Danvers State Hospital Chronicles John Gray

2/27/1985 Suit Filed Over Ill Mental Patients

Suit Filed Over Ill Mental Patients: Jean Dietz, Boston Globe February 27, 1985 A class action suit, alleging that more than 200 patients in state mental health facilities with serious medical problems are receiving inadequate care, will be filed against state officials in US District Court in Boston today. Naming eight plaintiffs, whose illnesses range from epilepsy to congestive heart failure, as victims of grave medical and nursing care problems in various facilities, the suit seeks money damages for all such patients and court judgment that the facilities violate state and federal constitutional rights. The suit is brought on behalf of the patients by Palmer and Dodge, a Boston law firm, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law of the Boston Bar Assn. The action was taken following a year of effort to negotiate with human services officials to correct conditions surrounding the care of patients, Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the legal group, said yesterday. Patients cited in the case are confined at Lindemann Mental Health Center, Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center, Metropolitan State Hospital and Danvers State Hospital. They include a 55-year-old Spanish-speaking woman who has diabetes, arthritis and chronic schizophrenia, a 33-year-old woman who has chronic bleeding from a peptic ulcer, asthma, chronic renal failure, hypertension and a borderline personality disorder, a 52-year-old man with hepatitis, nephritis and organic brain damage and a 56-year-old man with temporal lobe epilepsy and a chronic urinary tract infection who fell while being bathed and fractured his hip. "Our information shows that physically ill mental patients are constantly neglected due to the lack of minimally adequate medical care on state hospital and mental health center units," said Darcy DuMont, an attorney at the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, one of the groups that investigated medical care for mental patients. The group found that "with so few staff, limited staff training, totally inconsistent medical record-keeping and faulty or nonexistent medical equipment, there is no way anything approaching adequate medical care can be provided," Dumont said. A suit by the US Justice Department against Worcester State Hospital, charging the state with depriving 435 patients at the hospital of their constitutional rights to proper and safe care and medical treatment, was filed in the same court last week. The suit also follows disclosure of three deaths at Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center of patients whose medical complications allegedly went undetected.
In a related development, legislation has been filed by Sen. Jack Backman (D-Brookline) to provide needed medical services or appropriate placements for physically ill state mental patients. Backman said yesterday that his investigators at the Solomon Carter Fuller Center found that "there were no doctors or nurses on the ward for the eight- hour period in which each of the three Fuller patients died." Named as defendants in the new suit are Mental Health Comr. James Callahan, Dr. Mona Bennett, deputy commissioner; Public Health Comr. Bailus Walker, Human Services Secretary Philip W. Johnston and Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.

3/14/1988 New Chief at Danvers Aims High

New Chief at Danvers Aims High: Ray Richard, Boston Globe March 14, 1988 The message surprised Peter Van Almkerk, a 36-year-old forensic medicine specialist who was nearing the end of his requirements for a doctorate in human organizational development. Call the commissioner's office right away, he was told in mid-January while doing casework at Bridgewater State Hospital. He was even more startled the next day, Van Almkerk recalls, when the state commissioner of mental health asked him to become the new head of Danvers State Hospital, a crowded institution for the mentally ill whose director had resigned a week earlier in the wake of criticism over the death of a patient. I was on another career path," Van Almkerk said. "I had just about finished my doctoral studies, I was at the end of my dissertation and my orals were scheduled for July." But he had worked with health institutions for 17 years, and he was familiar with many of the hospital's problems because his office as a regional forensic field manager had been in the same building as the hospital director's office. He also knew the North Shore and many of the workers in the health care agencies with whom he would be working. So he accepted. Today, Van Almkerk has put his doctoral studies on hold and is breathing new life into the hospital that has served northeast Massachusetts since 1878. Instead of the 20 hours he was working for the department while teaching and pursuing his doctorate, he now finds 12-hour days normal and acceptable, Van Almkerk said recently while moving from one staff meeting to another and checking his calendar to see what meetings he had later in the day. Crowding at Danvers State Hospital is one of several major problems Van Almkerk hopes to address. For the last 10 years the mental hospital has been located in what had once been an acute-care medical facility. Before that, the mental hospital was located in the massive red brick and sandstone Kirkbride Building atop Danver's highest hill. The 110-year-old castle-like Kirkbride Building near Route 1 had housed up to 2,500 patients until it was closed, badly deteriorated by a century of use and too big and outdated to be needed any more for mental patients. The development of medicine to control aberrant behavior, an enlightened approach to mental illness and the establishment of a statewide system of community health centers since the early 1960s had shifted the treatment of mentally ill from institutions to community centers. Danvers and the six other state mental hospitals had 25,000 patients in 1960. Today they have about 2,500. There are not fewer mentally ill people today, according to Assistant Mental Health Commissioner Kevin Preston. "If anything, there's more. But vast majorities of them can now lead relatively normal lives in the community through medication," Preston said. After Kirkbride's doors were locked, its patients were transferred to the nearby Bonner Building, which had been the acute-care hospital. While many patients left the institution at that time, the severest cases remained. Van Almkerk's hospital now houses about 300 patients in a facility built for 160. In addition, the hospital has trouble hiring -- and keeping -- employees, including doctors, because of low pay and the poor image many people have of working directly with the mentally ill, said Van Almkerk. "My major concern," he said, "are life-safety issues in terms of who is missing, the medical care we can provide, the whole issue of: Can we evacuate the building in a safe way if there were a fire or the electricity went out." Staff morale fell after widespread publicity followed the death of a patient who wandered out of the hospital last December, Van Almkerk said. The body of Ann Houghton, 61, of Lowell, was found the next day, 200 yards from the hospital. A preliminary autopsy report said she died of a heart attack. Because of the 17-hour lapse between Houghton's disappearance and the finding of her body, relatives of patients and advocates for the mentally ill charged that administrator William Bonnes was lax in the attempt to locate her. Bonnes resigned. A departmental investigation into the death criticized the hospital for not conducting a more efficient search of the 37 buildings and 540 acres of grounds. That controversy was the second to hit the state facilities complex since last summer, when a series of articles in the North Shore Sunday newspaper criticized the way the Hogan/Berry Regional Center for the mentally retarded was run. The articles triggered protests charging mismanagement and civil rights violations by Superintendent Edward Budelmann. The Department of Mental Retardation, which was established last July, later cleared Budelmann of wrongdoing. But both reports pointed to problems at "Danvers," once solely a mental health facility that now houses operations for the departments of mental retardation, public health and youth services, and food and agriculture. Because of the crowded conditions and the need for more modern facilities, the state plans to build a 135- to 160- bed hospital on the Danvers State Hospital grounds. Designers are being hired, Preston said. Meanwhile, Danvers officials and private developers look longingly at the landmark Kirkbride Building 15 miles from Boston and the rolling hills and fields that surround it. "The town has had a definite interest in that property for many years," notes Town Manager Wayne Marquis. "It's a very valuable piece of property. It's the largest piece of open space in the town of Danvers. Developers driving by it become glassy-eyed." Kirkbride, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, should be preserved because of its architectural and historical significance, Marquis said. The Kirkbride Building, "although impressive, is neither appropriate for or capable of cost-effective rehabilitation for modern hospital standards," a 1985 state study said. The towns of Danvers or Middleton, where some of the property is located, could get the building or some of the land -- but only if the state gives it up.

6/23/1988 State Says Patient Release Was Not Due To Crowding

State Says Patient Release Was Not Due To Crowding: Rene Loth , Boston Globe June 23, 1988 Edward Murphy, the state commissioner of mental health, said yesterday that the release of a Danvers State Hospital patient who stabbed and critically wounded his mother last week was "categorically" not related to chronic overcrowding at the facility. "The reason we have overcrowding is that we're not discharging indiscriminately," Murphy said. "The overcrowding situation at Danvers has actually gotten somewhat worse because of our caution on discharges." Murphy has directed two of his deputies to conduct a full review of the release and follow-up care of Daniel Connolly, 21, who was discharged from Danvers State Hospital two months ago. Connolly, who had been a patient at the hospital for five years, allegedly stabbed his mother seven times with a steak knife and screwdriver in her Lawrence rooming house last Wednesday night. Connolly's mother remains in critical condition at Lawrence General Hospital and friends said yesterday they had been told by the hospital she was in a coma. Connolly was charged with attempted murder and sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Murphy said the investigation will focus on the "clinical judgments" made by an evaluation team at Danvers State Hospital in releasing Connolly, described by friends of his mother as a disturbed young man prone to violent behavior. The investigation will also center on the follow-up care Connolly received from the hospital. "It's clear that there was deliberate clinical review by qualified clinicians," Murphy said of the decision to allow Connolly to leave the facility. "The question is to look behind the procedures to the clinical judgments." Murphy would not comment on the specifics of Connolly's case, citing patient confidentiality. But he said Connolly was assigned a "very aggressive" case manager after his release, who visited him daily. He refused to comment on police reports that Connolly had apparently stopped taking prescribed medication before the stabbing. Murphy said he agreed with mental health advocates who have charged that a lack of sufficient community residences can often leave former mental patients with no place to go after they are released from state institutions. He said bureaucratic delays and community resistance have slowed the construction of halfway houses and other transitional residences Gov. Michael S. Dukakis promised in a $110 million initiative in 1985. But he said at least 60 new residential units would be placed "on line" between July and October in the area served by Danvers State Hospital. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Dukakis said the community residences are proceeding "as expeditiously as possible." He added: "We're not going to release patients from the hospitals . . . unless we know that there are good community services and facilities." In Connolly's case, however, the former patient simply moved into a room in a boarding house at 53 Bradford St. in Lawrence, a neighborhood state Rep. Kevin Blanchette (D-Lawrence) described yesterday as "troubled" and "marginal." Lawrence Police have described Bradford Street as an area where drugs are dealt openly. Louise Ferris, commissioner of inspectional services in Lawrence, said the boarding house is in good condition and passed a licensing inspection in May. But she said neighboring buildings had numerous sanitary code violations. Some have been the site of fires and others have been condemned, she said. The lack of transitional housing has resulted in a steady increase in the patient population in state hospitals such as Danvers, at more than double its capacity. Murphy said that at least 500 patients in hospitals statewide are "clinically ready for discharge with no place to go." In addition, 270 mentally retarded citizens have been inappropriately placed in the state mental hospital, he said. He also said several hundred elderly patients suffering from medical problems contribute to overcrowded

9/21/1988 Massachusetts Is Under Criticism for Poor Care of the Mentally Ill.

