Murders, suicides, unimaginable living conditions, patient experiments and more can never be forgotten at Hamilton, Ontario’s Century Manor, which is considered to be the most haunted site in the city.
What to do with people who were deemed insane was a major issue across Ontario in the early 1800’s. In Hamilton like other cities across Canada, throwing them in jail with hardened criminals no longer seemed like the appropriate solution.
Around the mid-1800’s, mental asylums began to appear. In Hamilton, that happened in 1874 with the beginning of construction of what was to be called the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane (also called the Ontario Hospital), which was located on the West Mountain. This site was originally built to house “inebriates” (alcoholics). It was later renamed the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital and in 1876 became a site for the mentally ill, with many patients being referred from other Ontario institutions.
This cluster of buildings included the Barton building and the East House (built in 1884), now called Century Manor. The latter was built to serve as a “reception hospital” where people could walk in off the street rather than being referred, if they or a family member needed help. Unfortunately, only 80 men were taken in because a women’s section was never completed.
Then in 1888, the Orchard House was finished and the population of the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital rose to 822 people. The East House followed in 1890 and became home to Ontario’s criminally insane and the total population rose to 915.
Back then the asylum was an isolated site with only a dirt road as access – a perfect setting where patients could be mistreated, experimented on and terrorized away from the prying eyes of the public. The entire site covered 240 hectares with the surrounding farmland providing most of its needs including fruits and vegetables, cattle, pigs and other animals, as well as a milk-processing site, butcher shop, bakery and more.
This site was so self-sufficient that it even had its own fire brigade and it was a good thing too. On August 1, 1911, a fire broke out in the Barton building and set the roof ablaze – a sight that could be seen across the lower city.
Although institutional psychiatry appeared to have made major strides by the 20th century, no one really knew the extent of the misery suffered by the asylum residents.
In the 1980’s, Century Manor became a museum and much of the former site has since been razed. However, the needs of the mentally ill were not forgotten.
Today, a new high-tech Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital sits at Fennell Avenue and West 5th Street. It is officially called the Margaret and Charles Juravinski Centre for Integrated Healthcare. The Century Manor continues to stand as a historical heritage building but has become notoriously known for the echoing, “cries in the night” from patients no longer living.
Although the building is now closed to the public, ghost hunters have been able to access the site and have captured everything from dark shadows and orbs, to lights in rooms that have no electricity. To hear an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) captured at the Century Manor, go HERE.