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Kings Park Abandoned NYC Long Island-NYC-Untapped CIties-Will Ellis
The interior of the abandoned Long Island Kings Park Psychiatric Center, founded in 1885. Image via Abandoned NYC by Will Ellis

As you may know from last year’s Abandoned NYC video on Long Island’s own Kings Park Psychiatric Center, the words ‘abandoned psychiatric hospital,’ usually conjure up visions of frontal lobotomies, electroshock therapy, and other archaic treatments for mental illness. But underneath the pure shock value that commands most of our attention was a real cultural dilemma, and an underrepresented branch of American history that deserves a proper light.

This is the goal of filmmaker Mark Burkhalter and the producers of Project Senium, whose two films cover the grounds of Kings Park, a former state-run psychiatric hospital whose occupancy once exceeded 9,000 patients in 1954 but was closed for good and abandoned in 1996. ‘Project Senium’ and Burkhalter’s ‘Kings Park: The Abandoned City’ delve deep into a few of its over 100 buildings and explore its shrouded past.

The Kings Park Psychiatric Center, called the Kings County Asylum when it was founded and known by locals as simply “the psych center,” opened in 1885, a revolutionary facility that hoped to solve New York City’s enormous hospital overcrowding problem. Founded as a farm colony in which patients would learn agrarian skills and manage the sprawling hospital’s grounds, Kings County Asylum was for hospital officials to be a step away from existing mental health facilities with too many patients and numerous accusations of abuse.

With “The Abandoned City,” Mark Burkhalter aims to understand the psychiatric center’s troubled past. The 25-minute documentary deals extensively with Kings Park’s background and the events leading up to its post-WWII expansion as well as its closing in the late 90s. The video is also a catalog in part of the building’s grounds, with looks into some of the lesser-known buildings as well. Due to the center’s size, which kept growing ever since Kings Park’s founding in the 19th century, Burkhalter calls the place a city, built to sustain an entire population.

Deviating slightly from “The Abandoned City,”  the aim of Project Senium’s video is centered around the center’s aesthetic, adopting a markedly more cinematic feel and focusing on the beauty of Kings Park’s abandonment and current state. As stated in the website’s background information, the video is “an effort to preserve the experience of some of the most beautifully disturbing places in the world.”

Over time, Kings Park was expanded and for much of its early years seemed a success. Additions like the 13-story Building 93 and what would become the recreational Buckman Day Treatment Center were made possibly due to the hospital’s growing occupancy. In the aftermath of World War II, the psychiatric center’s occupancy reached its peak, and its relaxation-based agrarian approach to treating mental health was substituted for more invasive forms of treatment: the pre-frontal lobotomies and aversion therapy techniques that have since become a playground for horror enthusiasts; see 2012’s Fox TV-series ‘American Horror Story: Asylum,’ set in a 1960s mental health facility inspired in part by Kings Park, for proof.

Kings Park Abandoned NYC Will Elis-NYC-Untapped CitiesBuilding 93. Image via Abandoned NYC by Will Ellis

The psychiatric center closed with an understandably sour reputation, and is regarded by some as haunted due to its sinister history.

However, in recognizing and learning from the trial and error of treating mental health and the effect it has had on the Kings Park grounds, “The Abandoned City” and “Project Senium” highlight a truth about the center, that despite its dark history, there is something of value to those who go there.

To this day, the grounds are technically ‘open,’ though both Burkhalter and Project Senium warn that entering the facility is not to be taken lightly. Whether that has stopped anyone from trekking to Long Island to see Kings Park for themselves is, unfortunately, unclear.

See more photos at Abandoned NYC. Get in touch with the author at @jinwoochong.

9 Comments

  1. Joanna says:

    To anyone who has worked or stayed at King Park please email me at jrosa@luckymail.com. Looking for ppl who were there between the 50s and 60s.
    Thank you

  2. Frank Mercuri says:

    As a post script. The buildings’ interiors were not left as depicted. What is shown is the vandalism and pilferage that took place and is still taking place. patients did not put the graffiti on the walls or the buildings. There was and still is a lack of respect to properties that are “abandoned”.

  3. Frank Mercuri says:

    Unfortunately much has been published about the Kp grounds on the past.I made a documentary covering the present to the future of the property. It is titled ” The Making of a park”. many do not realize that the entire properties are a park. It is far from an “abandoned City”. Much has been done in the clean-up and more is to come. Publishing such information on the past serves no one. The history is there for all to see in volumes stored at the Kings Park heritage Museum. Look to the future and get information from those who manage the facility, New York State parks Recreation and preservation/Nissequoque River State Park.

  4. nicole N. says:

    Both my grandma and my mom worked there for a long time and they both said there was never anything hunting about the place nor did they experience anything paranormal.

    • Georgette Bresalier says:

      I agree. My husband and I both worked there, nothing ever happened while we were there. I use to have to walk between bldging 21, and bldging 7 to go to the morgue at night. Nothing..

  5. karen says:

    Worked there and lived next to Bld 93 after it closed, in one of the two houses next to the bar that at the time was Jonathan’s Round Table. Many times have heard and seen unexplainable things from that building.

    • Barb says:

      OMG I remember The Round Table!!! I worked at KPPC from around 83-87. If I ever saw or heard anything odd at the Round Table it was probably from drinking too much LOL I never heard or saw anything strange anywhere in that place.

  6. robert says:

    I was a patient there for 30 days, just for depression. And did not see or hear anything. In fact it was the best thing that ever happened to me, it helped in so many ways!

  7. Nicole says:

    My mom worked at kings park her entire life until it was closed. She never experienced any kind of paranormal activity

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