Massachusetts Is Under Criticism for Poor Care of the Mentally Ill. Susan Diesenhouse, New York Times August 21, 1988 The Massachusetts system for the mentally ill, now in the midst of a five-year overhaul, is being faulted for poor care and unsafe conditions by legislators, patient advocates and mental health professionals and administrators. The Massachusetts system for the mentally ill, now in the midst of a five-year overhaul, is being faulted for poor care and unsafe conditions by legislators, patient advocates and mental health professionals and administrators. Delays in paying for part of the overhaul plan have led some to doubt that it will be fully carried out. A string of patient deaths in the past year, meanwhile, has led some mental health experts and patient advocates to question whether the plan will solve the problems in the system of 7 hospitals and 10 community health centers that treat 110,000 people a year. The hospitals hold about 2,200 seriously ill patients while most of those treated at the health centers live at home, with some housed at the facilities. To balance state budgets for 1988 and 1989, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, the Democratic Presidential candidate, has withheld about $17 million that the Legislature allocated to expand care for the mentally ill, according to Edward M. Murphy, the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health. The Governor inherited a system of badly deteriorated state hospitals after his first election in 1974. But well into his third term, some patients in the state system for the mentally ill are kept in rooms where temperatures reach more than 100 degrees and sleep on bare mattresses in crowded facilities that are in need of repair. None of the hospitals are accredited and in 1986 the system was ranked 41st among the states in a survey by the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, a consumer advocacy group in Washington. $558 Million Voted for Plan In 1985, amid concern that a Federal court would take over the mental hospitals as it had the state's institutions for the retarded in the 1970's, the Governor proposed his five-year plan to improve care and facilities for the mentally ill. The legislature approved the plan that called for renovation of hospitals and health centers, the construction of some new facilities and increased staffs and improved services. The Legislature has allocated $558 million for the program so far. Philip W. Johnston, Secretary of the Executive Office of Human Services, said that despite withholding funds, ''The Governor has recognized the problem in care for the mentally ill which resulted from a generation of neglect and made the financial and political commitment to radical reform.'' Mr. Dukakis, after being defeated in the Democratic primary in 1978 in his first re-election bid, won a second term in 1982 and his third in 1986. As for the quality of care today, Mr. Johnston said, ''At the moment there is a lag between the allocations and implementation of the plan.'' In the past year, the deaths of nine patients at Worcester State Hospital and the deaths of seven at Danvers State Hospital have been questioned by patient advocacy groups. Commissioner Murphy found poor emergency medical care and a lack patient supervision by hospital staff members in four of the seven deaths for which investigations have been completed. Two of the other deaths are under investigation while Mr. Murphy has not called for inquiries in the other cases. After public hearings on eight of the deaths in Worcester, the Legislature's Committee on Human Services found ''major systemic problems'' leading to seriously deficient care. In a letter to Commissioner Murphy last week the committee chairmen, Representative Paul Kollios, a Democrat, and Senator John P. Houston, Democrat, called for an end to ''Band-Aid' solutions'' and the start of ''major changes which are long overdue.'' Lawsuits Filed in Two Deaths:
On July 26, two lawsuits were filed in State Superior Courts by the families of two of the patients who died at Worcester State Hospital, seeking compensation for what the suits said were the violations of the patients' civil rights. Steven J. Schwartz, the lawyer for the families, said one man was mentally retarded, should not have been admitted to the hospital and did not receive medication, which led to a fatal seizure. The other patient developed pneumonia that was not treated and neither patient received proper emergency care, Mr. Schwartz said. On June 1, the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, an advocacy group, filed suit in State Supreme Judicial Court, asking the court to declare unconstitutional the Governor's withholding of the allocated funds without legislative consent or public hearings. Geoffrey G. Brahmer, the group's director, said he feared that the five-year plan might not be fully implemented if such cuts continued. He said, ''Delays mean more time people must spend in barbaric conditions and shows the Governor's commitment to mental illness.'' Commissioner Murphy said that the funds withheld had been designated to pay for construction of supervised group homes for the mentally ill who do not require hospitalization. Of the 2,200 hospital patients, Mr. Murphy said that several hundred are well enough that they could have been moved to the group homes had they been constructed. Those discharged would have relieved overcrowding in hospitals that are 104 percent to 220 percent of capacity, he said. ''If private psychiatric hospitals we license did this, we'd close them down,'' Mr. Murphy said. Mr. Murphy called the building where hospitalized patients are treated at the Dorchester-Mattapan Community Mental Health Center in Boston ''an embarrassment.'' On one recent day, some of the 60 patients in the building, who receive no vocational training, paced the floor muttering. One slept on a bare mattress on the floor in a cell. Bathrooms had clogged toilets, sinks filled with stagnant water and towels tucked around leaky tubs. Pieces of the bathroom walls were missing. 'Totally Unacceptable' Gerry Morrissey, the Mental Health Department's director for that region, said such conditions are ''totally unacceptable and clearly not what we want for our patients.'' At Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham, temperatures that recently reached 93 degrees in the patient areas contrasted to the air-conditioned administrative offices. Many windows at the hospital do not open, 20 patients may sleep in one dormitory and share one shower and a day room where cigarette butts litter the floor. Anne M. Corapi, president of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said: ''It took months to get the administration to open the window in the seclusion room where it gets to 105 in the winter.'' Audrey Y. Deloffi, chief administrator for Metropolitan State Hospital, said refurbishing started in June in some areas and that an $18 million renovation was being planned. Angela K. Leech, a member of the board of the alliance, called for ''a blue-ribbon panel to get the Department of Mental Health back on track.''

6/20/1991 State to Close 9 Inpatient Sites Within 3 Years

Gov. Weld has accepted a panel's recommendation to close nine mental health facilities and public health hospitals within the next three years. The decision reflects the Weld administration's goal of privatizing many functions performed by state agencies. The state commission that made the recommendation yesterday said the closings would save taxpayers $60 million a year. Administration officials said the closings would start in three to four months, although some facilities will not be shut for three years. The consolidation does not need legislative approval. Despite Weld's assurances that no patient will be moved and no facility closed until clients and patients are placed in an "equal or better appropriate care setting," mental health activists warned that the closings could have a devastating effect on patients and increase homelessness. A state employee’s union official also warned the plan could cause hundreds of state workers to lose their jobs. The commission, appointed by Weld, issued a 100-page blueprint for consolidating the state's inpatient health care and human service system. It calls for the phasing out of three public health hospitals, three mental health hospitals and three facilities for mentally retarded people. Their patients will be transferred to private facilities.
About 1,875 patients of the 6,500 now served by the system will be moved. The nine inpatient facilities represent about one quarter of the state institutions that remain open. The 17-member commission estimated the closings could save $144 million in one-time costs. When all the facilities are shut, the state will save $60 million annually in operating costs. Administration officials said they could not accurately estimate the cost of the consolidation plan, but said $14 million in the mental health department budget and another $6 million in the health and human services account will be used for the transition. The facilities slated to close are Danvers State Hospital, Northampton State Hospital and Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham, which care for mentally ill patients; the Paul A. Dever State School in Taunton, the John T. Berry School in North Reading and the Foxborough campus of Wrentham State School, which treat mentally retarded clients; and Cushing Hospital in Framingham, Lakeville Hospital in Middleborough and Rutland Heights Hospital, public health hospitals that provide long-term chronic care. Under the plan, some patients at Danvers, for example, will be moved to Tewksbury Hospital, which has about 200 empty beds. Patients at Northampton State Hospital will be relocated to Holyoke Hospital and Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. State health officials will have to negotiate transfers with private hospitals, a process they said will be made easier by the number of empty beds that hospitals want to fill.

1/13/1931 Prisoner Recaptured After 13 Years Free

Self-Confessed Murderer Escaped From Danvers. Peabody Man Committed as Insane: Taken on a Tip at Selkirk, NY.

Dispatches received here today revealed that Daniel Mandzy, was arrested at Selkirk, NY, by New York State Troopers on an anonymous tip, was the man who escaped from Danvers State Hospital, April 29, 1918, having been committed to that insane hospital, while awaiting trial for murder of his wife in Peabody on August 28, 1916.

The Peabody police, the district attorney’s office and the Danvers State Hospital had not been officially notified of the arrest up until late hour tonight.

Had Bleached His Hair

State Hospital officials were told by the Peabody police and district attorney’s office that jurisdiction in the case lies in their hands. The hospital officials are communicating with authorities in New York State to find out if Mandzy is being committed to an insane hospital there. If so, he will be transferred to the Danvers State Hospital, under a standing agreement between State hospitals. Manzy has already been arraigned before a justice in Selkirk on a charge of being a fugitive from justice and has been ordered held at Albany, NY, for the Massachusetts authorities.

Mandzy had effectively disguised himself by bleaching his hair and eye-brows. According to his story to the New Troopers, he had wandered around the country after his escape and then had settled down around Albany six years ago. Mandzy, according to a confession he made after his arrest murdered his wife, Mrs. Josephine Mandzy, 25 in their home in Peabody on August 28, 1916, because of his suspicions that she was unfaithful with a “star boarder.”

Escaped After Transfer

After the murder, he ran out of his house flourishing a pistol at neighbors and escaped to Salem. The local police followed him and captured him at gun point. The first night in jail his hair turned completely grey from worry. It was while he was confined in the County jail in Salem awaiting trial that he became insane. He was transferred to the Danvers State Hospital where he was found to be melancholy and morose but he seized upon his first chance to escape and made a successful getaway. The New York troopers said he appeared sane to them. The mysterious “tip” which landed him into the hands of the police is believed to have come from a resident in the vicinity of Albany.

10/29/1950 Attendant Fined $15 in Assault on Mental Patient, 50

Charged with mistreatment of an insane patient at Danvers State Hospital, James C. Parsons, 22, of Danvers a hospital attendant, was found guilty and paid a fine of $15 imposed by Judge George B. Sears in District Court today.

Attorney Edward A. Coffey defense counsel told the court that Parsons struck the 50-year old patient because the patient bit him. Parsons, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, testified the patient had been unmanageable.

State Police had been called into the case after Dr. Francis X. Sullivan assistant superintendent, had discovered the patient suffered a bad bruise and severe swelling of the right side of the face. Parsons had been employed as an attendant at the hospital for the last 18 months.

11/6/1960 Danvers Escapee Caught, Two Still at Large

One of three mental patients who escaped from Danvers State Hospital last-night was picked up on a Salem street at noon today, Several hours later slate police located a stolen car believed used by the other two escapees. Camille LaBrecque, 27, of Salem, who was captured by police, said he walked the eight miles from Danvers to his mother's home and slept the night in her cellar.

He ate breakfast with his mother and then, according to police, told her he was going out to "walk around until they pick me up." His mother notified police as soon as he left the house.

Still missing are Frank Woodsum, 20, of Haverhill, awaiting trial on a charge of assault with intent to murder an 8-year-old girl, and Richard LaPage, 19, or Danvers, who has a long record of arrests, the latest of stealing a car owned by a priest.

A car stolen from the stale hospital grounds last night was located by troopers from the Andover barracks on Liberty Street in Middleton, late this afternoon. Another car, stolen in Middleton last night, was recovered earlier in North Reading.

Police advisories describe the missing men as "extremely dangerous.''

7/11/1930 Danvers Attendants Given Year in Jail

Found Guilty of Assault on Hospital Inmate

Chase Webster and Alexander Chasnovlits, attendants at the Danvers State Hospital, were

sentenced to one year In the House or Correction this morning by Judge George B. Sears when found guilty in District court of assault on a 53-year­old Insane patient. The alleged assault occurred on July 2 while the two attendants were attempting to put the patient to bed. The patient received two broken ribs and other Injuries which had to be treated by a physician. He is believed to be recovering from the beating.

It is claimed that Chasnovlits admitted to Dr. C. A Bonner, superintendent, that he had struck the patient and that Webster at first denied the assault, but later admitted It. Besides the police investigation, the office of District Attorney Clark also took action, and in court this morning District Attorney Edward F. Flynn conduction the prosecution.

During the hearing, the two insane patients were placed on the stand. They testified as to what they had seen during the assault and of the screams of the patient from blows of the attendants.

5/9/1952 Suspect in Killing of Danvers Inmate Sent to Bridgewater

A patient who was suspected of killing another inmate Saturday at Danvers State Hospital was transferred to Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane today. Dr. Francis X. Sullivan, assistant superintendent of the Danvers institution said he still had not heard from the District Attorney’s office about possible court action. It was expected the transfer of the suspect would close the case. The murder victim was Charles W. Baker formerly of Lynn, who had been confined to Danvers for about a year. He allegedly was beaten to death with a piece of firewood while he was laying in his bed. There was no witnesses to the killing the suspect has maintained his innocence.

9/29/1955 Two Somerville Youths Indicted in Slaying of Hospital Aide

The Rockingham, NH County Grand Jury returned murder indictments against two Somerville, MA youths charged with slaying a 56-year-old Danvers State Hospital employee on June 23rd.

Two indictments were returned to Justice John H. Leahy on Robert F. Curtis. Curtis was charged with first degree murder and robbery in the slaying of Lesley N. Jackman, superintendent of laundry at the Danvers hospital.

Four indictments were returned on Curtis’ 16-year old companion, Robert F. Siteman as being a principle in the murder, while the other three charge him as being an accessory.

A few days after the murder, the youths were picked up in Myrtle Beach SC., operating Jackman’s car.

1/29/1938 Buckley Finds Eight Murder Blames Former Heads of Insane Hospitals

At least eight of the 293 patients of state insane hospitals who died violent deaths since 1928 were slain by other inmates, state investigators revealed last night. The name of the eighth victim of murderous assault was released by State Auditor Thomas H. Buckley, who investigated records at the Danvers State Hospital after receiving a tip that a patient had been choked to death there in December. Checking on statements on an anonymous letter he received, Buckley said he found that Edward M. Souther died at the state hospital on December 29, a week after he had been assaulted by another patient. Souther’s death brought the total of slayings at Danvers to three. Five others were announced earlier at Medfield State Hospital.

State police and accountants from Buckley’s office are working together in an attempt to unravel the stories which surround the long list of violent deaths that the Department of Mental Diseases has classified in its annual reports. A grand total of 400 odd inmates have died from other than natural causes, it has been found.

11/30/1937 Insane Killer Captured In Near Danvers Escape

Mitchell Gondek who was convicted of a double slaying and confined to the Danvers State Hospital for life, three years ago, nearly sawed his way to freedom from the state institution Saturday night.

Gondek was recaptured on the hospital grounds after he had sawed his way through the iron grilling on the window of his solitary, second-story room and dropped 15 feet to the hospital lawn. Dr. Edward C. Yerbury, assistant superintendent of the hospital said Grondek persuaded a fellow inmate who has the privilege of exercising outdoors on the school grounds, to smuggle a saw blade into him.

In June, 1934, Gondek shot and killed Paul and Alice Caouette. He shot them down in cold blood, while their baby cried on a crib upstairs. Arrested for the crime in November, he readily confessed, saying “I just wanted to use my gun.”

