The Dark History Of Manteno State Mental Hospital

Hidden within the serene landscapes of Illinois lies a place shrouded in mystery and tragedy – the Manteno State Hospital. Once a beacon of hope for the mentally ill, it eventually became a site of controversy, experimentation, and haunting tales that continue to intrigue and chill to this day.

A Legacy Shrouded in History

The history of Manteno State Hospital dates back to 1927 when it was established to alleviate the overcrowding in other psychiatric facilities in Illinois. Initially conceived as a progressive institution aimed at providing humane treatment for the mentally ill, soon devolved into a place of neglect and despair.

Manteno remained a small asylum at first but grew quickly. But as the population grew, conditions deteriorated.

The national health budget was slashed in the mid-1930s, yet Manteno kept expanding. The hospital added a tuberculosis ward in 1937, bringing in hundreds more amidst waves of budget constraints and staff shortages. In 1939, typhoid fever swept through the hospital, killing 60 and infecting 400. Despite the epidemic, the population continued to grow, surpassing the 5,000 person capacity at the end of the decade. By the 1950s, Manteno State held over 8,000 patients, becoming the fourth largest mental asylum in the nation.

Dark Experiments and Tragic Tales

As the years passed, reports began to emerge of questionable practices and experiments conducted within the hospital’s walls. Patients were subjected to crude treatments and experimental procedures, often without their consent.

Patients were often left to fend for themselves, and stories of patients attacking their caretakers were common. Escapes also became the norm, with nearly 200 patients fleeing the facility in 1941 alone. Reports of sexual abuse were also made public, enraging mental health advocates.

Electroshock therapy was the first of the experimental procedures brought to Manteno.  This consists of delivering strong jolts to the brain, leaving patients traumatized, and sometimes even suffered brain damage, neurological damage, or heart problems.

Later, patients were unknowingly injected with malaria in an attempt to find a remedy for the disease. Doctors tried all sorts of experimental medicines, leaving the patients to deal with the highly unusual side effects.

Manteno State also began lobotomizing patients in the 1940s. Lobotomies are an incredibly barbaric procedure where they drill a hole into the front of the skull in an attempt to modify behavior.  Most patients were rendered in a vegetative state after the procedure, unable to function. Many of these later died as a result of complications from their surgery. Over 400 died in 1941 alone.

State officials made the decision to close the hospital in 1983, with the doors officially closing in 1985.

Paranormal Occurrences

Despite its closure, the legacy of hospital lives on, not only in its history but also in the eerie tales of paranormal activity that surround the abandoned buildings. Thousands of souls passed through its halls and died in its 50 years of existence.

Visitors and paranormal enthusiasts alike have reported sightings of ghostly figures, strange noises, and some have felt a cold hand pulling on their clothing.


The story of Manteno State Hospital serves as a haunting reminder of the darker aspects of our history, particularly in the realm of mental health care. While its buildings may stand silent and empty today, the echoes of the past continue to reverberate, reminding us of the need for compassion, understanding, and dignity in the treatment of the mentally ill.

As visitors brave the abandoned corridors and crumbling hallways, they are met not only with the remnants of a bygone era but also with the chilling whispers of those who once called Manteno State Hospital home. The spirits of the past linger on, their stories etched into the very fabric of the place they once inhabited.


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