Want to accidentally run into a celebrity? If so, urban explorers and Hollywood fans may enjoy a casual stroll around the grounds of Medfield State Hospital, an abandoned complex located close to Boston and one that continues to make appearances on the big screen. Unlike a lot of other relics from the past, Medfield is open to the public during the day. Sure, windows and doors are boarded up and security guards keep a watchful eye on their guests, but a legal adventure awaits for those willing to drive into rural Massachusetts. 

Similar to Letchworth Village or Rockland Psychiatric Center near New York City, a cluster of psychiatric facilities were built close to Boston proper. These facilities used to be staggering in size, segregated from the big city, often receiving money from wealthy donors keen to keep their family members far from the public eye. Medfield Insane Asylum, as it was known until 1914, was one such facility. It was constructed in 1892 to manage the overflow from neighboring institutions and at its peak, had a capacity of about 2,200 patients. In fact, the hospital population often surpassed the population of Medfield Township itself. 

Medfield State Hospital was revolutionary for its time, designed under the “Cottage Plan” unlike the rest of its cohort. This equated to 58 individual buildings over a large 1000-acre campus, allowing in lots of light and ventilation for its residents. Though Medfield was Massachusett’s first facility for long-term, high-need chronic patients, management strived for a sense of home. Sleeping quarters were on the second floor and patients were involved in Medfield’s self-sustaining farming practices.

The institute wasn’t without its own unique history, naturally. A plague of influenza hit the area in 1918, leading to mass burials. It wasn’t until 2005 that the Medfield State Hospital Cemetery Restoration Committee was established and an intrepid troupe of Boy Scouts set out to name the 841 unmarked graves. At the cemetery entrance, a sign that reads, “Remember us for we too have lived, loved and laughed,” was featured prominently in a future blockbuster (see below).

Deinstitutionalization eventually led to Medfield State Hospital closing in 2003. New drugs took favor over old treaments like electroshock therapy and inmates were encouraged to thrive outside of institutions. Medfield did its best to help patients prepare for the transition by providing programs for patients to learn independent skills and trades. The remaining patients were transferred to Westborough State Hospital, which also closed down in 2010. Whoever was left after that may have ended up in Worcester State Hospital.

Image via Wikipedia Commons by “Ghostfacesouthshore”

These days, Medfield State Hospital is included in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors are welcome to walk its grounds, exploring the 35 buildings left standing. If it wasn’t for Hollywood’s interest in the abandoned complex, Medfield State Hospital may have been demolished like so many others. But enough beauty and history remains that the location has been used for 2009’s “The Box,” 2010’s “Shutter Island,” and the (hopefully) upcoming “The New Mutants.” And though the buildings are closed off to the public, the creep factor still remains. Just ask the crew of “The New Mutants,” who reported instances of “weird things” happening quite regularly.

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