11/16/1949 Mother Is Found “Insane” in Killing Her 4 Children

Standing with her head bowed, a slim pallid 31-year-old Chelmsford unwed mother heard a Middlesex Superior Court jury acquit her by reason of insanity yesterday in the carbon monoxide killing of her four young children 20 months ago.

Mrs. Evelyn C. Roche bit her lip in a battle to hold back her tears when Judge Vincent Broggna, immediately following the jury’s verdict ordered her “committed to the Danvers State Hospital for her natural life.”

The verdict sentence followed a prosecution move believed unprecedented in history in capital cases in Middlesex County. Assisant District Attorney, Lyman C. Sprague in his summation actually argued in behalf of the defense when he said “ In all humility, knowing the grave duty imposed on me and the prosecution of this case, and in fairness to the citizens of Middlesex County, I ask you to return a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.” But he urged the jury that their verdict “not let her loose upon the community”

The jury returned the verdict after 55 minutes of deliberation. The dramatic trial lasted only two days.

Doctors Agree

Four doctors all prosecution witnesses testified that Mrs. Roche was insane on March 20, 1948 when she placed her four young children in a rented automobile and let the engine until they were overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning. Sprague pointed out to the jury that this occurred just after the death of 70-year-old Peter Roche whom the prosecutor described as “a father and lover all rolled into one” to the defendant. It was as a result of the death of the elderly man, who befriended the defendant when as a young girl, she was out of her home, that Mrs. Roche was rendered “mentally shaken”

After Roche died, Dr. Bardwell H. Flower, superintendent of the Worcester State Hospital, testified, Mrs. Roche fell victim to “fear and uncertainty as to the future.” State testimony brought out the fact that not only did they defendant attempt to die with her children but that she also tried to hang herself some months later while she was at Worcester State Hospital for observation.

10/29/1960 Girl Accused of Strangling Hospitalized

A 21-year-old Back Bay college student with a history of mental illness was committed to Danvers State Hospital Wednesday after she pleaded innocent to the strangulation of an 83-year-old woman. Judge William Landergan continued the case of Nancy Joan Lovering until December 3rd. She is accused of strangling Mrs. Mabel S. St. Clair with a nylon stocking.

Neighbors told police they heard screams about 3pm and upon investigating found the girl standing in the hall-way. When police arrived the girl told them she had swallowed 100 aspirin tablets. Residents of the apartment building said Miss Lovering had friends in the area and knew the victim but had not been seen in the house for several months.

Police said Miss Lovering suffered several nervous breakdowns and was a student in college. Homicide detectives said there was apparent connection between Mrs. St. Clair’s death and the 11 unsolved strangling’s in Greater Boston.

3/25/1924 Man Jumps to Death as Wife Arrives

In the presence of his wife and brother and scores of other persons, Mike De Luce, an inmate of Danvers State Hospital, leaped 80 feet to his death today. He had sat for six hours on the edge of a roof. Attendants caught him in a life net but he burst through the net to the ground.

De Luce for some time had been asking the hospital authorities to give him outdoor work so that he could get exercise. They finally assented and this morning put him on the cleaning squad which is picking up trash and waste on the grounds.

About 10am he ran away from the squad evaded the guards and reached the fire escape. He ran up this up to the roof. From there he made his way to the edge before the guards could reach him and was perched 80 feet above ground. The authorities obtained ladders and life nets and a ladder was placed against the building. De Luce threatened to jump. Attendants took down the ladder and pleaded with the man to come down. Finally they withdrew, hoping that his excitement would leave him. They sent for his wife and brother.

For six hours De Luce sat on the edge of the roof. Finally just after his brother and wife arrived, De Luce stood up, he lit a cigarette, took a few puffs then he jumped. The attendants with the life net were successful in catching him but he was going too fast. He died a half hour later.

5/26/1953 Danvers Patient Fatally Beaten Found on Floor of 90-Man Ward

The fatal beating of a 70-year-old patient in a ward of the State Hospital Friday night was disclosed for the first time this afternoon by Peabody police. The patient was identified as Michael P. Coffey who had been confined in the mental hospital for 40 years. Coffey died about 9:30pm Friday shortly after attendants found him moaning on the floor of the ward. Some 90 other male patients were in the ward.

Dr. Jack R. Ewait, State Commissioner of Public Health, said Coffey suffered a cut on the head and bruises about the face. He said investigators had found a stick which could have been the death weapon. Medical Examiner Ralph McCarthy of Peabody who examined the body turned aside questions by the saying any information about the death would have to come from the hospital.

Officials Silent

Dr. Francis X. Sullivan, assistant superintendent of the hospital said information would to come from the office of the District Attorney Hugh A. Gregg. Gregg said he himself had been informed of the death. However, State Police Lt Detective Raymond L. Foley working out of his office was investigating the case. The two attendants in the ward were busy with their duties at the time and did not witness the assault, Foley said.

The State Police barracks in Topsfield, only a mile from the hospital was not informed of the death. Neither were the Danvers police.

3/25/1882 Insanity of a Lawyer

Mr. W.F. Engley, so long known to residents of Cambridge as an attorney-at-law, had an epileptic fit at his office on State street, Boston, last Saturday, and was moved to the Hospital. Friday he was sent to the State Lunatic Asylum at Danvers, and it is feared that he is incurably insane.

12/3/1883 Freeman the Child Butcher

Charles F. Freeman, the religious enthusiast who killed his little daughter Edith, in May, 1879 trial ended Wednesday in his being found not guilty because of insanity, started early Thursday to the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers. He left the jail at Barnstable in company with his wife of the Old Colony Railroad. He was neatly dressed and had on lavender kids and sported a natty cane. He and his wife sat in the same seat in the car and chatted pleasantly together during the trip. She will accompany him to Danvers, and after bidding him goodbye, will return to Lynn, where she now lives and is engaged in dress making.

12/6/1920 Accuse Woman As Law Fugitive

Mrs. Mildred Trembley, aged 29, who was arrested yesterday by Detectives King and Walsh while attempting, police say to cash a $200 check at a downtown bank under the name Dorothy Forbes escaped from the State Hospital for Insane at Danvers, Mass, on December 10th according to information received by police Friday night from the Danvers institution. Mrs. Trembley is at the House of Detention charged with being a fugitive from justice.

8/9/1902 Cook taken to Insane Hospital

A young woman cook at the smallpox detention hospital was taken violently insane about three weeks ago and commitment papers were issued for her being taken to the Danvers Insane Hospital. Before she would be allowed there, however, she had to be quarantined two weeks to prevent a possible contagion being carried to the other inmates of the Danvers Asylum. Later she was taken there by Constable Warren Ivers.

6/7/1970 Girls Death Linked to Meal At State School

A 21-year-old Georgetown girl died Tuesday apparently from effects of a meal at the Hathorne State School for the Retarded, it was learned yesterday. There were reports that 129 persons from the school and Danvers State Hospital became ill after a meal but this could not be confirmed immediately.

Dr. Herman Grush, medical examiner, said the girl died Tuesday at Beverly Hospital where she had been taken following the Monday evening meal at the school.

“We won’t have a definite finding on the cause of death for several days” he said, “but it’s expected the girl died from effects of the meal.”

Dr. Grush said the final determination awaits results of the culture samples from the girl. He said samples were also taken from several other students at the school.

4/17/1919 Newburyport Contractor Flees Danvers Asylum

City Marshall Mclean learned this afternoon that Antonio J. Schezpanek, the Polish contractor convicted of murdering Annie Spiewok and Bill Wladyslaw in December, 1917 had escaped from the Danvers State Insane Asylum. He at once sent out a general alarm to his officers to maintain a strict watch, for it is suspected the may make his way to the city.

Schezpanek Belived to Have Picked A Lock

Hospital officials believe he secured his liberty by picking a lock. He was convicted of killing a woman and child while robbing a trunk containing money in which the woman’s husband kept his savings.

2/11/1926 Danvers Hospital to Add 500 New Beds

Five hundred new beds will be available for insane patients in the Danvers Hospital for the Insane this year, according to a statement issued yesterday by Governor Alvan T. Fuller, who visited the hospital Monday. The Governor is convinced, he said that the present State building program for insane hospital for the coming year will adequately provide for the situation.

The Governor declined to comment upon statements which have been made regarding overcrowding, saying that he found no more crowding at the institution than he had anticipated and nothing greatly objectionable. Next year as a result of the provision made in the in last year’s appropriation bill, there are to be 648 additional beds.

4/8/1918 Postmaster Shoots Danvers Inmate

Henry Grush an inmate of the State Insane Hospital at Danvers was shot and killed by Charles F. Skillings, postmaster at the Hathorne Station today. The tragedy took place outside the Post Office Buildings. Skillings said Grush was attempting to gain entrance. The Post Office, which is in a grocery store conducted by Skillings has been robbed several times within six months.

Grush was committed to the insane hospital October 15, 1910 and was deemed harmless. He did farm work and slept in a building known as “Grove Hall” which has no bars on the windows. It had been his practice for a long time to arise at 4am to perform work in the cow barn and frequently he would take walks to the Post Office and other places nearby.

12/14/1922 Mrs. Brady Insane Murder Case Finding

Committed to Hospital at Danvers for Life

A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was found yesterday in the case of Mrs. Mary G. Brady of Lowell who on September 29, shot and killed her husband Frederick W. Brady, during an argument over money matters in the corridor of the Lowell City Hall.

Judge Franklin T. Hammons committed her to the Danvers State Hospital for life. Mrs. Brady who had been judged insane by alienist Dr. Frederick B. Cady of the Harvard Medical School betrayed no sign of emotion. Mrs. Brady is 28 years old. She came here from Ireland 14 years ago and has two children ages 9 and 7 who were present during the quick trial.

4/9/1964 Millionaire Arraigned in Strangling of Maid

Millionaire aristocracy, Tuesday was the recluse Louis Agassiz Shaw, charged with strangling his housekeeper. Shaw was admitted to Danvers State Hospital for 35 days observation. His case was continued until May 14th.

“Cut it out, cut it out” he screamed as Clerk Leo Tracy began reading a charge that he had murdered Delia Holland 64. Shaw had to be escorted forcibly from the hearing and during the scuffle, he dropped a Bible and two other books he had been carrying.

9/17/1952 Danvers Worker Dies in Fall After Scuffle on Stairs

A kitchen employee at Danvers State Hospital was killed in a head-long plunge down a flight of stairs at the hospital tonight while scuffing with a second employee. Joespeh E. Henrick 57, died shortly after 9pm as doctors prepared to perform an emergency operation on him in the hospital infirmary.

Held for questioning by State Police was Joseph Licciardello who allegedly was scuffling with Henrick. Police were unable to explain events leading up to the scuffle in the employee’s section of main building shortly after 8pm. State Troopers John Moriarty and Peter Murphy of Topsfield said Licciardello was incoherent after the tragedy and could not be questioned at this time.

4/13/1977 Department of Mental Health Notice to Contractors

Sealed proposals for cleaning, repairing and painting the elevated water storage tank at Danvers State Hospital, Danvers, Massachusetts, will be received at the Stewards Office of the Danvers State Hospital, until Monday, May 9, 1977, at 10:00 o’clock a.m. and then at said office publicly opened and read. Bids must be accompanied by a bid deposit in the form of a bid bond, or cash or certified check payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the name of which contract for the work is to be executed in the amount of $500,00.

By: Nasir A. Khan, M.D. Superintendent

2/8/1935 Danvers Hospital Inmate Killed In Elevator Mishap

Nichols, 56 of Newton, a patient at the Danvers State Hospital, was instantly killed this afternoon when he suffered a fainting spell in an elevator and struck his head against the flooring in the Service Building.

Nichols had practically recovered from his illness and was engaged in duties about the storage room. He boarded the elevator alone in the cellar and as it was rising he fainted his head striking the flooring of the first floor as the elevator continued upward.

The elevator is the open type and other patients and employees saw the victim’s plight and brought him from the elevator. Hospital officials called Medical Examiner S. Chase Tucker, who said death was caused by a fractured skull and was accidental.

2/13/1941 Spectacular State Hospital Fire Causes $60,000 Loss

The most spectacular fire in Essex County in at least a generation early tonight destroyed a barn at the Danvers State Hospital. At least four of the hospital’s 150 head of cattle were burned. Damage was estimated at $60,000.

Situated only a few hundred yards from the top of the hill, the huge wooden structure burned like a torch and could be seen as far away as Brighton. An estimated 10,000 persons were attracted to the scene. The main hospital buildings were never threatened but a three-story brick building used as a dormitory by “trusties” was set afire by flying sparks. The inmates quickly extinguished a fire on the second floor porch and until the barn fire was put out, watchers with small house lines were stationed on every floor and roof.

Nobody was seriously injured in fighting the fire although Chief Joseph Kelly reported that members of the local Fire Department and those from Salem, Peabody and Marblehead received minor cuts and bruises. All hospital inmates were accounted for.

