It’s So Quiet in the Ruins: Medfield State Hospital and Cemetery


October 8, 2013 — Today, it’s my favorite place in all New England. Tomorrow, maybe the day after that, maybe next week or month, I’ll have enough objective distance to better place it among the amazing places that I’ve visited in the northeast. But, when that happens, it will without a doubt firmly remain one of my most favorite places in New England.

Most of the story of the ruins of Medfield State Hospital won’t surprise you…but a big, important part of it will. Let’s get all the other stuff out of the way, first, though.


Built at the end of the 19th Century as the Medfield Insane Asylum, the institution had an overwhelming charter…to care for the masses of men and women who could not care for themselves. It swelled to almost 60 buildings across some 1,000 acres at its largest and catered to the needs of more than 2,000 patients at its most crowded. It was a veritable city of the sick and mentally ill. Or a village. Or it takes a village. Or something.

It lasted more than a century, but like so many of the massive institutions from that era, eventually shut down. Medfield made it to 2003, though, which is basically yesterday in antique mental institution years. Currently, it’s in the abandoned phase of the usual timeline that these places follow, done with being useful as it was, but not yet ready to be chopped up for apartments or reinvented as part of a more modern medical complex.

That’s all a tune you could’ve named in three notes.

But here’s where Medfield State Hospital is unique.

For some reason, the powers that be in Medfield...either through divine inspiration, superhuman brilliance, or nuclear levels of cool...opened up the complex to the public.

That’s right. It’s okay for all of us to roam among these ruins.

I just want to high-five them all with cheeseburgers in my hands.


Sure, they sealed up the buildings and plastered them with “Do Not Enter” and “Watch out for Cancer” and “Your Risk, Not Ours” signs, but during the day, you can stroll along the pitted roads that wend between them, walking at your leisure and whim right up to these empty buildings that loom above like a series of sad morality tales, their windows shuttered with red-painted plywood and their concrete steps crumbling into gravel.

Basically, they turned the grounds into one of the coolest parks in the country.


The place is located just off Hospital Road at the edge of Medfield. Not knowing where to park, I pulled right up to the gate. Just beyond it were trailers, a field, and—peeking between trees just beginning to throw out their autumn colors—a flash of red brick in the distance. A prominent sign beside the gate warned that the city wasn’t culpable for anything that happened beyond it, that you could check out anytime you’d like, but leaving was the devil.

As I got out, ready to scour every word on that sign, as well as the pair affixed to the gate, for the prohibition on entering that I assumed had to be there regardless of what I had read online, a security guard exited his car and walked over to me.


I knew this place was too good to be true.

“Is there a walking path around here?” I asked vaguely.

“Yes, yes,” he said, in a more friendly tone than I’m used to from security guards. “You can come in. You just have to park across the street and not in front of the gate.”

Holy cow. Too good and true. How often does that happen?

Although not its former 1,000 acres, the campus is big, with more than two dozen buildings still standing.

They are all constructed of matching red brick, but each had its own shape, its own unique characteristics, its own reason for being. An old, yellowing sign directed visitors from long ago to the East Hall, the Kitchen, Administration, Hillside House, the Progressive Work Center.


Every once in a while, the security guard would drive by in a slow patrol, waving as he passed and stopping when he thought his car would interfere with one of the six million pictures I was taking.

I was there on a Saturday, on a beautiful Fall day, and, not counting the securing guard, I ran into two couples. That’s it. Four people. Nobody else in one of the coolest spots in New England. I don’t know why that place wasn’t packed. If there are better places to hang out in Medfield than the grounds of an open abandoned hospital then I really need to move to that town.


As to my impression of the place, I can’t say it was spooky. Not on my visit. Like I said, the weather was amazing, my exhilaration was high. I mean, I’m sure at night, when it’s closed to the public (the grounds are open from 6 to 6), the place spawns monsters. Or, on a particularly foggy day, I’m sure it would be a glorious nightmare.

That day, it felt like the back lot of a Hollywood studio, ready to go for any movie that needed an old institutional complex. And the place has been used in movies. Parts of Shutter Island were apparently filmed there. Also, The Box.


I’ve always thought that it was in the best interests of a property like this to open up to the public. It destroys the forbidden mystique that attracts the type of people who could care less about trespassing and/or vandalism, while encouraging healthy intrigue from the more law-abiding. I don’t remember seeing any graffiti while I was there.


I didn’t want my visit to the hospital to end, but I did eventually leave. I had one more thing to find. After all, wherever there’s an abandoned sanitarium, there’s always a hidden cemetery.

