Undercliff Sanatorium, Meriden

February, 2017 by Ray Bendici
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Courtesy of Bing maps

The Damned Story: What is it with the state of Connecticut and creepy old mental hospitals?

For decades, the abandoned Undercliff Sanatorium, a former state health facility, sat at the base of South Mountain, near Hubbard Park in Meriden. Even though it was shuttered, some claimed it was still in use—by the ghosts of former patients.

According to the Connecticut State Library, Undercliff was originally opened in 1910 as the Meriden Sanatorium and in 1918, became the first facility in the nation dedicated exclusively to treating children afflicted with tuberculosis. The name was changed to Undercliff Sanatorium in the early 1920s, and about two decades later, it began to accept adult patients. In 1954, the tuberculosis patients were transferred to other state facilities, with many children going to Seaside Sanatorium in Waterford. Two years later, the property became part of the state Department of Mental Health and was rechristened Undercliff Hospital; more buildings were added to the main hospital, including residences for staff, and soon thereafter, it started accepting patients with mental diseases from around the region. Undercliff served in this capacity until 1976, when on May 28, the last patient was discharged and the staff was transferred to other facilities across Connecticut. It has essentially remained empty since, although a few buildings on the property are used by various state agencies, including the Department of Developmental Services.

Like many mental health facilities, even though many people were treated well and cured here, there were still dark stories attached to the property, including tales of abuse and horror, although no actual evidence of any such activity was ever been uncovered. Considering that Undercliff served for decades as a refuge for those afflicted with turberculosis and other serious diseases, no doubt that more than a few people died on the property.

Consequently, there were been numerous reports of hauntings. Some alleged to have heard the voices of children, both laughing and crying, while others claimed to have seen the shadows and spirit of children in the windows of the empty buildings. Those who ventured inside the buildings supposedly heard the footsteps of patients running from orderlies as well as the screams of the mentally ill undergoing treatment.

A few purported sightings involved the ghost of one patient who was supposedly attacked and murdered by fellow residents (again, unsubstantiated); the story went that you could see the phantom of the lost soul wandering the grounds at night. EVPs and other otherworldly manifestations were also reported to have been captured by those investigating the facility.

As it is state property, it was off limits to the general public, although it didn't prevent adventurers from trying to investigate the place on their own. Numerous pictures and videos of Undercliff taken by amateur explorers and the curious still can be found across the internet. In July 2010, three local teenagers (and aspiring ghosthunters) made headlines when one of them was injured after jumping from a cliff near the property while being chased by police for trespassing.

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Further adding to the creepy mystique of Undercliff was that it was rumored to be tied to notorious serial killer Hadden Clark. In April 2000, Clark, who evidently had lived in Meriden with his grandfather back in the late 1970s and early 80s, was taken from his prison in Maryland and brought by authorities to Connecticut to show them where he had possibly buried one of his victims, but no body was ever found. Although never stated officially exactly where the search was made, it was speculated to have been on the grounds of Undercliff.

Which totally makes sense. Where else would a cross-dressing cannibal psychopath bury the remains of his victims then in the shadow of an abandoned and supposedly haunted insane asylum?

Eventually, all the buildings connected with Undercliff were demolished and the grounds cleared. However, the stories remain, reminders of a dark past.

Our Damned Experience: We never got to visit Undercliff, and now that it's gone, the opportunity is gone.

If You Go: You can't, you know, until someone builds a functioning time machine.

Undercliff Sanatorium was located on Undercliff Road in Meriden. Again. The former site is owned by state, and no trespassing signs are posted. Those caught trespassing will be arrested and fined.

 

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Comments

Submitted by Skip (not verified) on
I've personally been to Undercliff multiple times in my youth back in the 80s when kids were just as into "cool and weird" places, back when you could still go to Dudley Town and back when crap wasn't so overly regulated you can't have fun, and sure you heard a lot of sounds stuff slamming, but we always credited the wind, considering we had to peel back the plywood to get in and it created a wind current, never saw anything and nothing ever was to terribly frightening, but there was a lot of old cool stuff like the old wooden wheelchairs with the leather cuffs and some gurneys, a lot of grafitti from other kids that would just put up cult looking paint and slogans, and real padded rooms

Submitted by Brandon (not verified) on
In one of these comments somebody says that the fences were meant to keep people out and stop people from smuggling stuff into the facility. In my opinion if that was the case the fences would've been angled in an outward direction at the top (to stop people from climbing over from the outside) instead of an inward direction (to stop people from climbing over from the inside). The fences at Undercliff were meant to keep people in. And there is definately at least one building that goes into the side of the cliff.