Most Cattle Saved

About 1000 quarts of milk furnished daily by the hospital farm was threatened. Employees, however led 145 head of cattle from the blazing building and were trucked to the Essex County

Agricultural School and a nearby farm where they are being sheltered. Superintendent Dr. Clarence A. Bonner and assistant Dr. William C. Inman, were unable to learn the cause of the fire which they described as the worst since the hospital was built in 1878.

12/13/1987 Report Expected in Case of Missing Mental Patient Found Dead

An investigative report by the Essex County district attorney’s office is expected this week on the circumstances surrounding the death of a 61-year-old Danvers State Hospital patient who was found dead last week on the grounds of the facility.

The body of Anne Houghton formerly of Lawrence, was discovered outside one of the institutions buildings at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The discovery reportedly came 17 hours after Houghton wandered away from the hospital and was exposed to rain and freezing temperatures. District Attorney Kevin Burke has ordered State Police in his office to conduct an investigation into her death.

“I really don’t have much of a comment” Burke said yesterday. “It appears to have been clearly accidental”

Temperatures hovered around 40 degrees Tuesday and there was light rain after dark. By 2:30am Wednesday, temperatures were near freezing.

Initial reports from the state Department of Mental Health indicated the that body was found in an adjacent building, but Danvers police said Mrs. Houghton was found on the grounds just outside as adjacent building stairwell.

10-14-05 Hospital Suit Goes Forward

The Danvers Preservation Fund Inc. will file suit in Essex Superior Court as early as tomorrow in hopes of delaying the scheduled Oct. 21 sale of the Danvers State Hospital to developer Avalon Bay, their attorney said yesterday.

"We're definitely going forward," said Jim Gilbert, attorney for the non-profit group which has hired Gilbert to press their case against the state agencies charged with safeguarding the historic buildings on the site of the former Danvers Insane Asylum.

The Danvers Preservation Fund Inc. last week asked the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) to impose a voluntary delay of the sale in order to review the process.

This week, DCAM told Gilbert they saw no reason to postpone the Oct. 21 closing date. Gilbert said it was a typical response from a government agency that has no interest in working with historic preservationists.

Gilbert and his clients contend that Massachusetts Historical Commission failed to carry out its duties as the historic preservation guardian of the state's important historic assets. Specifically, the agency failed to follow statutory requirements for public input in determining that demolition of the buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places would have an adverse effect.

That charge was disputed by Secretary of State William Galvin's office.

"Of all of the parties that were involved, my greatest disappointment was with the MHC," said Richard Trask, who is not a member of the Danvers Preservation Fund Inc. but has made a financial contribution to the fund. Trask is the Town of Danvers Archivist and is careful to separate his official duties from his personal historic advocacy.

"When they're talking about taking a national historic area of 40 buildings, destroying 39 of them, and then destroying two thirds of the 40th, including not keeping the roof and the first 20 courses of bricks, then if that's historic preservation, I'm in the wrong business," said Trask.

Trask said he was not aware of a single time anyone local was asked by Massachusetts Historical Commission for input or comment on Danvers State Hospital.

The hospital was closed in 1992. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A multi-year process resulted in rezoning the property for residential development on top of Hathorne Hill, where the Kirkbride building, chapel, and other buildings are located, and commercial development at the bottom. The developer finally chosen for the project is Avalon Bay Communities.

Demolition of buildings would occur in the first phase of the development.

Trask says interest in Danvers State among people who contact the Archives has surpassed geneology over the past year.

The witchcraft hysteria and subsequent executions is still the top topic of interest.
By Sally Kerans Salem News

10-20-05 Sale of Danvers State Hospital Stopped

The attorney for Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc. won a temporary restraining order Wednesday morning halting the sale of the former Danvers State Hospital to Avalon Bay, a developer of apartment complexes.

Salem Superior Court judge Howard Whitehead yesterday granted a temporary restraining order sought by Danvers Preservation, Inc., which prohibits the sale or transfer of the property at least until Wednesday, Oct. 26, said attorney Jim Gilbert, attorney for the group challenging the legality of the process leading to the sale of the former Danvers State Hospital.

The sale had been scheduled for tomorrow, Oct. 21.

The multi-acre site in the Hathorne section of Danvers contains 40 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in particular, the eight-winged Kirkbride building at the summit of the hill.

The suit names the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Division of Capital Asset Management, Massachusetts Historical Commission and its chairman, Secretary of State William Galvin, and the Town of Danvers. It alleges that laws protecting historic structures were ignored in the decade-long process of disposition of the property.

Gilbert said Judge Whitehead ordered all parties back in court next Wednesday, Oct. 26.
"At least we got over the first hurdle," said Gilbert. By Sally Kerans Salem News

11-9-05 Judge Rules Against Preservationists

A judge has denied the Danvers Preservation Fund Inc.'s request for injunctive relief in connection with the sale of the former Danvers State Hospital.

A spokesman for Salem Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead said yesterday the motion was denied and gave no other details, saying a memorandum would follow. Danvers Preservation Fund Inc. is seeking to re-open the process which, if not stopped, will lead to the demolition of historic buildings on the former Danvers State Hospital and of two-thirds of the signature Kirkbride building.

Avalon Bay Communites had been scheduled to purchase the property in late October from the state. The developer was then expected to begin demolition at the site as it began building 460 odd residential apartments and condominiums.

The preservationists filed their suit against the Secretary of State as the head of the Massachusetts Historical Commission as well as the town of Danvers and the state Division of Capital Asset Management.

They alleged the state and town had failed to consider the historic value of this site which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now that the judge has ruled against them, Jim Gilbert, the attorney for the preservation group, said his clients will go to court again next week, this time challenging the town of Danvers' issuance of a demolition permit, which the group contends was unlawfully granted.

"The town violated its own by-law," said Gilbert, referring to the town's historic demolition by-law.

The group succeeded in delaying the scheduled closing on the sale of the property.

Avalon Bay was chosen to develop the site through a process involving the state and the town. "We've had 22 years of process on this," said Town Manager Wayne Marquis at a recent meeting of the Board of Selectmen.

But Gilbert says his clients weren't included.
"Twenty-two years of flawed process isn't process," said Gilbert.

At issue in the lawsuit brought by Gilbert for Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc. is whether state agencies took historic value into proper account during the process. They say a public hearing on the adverse effect of tearing down the Kirkbride never happened, as required by law. By Sally Kerans Salem News

11-18-05 Back to Court About Danvers State

The attorney for the Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc. will return to court next week to seek another delay of the sale of the Danvers State Hospital property, this time focusing on the role of Danvers officials and its Preservation Commission in the process.

Judge Howard Whitehead denied a request for a preliminary injunction sought by The Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc. on Nov. 8. A memorandum outlining the reasons for the denial has not been issued, the court said.

Attorney James Gilbert said his clients will appear in Salem Superior Court on Monday, Nov. 21, at 2 p.m. The town of Danvers will be there, too.

Gilbert and his clients contend that both state agencies and the town failed to give due attention to the historic value of many of the buildings on the Danvers State Hospital property. They contend that the Danvers Preservation Commission didn't have the authority to act on an application for permission to demolish the buildings because it was submitted by Avalon Bay Communities, the developer, which wasn't the rightful owner of the property.

Furthermore, some involved say that when the commission acted on the application by Avalon Bay Communities in 2003, members were confused about the action they were taking and how it would affect the structures on the property, including those listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It got very complicated and some members didn't even know what they were voting on, and instead of declaring they didn't have authority to rule, they declared it (the property) wasn't significant," said Richard Trask, the town archivist, who is not a member of the Preservation Commission.

Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc. attorney James Gilbert said this week that all that followed from that action should be moot because the town violated its own demolition by-law.

"Like everything else with the state hospital, this is a very Byzantine process," said Trask.

To date, a demolition permit has not been issued.

The closing on the sale of the former Danvers State Hospital property to Avalon Bay Communities was originally scheduled for Oct. 21.
By Sally Kerans Salem News

11-22-05 Judge Denies Move to Block Demolition

Yesterday, a Superior Court judge paved the way for the town to issue a demolition permit to AvalonBay, which plans to tear down most of the 130-year-old former insane asylum to build apartments and condominiums. A group of local preservationists, the Danvers Preservation Fund Inc. tried to block the demolition, saying the developers failed to follow local regulations when they sought building approval.The judge's decision appears to clear the last hurdle in AvalonBay's attempts to buy the property for about $20 million and build 419 apartments and 64 condominiums there. About two-thirds of the Victorian Gothic-style Kirkbride building, the site's main attraction, would be demolished. "Big business once again wins out over preservation," said John Archer, the project's loudest critic. "The enormous material waste will be amazing." Attorney James Gilbert, representing the preservationists, said his clients will meet in a few days to discuss what their next move, if any, will be. Meanwhile, town attorney Michael Lehane said he was pleased with the decision and maintained that continuing to delay the project would further jeopardize the portion of the Kirkbride that AvalonBay plans to preserve. "This process has been going on long before the hospital closed," Lehane said. "There comes a point where the process has to come to a conclusion." AvalonBay Vice President Scott Dale said he believes the judge made the right decision and said the land transaction from the state to AvalonBay would take place in a matter of "weeks to days." "I'm confident we can move forward on the process that everyone's already worked so hard on," Dale said. During a hearing in Salem Superior Court yesterday, Gilbert argued that town officials inappropriately interfered in the work of the local historic preservation commission. That body, which could have delayed demolition, never ruled that the 40 buildings on the state hospital land were worth saving. Gilbert charged that preservation commission members didn't understand the issues they were voting on and were "hoodwinked" by officials from AvalonBay. "You had a bunch of very confused people who only wanted to do the right thing. ... They were under enormous pressure because of the millions of dollars at stake." Archer, who has vehemently railed against AvalonBay's plans, voted against preserving the property because he was confused on the vote, Gilbert said. "The system failed in about six different ways," Gilbert said. "Because of that, we're going to watch as buildings on the National Register (of Historic Places) get demolished, and that's just wrong." But Lehane fired back, attacking Gilbert's theory that the decision was born out of confusion. "If your case is that you're clients are stupid and can't understand English, then that's a slim reed to rely on," he said. Lehane said it was the fourth time the preservationists have sought a judge's intervention. The shuttered mental hospital has attracted artists, historians and ghost hunters fascinated with the architecture and design of the quarter-mile-wide Kirkbride. "Urban explorers," an underground culture of thrill-seekers, have risked arrest by slipping onto the site at night and photographing the building. AvalonBay attorney Kevin O'Flaherty said both the town and commonwealth stand to gain if the purchase goes through. "We have a handful of people that think they know better than everyone else," O'Flaherty said. "They don't represent the public's best interest." By Chris Cassidy Salem News

12-15-05 It's Official: Avalon Bay Takes Ownership of Danvers

Housing development corporation Avalon Bay Communities, Inc., took ownership of the Danvers State Hospital yesterday for $18.4 million, according to Avalon Bay spokesman Scott Dale. The official closing on the deal comes 14 years after the state announced it was closing Danvers State and other state-owned institutions for the care of those with mental illness. The 75-acre site is known for its signature structure, the neo-Gothic building designed by Thomas Kirkbride. Legal challenges by local preservationists to save the Kirkbride from the wrecking ball were unsuccessful. A judge in recent weeks rejected claims by the Danvers Preservation Fund, Inc. that the Danvers Preservation Commission was unclear about a crucial vote it took year ago which proved fatal to the effort to preserve the structure. With the legal challenges cleared, Avalon Bay Inc. needed only to take title in order to proceed with their plans to erect more than 400 units of housing on the site, which contains numerous buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Spokesman Scott Dale said security fencing will be erected as soon as their contractor can get on site, once demolition permits are approved. By Sally Kerans Salem News

12-16-05 The Kirkbride Now Belongs to AvalonBay

The state sold Danvers State Hospital to the Virginia-based developer yesterday in a deal worth $12 million, sealing 22 years of discussions over the fate of the 77-acre abandoned asylum property. AvalonBay plans to build 497 apartments and condominiums on the site and demolish most of the Kirkbride building, a Victorian Gothic-style, eight-winged fortress stretching for a quarter-mile that has lured artists and ghost hunters since it closed in 1992. Officials yesterday touted the economic benefits of the deal. The state will receive $3.2 million of the sale money to build affordable housing for Department of Mental Health clients. About $6 million will go into the state's general fund. Danvers will receive about $2 million, which will be set aside for education, historic preservation and affordable housing. The town will also see a boost of about $1 million in annual property tax revenues. And 70 units will be added to the town's affordable housing stock. "It's good news because it puts to positive use a number of acres of property that has fallen into disrepair due to lack of use," Town Manager Wayne Marquis said. "I look forward to making it a very high-quality project and one we can all be proud of." But the sale has faced sharp criticism from a group of local preservationists who have spent more than $25,000 trying to stop it. Danvers resident John Archer, one of the most vocal critics of the project, said officials missed a perfect opportunity to restore a structure with rich history and fascinating architecture. "This is an abysmal moment in North Shore history," Archer said. "To celebrate that building and bring it back to life would have been one of the greatest things. It would have put Danvers on the map. "They should be ashamed of themselves," he said of the project's stakeholders. "Their lack of insight is pathetic. It's devastating to our history." Preservationists stalled the sale for two months by challenging it in court, but both times a judge eventually allowed the transaction to proceed. Archer admitted that his group is running out of options. "We have nothing else at this point to say," Archer said. "I wish I had some hope." AvalonBay Vice President Scott Dale could not be reached for comment yesterday. The Kirkbride, which once served more than 2,000 hospital patients, will soon house 61 apartments and a function room. Crews will add a lounge, fitness center and indoor basketball court to the rear of the structure. As part of the deal, AvalonBay agreed to create a permanent memorial honoring the legacy of former hospital patients and staff and maintain a cemetery just below the summit of Hathorne Hill. The developer can start knocking down parts of the Kirkbride and 39 other buildings as soon as it receives a demolition permit from the town. Building Inspector Peter Bryson said the town must act within 30 days after receiving AvalonBay's application. Because of the weakened condition of the Kirkbride, the portion of the building that will be retained will first have to be shored up before the wings can be dismantled, he said. "It's not as simple as tearing down a shed. ... There may be portions where they can literally push it over," Bryson said. "There may be portions that will require a more delicate procedure." Bryson said he expects AvalonBay to begin demolition quickly. "Obviously, the sooner they go forward and the sooner they generate income off the piece of property, the more successful they are," he said. The developers hope to start construction in early 2006 and wrap up by February 2008, according to a news release issued last night.

