Well, what do you do when your trying to explore Buffalo, New York on a holiday weekend but all the motel/hotels are sold out? You go to Rochester! For some that might seem like a lot of traveling but for any Arizona native you’d know the distance between the two wouldn’t even get you from Tempe to Buckeye in the Phoenix Metro.
We got in late, my twin twelve-year-old explorers and I. After getting my two exhausted hoodlums to bed I went for a quick walk outside the hotel. To my delight the hotel Radisson was built right next to the river and several walking bridges.
After getting a decent night sleep (scoff) my two little adventurers and I were off to see if we could find anything cool in Rochester. The first interesting thing we stumbled (and exited quickly out of) was an area of the city that I don’t think has enjoyed employment, fresh paint, or a handy man in…maybe fifty years. Lets just say that our 2017, laser blue, Ram pickup, with two children of the corn and then little old me as the driver, were getting a lot of middle fingers.
So what’s three aspiring adventurers to do in a place like this? Find an abandoned nut house or politically correct a “poor house”. This was the magnificent old grounds of the Rochester State Psychiatric Facility. We found this facility pretty quickly but discovered a lot of the grounds still have operational facilities on them. There are a few newer buildings but as you progress you will see gradually older and more, albeit, haunted looking ones.
The Rochester State Hospital is a unique place (click the link to read more). You have to drive onto the grounds, away from the street to find the old facility that I was interested in. This extremely large facility took us roughly thirty minutes to meander around. Like many facilities like this you can tell vagrants, teens, junkies, and ghost hunters have all broke into this place. We didn’t see any recently open places to enter as it is pretty well boarded up…at least from ground level (wink-wink).
The grounds are still decently maintained but I will tell you there were some very eery presences here. Any metal door thats welded shut will always throw my suspicion meter way out of whack. The old building makes a lot of noises and with many windows open and a nice breeze it is very easy to get fooled into seeing things that aren’t really there.
I will say that near the boiler chimney (I’d assume the base is located in the basement level or maybe multiple levels) had a very dark presence. I was really watching my son, Alden, as we explored this area and he seemed to really be affected by this location. Tristan wanted no part of this location, protectively repelled I’d assume. Not sure if they’ve developed any skills like their Dad or if I was just scaring their pants off. I’ve been known to be an antagonist, just saying! This chimney area may or may not have had an egress point but I can’t confirm or deny but “if” it did you better have some upper body strength and that’s all I will say about that.
Ironically, this place doesn’t boast as many horrific reports and stories as a lot of these old school asylums. Dorothea Dix deemed this hospital “adequate” and actually praised many aspects of how the place was run. This included cell size, staff to patient ratio, and the handling of mental health patients with the mix of orphan and widow populations. Dorothea Dix was no slough and educating myself about this strong female activist for mental health reform was nothing short of inspiring. Could the ole Rochester State Hospital fooled her? Absolutely, this facility is huge and on large grounds with many other mental health out buildings, which included a separate max security incarceration area. The fact is though that Ms. Dix gave a rare approval and that was pretty unique considering what some of her work revealed and helped change.
The very ironic part of a facility like this is the mix of populations! In our modern, politically correct, everyone’s a victim society can you fathom a mix of all levels of mental health patients, the poor, orphans, and widows? In this fact my thoughts reflected to the crimes that must have been committed in a place from the mixed population versus adverse treatment of the patients by facilitating staffs/government. Being an investigator and former cop I can’t even comprehend the child crimes and crimes against women that could have occurred in these walls. Now that is completely my reflection on this place and I have no fact or basis to that comment, just life experience. I also base that opinion on readings of these types of crimes occurring at other facilities and, lets face it, the sin nature of man.
While leaving the area we came across two mental health patients. After making sure my boys were alert and taking wide berth on the “safe” side of their Dad, I talked with them. It was pretty easy, actually and the two started the conversation themselves asking me about weight lifting and “how much can I bench” type questions. This was an easy transition into listening to these two older men talk about the old brick walls of the State Hospital. While they weren’t 100% understandable I gathered that the old place is not looked upon as evil or lurking with any kind of a heavy albatross. They mostly spoke of the scientific side with all the lead and asbestos that they said, “took many lives”.
Our conversation was ended with a gentleman sitting on a park bench, under a massive tree, with a trunk the size of a car length in diameter. He began advising me that the place was all in all safe. He continued, “Safe as long as you avoid the basement…especially the boiler room…” and he repeated, as he retreated back into his thoughts, “…especially the boiler room…” With that the man sat staring straight ahead, devoid of facial expression. As I walked away the elder African American’s eyes almost appeared glassed over white, devoid of pigment…and they weren’t like that before the conversation. I did not look back.
Please enjoy our little journey around the old beast. I’ve purposely left out pics around the chimney, please don’t ask.