A Brief History: The Public Hospital or The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg is located at 326 Francis Street Williamsburg Virginia. The Public Hospital, later called the Eastern Lunatic Asylum, was the first public hospital in North America built to house and treat the mentally ill, with the first patient admitted in autumn of 1773. Prior to the Public Hospital’s opening, those with psychological issues were cared for by the family or local religious groups. Construction began in 1771 and included plans for fenced exercise yards so the patients could be exposed to fresh air. The cells themselves, however, were designed to keep the patients separated in the ward and as many of the inmates were considered a danger to themselves and others, iron rings were set into the stone walls for wrist and/or leg fetters. Treatments of the day included electroshock, hydrotherapy, drug treatments, bleeding with either leaches or a device known as a fleam, and restraint. The hospital was expanded and buildings were added during the 1800s, but by the 1870s, the asylum was in decline, with fires destroying several buildings, including the original structure. An unknown number of patients died, and over 200 others were left without shelter after an electrical fire in 1885. The burnt out structures were knocked down and new construction began. The facility was then renamed Eastern State Hospital. Colonial Williamsburg purchased the property and moved the buildings in 1960, with the hospital opened for visitors in 1985.
Haunted History: With its history of what now would be considered barbaric treatment, destruction, death, and the proximity to Civil War battlefields, it is no surprise to hear reports of paranormal activity connected to the facility. One of the most noted is the ghost of Dr. John Galt the hospital superintendent from 1841 to 1862. He is reported to have tried to improve conditions for the patients, but the Battle of Williamsburg led to an occupation of the facility by Union troops. It is alleged that he died from an overdose of the painkiller laudanum, the effects of which left a large bloodstain on the wooden floor of his home. When new owners moved into the house, they claimed never to be able to remove the stain and were forced to remove the floorboards. It was then claimed that the stains were then seen on the new floor. Sightings of his ghost were also reported by the children of the homeowners. After the home was demolished, it was reported that the doctor “relocated” to the hospital, with poltergeist activity most often noted.