The graveyard for Medfield State Hospital is less than a mile east on Hospital Road. I almost missed the sign for it because it was so overgrown, and the metal gate that blocked the dirt path barely afforded a place to park.

Just a short walk past a small utility building and down the path into the forest, the woods opened up into what looked like gated field.

In fact, were it not for those gates and the little square monument that marked it as Medfield State Hospital Cemetery, I would have thought it was merely that, a field.


Even once inside it was difficult to see the flat stone tablets, each one denoting a lifespan that generally went from the mid-19th Century to the mid-20th. And that’s not because the place wasn’t well-kept. It was. Almost too well. The grass was lush enough that it covered the stones by its very thickness, and it was only in the shade of the pine trees where the grass thinned that the markers really stood out.


The monument at the front gates read simply, “Remember us, for we too have lived, loved and laughed,” and as much as I hate it when people omit the Oxford comma, it was a nice sentiment. And a good place to end my visit to a place I didn’t want to leave.


And then driving away from the cemetery, just half a mile down the road, I crossed this small bridge:


Despite its name, the bridge doesn’t have that cool of a story, but I guess in its own way, it’s an even better way to end the visit.




























52 comments:

  1. Loved your post. I will have to go check this place out. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Actually...you can't anymore. As of July 2015; talk of the town is ...it exists no more

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    2. It still exists. You can go anywhere you want, except for inside the buildings.

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    3. walk or drive open to public went last w/e very cool

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    4. I really have to go back. It's too bad that the building I used to work in is gone. Those were good times, day and night.

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  2. Why would they have a gate into the cemetery but then no further fencing?

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    1. The fencing is a brick/rock wall that fell apart from neglect over then years

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  3. Coincidentally enough, I paid my first (of many to come) visit to Medfield State yesterday when you posted this entry. I just recently started following your blog after a friend posted a link to one of your previous posts featuring Medfield State. I live a town over in Millis and have for 2 years now and was completely (and shamefully) unaware of this gem. I am a huge nut for places like this and I'm so elated to now know about it! I couldn't sleep with anticipation Monday evening! I even packed myself a pseudo picnic! I was the only wandering for the duration of my stay (I was there over two hours and didn't even have time for the cemetery, which are some of my favorite places to be), only when I was leaving did other visitors appear. During your next visit you should check out my town's cemetery behind the old library, Prospect Hill Cemetery in Millis. I stroll there often and have forced many friends to tag along with me. It's beautifully maintained and a very unique set-up; feels like a sanctuary to me! -megzuki of millis

    (Here is a link to my tumblr, which I blew up with photos of Medfield State yesterday, haha)
    http://megzuki.tumblr.com/

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    1. Awesome. Thanks for showing me your work. Yeah, I can't believe how long I've lived up hear without knowing about Medfield. I'll have to look into Prospect Hill Cemetery.

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  4. My god, does this ever bring the memories tumbling back. I lived in Medfield as child in the 1950's. We used to be really spooked by the "insane asylum" down the road.
    Years later, in the 70's, I found myself actually inside the place visiting my sister who was locked in there for several years before it was all shut down. It was a nightmare.

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  5. Do you know of any ways to get inside?

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    1. yes i have many pictures of the ruins inside, there are some very scary stuff in there.

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    2. I tried to get inside on July 2nd, 2015...almost got kicked off the property. There used to be a monster that lived inside that was supposedly "excorsised" or "vanquished" but...its not a good place to go to. Its very dangerous; trust me.. I learned from experience.

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    3. If you go again I would love to meet up with you to go ! I went a few days ago and got tons of pics ! None from inside though !

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    4. Yeah I too would be interested about going inside. I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

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  6. I went here this afternoon. Strangely there were a lot of people there and I found out they were surveying the land for an upcoming town meeting. I overheard people talking about making a golf course out of the property, which I hope they don't. There was snow everywhere so I'm going to return in a couple of months to see it in better weather. Great post!

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  7. There is also talk of turning it into a housing complex according to http://www.abandonedplaygrounds.com/the-abandoned-medfield-state-hospital-used-in-shutter-island/

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  8. They're replacing the water tank, building a new one on the other side or the shed and removing the old one

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  9. it was not a place for the timid. as a patient in the 'locked" building for the last 13 months of its operation, I will never forget the feelings or smell of medfield state hospital. my doctor told me she was there because she messed up 1 too many times at her last job. I was the last patient to leave medfield state hospital and I am free physically, though not emotionally from the tyranny of the staff and cold feel of that place/

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  10. Are the grounds still open to the public?

