Friday, October 7, 2016

Central State Mental Hospital/Rose Cottage - Pineville, LA (Largest Asylum in the Country)

242 West Shamrock St.
Pineville, LA 71360

            I don’t know about you guys but there is nothing more intriguing that an old abandoned insane asylum. With the amount of energy that is contained in this type of building along with the sheer creep factor, a haunted asylum is at the top of any paranormal investigator’s to-do list. Hospitals for the mentally ill have not always been given the best reputations as far as cleanliness and hospitality. Unfortunately, only up until modern times, mental hospitals have literally served as dumping grounds for the less fortunate with an irreversible illness. The final straw came in 1972 when a then-young reporter by the name of Geraldo Rivera filmed a horrific expose on the Willowbrook Mental Hospital on Staten Island in New York. Sneaking in unexpectedly, Rivera unveiled the horrendous treatment, disease-infested buildings and low staffing of this decrepit hospital. Fortunately, the report would ultimately lead to the closing of Willowbrook, albeit it would take fifteen years to do so, along with an alternative, more humane, approach to taking care of the mentally ill.
            Over the decades, mental hospitals have grown to gigantic campuses of sorts,
housing thousands of patients at any given time. One of the largest in America, actually still in operation, is the Central Louisiana State Mental Hospital in my current hometown of Pineville. The hospital was created by enabling legislation in 1902 to provide for the treatment of blacks suffering from mental illness. The legislation was amended in 1904 to provide for the treatment of Caucasians as well as blacks. The facility opened on January 6, 1906 and soon grew to epic proportions. During its peak operating year of 1959, the four hundred-plus acre hospital was home to over three thousand patients. At this time, and for years to come, the hospital would be the largest of its kind in Louisiana and one of the largest in the country. Today, Central Hospital has dwindled down to a mere shell of its former self, housing only a few dozen patients and due to its dilapidated conditions, is expected to close down any day now.

            Up until today, the hospital has provided community based living opportunities for those persons needing appropriate structure and support, care for short-term patients and specialized treatment for long-term individuals. Many of the original buildings on the large property have been demolished and replaced over the years. Similar to the Carville Leprosy Colony, over the years, the
The Central Hospital's Dairy Barn.
grounds would be a self-contained community within a community, housing several dorms, dining areas, tuberculosis ward, dairy barn and machine shops. The oldest remaining buildings include Rose Cottage (1917), the dairy barn (1923), the Administration Building and Fuqua Hospital (Unit 1) (1927) and Unit 3 (1937). The remaining buildings were constructed during renovations in 1942 or the early 1950's.

            The grounds are also home to a large cemetery that contains the burial sites of over three thousand patients that have died while they resided at Central State Hospital. Initially, the services were quite primitive, with the bodies being transported to the gravesite in a wheelbarrow until 1933 when a hand-drawn hearse was constructed. This hearse was used until 1950, and was pushed by pallbearers to the gravesite. Deceased female patients were draped in pink or blue shrouds made by the workers in the sewing room and the carpenter shop furnished coffins. A large wooden cross was placed to mark the cemetery on the hill in the early 1960's. A large white solid concrete cross has since replaced it. The cemetery was last used in June 1985.
            For years, whether it is due to urban legends or not, Central Mental Hospital has long been reported to being quite haunted by many of its former patients who died on the grounds. For obvious
Rose Cottage, designed by a former patient, once served
as the morgue and site where electroshock therapy was
reasons, we have been unable to investigate the dormitory areas of the hospitals, as patients have continuously lived here. We have, however, been able to investigate the oldest building on the grounds, the previously mentioned Rose Cottage.