Submitted by Trinity (not verified) on
I'm not sure why most sites list Undercliff as closed in the 70's because it was open well into the 1980's as the Altobello Center. I was a inpatient "guest" there around 1986. I was initially housed in the large,main building. Looking at the building,the girls wing was on the right,boys wing was on the left. The center only used a few floors,the main floor,the second floor and parts of the basement. Later,I was allowed to move to the less restrictive cottage down the hill. Yes,there is a morgue of sorts in the basement,but was obviously no longer in use. For some reason,a staff member brought several of us,showed us the area and the body lockers. There are tunnels beneath the buildings that were used to transport us. While I am somebody of a "sensitive" nature and frequently pick up on things,I never ONCE heard,saw or felt anything of a paranormal nature. As far as any conspiracy theories as to why it's fenced in/off,forbidden and off limits is because the place is LOADED with asbestos.

Submitted by Chris (not verified) on
I went to Undercliff to day and was stopped by security within 1 min. :-( I was so disappointed and really wanted to see it. :-(

Submitted by Dave (not verified) on
If you really want to go, hike in from hubbard cop. If the troopers screw with you, tell them you got lost hiking. If they still issue a summons just fight it. No intent. You will walk. There are absolutely no signs from the park saying not to go. Check google earth for the path. I would go fall or spring bc its loaded with prickers and poison ivy and the path is not well used... if your dumb enough to enter the buildings your risking getting seriously injured and arrested but thats on you. The place is def creepy. Ive read on line that the state dept of mental retardation or whatever they call it in 2014 houses high risk mentally disabled (retarted) sex offenders in the buildings closer to target. I dont no how true that is. Its not a place I would go alone to to say the least.

Submitted by mirabellme (not verified) on
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Submitted by bkh (not verified) on
several friends and i just tried to go into the building and upon approaching it, it seems they are tearing it down. there is construction going on everywhere. and half of what used to be the building is gone- in other words, replaced by huge mounds of rubble and dirt. we still tried to go into what was still standing, but now it is a HUGE hazard as there is asbestos in the air everywhere. the inside walls are coated in plastic with signs plastered all over warning of the asbestos. and it being just recently torn down, the asbestos hazard is even more realistic. while shining our flashlights, we could see the dust particles everywhere. im so upset that they tore half of it down already, part of it being the amazing theater and basement and water tower. im not sure what theyre doing or why, but fact of the matter is, there is no getting in there anymore. it is dangerous. :( and upsetting.

Submitted by erin (not verified) on
I went there today to explore and sadly it's in the process of demolition. Half of the main building has been torn down and the other abandoned buildings are marked for demolition

Submitted by Jose Santiago (not verified) on
I was locked up there back in the mid 80's. I was there for about a year most night I couldn't sleep I felt something there with me. After I was discharged from there it felt like something left that place with me. At time I can feel that place calling to me. Stay as far from that place as you can don't go there. I'm 42 now and I can still remember and feel the presence of something with me till this day.

Submitted by Jose Santiago (not verified) on
I was locked up there back in the mid 80's. I was there for about a year most night I couldn't sleep I felt something there with me. After I was discharged from there it felt like something left that place with me. At time I can feel that place calling to me. Stay as far from that place as you can don't go there. I'm 42 now and I can still remember and feel the presence of something with me till this day.

Submitted by shawn P (not verified) on
I know exactly what your talking about! After my wife and I explored this place like I said a lot of paranormal things happened but the most creepy was after we left I had dreams about this place for almost a week as if the spirits were calling me back!! I finally told my wife about the dreams and she said she was having the same dreams!

