I have explored many mental health institutions in my travels, but Belchertown is one of a very few which truly gave me the creeps. It is the only place I can claim to have ever encountered anything which seemed even remotely supernatural (though it is a stretch to even say what I encountered here was supernatural) and I have just generally never gotten a good vibe from the place.
The institution, which opened in 1922, was the scene of significant patient abuse. At best, the staff was grossly overworked and underpaid. At worst, the staff was malicious and abusive to the residents. This is hardly surprising given the lack of oversight and overcrowding, which set in more or less immediately after the institution opened it’s doors. In 1971 a famous newspaper article entitled “The Tragedy of Belchertown” was published, which exposed the horrendous conditions inside. Patients were undressed and wandering the halls, or left in their beds all day with no entertainment or psychological care whatsoever. When the Massachusetts Attorney General toured the facility he described it as, “a hell hole”.
In 1972 Belchertown became the subject of one of the first lawsuits by the families of residents of the facility. The lawsuits, of which the 1972 suit was not the last, brought some reform but in many ways Belchertown kicked off the deinstitutionalization movement which lead to the closure of many large scale mental health facilities, in favor of smaller community based settings. Belchertown State School closed its doors in 1992.