1-6-06 Abatement Removal Starts

Backhoe loaders, self propelled lifts, generators, dump trucks and other construction equipment now occupy the Danvers State Hospital highlands. Traffic up and down the main entrance is as frequent as the traffic on the nearby Route 62. The parking spaces that were once reserved for doctors, nurses and visitors and now filled with automobiles that belong to construction companies and their workers. The red plywood boards that covered the windows for years are being removed letting in sunlight that the hospital hasn't seen in ages. Abatement removal is underway and dramatic changes are happening to the buildings daily as the demolition stage approaches rapidly.

1-12-06 Demolition Has Begun at Danvers State Hospital.

The Male Nurses Home and St. Lukes Chapel were destroyed.The Male Nurses Home (1927) and St. Lukes Chapel (1964) were recently destroyed. Exact date unknown. 1-30-06 Our Lady of the Hill Chapel was demolished. 2-1-06 Female Nurses Home was demolished. 2-10-06 Kirkbride J ward annex was demolished. 2-16-06 The Bonner Medical Building was demolished.
2-23-06 Kirkbride J Ward demolished.
J Ward which was part of the original Kirkbride structure (1878) has been demolished. Also demolished was the 1906 Male Tuberculosis Cottage (later used as the Music Cottage) along with the 1927 Mechanics Garage. 3-10-06 Kirkbride I Ward demolsihed.
I Ward which was part of the original Kirkbride structure (1878) has been demolished. Also demolished was the 1912 Laundry Building. 3-26-06 Kirkbride H Ward demolished.
H Ward which was part of the original Kirkbride structure (1878) has been demolished. Also demolished was the 1954 Hydro Unit that extended off of I ward. This completes the Male side demolition as Avalon Bay intends to save G Ward. 4-14-06 Kirkbride A Ward demolished.
Demolition has begun on the Female side. A Ward which was part of the original Kirkbride structure (1878) has been demolished. Also demolished was the 1897 A-Annex located beside it. 4-18-06 Gray Gables and Kirkbride B Ward demolished.
The historic 1898 Gray Gables Building along with Kirkbride B Ward were demolished today. The Gray Gables was a unique building as it was the first free standing residential structure built post Kirkbride. It was used as a residential facility for nurses in the early years and towards the later years, it housed hospital staff that were married. This leaves a handful of buildings left and demolition will be complete on the highlands. 4-28-06 Gymnasium and Kitchen demolished. The 1932 Kirkbride gymnasium and kitchen additions were demolished. Completion of the demolition process is only a couple weeks away. 5-18-06 Female Tuberculosis Cottage & Surgical Unit demolished.
The 1903 Surgical Unit that once extended off of A ward is demolished along with the 1907 Female Tuberculosis cottage (later used as the arts and crafts cottage). This now just leaves C Ward and the water tower and demolition will be completed on the highlands. 6-14-06 Kirkbride C Ward demolished. The last brick structure was destroyed leaving only the water tower to be demolished. The water tower will come down as soon as the new cellular tower is built to replace it. The new tower will be located off site and not on the property. Avalon Bay is predicting that rentals will start as soon as Fall 2006.

4-7-07 Four-Alarm Fire Ravages Former State Hospital

A four-alarm fire at the former Danvers State Hospital destroyed seven buildings and shut Route 1 down temporarily early this morning.The buildings, currently undergoing renovations, were empty. The facility is being renovated into apartment buildings and condominiums. State police also briefly evacuated 20 people living in neighboring, already-completed buildings as a precaution. Six firefighters were treated for minor injuries. The fire, which began around 2 a.m., took several hours to bring under control. AvalonBay Communities Inc. is handling the renovations. The plan is to build 433 luxury rental units and 64 condominiums on the site's 77 acres, the Globe reported in February. The project is also to include amenities like an indoor sports court and a cyber cafe, a far cry from the building's dreary past. The hospital, abandoned since 1992 in response to accusations of overcrowding, abuse, and neglect, was primarily used to treat "spiritual maladies." After being closed, the hospital quickly became a hot spot for thrill-seeking ghost hunters who believed the grounds to be filled with troubled spirits. The high level of curiosity and trespassing forced to the state to employ 24-hour security guards for a time. The 2001 film "Session 9," about an asbestos cleaning crew working in an abandoned mental hospital with a suspect past, was filmed at Danvers State and also brought attention to the facility. Danvers State is not the only former mental institution undergoing a facelift. There's a growing trend toward renovation of the facilities abandoned since the 1980s, when mental health care was de-institutionalized. By Allison Mudge, Boston Globe images © John Duffill

7-8-07 Central Tower Reconstructed.

If there's anything positive to come out of the demolition of DSH, I suppose the reconstruction of the upper portion of the original central tower is one. It's not an exact replica but a good attempt and it's better than not having anything up there at all. The sides were rebuilt a couple of weeks ago and the roof was added on Friday July 6, 2007 John Gray © John Gray

4-11-08 Danvers State Complex Almost Finished

Almost one year after a fire swept through the former Danvers State property, the 433-unit Avalon Danvers apartment complex atop Hathorne Hill is nearly complete.The fire, which burned down three buildings and whose cause was never determined, set construction back six to eight months. All the buildings in the apartment complex are now scheduled to open June 1, with some ready for occupancy May 1. By the time an open house is held in June, the developer expects it to be 80 percent to 90 percent occupied, said Scott Dale, vice president of AvalonBay Communities. Today, the complex, which cost $80 million to build, sports apartments with lofty ceilings, large windows and sweeping views of the North Shore. Another 64 senior condominiums should take shape over the next 18 months.In a way, this is the second time Danvers State Hospital has risen from the ground. The push to redevelop 77 acres of the former Danvers State Hospital has meant the demolition of most of the buildings of the former insane asylum, with just one-third of the 1878 Kirkbride building remaining. A turret on the adjacent Kirkbride building, which caught fire last year, has been replaced using a spare turret preserved from a portion of the old building that had been torn down. Developers had not been deterred by the history of the site, an overcrowded mental hospital that became a mini city before the state closed it in 1992. Today, it has drawn empty nesters and families alike. Decades ago, some said you would have been crazy to live there, now some say you would be crazy not to. The centerpiece of the community is the 100,000-square-foot portion of the red-brick Kirkbride building. It has an outdoor swimming pool, a recreation room, a basketball court, a fitness club and a Wi-Fi café. Inside, only one of its 61 apartments is still available for rent. The building, with its Gothic spires and cupolas, takes its name from 19th-century physician Thomas Story Kirkbride. While developers tore down two-thirds of the Kirkbride, they reconstructed the main tower over the front entrance that had been missing for years. Rents in the Kirkbride building range from $1,300 to $1,700 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,575 to $2,400 for a two-bedroom apartment. Some high-end units have cherry wood kitchen cabinets and granite countertops.Dale said the Kirkbride building, once the hospital's administration building, now also serves as the administration building for the complex. It's a place to gather and play basketball or a game of pool. Even the modern buildings surrounding the Kirkbride building take their visual cues from its Gothic architecture with red brick trim and sharp gabled dormers. Building heights on the perimeter of the development were kept low to preserve a view of the remains of the Kirkbride building. "I think the Kirkbride building is much more visible today than it was 10 years ago," Dale said. © John Gray Rents in the Kirkbride building range from $1,300 to $1,700 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,575 to $2,400 for a two-bedroom apartment. Some high-end units have cherry wood kitchen cabinets and granite countertops. Dale said the Kirkbride building, once the hospital's administration building, now also serves as the administration building for the complex. It's a place to gather and play basketball or a game of pool. Even the modern buildings surrounding the Kirkbride building take their visual cues from its Gothic architecture with red brick trim and sharp gabled dormers. Building heights on the perimeter of the development were kept low to preserve a view of the remains of the Kirkbride building. "I think the Kirkbride building is much more visible today than it was 10 years ago," Dale said. The apartment complex is not the only project ongoing on the hill. There are 64 condominiums, to be called Aria, being developed by OHC Development, in which AvalonBay has a financial stake. Susan Piracini, Aria's sales director, said it will be another 18 months before the condominiums are built out. Ten are already under contract. "It's definitely a different product than a lot of the active adult communities out on the market now," Piracini said. Those who buy condominiums, which all sport two-car garages, also have access to amenities in the Avalon Danvers apartment complex like the swimming pool. The condos cost $395,000 to $640,000. Despite efforts to preserve a portion of the Kirkbride building, some say the demolition at the old hospital went too far. Most of the buildings on the site were torn down. Demolition on the south side of the hospital opened up a view of Boston, Dale said.Town Archivist Dick Trask said Danvers State Hospital used to be one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture "on he Eastern Seaboard." He last toured the Kirkbride building three years ago, and while he found it in rough shape, he said more of it and other buildingsshould have been preserved, such as an 1870s garage with a mansard roof that was also torn down."They never conceded one item of preservation," Trask said. "They stuck to their original plan."He likens the preservation of the remaining portion of the Kirkbride building to "a mounted deer head."Dale said it was not easy to satisfy everyone with a stake in the hospital's future while making the project economically viable. "We had to search for that common ground from everyone who was involved," Dale said, "and I think we have done a good job in satisfying the different stakeholders." By Ethan Forman Salem News

2-17-03 Archstone Communities Removed Itself From DSH Sale

Archstone Communities pulled out from the purchase and sales agreement and is no longer interested in purchasing the hospital.There are conflicting stories why Archstone walked. Some speculate that it was too costly for Archstone and was no longer a financially wise investment. Another reason is that Archtone simply did not want to wait the years it would take to process and finalize the sale of the property.

AvalonBay a company once under consideration and had a prior proposal is again now seeking to purchase the 75 acres on top of Hathorne Hill. It's been mentioned that AvalonBay is picking up right where Archstone left off and only want's to salvage the main Kirkbride entrance and the two a jointing wings off of the main entrance.

4-19-03 Avalon Bay Communities Committed to the Redevelopment and DSH purchase.

Avalon Bay Communities solidified its commitment to the redevelopment of Danvers State Hospital with the signing of a purchase agreement for the 75 acre property late last week. Avalon put down a $300,000 deposit towards the $18.1 million purchase price from the state. The developer has another 30 days to investigate the hospital grounds and back out before it must add another $1 million to its deposit.

The agreement Avalon signed last week adopts the Archstone development plan as its own, except for a few minor changes.The new document changes a clause that, in the Archstone agreement, called for the developer to use "commercially reasonable efforts to preserve the historic portions of the Kirkbride Building " to "shall use commercially reasonable efforts to preserve, to the extent feasible and safe, the Kirkbride center "tower building" in addition to the two wings on either side. The loss of two-thirds of the 300,000 square foot Kirkbride building has infuriated local historic preservationists, who've continually spoken out against the loss of huge portions of the unique building that is on the National Historic Register.

10-8-03 AvalonBay Communities Requests Demolition for 45 Structures

AvalonBay Communities requested town permission this week to take down 45 buildings and structures, including the better part of the landmark Kirkbride building, at the site of the former Danvers State Hospital.

