read these files, that were recently recovered, about a boy named Richard Rollins,alias (Shadow Eyes) who was locked up in the St Albans Sanatorium for 30 hours on September 2nd 1967 trust me. It will be St Albans Sanatoriums ticket to fame, and the money to get it refurbished, just like the Waverly Hills Sanatorium is doing, after the paranormal world found out Richard was locked up in there for a full week of terror. The Internet is exploding with these new found manuscripts of paranormal writers, and researchers, Ivan L. Sanders, John Keels, and Gray Barkers,, lost Shadow Eyes manuscripts.

    Word is M.Night Shyamalan, and Steven King, are battling it out, over the copyrights to the manuscripts and books.

    And one of the books is about the 30 hours that Shadow Eyes stayed inside the St Albans Sanatorium for boys. Both books, are going to be turned into a movie in 2018
    Good day

    Dr. Mason