Submitted by Tracy (not verified) on
I have personally been there in the building that no longer exists. There are things that I or the other people I was with can explain. I did get weard fellings when I was in the celler whEre there were "cells" like being at a prison forthe kids/adults. I would not have people go there for it would be a waste of everyones time. The building I and outhers went to has been since torwn down and the other buildings are occupied.

Submitted by laurie mellish (not verified) on
couple years back a friend and i went during the day.we drove around the building and got out and explored.no security was there.noone bothered us.we took a few pictures.walked around more.we noticed lots of black birds surrounding one building.they were not crows or ravens.also there was a door it was ajarred.both of us were pulling on the door.it opened outward.all our pulling did no good.it did not budge.we were unable to open the door.we left developed the pictures and there were orbs in the 2nd flr window.

Submitted by Lisa (not verified) on
Demolition has taken down the main hospital May 2014.

Submitted by Cheryl (not verified) on
Been here too and it's creepy. Loud bangs, a dead blue jay unnoticed touring the same area for ten minutes. A single light bulb on in one room visible to all of us viewing a room from the grounds when there isn't any power on the entire facility. It was 80 degrees outside. I stuck my hand in through a broken window and removed it quickly because it was frozen abnormally within seconds . We went to the paged in area where patients were supposedly brought through and rang the what we though wouldn't work buzzer. To our surprise , it buzzed a very haunting low buzz. Very Erie. We experienced for now apparent reason birds being frightened out of a tree behind us after us standing there for about ten minutes . There was a field behind us we never ventured to. The front of the building was covered with ladybugs and very weird looking black upside down spiders. Ya I not a big fan of . at all! There are pictures we took. Unexplained pictures I will try to share .

Submitted by Cheryl (not verified) on
Btw I visited about 5 years ago

Submitted by Mark Adler (not verified) on
I was born in Meriden, 1949. Growing up we often went to Hubbard Park and went up to Castle Craig. I always head stories about that place during family holiday and birthday parties. My Aunt was a patient there as a child. She had huge depressed places all over her legs. She was one of the children sent to Seaside. Another family member was sent to Middletown Sanatorium with a Nervous breakdown. I remember the family thinking she was not that bad because they only sent the real bad ones to Undercliff. This was about 1956. It is a shame that all these old buildings are going to rot. The homeless could be housed perhaps or maybe even a place for religious encounters. Oh well, time moves on.

Submitted by Kelle (not verified) on
When I was in High School, my boyfriend, his best friend, and myself went snooping around. We went in through the basement door in back and had to climb over old mattresses. We made our way around and it was just so spooky. This was in 1991 or so. It looked like every thing was just left as is and abandoned. We found stockpiles of very old, moldy, paper goods, random tiny wheelchairs strewn around, some dolls, and of course, lots of vandalism on the walls. When we explored upstairs, we found a pool table in great condition except the felt. My boyfriend contacted the city and said he "heard" there was a pool table there, and could he purchase it. Well, they said yes. He got it for $50.00 and it took 2 days to dismantle it and get it into his parents home (during the day this time!). It is still there, and I know because I married my boyfriend, and our sons always play pool while they're at Grandma's. I didn't get the feeling of the place being haunted as much as just a complete sadness about the place. Definitely would not want to go back.

Submitted by Ellott (not verified) on
My grandmother knew a lady who jumped out of the window to her death here. I decided to explore it with friends in early Spring 2012. The weirdest part to me were the documents we found inside dating back to 2003...

Submitted by shawn P (not verified) on
My Wife and I have been to undercliff numerous times. Undercliff was definitely haunted. There were foot steps, voices whispering and screaming. My Wife like layed down on the lobotomy table and was held down. We have a lot of story's About this place. It's a very special place to us. I asked my wife to be my girlfriend on top of the roof there. Now we are very sad and disappointed to say that it no longer stands. The state has demolished the building. :(

Submitted by Elaine Zandri (not verified) on
Some of these stories may be true, but my uncle Maurice Roynane was the head XRAY Tech at the Undercliff in the late 40's early 50's. And the hospital at the time had TB patients there. I know that later there were some mental patients but don't remember anything about children or abuse of any kind. My Uncle and Aunt lived on Bradley Avenue right behind the Undercliff.

Submitted by Elizachristle (not verified) on
Unfortunately Undercliff was demolished in 2013

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