In April, Avalon signed an $18.1 million agreement to buy the available 75 acres of the old hospital property. The company's master plan calls for the construction of 526 apartments, roughly 100 of which would be placed in a renovated, central one-third of the Kirkbride building. The rest of the apartments would be placed in 17 apartment buildings erected around the Kirkbride atop Hawthorn Hill. Another 100,000 square feet of commercial buildings would be constructed in the lowlands portion of the property.

The demolition request, dated Oct. 6, was received at Town Hall Tuesday, Oct. 7.

To knock down portions of the Kirkbride and most of the other buildings - including staff houses, patient dormitories, chapels and utility buildings - Avalon's application must pass through the Preservation Commission, the members of which have this week promised stiff resistance to Avalon's plans.

In June, they enjoyed an unusually amicable first, face-to-face meeting with the developers, even though the developers indicated they would knock down the better part of what preservationists generally agree is a very historically significant building in town.

This week the good relations of June seem to have mostly drained away.

Preservation Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Morano said Avalon representatives disagreed with just about everything she had to tell them in a follow-up meeting on Sept. 25. Company representatives strongly argued which buildings the commission had authority over, she said.

Under Danvers bylaws, the Preservation Commission can order a six-month delay on the demolition of any structure built before 1915 which it deems historically significant. Members of the commission also argue that all the buildings on the site of the former state hospital come under their province, even those built after 1915.

The whole site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means even the structures constructed after 1915 can be ruled historically significant, Morano said.

The individual heading up the reconstruction effort, Avalon's senior director of development, Scott Dale, did not return a phone call placed Wednesday morning prior to press time.

In interviews last week and this week, members of the commission promised to hold up Archstone's demolition plans as long as possible.

While Avalon has almost certainly planned for the commission to use it's power to delay construction by six months, the commission may be able to drag things out quite a bit longer than that, Preservation Commission member John Archer said in an interview this week.

"That can be delayed more and more, and time is money to these big corporations," Archer said. "It's not that the Preservation Commission doesn't want that property developed. It's going to be, and we know that. It's just how that is going to happen."

Preservationists are pursing several options to push for more preservation at the site. Archer and others continue to speak with senior officials at the Massachusetts governor's office in a bid to leverage support. They are also considering a legal challenge in land court, Archer said.

"If we get a ruling by the (Massachusetts) Land Court, it would delay it two years and that's what we want," Archer said. "Within those two years we hope to gather more information and get more people involved."

A hearing date before the Preservation Commission is not yet scheduled.

1-22-04 Developer Wants Permits by the Fall

Members of the Preservation Commission are getting ready to deal with some 40 requests from Avalon Bay Communities to demolish buildings at Danvers State Hospital, including two-thirds of the huge Kirkbride building.

There will be a public hearing Wednesday, Jan. 28, in Town Hall, after the Herald deadline. The six-month demolition delay clock does not start to tick until this hearing is complete.

However, the Preservation Commission will probably ask for a continuance of the hearing, both because of the volume of work and in order to arrange site visits.

The state and the town have been working for some 20 years to redevelop the property. There are now 75 acres available for sale and for which AvalonBay has offered $18 million. The sale will not be complete until the company receives the local permits to build 526 apartments on top of Hathorn Hill, in a series of 14 buildings shadowing one-third of the Kirkbride, which will house administration and community functions.

The company will also give $500,00 to an historic trust fund, $500,00 to an affordable housing trust, $1 million to the Danvers school fund, and $4.5 million for housing to the state mental health department.

"There are significant benefits that will ultimately flow from it," said Avalon Bay's Scot Dale, who mentioned, too, the estimated $1 million in taxes.

Preservation Commission Chairman Kathryn Morano expects that the hearing will be continued, because there are four "booklets" of demolition request materials from the developers. Also, members want to arrange with the state to take tours of some of the buildings they have yet to see, she said in an interview Tuesday. In particular, she mentioned the Gray Gables, which some so-called urban explorers have said is in quite good condition, despite its outward appearance and assurances from the state that it is beyond repair.

The commission has already found the buildings "historically significant." They must now determine if they are "worthy of preservation," she said. "Sometimes a building is beyond restoration," she said.

That, however, seems to be in dispute with a number of buildings at the site.

Scatt Dale of AvalonBay said they would bring an "overlay," as requested by the commission members although not required by the bylaw, to show their new project compared to what is there now. In addition, they have provided photos of all sides of the buildings, as required.

Town Manager Wayne Marquis said he hoped the commission would agree that at least some of the buildings were OK to demolish. A continuance once or twice is quite common, he said, but significant delays would not be in the best interests of the town.

The developer expects to have permits in place by the autumn, Dale said.

4-08-04 Demolition/construction could start in fall

Plans detailing the dramatic $75 million renovation of the former Danvers State Hospital site have been formally submitted by Avalon Bay Communities, kicking off a process that brings the development one big step closer to reality.

Avalon Bay Spokesman Scott Dale said the project, called Avalon at Hathorne Hill, will preserve approximately 100,000 square feet of the Kirkbride Building, including the main administration building and the two symmetrical wings on either side. That renovated structure will contain the development's leasing and administrative offices as well as community and recreational areas for residents. It will also contain 61 apartment units.

"It's quite an exciting plan," said Dale. "We're very glad to have brought it to this stage."

In total, the extensive plan includes 485 residence units, 60 of which will be for-sale condominiums and 425 of which will be apartments. All 60 of the condominiums will be age-restricted, meaning they can only be purchased by buyers who are 55 or older, and six of them will be classified as "affordable." Of the 425 apartments, approximately 15 percent of them will be set aside as affordable units.

"We're trying to describe this as an intergenerational, mixed-income housing community," said Dale. "The objective of the overall design is to create a campus style setting, with a variation of architectural styles. We're trying to create some variability, but have some consistency so it does look like a master-style campus."

Dale said the development will offer a broad range of amenities, including several fitness options as well as walking trails and open space.

"There are other areas on the site we could have developed but chose not to," said Dale. "For example, coming up the main entry to the top of the hill, there are areas on the side of the road where you could put buildings. We think that's an important entry way; we'd prefer to preserve it."

Town Manager Wayne Marquis praised the plan for offering age-restricted housing, which Danvers currently does not have, for bringing jobs to town and for preserving open space.

"At the end of the day, there are 350 acres (of the state hospital site) in Danvers. Most of it stays," said Marquis. "Most of it will remain as it is now: farmland." The plan has been years in the making, with the process actually beginning in the early 1980s. After the Legislature approved rezoning, a citizens advisory committee went to work. The process continued unexpectedly with AvalonBay taking over last year from a developer that backed out.

In the meantime, much of the Kirkbride suffered deterioration, which made it less easy to preserve, and despite protests from some in town, the plan saves only one-third of the massive, neo-Gothic structure.

9-27-04 Arson Suspected in Fire at Closed Danvers State Hospital

A team of arson investigators remained at the shuttered Danvers State Hospital early this morning trying to determine who or what started a fire in the main building at the dilapidated facility.

Just before 9 p.m. yestereday a security guard reported smoke coming from the second story of the Kirkbride Building, the once majestic, but now boarded-up "castle on the hill."

Danvers fire Capt. Douglas Conrad said unless a "ghost with matches" haunts the grounds, investigators are certain someone has been inside the building recently. What they are trying to find out is whether the fire was an accident or deliberately set.

"We know someone's been in there," he said "There had to have been someone in there or there wouldn't have been a fire."

If it wasn't intentional, someone trespassing on the state-owned property may have carelessly discarded a cigarette or other burning material, Conrad said.

The Danvers State campus, at the junction of routes 1 and 62, has been without electricity since it closed in the early 1990s, but has long lured visitors looking for a good fright, or hoping to admire the 19th-century Gothic architecture.

Conrad said officials believe the fire started in a pile of old files and documents in a 10- by 20-foot hallway on the second floor of the half-mile-long, 313,000-square-foot Kirkbride Building, the flagship structure of the defunct psychiatric asylum.

While fire crews took only 5 or 10 minutes to knock down the flames, and they were contained to that hallway, Conrad said, firefighters stormed the deteriorated building with caution. Some ceilings and floors have already caved in and walls have crumbled.

The fire must have been smoldering for a while before breaking, filling the former administrative area with smoke, Conrad said.

"We were really careful," he said, adding that firefighters walked lightly and stuck mainly to perimeter areas to avoid falling through the floor.

Their caution paid off, as no one was hurt battling the blaze, Conrad said.

An official cause of the fire should be available today, Conrad said. The amount of damage caused by the fire was immaterial, he added, because the hospital will soon be torn down and the grounds converted into a multimillion-dollar housing complex.

The developer, AvalonBay, plans to buy the property from the state next month and is hoping to start demolition by early November.

10-01-04 Construction at State Hospital Slated for Spring

The Danvers State Hospital renovation project, slated to begin this spring, should take around 24 months to complete, developers told planning board members Tuesday night.

Outlining a proposed renovation and demolition schedule, Avalon Bay Communities Vice President Scott Dale said that while the Kirkbride will remain the residential community's center and focal point, the outlying buildings will retain some of the site's architectural features as well as replicate the hospital's brick façade.

"The site work is relatively straight forward," Dale said.

Previously, board members had suggested the development attempt to mirror the site's current exteriors as best as possible. Suggestions included reusing bricks torn down during the project's demolition phase as well as continuing to use the intricate design-work seen on the building today.

Dale said board concerns have been addressed in the development's final designs.

The Kirkbride will be the development's formal front door, Architect Ed Bradford explained to the board, where the leasing office and primary communal spaces will be housed. The Kirkbride's tower will also be rebuilt on the historic building.

Problems come, however, with the Kirkbride's roof which has collapsed in places and been soaked through by rain and snow in others. The building's interior will need to be entirely gutted and the roof completely taken off at one point during the demolition phase.

"The insides are simply rotting into the floors of the building," Bradford said. He also had some good news: "The exterior remains in good shape and is a viable portion of the building."

In time, the building's exterior will be cleaned, and the ivy which currently grows and winds its way across and around the Kirkbride will be removed.

Planning Board member Joseph Younger lobbied for the development to include some type of museum or historic preservation center, suggesting that the site's existing water tower, which will be relocated elsewhere on the property during renovation, could house such a museum.

While developers did not commit to a site for a museum, they did suggest one will be built as part of the site's renovation and development.

The two "midrise" buildings which will be built closest to the Kirkbride and act as buffer between it and the apartments and condominiums built at the property's edges, will mimic the Kirkbride's exteriors as well as act as a visual attempt to phase into the outlying buildings.

Planning Board member Kristine Cheetham said she was impressed with the proposed granite-work at the Kirkbride and would like to see this work replicated on the site's other buildings.

The site's tunnels will also be filled-in during the construction project. First, any utility pipes in the tunnels will be abated, then the asbestos will be removed and finally, the tunnels will be knocked down and filled in to ensure these underground access routes are destroyed.
Younger also asked what would happen should something of importance be discovered during the development project.

Already, the Mass Archives have sifted through the site and suggested that there is nothing worth preserving and archiving inside the building. The developers, however, told board members that should an unmarked burial site be discovered, by state law, the development will stop until the site is excavated.

The Planning Board will next discuss the development's impact on traffic and density during a special meeting scheduled for Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.

10-31-04 Police/Fire Log

Sunday Three teens were arrested after they illegally went onto the Danvers State Hospital property, which has been closed since the early 1990s. Eric X 19, Bryan X, 17, and Andrew X 19, were all arrested and charged with trespassing by Patrolman Scott Frost. Security officers paid by the state found the teens on the hospital property around 11 p.m. Frost said the teens said they had seen the horror movie Session 9, which was filmed in part at Danvers State, and wanted to check out the property themselves. Earlier in the evening, a mother and daughter were tossed off the property after they were walking up the driveway trying to get into the hospital, police said.

11-1-04 Police/Fire Log

Monday Danvers State Hospital: On-site security detained three trespassers at the closed state hospital and requested assistance from local police who gave the two males a ride back to their car, the other is under arrest.

11-3-04 Police/Fire Log

Wednessday two teens were arrested on a charge of tresspassing at the Danvers State Hospital site. State and local police were called to the scene

11-6-04 Police/Fire Log

Saturday Danvers State Hospital: Philip X was arrested at 2:29 a.m. for trespassing.

2-20-05 Police/Fire Log

Eight people, ages 15 to 22, were issued summonses for criminal trespassing after they were allegedly caught trespassing on Danvers State Hospital property at 3:40 Sunday afternoon. Formerly a psychiatric hospital, Danvers State has been closed for more than a decade, and visitors are barred from the property. Trooper Sean Reardon Investigated.

2-22-05 Danvers Fire Department Puts out Small Fire at Former Hospital

Firefighters went inside shuttered Danvers State Hospital again this weekend to extinguish what appeared to be a "campfire" left unattended in an auditorium on the dangerously dilapidated property.

