And at no time of year is our tendency to ruin more appreciated than now, when a spooky old abandoned building is a perfect place to visit…especially one that comes with its own graveyard.
Metropolitan State Hospital opened in 1930, just two days shy of Halloween, in Waltham, Massachusetts. The 20-building, 400-acre campus was designed to care for the state’s ill and ill-starred, and it had more than a thousand of them. Over the course of the next six decades, it seems to have done its job. I mean, it was a sad place by definition, but I didn’t find any of the terrible stories of abuse and neglect you too often find in antique institutions like these. This former employee has a few interesting stories, though.
The one infamous tale that comes out of the hospital is the murder of a patient named Anne Marie Davee in 1978 by another patient named Melvin Wilson. He killed her with a hatchet, dismembered her, and then buried her in three spots on the hospital grounds.
He was eventually caught…he had seven of her teeth on him, after all, and was moved to the more secure Bridgewater State Hospital before being indicted for murder.
Getting to the building was simple. We drove right up to it, parked right beside it.
The exterior lives up to everything you expect from an abandoned building. The windows are boarded and bricked up, the walls are overgrown with clinging plants, the lawn is hairy with tall weeds, a signed tacked to one wall frantically warns about asbestos and cancer. Surprisingly and refreshingly, there was only a minimum amount of graffiti, just a few simple scrawlings on the front door area, including the word “Welcome” on the doorstep.
At the time that I visited, I didn’t know about the Davee murder, but thinking back, the place looked like it could have been absolutely paved with the shallow graves of severed body parts.
The site has a great build up, but obviously, there isn’t much for us law-abiding to do there. We walked up the front steps. Circled the building. Tried a few doors (all locked). Took a few pics. Left.
Upon returning home I would learn not just about the Davee murder, but that Metropolitan State Hospital had its own cemetery, a cemetery that was still present on the grounds.
I found its location on Google Maps, and used the GPS coordinates to try to drive directly there. Unfortunately, that plan ended at a metal gate off Trapelo Road flourishing a “No Trespassing. Police Take Notice” sign. Probably just as well. Not sure my car could’ve handled what remained of the road on the far side of the gate.
After almost giving up, I returned to the Dr. William F. McLaughlin building and did some quick Internet searching on the phone. The path to the cemetery seemed to be right at the entrance to the Avalon apartments. But it was going to take some hiking.
Almost immediately after we pulled into the apartments on Metropolitan Parkway North, we saw a metal gate on the left, the kind meant to stop vehicles but not people, with a post nearby that bore some friendly-looking arrows on it.
After parking and walking to it, we saw a small sign tacked to a tree that designated it as part of the Western Greenway Trail. We started down the trail, not sure how far or really if it was going to take us to the cemetery.
Along the way, it became extremely obvious that this dirt trail through a forest was actually reclaimed land. Every so often a manhole/sewerhole (funniest synonyms of all time) was right in the middle of the trail, exactly where access to underground plumbing shouldn’t be.
The most prominent items in the cemetery were the large tree growing in the middle and a small altar with a bust of Jesus on it. I also found some shallow steps leading up the slight incline of the cemetery.
After the graveyard, we pushed ahead a bit to see what else was there among the hiking trails. Besides an old water tower, I didn’t see anything really. At one point the Gaebler Children’s Center, a psychiatric institution for kids, decayed grandiosely thereabouts, but today it’s just a stub of pavement leading to open field.
At some point, they’ll tear down the administration building or repurpose it or fence it off from easy access, but the cemetery seems like it’ll always be there to see. I’ve marked the exact location of both on the OTIS Map of New England Oddities. Not really to be helpful, but just because I couldn’t think of an ending for this post.