            Rose Cottage was designed in 1917 by Joseph H. Carlin of Rayne, a patient at the hospital from September 13, 1909 to August 1, 1912. Little is known about Carlin after 1912 except that he served as the architect of Rose Cottage as well as designer of the hospital's dairy barn in 1923. The Rose Cottage building housed the hospital laboratory and morgue. It served as the hub of the institution's diagnostic procedures as well as a center of learning and teaching as post-mortem examinations were required for research and teaching. Autopsies were performed in the pathology building's first floor, while the lab upstairs was where "histological and microscopic preparations" were done. In later years, the building was used for occupational therapy. Employees suggested naming the building "Rose Cottage" because they didn't like the idea of working in a former morgue!
Actual equipment used to conduct electro-shock therapy.
Today, Rose Cottage is used as a small museum that documents the years of history for the hospital. Pictures are on display of some of the conditions from the hospital in its early years. Patients were literally placed in what looked like giant dog pens, individually isolated from one another, while others were tied up in large chairs and forced to sit there for hours without any stimulation or interaction. From 1941 to 1976, the building was also the site where electro-shock therapy was administered. This is evident by the antique electroconvulsive machine that is still on display here. Several years ago, I gave a lecture to a group of high school kids at the local library and we got on the subject of the mental hospital. One of the students had advised me that her grandmother had long been a patient there and had regularly been exposed to the electro-shock treatments, which would eventually kill her, as she died on the table during one of these sessions. I thought it was an incredible story but it was definitely an attention-getter, especially for the other students!

            Despite the history and the building’s various uses, it is actually quite small. Due to its size, we would only bring in a small group of four investigators. We began our investigation in the standard fashion, conducting base temperature and EMF readings. The night was fairly quiet until about 9:00 pm when several of our investigators were siting downstairs in the room where the electro-shock therapy was administered. All of a sudden, they heard an extremely loud crash, almost
Some of the harsh conditions that patients had to withstand
in the hospital's infancy.
as if a piece of pottery or a flowerpot had fallen from the shelf. As they got up to find the source of the noise, they noticed that an actual portion of the floor tile had literally shattered into several pieces! The loose pieces of tile that splintered off were scattered around, almost as if the tile had exploded! After numerous attempts to find an explanation for this, we were unable to come up with any logical reasons. I have heard of cases where glasses and other breakable objects have suddenly shattered but in all my years of investigating, I had never witnessed it first-hand. The spot that the tile was located was in an area that we would have noticed it prior to investigating. None of us had noticed the broken tile and it appeared to have been freshly broken. It was an extremely cold night and we did turn on the heater but I cannot see that being the reason for the tile breaking in the manner that it did.

             Review of audio and video would show no other significant pieces of evidence. The only strange encounter was the incident with the floor tile, which I still have no explanation for even to this day. Like I said, we were almost positive it was not already cracked and we knew that none of us had dropped anything in that area. The cottage was definitely an interesting place that I would love to investigate again. As cool as the place is, I truly feel it is only a sample of what is possibly lying in the main hospital area; dorm upon dorm of living quarters that contain over a century of mental illness, death and lost energy. I have always been one to never say never and I am waiting for the day that these doors officially close for good, as I will be the first one trying to investigate this massive mental hospital!


  1. I worked at this facility for 25 years and never heard of anyone seeing or experiencing paranormal activity. Ezra Reed, former Rapides Parish police juror, had his office in Rose Cottage for several years. He never experienced anything, but was there only during the day. Ezra still lives in the Deville community. My supervisor, David Poe, was responsible for this building being nominated and eventually being placed on the National Register of Historic Places along with the Dairy Barn. I was working for him at the time. David was a history major and took interest in the unique architecture of the Dairy Barn as well as Rose Cottage.

  2. I remember David Poe I worked there in the early 80s as a music therapist in D village. Also found out from a patient who had been there at that time since the mid 20s that he had worked in the building helping delivering specimens when the cottage was used both for pathology as well as for ect electro convulsive therapy. He also told me he remembered when it was the mourge

  3. My grandmother, Josephine (Toles) Cole passed in this facility in 1960. Does anyone remember her or can tell me where I can get records for her?

    thank you, Resa

  4. I had a friend who was a nurse there in the ward for the criminally insane
    She has some pretty weird but interesting stories! They gave me chills!

  5. I love the old buildings there!!! Thank you for sharing!!

  6. I too would like to find any records available of a relative who passed away in this facility in 1975. Can anyone direct me to the proper contact/person/dept or link. Would greatly appreciate any assistance.