Haunted or Helpful? The Allure of the Traverse City State Hospital

Haunted or Helpful? The Allure of the Traverse City State Hospital

The Old Hospital, as many locals lovingly refer to the Traverse City State Hospital, is an abandoned set of buildings in Grand Traverse County. They were built in 1881 for the Northern Michigan Asylum, which opened in 1855 with forty-three residents by Dr. James Munson.

Munson believed that “beauty is therapy” and treated his residents with kindness, comfort, and purpose by surrounding them with beautiful flowers and trees, and providing them with work on the hospital’s farm, in construction, or canning.

Traverse City State Hospital - The Awesome Mitten
The main building of the Traverse City State Hospital, photo courtesy of abandoned.photos

The hospital’s main purpose was to help the, then diagnosed, mentally ill, and act as a rehabilitation facility for those suffering from addiction, but the facility expanded during outbreaks of disease and took on patients from overwhelmed hospitals. As laws and treatment for the patients changed, use of the hospital declined.  By 1950, the farm and grounds were closed. A majority of the buildings were demolished in the mid-1970s, and the hospital was officially closed by 1989. This closure left behind a group of abandoned buildings and the right amount of mystery to drive rumors of haunting and other strange occurrences.

Traverse City State Hospital - The Awesome Mitten
One of the many tunnels built to connect the various buildings of the hospital. Photo courtesy of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

So, is the Traverse City State Hospital Haunted?

The rumors swirling around this area of Traverse City add to the intrigue and mystery of this place for amateur ghost hunters and anyone looking for a thrill. Some of the reported hauntings are:

  • The “Hippy Tree” is said to be a portal to Hell if walked by the correct way, no one is sure what the correct way is, as anyone who has managed to do it is no longer able to tell us how.
  • No haunted hospital would be complete without bodiless voices from abandoned rooms and unexplained lights.
  • When reporters have listened back on recording devices they have heard loud voices insisting that they leave the grounds.
  • Workmen have seen unexplained figures in abandoned rooms.
  • In the laundry room, people have felt that they are being watched or heard doors slamming with a regularity not caused by the wind.

Do these claims have any credence behind them? When the hospital closed, many patients were sent off with no home to go to, and little or no resources to make it on their own. Many went to live in the surrounding woods, and with our harsh Michigan winters, few survived. This only adds to the claims of hauntings and ghosts. I have not experienced any of these occurrences while exploring the grounds, but there is a sense of unease when walking through the grounds and by the un-renovated buildings.

Traverse City State Hospital - The Awesome Mitten
Renovations of the Old Hospital have filled these buildings with light once again. Photo courtesy of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

What is happening with the grounds now?

In 2002, the Minervini Group bought Traverse City State Hospital grounds for one dollar. The buildings and grounds have since gone through sixty-million dollars of restoration turning them into what is now the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, home to shops, restaurants, cafes, and apartments. A number of the older buildings are still left to explore and historical tours of the area are offered.

Have you seen anything spooky at the Traverse City State Hospital? Tell us about it in the comments!