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  11. These grounds are open! I live in Medfield and both my father and grandmother worked at the hospital for many years. My grandmother could not stay after witnessing too much poor treatment and moved on to work at a group home in another town. My father, one of the carpenters, was one of the last men on the grounds after closing. I spent a good deal of time in the small red carpentry shop growing up and then followed my dad as he closed off the buildings long after all other workers and patients left. The place is full of memories, all different for everyone, and a very cool place to walk around. I run there often.

    Go visit while you can, Medfield has been working hard for a long time now to do what they want with it. There is also hospital hill across the street which is the best sledding hill in town!

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  12. We visited Medfield State yesterday and it was amazing. Do you know if there are underground tunnels that connect the buildings? I ask because they do exist in other state facilities....both open and closed.

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    1. can you give details of your trip??

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    2. I worked there many years ago, early to late '80's, as one of the supervisors in one of the locked buildings.
      During a snow storm, in which staff was stranded for extra shifts and plows were doing their best to keep up, one of our resident mamma cats was killed. We, the nurses and I, knew we had seen her coming and going from the building across from us, and figured that's where we would find her babies. So we went searching. And found ourselves in the tunnels.
      I was never so scared and exhilarated at the same time.
      I don't think anyone had been down there for a long long time. The dust and cobwebs were undisturbed.
      We found boxes of pamphlets from the early 1900's when the patients and staff farmed and sold the good. When i was named Medfield Insane Asylum. Old wooden wheelchairs with the high backs. Cages.... Big big areas with thick steel rods from ceiling to floor and shackles cemented into the walls in these caged areas. At one point while we were down there I could almost hear the agonizing screams. I know I was psyching myself out. Or was I?
      I took a couple pamphlets, and shared with a friend whose family worked there for a very long time as did she. Mine sadly, with all the times I've moved, has been lost.

      I never went down there again, but wished I had, with a camera.
      Good news though, we did find the kittens. Brought them onto the ward for the duration of the snow storm, and found homes for them.

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  13. There are utility tunnels underground but the buildings are secured and it would be illegal and dangerous to enter. The state originally prohibited the public from being on the grounds but many in town, including members of the Board of Selectmen, liked to walk there and convinced the state to permit the public on the grounds. I think the extra eyes and ears from the caring public have helped reduce vandalism. Although some people have entered the buildings unlawfully, most are respectful and enjoy the open campus. Security officers monitor the campus and there is also an auxiliary police station in one of the former cottages. The town is attempting to purchase the property (town meeting approved it) so it will be developed at some point in the coming years. Thanks for the nice photos.

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  14. I was just there in early November after more than 11 years away. I used to work at MSH and left about two months before the official closure. I remember one of the best times to be walking on the grounds was after midnight in a snowstorm, during a power outage. The place was eerily quiet at those times. But even in the darkest shadows, it was easy to feel at home. I was happy to see that the grounds are still being well maintained, though a few of the buildings are in rough shape. But the place looked a lot better with the Clark Building gone.

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  15. Just visited today. There's definitely some work going on. Saw a few pick up tricks driving around and some piles of dirt. I'll post some pictures later.

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  16. It's now May 22nd, I just came across this website. Anyone know if it's still open to the public ? I am planning to take a trip down there in the next month and would love to meet up. Not sure I will be able to drag any of my friends.

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    1. Yes, the hospital is still open to the public... I was there taking pics last week.

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  17. I volunteered there for many years in the coffee corner in the Clark House. A newer building and also helped out with clothing sales in one of the buildings. They originally were beautiful buildings and grounds. Too bad something hasn't already been done with this lovely piece of property. Many seniors in town have waited and waited for the town to build housing for seniors there to no avail. The grounds are too contaminated, etc.

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  18. Best sledding on hospital hill, now its my grandkids turn. It was a spectacular place back in the day. The farm in full swing, the journeymen apprentices, the movies and dancrs at the canteen. I worked there 7 years through labor strikes and the dukakis administration when they turned the heat back and we had to wear our winter coats and cut the tips of our gloves off to survive the day without freezing. That was the beginning of the end. Great memories

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  19. I love old abandoned places like MSH that speak to so many untold stories. My favorites are abandon industrial sites such as old rail yards and steel mills. But I immensely enjoyed your post and its rich vein of humanity.

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  20. My family lived down the road. We had many "encounters" with the residents of the State Hospital and many in my family worked there. As teens, we would "cruise" the grounds. What a stroll down memory lane seeing your photos! I wish the buildings were open in addition to the grounds! Tip: the hill across the street is GREAT for sledding.