The blaze, discovered at midnight Sunday, was put out in 15 minutes and no one was injured. But Danvers Fire Capt. Douglas Conrad said he fears it's just a matter of time before firefighters encounter a major fire on the former psychiatric hospital property, a haven for fright-seekers and those hoping to admire its 19th-century gothic architecture.

"It's a big sprawling area," he said. "There's no way they can stop people from getting in there."

The fire was located about 50 feet away from an entrance.

Empty beer bottles, trash and graffiti surrounded the blaze at the state-owned property.

"It looked just like someone was having a campfire," he said.

A similar fire was discovered on the hospital property late last September. Conrad said he "definitely" thinks both blazes were "suspicious in nature," intentionally set by people trespassing on the hospital property.

"If nobody was in there, there would be no fire," he said, noting electricity to the building was cut long ago.

Two security guards were on the hospital property, which sits on the junction of Routes 1 and 62, but they are not allowed to enter any of the hospital buildings, Conrad said.

"It was really the same as the last fire...People were inside there doing their thing, walking around," Conrad said.

Officials long ago warned conditions inside the hospital property, closed in the early 1990s, are treacherous. Ceilings have collapsed and floors have gaping holes, said Conrad.

Unrelated to the fire, eight people were summonsed Sunday for criminal trespassing at the property at 3:40 pm yesterday.

The flagship structure on the property, the Kirkbride building, measures a half-mile long.

As firefighters walked inside the hospital this weekend, they quickly discovered every surface was coated with ice.

"It was like a skating rink inside. Snow gets into the building and then it freezes over," Conrad said.

The area where the fire was set was on hardwood floor, buckled in many areas by water, snow and ice.

The fire remains under investigation by Danvers Fire Lt. David Deluca.

Developer Avalon Bay wants to buy the old hospital from the state and convert it to a multimillion-dollar housing complex, Avalon at Hathorne Hill.

The company is trying to acquire the proper permits before paying $18.1 million for the property.

2-24-05 Security a Concern After Fire

After responding to the second fire in five months at Danvers State Hospital, public safety officials are again raising concerns and offering a chilling premonition about the abandoned property.

"I've been saying it for 10 years, it's only a matter of time for that place," Fire Chief James Tutko said yesterday. "It's just a horrendous area. And the time is coming that we're not going to send our guys in because it'll be too dangerous."

The small campfire, discovered early Sunday morning, was confined to the first-floor auditorium of the Kirkbride Building and was extinguished in 15 minutes.

It is the second time since September firefighters have entered the dilapidated structures off Route 62: The first fire was on the third floor and started with a pile of old patient records, fire officials said.

Both fires were arson, Tutko said, and both raise major concerns.

"You only need to think about the Worcester fire (in 1999) to see what can happen with abandoned buildings," Tutko said. "And we're not going to have a Worcester-type fire here. If it's a big fire, then my men will not go in. Period."

Closed in 1992, the state hospital buildings have fallen into dangerous disrepair. Ceilings have collapsed, and floors have gaping holes — calling into question the buildings' structural integrity.

Two guards are posted on the state-owned site 24 hours a day in an attempt to keep intruders out. But with a sprawling 130-year-old facility that totals more than 300,000 square feet across 77 acres, the job is just too large for two people, local officials said.

"I'm not sure if you increased the (number of) guards patrolling that you'd be able to stop people from getting in there," Tutko said. "It's a huge site and if people want to get in and cause trouble, they're going to get in and cause trouble."

One of those guards sat at the entrance of Hathorne Avenue yesterday and declined to provide any information about the fire. He was preventing vehicle access to the site, he said.

Police Chief Neil Ouellette has forbidden any police officer from setting foot into the abandoned buildings, citing safety concerns for the officers.

"They have been instructed to not go into those buildings under any circumstances. They are not trained to respond to that kind of situation," Ouellette said.

But Danvers State continues to be a favorite site among "urban explorers." Various groups, who explore abandoned and dilapidated buildings, enjoy taking pictures and posting them on the Internet. Homeless people and drug users have also been known to use the abandoned hospital as a shelter, police said.

"It's a hard place to patrol, but we do make our presence known," said Ouellette, who noted officers drive around the paved section of the hospital several times a day. "But until those buildings are knocked down, it's going to continue to be a problem no matter how many people patrol that area."

Present and future owners respond Martha McMahon, spokeswoman for the state's Division of Capital Management — who owns the site — said changes will be made.

"In light of recent events, we are in the process of evaluating security there," McMahon said.

That was the same thing state spokesman Kevin Flanigan said five months ago. McMahon said yesterday that she did not know if security has increased since September.

Avalon Bay, a company planning to transform Danvers State into a 485-home development, is also concerned about the incidents. Avalon Bay will purchase the site for about $18 million within the next year after acquiring the proper permitting from the state and local boards.

Although he was unavailable for comment this week, Scott Dale, vice president of Avalon Bay, has said in no uncertain terms that the hospital is a hazard.

"Every day that goes by, the risk that something may happen increases," said Dale at a Planning Board meeting in November. "As soon as we take control of the building, we will have security on the premises 24-7. It is a huge liability, both the way it currently stands and through the demolition and construction phases."

Tutko said an anonymous caller who alerted firefighters of the blaze was most likely inside the building at the time of the call.

"It was someone who knew what was happening, most likely someone inside that knew what could happen," Tutko said. "Thankfully, we were able to stop it before something major happened. But make no mistake about it, something major is going to happen. That's just a matter of time."

4-11-05 Police/Fire Log

Five people, ages 18 to 21 were arrested at Danvers State Hospital property Saturday night. Charges range from trespassing to breaking and entering in the nighttime with the intent to commit a felony.

4-12-05 Cops Nab Nine People for Hospital Trespass

Police arrested nine people this weekend after they were found on the grounds of the shuttered Danvers State Hospital, a popular site for "urban explorers" hunting for a good scare or trespassing tourists hoping to admire the 19th-century Gothic architecture. And the arrests have prompted police to warn potential visitors of dangers of the crumbling old hospital at the junction of routes 1 and 62, which could cave in at any time. "It's just a matter of time before somebody gets hurt," Danvers police Sgt. Paul Stone said. Around 11pm Sunday Danvers Patrolman Scott Frost was sent to the state-owned former psychiatric hospital to investigate a call for "suspicious persons." Sunday night Frost arrested 4 people ages 18 to 22 and charged them all each with trespassing.

Saturday night Patrolman Robert Sullivan arrested 5 people ages 18 to 20 and charged them with a variety of charges ranging from trespassing to breaking and entering in the nighttime with the intent to commit a felony. Stone said some of five arrested were found scaling the roof of the Kirkbride building when police arrived. They were carrying video equipment and lights to capture their adventure on film, police said. The Danvers Fire Department sent a ladder truck to aid police in looking in the windows and on the roof for trespassers.

Danvers State Hospital which has been without electricity since it closed in 1992, has fallen into a dangerous site of disrepair, town officials say.Ceilings have collapsed, floors have given way to gaping holes and at least two fires have erupted there since last fall. Police and firefighters have been advised not to enter the building.

Two security guards monitor the site 24 hours a day in an attempt to keep out intruders. However, dozens of visitors sneak onto the sprawling 130 year old, 77-acre campus each year despite countless "No Trespassing" signs dotting the property. Stone said some go to great lengths to avoid capture by parking their cars miles away and trudging through the woods. But neither police nor town officials can say what lures people to explore the grounds. "It's an obsession," Stone said, adding that warm weather brings more trespassers. Most of the visitors are so called "urban explorers" groups who illegally tour mysterious, abandoned and deteriorating buildings across the country and post pictures of them on the Internet.The main draw of the former asylum is the once-majestic, now boarded up Kirkbride building also known as "the castle on the hill." The Kirkbride- an imposing, half mile-long tower of brick and spires- was the hospital's flagship structure during its operation.

Keeping trespassers away from Danvers State Hospital is nothing new to the state and local police. Back in February, state police summonsed eight people, ages 15 to 22, and charged them all with trespassing after they were found there. And last November, three Malden teens were arrested by Danvers police after they were caught at the hospital. Those three said they had recently watched "Session 9" a horror movie filmed in part at the site, which piqued their curiosity.Whatever the draw, Stone said Danvers and state police will continue to patrol the property and prosecute trespassers. "If they're on that property they're going to be arrested and they're going to court and they're going to have some kind of record" he said.

Developer Avalon Bay wants to buy the old hospital from the state and transform it into a multimillion dollar housing complex. The company is still trying to acquire the proper permits before it shells out roughly $18 million for the property which is plans to purchase this year.

4-25-05 Police/Fire Log

Two Boston area men were arrested Saturday at 8 p.m. for trespassing on Danvers State Hospital property, which is closed to the public. Jonathan X 22, of Chelsea, and Jorge X, 24, of East Boston, were arrested and charged with trespassing and illegal possession of burglarious instruments. One man was also charged with providing a false name to a police officer.

5-26-05 $300K Included for Recreation

Danvers-An Agreement reached this week between the Danvers Planning Board and developers of the Danvers State Hospital property will provide the town with $300,000 for much-needed playing fields."It's welcomed and very generous," said Elizabeth Klemm, a member of the Recreation Committee. "I think this will help add fields, because right now we're maxed out." Development giant AvalonBay Communities had long promised to offset the negative impacts of hundreds of apartments and condos it plans to build on Hathorne Hill--increased traffic, drains on police and fire services, etc.--with a generous donation to the town. Some of the donations cemented in this week's deal, including $1 million for local schools, $500,000 for historic preservation and $500,000 to help build low-income housing, have long been expected. But the $300,000 to develop recreational fields is a new element, reached in negotiations with the town Recreation Committee within the last week. The unexpected windfall comes at a critical time, Klemm said. Just last month, the Danvers youth lacrosse and soccer leagues donated nearly $8,000 to study the possibility of constructing sorely needed fields behind the Thorpe Elementary School. The donation comes, in part, in return for the Planning Board not pressing Avalon on playing fields that had been hoed for in the "lowlands" section of the 77-acre Danvers State Hospital Property.

Planning Board member James Sears said those hopes haven't been completely abandoned, just pushed off. Avalon wanted to secure final approval for construction of condos and apartments in the uplands first and will return for permission to build commercial space in the lowlands at some undetermined point, he said."As far as the neighborhood park, we could try to get them to agree to that in the future," Sears said.

5-27-05 Danvers State Developer Wins Town Approval

After two long years of negotiations, the Planning Board Tuesday night approved a special permit for development of the highlands at the former Danvers State Hospital, adding four condominiums to prior plans in exchange for the development of one lacrosse field.

The exact location of the field is still to be determined by the Recreation Department and town Planning Department.

Avalon Bay Communities will build 483 residential units, including 419 apartments and 64 condominiums, rather than 60 condos for the 55-plus age group. Density at the site will not change since the 6,000 or so extra square feet needed for these condos will be lopped off the approved 125,000 square feet for development on the lowlands. As previously discussed, the developer will give $1 million to the town for an education trust fund; $t00,000 to the town for historic preservation; and $500,000 to the town for affordable housing, Belansky said Wednesday morning.

The Planning Board certificate mirrors the Land Disposition Agreement signed by the state, which owns the land, Belansky said. The town will now have to enter a separate agreement with the state regarding the trust funds, since the state "has some sort of oversight of the administration of the (trust) funds," Belansky said.

The LDA also included a "recreation component" for the town, Belansky said, which was why ball fields became a topic of conversation.

According to Town Manager Wayne Marquis in a separate interview, the old ball field at the lowlands would not be large enough or meet modern requirements. Therefore, an off site location is needed. The Thorpe School has been mentioned as a possible site, as well as other areas, Marquis said.

Because the area could accommodate two fields, the town decided to find out how much they would cost, said Recreation Director David Mountain separately, and received an estimate of $705,000. But, that included prevailing wage requirements under bidding laws and other constrictions that the town would have to abide by, said Planning Department Director Karen Nelson separately.

We met with the Recreation Committee and planning staff this afternoon, and have come up with a pretty creative plan," Dale told the Planning Board members. "We have come up with a mutually acceptable proposal."

Avalon Bay will provide their construction crew services, or the equivalent cost to them of $300,000, to build one field."We and the Recreation Department are very pleased," Mountain said about the commitment.

To offset the costs for this proposal, Dale detailed plans to add four, two-bedroom units to the existing condominium housing plan by converting four proposed duplex units to triplex units.

"We can add another four units without any significant site impact," Dale said.

Additional revenue from the sale of these units will provide the funding for the new field.

Several permit wording details were raised by the board. Among them was a concern raised by board member Jim Sears regarding Avalon Bay's ability to change its design plans during the project and construct more for sale units than originally agreed.

