State police are warning paranormal enthusiasts to stay away from the former Torrance State Hospital, a century-old building that has housed thousands of mentally ill people in Derry Township.
“People have been going in there for years thinking they’ll see a ghost or something. But it’s now owned privately and the family that owns that building no longer wants anyone going in there,” said township ordinance officer Terry Giannini.
The owners of the building are John and Lori McConnell.
“It’s all over the Internet that it’s supposed to be haunted … there are entire Web pages devoted to it. But I don’t know,” Giannini said.
Videos taken by trespassers are posted on YouTube, showing crumbling walls and collapsing ceilings, and message boards describe late-night visits to the red brick building as “spooky” and “freaky.” The amount of graffiti evidences the number of late-night visitors looking for a thrill.
Lori McConnell said Monday that she and her husband have farmed neighboring property for years, but they knew of no paranormal phenomenon at the former hospital until they purchased it earlier this year.
“We just don’t want anyone getting hurt. We have been in that building quite often, at all times of the day, and we can assure everyone there is no paranormal activity,” she said.
She said the family has not yet decided what to do with the building.
The hospital opened in 1919 and housed 3,300 patients by the mid-1950s, according to a state Web site. It closed during the 1960s, according to the state Department of Public Welfare Web site.
Giannini believes that some interest in the vacant asylum was spurred by rooms that were used to administer shock therapy and perform lobotomies, methods used to treat mental illness before the 1960s.
State police recently cited 18-year-old Sarah Davis, of Johnstown, for criminal trespass after she allegedly was found on the property off Torrance Road about 9:35 p.m. Aug. 15. She must appear before Derry Township District Judge Mark Bilik and faces a fine up to $300, plus court costs, if convicted.
State police said McConnell has gated off the building entrance and posted no trespassing signs.