Rolling Hills Asylum was originally established on January 1, 1827, as the Genesee County Poor Farm and throughout the years it has operated as “an infirmary, orphanage, tuberculosis hospital and nursing home.”
While you’d naturally expect that death would be seen at all of these places, it’s actually believed that over 1,700 bodies are actually buried on the property, mostly in unmarked graves, which is why this place is considered to be so haunted.
Guests and visitors have reported hearing things like “disembodied voices, door slamming, footsteps and full body apparitions” as well as experiencing “shadow people, ghostly touches, and numerous EVP recordings.”
If you’re interested in taking a (virtual) trip, then hop on. This week we’re talking about Rolling Hills Asylum in East Bethany, New York.
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Visiting Rolling Hills Asylum
It’s still COVID-19, so Rolling Hills is closed due to being a non-essential service. However, it does appear that they’re offering quarantined hunts if you’re in the area and need to get out of the house. These are a little pricey, sitting at the $500+ amount, but you’re allowed to gather nine of your closest friends and go on a private hunt for this price (essentially it’s $50 a ticket). They also appear to be holding smaller events pending you observe social distancing, so check out their website to find out the details.
Rolling Hills is located at 11001 Bethany Center Rd, East Bethany, New York, and is rated one out of two for the top things to do in East Bethany—which for those of us that aren’t from around there is located about an hour from the Canadian border at Niagara Falls and about 40 minutes from the nearest city which is Rochester.
It has a rating of 3.5 out of 5 on TripAdvisor, which isn’t exactly the highest rating we’ve ever seen. That said, those who gave it a high rating said that it was a truly haunting experience. Most mention that they have great ghost experiences, private tours and special events. But, like we’re all to familiar here at The Lady Dicks, not everyone had the most pleasurable experience:
- Geoah54 wrote in their 1-star review: “Fun ,run away.Not from the place but from the owner.She is terrible.She treats people like the are children.All the years she has owned it and still no bathrooms.She will tell you about the thousands of dollars she has done in repairs but it is not her money.All volunteer work.Her evidence is questionable at the least.I have never been treated so bad after spending so much money.There are plenty of other in places NY to spend a lot less money.”
- Altosaxman1 also posted a 1-start review saying: “While the history is mildy interesting, it is no different than walking around the hundreds of zombie properties that already litter upstate New York. The rooms are staged poorly and the staff is rude. I’ve paid a lot less and seen a lot more. Save your money and don’t bother.”
There are a lot of negative comments about the owner, staff, high price and their search procedures, but don’t let that scare you because there were definitely more positive reviews saying the tour was great, knowledgeable and they totally think the place is haunted. If you do plan on going, do be prepared to submit to a bag check (like SO MANY tourist spots in the State) and if you have questions about what not to bring, I would suggest just asking!
History of Rolling Hills Asylum
Rolling Hills Asylum was originally established on January 1, 1827, as the Genesee County Poor Farm and throughout the years it has operated as “an infirmary, orphanage, tuberculosis hospital and nursing home.” While you’d naturally expect that death would be seen at all of these places, it’s actually believed that over 1,700 bodies are actually buried on the property, mostly in unmarked graves, which is why this place is considered to be so haunted.
Guests and visitors have reported hearing things like “disembodied voices, door slamming, footsteps and full body apparitions” as well as experiencing “shadow people, ghostly touches, and numerous EVP recordings.” But before we get into the nitty-gritty details of the haunts (or what we can find on them), let’s start at the beginning.
Genesee County Poor Farm
The term “poor farm” might be a little bit strange to us here in the 2020s, but back in the 1800s it wasn’t that out of place. A poor farm or a poor house was “an institution where paupers were maintained with public funds” this included “orphans, widows, the handicap and minor criminals”. That’s right, you’ve got criminals, children, women who have lost their husbands and differently-abled people who need specialized assistance all in one place. While in an ideal world these places were supposed to be a “refuge, sanctuary or safe haven” in reality that was most certainly not the case.
On December 9. 1826, the Genesee County Board of Supervisors put out the following notice in the Batavia Times newspaper:
Notice is hereby given that the Genesee County Poorhouse will be ready for the reception of paupers on the first day of January 1827 … The Overseers of the Poor of the several towns of the County of Genesee are requested, in all cases of removal of paupers to the county poorhouse, to send with them their clothing, beds, bedding and such other articles belonging to the paupers as may be necessary and useful to them.
Wondering who was going to be eligible? According to the Board that was: “Habitual drunkards, lunatics (one who by disease, grief or accident lost the use of reason or from old age, sickness or weakness was so weak of mind as to be incapable of governing or managing their affairs), paupers (a person with no means of income), state paupers (one who is blind, lame, old or disabled with no income source) or a vagrant.”
Once it was up and running, residents were referred to as inmates REGARDLESS of why they were there and those that were able to worked on the farm doing chores like raising livestock, growing fruits and veggies, making food in the bakery, canning jars, making wares that could be sold to offset costs, and even working at the woodshop that made the coffins for residents.
