Unearthed Secrets of Manteno State Hospital in Manteno, IL

A Beacon of Hope and Restoration

A significant institution was born in the rural tranquility of Manteno in Kankakee County, Illinois. Nestled amidst green fields and trees, the Manteno State Hospital (formerly Manteno State Mental Hospital) emerged in 1927 as the Illinois General Assembly envisioned a sanctuary for the mentally ill.

The hospital promised a haven, a sanctuary dedicated to the welfare of the people, offering relief and restoration.

A community within itself, the hospital was an autonomous entity. From the hospital’s farming community to its police force, fire department, utility services, administrative complex, and restaurants, Manteno State Hospital was a universe in its own right, ensuring the holistic care of its patients.

Trials and Triumphs Amid Economic Crisis and War

However, the journey was far from smooth. The hospital came to life amid the hardships of the Great Depression, and the advent of World War II further aggravated the challenges.

Staffing shortages were severe as qualified doctors and nurses were called to assist with the war effort. Yet, Manteno stood tall and robust, navigating the storm with resilience.

The hospital saw a surge in occupancy, doubling in just two years after the health budget was drastically cut in 1934. In addition, innovative treatments like shock therapy were introduced, and a tuberculosis sanitarium was added in 1937.

Manteno State Hospital
Manteno State Hospital, Manteno IL” by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Dark Shadows of Controversy

However, the hospital faced several controversies over the years, including allegations of patient abuse and secret medical testing by the U.S. military during World War II.

This testing allegedly involved patients being unknowingly injected with malaria in an attempt to find a remedy for the illness. In 1941 alone, 462 patients reportedly died from the experimentation, and another 198 escaped​​.

There were also allegations of experimental surgeries performed without consent and sexual abuse. In addition, the hospital had been reportedly conducting lobotomies, a popular experimentation technique for treating mental illness​.

A tale recounted by an ex-staffer highlighted the troubles of an exasperated farmer who owned the cornfield adjacent to the hospital. Year after year, he discovered the remains of departed patients who had wandered into his cornfields during harvest season, which ultimately led him to sell his property.

Despite these controversies, the hospital’s patient population peaked at 8,195 in 1954 but began declining in the late 1950s. Then, by the early 1960s, farm operations were shut down, and the patient population dwindled for the next decade.

In 1975, the hospital was renamed Manteno Mental Health Center. By 1983, Governor Jim Thompson decided it was time to close the hospital. After 55 years of operation, the center closed its doors in December 1985 due to operational cost burdens​.

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Life After Closure: A New Beginning

The closure was not the end. Instead, it began a new chapter for the Manteno grounds. October 1986 saw the dedication of the Illinois Veterans Home at Manteno, which continues to operate on a portion of the feet. The site has since been redeveloped into a VA home, an industrial park, and the Manteno Municipal golf course.

Today, only a few buildings, such as the Morgan Cottage and the sewage plant, are silent witnesses to the hospital’s turbulent past. These structures, though abandoned, are preserved in their original state.

Manteno State Hospital
Manteno State Hospital” by Jagrap is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Other buildings have been renovated and repurposed. The grounds are now home to numerous housing developments, including Indian Oaks Academy, a residential treatment center for young people.

Manteno State Hospital was a symbol of hope and healing in its heyday. Despite the controversies and challenges, it played a crucial role in Illinois’s mental health care history. The enduring influence of its legacy continues to motivate, serving as a testament to the strength and perseverance inherent in the human spirit.

The Haunting Echoes of Manteno State Hospital

Manteno State Hospital, an Illinois mental health facility with an unfortunate history, is widely believed to be haunted. The hospital’s reputation was marred by a deadly typhoid fever epidemic in 1939. The outbreak claimed the lives of over 50 patients and staff members, leading to whispers about the restless spirits left behind.

These whispers grew louder after the facility’s closure in 1985. Following its repurposing for business rentals, a bank, part of the Illinois Diversatech Campus, and even a private residence, eerie incidents began to be reported.

Ghostly apparitions of patients and nurses were sighted, and phantom voices were supposedly heard over a nonfunctional intercom system.

Visitors to the hospital site in later years have shared chilling experiences. In one instance, a group of friends exploring the hospital grounds in 2005 encountered unnerving scenes, including a room full of old shoes, metal chairs arranged in a circle, and what appeared to be blood on the wall.

They also heard the PA system turn on, an inexplicable occurrence given its apparent disuse. A paranormal group also confirmed significant paranormal activity detected over the years.

Reports of haunted happenings persisted from workers at businesses that occupied the former hospital site. Tales circulated about exploring abandoned buildings and finding old doctor’s notes, along with a stainless steel table presumably used for embalming.

Perhaps the most unsettling accounts come from those who dared to explore the hospital’s underground tunnels. Lonely and filled with relics of the past, these passages bore witness to terrifying incidents, such as inexplicable footsteps, flickering lights, and ghostly encounters that left visitors running for their lives.

Manteno State Hospital
Manteno State Hospital” by Jagrap is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

As a testament to the hospital’s chilling past, even the buildings that have since been demolished or renovated are believed to retain traces of the eerie energy that once filled their halls. Yet, even with these structural changes, some insist the facility’s spectral inhabitants continue to roam the grounds.

Indeed, the stories from Manteno State Hospital span diverse experiences, from psychics sensing lost souls wandering the halls to seemingly mundane objects imbued with paranormal energy.

All these accounts collectively paint a picture of a site steeped in trauma and marred by lingering spirits, echoing the chilling past of the once-active mental health facility.

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