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  21. I still get spooked, just looking at these pictures...worked there for a short time & couldn't WAIT to move on!

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  22. If you want to really hear some stories about this place. message me on facebook. I worked here and saw things you wouldn't believe. My uncle even killed himself behind here shortly before they closed down

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    1. would love to hear your stories Tom, please comment if you would like to share

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    2. My great grandmother was institutionalized here in the 30's. Was believed to have had post partum.my grandmother & her siblings were placed in foster care. She never wanted to talk about it. I believe my great grandmother died there, but don't. Believe she was buried there. I'd love to research.

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    3. Lots of Tom Stevens on Facebook in MA unfortunately...assuming that's even where you still are. I plan to visit this hospital too. Anyway, I'd like to hear the stories as well, should post them up right here.

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  23. New water tower going up. Very interesting enginering.

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  24. I just went October 8th ( 2 years to the day after this writer ! ) and will post photos on my blog at www.grinogirl.com if you want to check it out later today :)

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  25. Walking now, so glad to find out about the water tower being built, wasn't sure if it was a space ship ha ha. Fascinating beautiful place!

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  26. you now can drive around and out by the old power station next to the little sheds coming out of the ground theirs a rock and non attached slab of concrete with a three inch hole looking down into the tunnels and make sure to look when walking arond there cause you could fall in!

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  27. 11/28/15
    there is construction going. the new water tower is huge. as others have said, you can walk the grounds freely during daylight without getting in any trouble. they just don't want anyone going inside.
    I have been there many times over the last year. I always find something different to photograph.
    I spoke with the security guard for about 20 minutes. he was a really nice guy. I strongly suggest to anyone who wants to go there, do it soon.
    If anyone is interested, I have a video slideshow on youtube featuring images from Medfield State Hospital, Lakeville State Hospital, and the Lyman Reform School..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfSOUQBep4c

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  28. I'm writing a research paper for school, my mother, aunt, and uncle lived in Medfield their whole lives. I recently found out from my grand mother that my great grandmothers cousin or aunt was a patient there, she didn't seem to know much more than that I mean my great grandmother died in the early 90's so I guess I won't find out unless I dig deeper. But anyways I was wondering if anyone who had experiences with the Hospital as it be a patient or doctor or even someone who visited while it was still running, thank you.

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    1. Hi Aly,
      I worked at MSH from 1974 until it closed in 2003. And then moved on to WSH. How can I help you?
      Lee

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  29. I worked here from 1993-untill it closed in 2003. In 1993 When I started I was working grounds when we found the marked graves of patients. No body knew where the graveyard was until we found it by accident. Back then there were no names on the Grave markers it was just a number.

    The really interesting parts of that hospital will never been seen again. Every building was connected by an underground tunnel system that was used during the winter when snow fall would make going building to build a task.

    I have a lot of fond memories working there.

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    1. Wow! How interesting! Did you ever access the tunnels?

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  30. As a teen in the early 2000's, I used to trespass here. It was a ton of fun as we would have to constantly avoid the patrols of the security guards that used to drive around every 10-15 minutes or so. Our route was up the back path to the power station. Once inside, on the ground level, there was an entrance into the underground tunnels. It was blocked off with a wall of cinder blocks but that's nothing a sledge hammer couldn't cure. Once in the tunnels, we no longer had to worry about the security patrols except when we went up from the tunnels into the buildings. We didn't want our flashlights to be seen through the windows so there was a lot of time we spent wandering some hallways in the darkness. Eerie as hell. We saw the patient rooms, the wheelchairs, the cages, and my buddy even got into the morgue and laid in one of those containers. The tunnels were probably the best part though. I remember going down one that was sloped slightly downwards and was flooded. I wish I had brought a camera and took pictures of everything we saw and did, even though it was illegal. Great times.

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    1. That's awesome! I spent a lot of my gap year exploring and partying in the illegal catacombes in paris. It seems like those flooded tunnels would have a similar feeling...

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    2. Hi I'm looking to investigate if anyone is going I would love too tag along,plus if you know other places I need paranormal buddy...

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  31. Hopefully people can enjoy walking the grounds and not ruin it for others by attempting to break into or vandalize the buildings. So far it was generally worked well under the watchful eye of volunteers, police, many dog walkers, and security, but the town is constantly having to re-secure windows and doors. If that continues they will probably have to close it off again, so please stay out of the buildings and discourage others as well. The conditions inside are also extremely harmful in terms of mold, asbestos, and other environmental hazards.

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