As far as we could tell, records are skimp when it comes to the Genesee County Poor Farm and we’re not entirely closed. That said, we do know it closed prior to becoming a nursing home in the ‘50s or ‘60s. Likewise, there isn’t much information on what life was like during this time nor do we know exactly how many people died on the property, but the estimate found in a book called “The World’s Most Haunted Hospitals” by Richard Estep puts it at around 170.
Life After the Poorhouse
In 1964, according to a website maintained by the current owner it was turned into the Genesee County Nursing home. Like so much else there are barely records on this is that it was a nursing home for about 25 years. We should also note that we did see the nursing home open date also to be in the 1950s instead of 60s.
The property was then abandoned for an estimated two decades until in the 1990s it became the Rolling Hills Carriage Village, a shopping center. We don’t know when that ended but today it is privately owned and run as paranormal tourist spot.
Paranormal Hot Spots in Rolling Hills Asylum
Since it has such history, it should surprise no one that Rolling Hills Asylum is said to be very haunted. Weird New Jersey had a chance to visit Rolling Hills Asylum and talk with property’s owner Sharon who spilled the tea on some of the haunted hot spots you can find there, so we saw the following information on their blog:
On the first floor of Rolling Hills in the East Wing you’ll find Hattie’s Room. Sharon said that on one occasion she left a tape in the room and “caught the distinct voice of an elderly woman calling out hello.” It could be the voice of a former patient of the nursing home, Hattie, who was blind and would call out to the nurses if she needed them.
Also on the first floor is Roy’s Room. Roy Coruse was another patient who died there in 1942. He was 52 years old and almost seven and a half feet tall, which was likely because of a tumour in his pituitary glands. Today he’s the favourite apparition of Rolling Hill volunteers and is described as “a seven-foot tall shadow man.” Sharon said that about two months after moving into Rolling hills she was terrified by a rat in the infirmary and ran away. The next day she found the rat dead, like he’d had his neck broken underneath a “giant bloody handprint” on the wall—she believed this was Roy coming to her rescue.
Up on the second floor in the east wing is the old men’s dormitory which is often referred to as the “Shadow Hallway.” This is where you might see light grey, medium grey, dark grey or pitch black shadow people that could be human-shaped but might also not have a clearly defined shape. Sharon said that they “come in and out of doorways, walk across the hall. Sometimes they’ll poke an arm or a leg out, sometimes they crawl on the floor.” And, yes, in case you’re wondering, sometimes they do crawl towards you.
Once upon a time we didn’t exactly have as clear of a picture of mental health and disease as we do today (though we’re definitely only so far along) so patients that might have Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, turrets, autism or even those defined by their husbands as “unruly wives” ended up in the psych ward and solitary confinement. This, or at least part of this department was held in a small room in the basement where iron brackets are literally built into the cement walls.
The Morgue is another place that you might have a paranormal experience like ghostly voices, things being moved and its possible you might be pushed and shoved right off your feet. There are also rumours that bodies were stored in meat lockers in the basement during tuberculosis outbreaks when the morgue was full.
Finally, there is a graveyard on the property… though the exact location of it is not exactly known as no cemetery register or plot map had been discovered. Despite this, we do know that the county would bury people who didn’t have any family on the property itself. We should note that while no one knows exactly where the bodies are buried (and whose they are) a memorial site was set up on the property in 2004 when five headstones with dates from 1887 to 1888 were returned to the property.
We also found a few other ghosts that weren’t mentioned in the Weird NJ story, including an old woman that haunts the ladies restroom—yes, just like moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter. There are toys that move around about by themselves in the basement as though children are playing with them, including a rocking horse in what’s known as the Christmas Room where orphaned kids would go visit Santa Clause. There is also sometimes what is described as a ‘shapeless black mass” in the Christmas room as well.
Then there’s evil Nurse Emmie who was apparently dead-set on hurting her patients, and also apparently practiced black magic on the property. In the recreation room where inmates would go to burn off some steam, chairs will move and images of ghosts sitting on the chairs have said to be captured.
If you’re looking for more spooky stuff at Rolling Hills, the book that we mentioned earlier, The World’s Most Haunted Hospitals has a longer description of some spooky things that happened during a paranormal investigation that we didn’t want to repeat word-for-word here. But if you head to the bookshelf you can grab yourself that book and check out some other spooky hospitals, some of which you’ll hear about in future episodes.
The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with the information for Ghosts of Rolling Hills Asylum themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:
- Rolling Hills Asylum, TripAdvisor.
- The Haunting of Rolling Hills Asylum, Weird NJ.
- History, Rolling Hills Asylum.
- Rolling Hills Asylum, Rolling Hills Asylum.
- The Shadowy Spirits of Rolling Hills Asylum, Buzzfeed Unsolved.
- Haunted Destination: Rolling Hills Asylum, Travel Channel.
The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr. “Ghosts of Rolling Hills Asylum” was research, written, edited and produced by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.
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