Planning Board Chairman Ronald Baser asserted that Avalon Bay would have to come back before the board for approval on any site changes. Board member Joseph Younger questioned public access hours to the memorial cemetery and the memorial on the site. Dale agreed to extend hours during the months of May through September from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Dale and Avalon Bay's attorney, Steven Schwartz of Goulston & Storrs, reiterated their commitment to the town in the review and development of the lowlands.

Additionally, the board and the developer agreed that an on-site recreational facility would be considered by the developer. Town Manager Wayne Marquis talked about needing language to create the walking/bike trail that has been talked about in the past. Such a trail would encircle the 500 or so acres of the whole property, which would link to the Horace Clark Conservation area, perhaps connect with trails near Swingaway on Route 1, over towards the town's canoe launch off Dayton Street and as close to the Ipswich River as possible.

But, that language will have to wait until the developer appears before the town for approval of plans to develop the lowlands, said Belansky separately.

According to Dale, Avalon Bay has signed the purchase and sale agreement with the state and is scheduled to pass papers some time in September 2005.Groundbreaking at the site will begin shortly thereafter he said.

7-22-05 Eisenhauer: Historic Danvers, Inc. Releases Endangered Property List

Historic Danvers, Inc. is a newly formed non-profit organization established for the purposes of aiding the preservation of the town’s history and the town’s historical assets primarily by fostering the education of the public about:

(a) The history of the town of Danvers and the historic assets associated with such history;

(b) The importance of preserving such historic assets; and

(c) The preservation needs of, and, threats to, such historic assets.

Sadly, and slowly, the town is losing the historic structures, streetscapes and landscapes that are the very fabric of the town and make Danvers so unique and different from Anytown, USA.

And, Historic Danvers announces its first Endangered List.


#1 Kirkbride building, Danvers State Hospital

At the time of the disbanding of the Citizens Advisory Committee, the Commonwealth, upon the recommendation of the Citizens Advisory Board had selected the national, $5 billion Archstone Communities, based in Colorado, as developer of the Danvers State Hospital site.

In its submission to the state, Archstone had committed to the preservation of the entire exterior of the monumental Kirkbride building that stretches a quarter of a mile and, at the time of its building in the early 1870s, the most expensive and lavish edifice ever built by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The commitment to preserve the entire exterior of the Kirkbride’s exterior was in keeping with the recommendation of the two town study committees and in keeping with the intent of the Town Meeting in changing the zoning of the State Hospital site.

Archstone later withdrew as developer. Without any further public input, the Commonwealth then chose AvalonBay, a $5 billion, nationwide builder, based in Virginia, as developer -- although AvalonBay’s proposal commits to saving only approximately one-third of the Kirkbride.

It should be noted that since the time the Commonwealth stopped using the Kirkbride building, although a $5 million fund for maintaining and marketing the building and site was part of the legislation authorizing the sale of the State Hospital, the Commonwealth failed to take any steps to maintain the Kirkbride’s roof and, only after a number of years, even bothered to board up the Kirkbride’s windows.Despite such inexcusable neglect, the Kirkbride still stands with practically all its roof intact.

AvalonBay is expected to take title in and begin demolition in September.

The Kirkbride is continually endangered by the state’s neglect to secure the building, especially its roof.The Kirkbride may be endangered in the future where it appears that AvalonBay’s construction expertise is primarily in new construction and not in restoration of historic buildings.2. The national register district comprising the Danvers State Hospital

The Kirkbride building is only one of the 40 buildings listed on the National Register that taken together comprise one of the few National Register Districts in eastern Massachusetts. In addition to demolishing two-thirds of the Kirkbride, there are now no impediments to AvalonBay demolishing these other 39 buildings, some dating to the 1870s, and the expectation is that AvalonBay will demolish practically all, if not all, of these 39 buildings.

7-28-05 Save DSH Online Petition has 4,100+ Signatures and Growing

Michael Carey used to drive down Route 1 with his parents and look up at Danvers State Hospital.

“I was always fascinated by it,” he said Wednesday morning of the Kirkbride Building that looms tall on Hathorne Hill, impressing those who pass under it and engendering questions about its history. “I think its an amazing old building.”

He’s not alone, something he found out when he started an online petition to save the Kirkbride. This 37-years-old adult who has a responsible job in a bank is also an artist, he said, with an inclination toward cartooning. But, he just couldn’t let the building be even partially demolished without trying to win support for saving it in its entirety.

He started the petition, found at www.petitiononline.com/dssehl/petition, in 2001. As of Wednesday morning, there were at 4,130 signatures.

“I’ve been really amazed by the number of signatures,” Carey said. They include people from 49 states and 26 nations.

The petition states:

“The Kirkbride building of Danvers State Hospital is in danger of being destroyed. Located in Danvers, the Kirkbride building was built in the 1870s and was in use until the 1980s. The beautifully gothic building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was featured in the film, ‘Session 9.’

“Years of neglect have taken their toll on the structure. Now, several interested parties are pushing to demolish all but a token section of the building in order to capitalize on the valuable land on which the building currently stands.

“The professionals called in by the town historians feel that at least the outside of the building is capable of being saved. The professionals hired by the developer claim that most of the building is beyond repair. Lend your support to this petition, and show that you believe that this unique and beautiful piece of history is worth saving.”

Some of the signatories include the following comments:

“We should not destroy our history.”

“In Europe, places that are historical like that are taken care of. We should do the same.”

“History should be experienced, not just read about in books that describe what used to be.”

“A building of this magnitude should be preserved out of respect to the past. If not, at least turn it into a hotel so I can spend a night there.”

“I want to buy it.”

8-9-05 Police/Fire Log

Four local teens who police say wanted to check out the shuttered Danvers State Hospital property were arrested late Saturday night and charged with trespassing. Police believe as many as six teens were trespassing on the property, but two ran off into the woods when a patrolman pulled in just before 11pm, said Sgt. Robert Bettencourt, the department spoksman.

The teens captured said "they had heard so much about the place they wanted to see what it was like" Bettencourt said. Justin X, 18 of Middleton, Kevin X, 17 of Danvers, Michael X, 17 of Tewksbury and Francis X 18, of Reading, were all arrested by Patrolman Steve McDonald and charged with trespassing.

However, the four will be able to avoid a criminal record by participating in a young adult diversion program and community service, a prosecutor said yesterday.

Formerly a psychiatric hospital, Danvers State has been closed since 1992 and visitors are barred from the property. Security officers, paid by the state, are posted at the hospital. Local and state police routinely patrol the area as well. But trespassers on the property are a constant problem and officials continually issue warnings about the dangers the dilapidated hospital buildings pose.

"Those buildings just aren't safe" Bettencourt said. "Ceilings have collapsed and floors have given away to gaping holes. Electricity to the buildings was cut long ago. It's not safe. Someone could get in there and get hurt and we wouldn't even know"

Officials believe the main draw of the former asylum is the mystique surrounding the now boarded-up, half mile long Kirkbride building also known as the "castle on the hill"

The Kirkbride building was the hospital's flagship structure during its operation. Development company Avalon Bay is buying the 77-acre property from the state and transforming it into a multimillion-dollar housing development. The company is finalizing traffic plans with the state before it shells out roughly $18 million for the property.

10-03-05 "Ghost hunters" Arrested in Former State Hospital by Ben Hellman

State police arrested three self-styled ghost hunters — who were armed with a video camera — inside Danvers State Hospital Saturday night.

Police charged the videotaping trio with trespassing. Charged were: Matthew X, 33, of 770 Martin St., North Andover; Ross X 34, of 3604 Woodbridge St., West Peabody; and Matthew X, 24, of 3 Granite St., Salem.

The men told police they had seen the building in a horror film, said Sgt. Robert Favuzza.

"Can you imagine that?" Favuzza said. "They didn't have anything better to do on a Saturday night."

The men were arrested in the Bonner Building by Trooper Scott Grimes, Favuzza said.

Parts of the old state psychiatric hospital were built in the Victorian Gothic style complete with spires and towers, and has remained a curiosity for ghost hunters, artists and others.. The Bonner Building, built in 1955, appeared in the 2001 horror film "Session 9," starring David Caruso. According to IMDB.com, the actor said he saw something unexplained pass by his window during the filming of the movie.

Interest in the hospital has increased as plans for its demolition are finalized. The property development company AvalonBay is in the process of buying the property for $20 million and plans to build apartments on the property

10-04-05 Police Arrest Ghost Hunter on Danvers State Hospital grounds by Andy Smith

Amateur ghost hunter Matthew X said he heard swirling noises and faint screams on the grounds of Danvers State Hospital as he was investigating claims the old asylum is haunted.

Then he heard his Miranda rights.

Matthew X , 33, and two friends were charged over the weekend with trespassing on the grounds.

Matthew said he and his friends never noticed any "no trespassing" signs when they took a back road to reach the deserted site of the 127-year-old state psychiatric hospital.

They were there to make a videotape to send to the Atlantic Paranormal Society, which investigates haunted sites for the Sci-Fi Channel's "Ghost Hunters."

Danvers is haunted by paranormal enthusiasts, if not by ghosts. Since the hospital closed in 1991, scores have visited the Victorian Gothic building. At least 20 unauthorized visitors have been arrested this year alone.

Matthew, a computer technician, said he and his friends never entered the building, but did experience strange sensations on the grounds that he described as "major discomfort."

"Basically, when we were up there, we got the presence," he said. "We felt the energy."

State police arrested Matthew along with Ross X, 34, of West Peabody and Matt X, 24, of Salem, Mass., on Saturday about 6:30 p.m.

State police could not provide records on the number of trespassing arrests they have made at the site. But Danvers police said they have arrested 17 people for trespassing at the hospital this year.

Sgt. Robert Bettencourt said the site's popularity was fueled by Internet rumors and the 2001 release of "Session 9," a film about a haunted hospital that was shot at the site. The film's star, David Caruso, has said he saw something unexplainable pass by a hospital window during the shoot. He called Danvers "the scariest building in America."

"This has been going on for a few years now," Bettencourt said of the uninvited visitors. "Danvers people knew about the place all along, but that movie and the Internet got the word out there."

Matthew said he and his friends often visit sites that are suspected of hosting paranormal activity. He said they undertake their visits with a "critical" atitude, never assuming they will encounter anything unusual.

However, Danvers State Hospital had an undeniable level of activity.

Matthew said he heard faint screaming. Gordon said a leafless tree was another sign of the supernatural.

"In the middle of the courtyard, there was one tree that looked dead, but it wasn't," Gordon said. "And all the other trees were in full bloom."

The men said they are scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow in Salem (Mass.) District Court.

The hospital property is owned by the state and is open for tours once a month.

AvalonBay, a development company, is buying the property for $20 million with plans to build apartments.

10-21-05 Police/Fire Log

A 16-year-old boy was arrested and charged with driving without a license, trespassing and driving an unregistered motor vehicle after police investigated a trespassing complaint at the shuddered Danvers State Hospital property. State, along with Danvers police, intercepted a group of approximately 15 youths, before they went onto the property around 10:40 p.m.

10-8-07 Body found in field Cathryn O'Hare and Brendan Lewis Danvers Herald

A Middleton farmer found a decomposing body Tuesday afternoon on the state owned field he farms across the line in Danvers at the former Danvers State Hospital.

Paul Richardson, of Richardson’s Dairy in Middleton, said he and an employee had been on a tractor surveying the field for fall planting when they spotted what appeared to be a dead body.

“It was a pretty well decomposed body,” Richardson said Wednesday morning. He speculated that it might have been a child, judging by the shoe size.

Richardson called Danvers police, who dispatched Officer Ashley Berube at about 2:30 p.m. She immediately secured the scene, said Sgt. Robert Bettencourt. Danvers Detective William Carlton and Sgt. Timothy Zuch also responded.

State Police were called, as they are for any unattended death, said Karen Dawley of the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. The state police spent about two or three hours before removing the body to the state medical examiner’s office in Boston, she said.

An autopsy will be conducted to determine cause of death, whether there was any foul play and, possibly, who the person was.

12-7-07 Body found in DSH field identified.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has identified the body of the man found in a Danvers field on Oct. 9, 2007, as that of Jose Rivera, 54, whose last known address was 141 May Street in Lawrence. The identification was made through skeletal x-rays by Dr. Ann Marie Mires and Dr. Kimberly Springer.

Rivera's body was found in a farmer¹s field off Route 62 on the grounds of the former Danvers State Hospital. Rivera had gone to CAB Health & Recovery Services near where his body was found on Aug. 11, and had left the facility the next day.

Foul play is suspected in his death.

Investigators are still trying to locate Rivera¹s next of kin. Anyone with information is asked to contact Danvers police Detective Sgt. William Carleton at 978-774-1388, ext. 3, or State Police assigned to the Office of Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett at 978-745-8908.