The North Wales Hospital for the Mentally Infirm, Denbighshire

intby Tracy Jones – Division 4 representative

Situated in the hills of Denbighshire, The North Wales Hospital for the Mentally Infirm, was the first institution of its kind that was built in Wales housing welsh patients from 1848. Prior to this, all mentally infirm patients were hospitalized over the border in English Asylums.

Building commenced of this Tudor-Bethan style hospital in September 1844 and was completed in October of 1848. By March 1849, The Asylum held 70 patients and further renovations and expansions were made to the hospital up until 1956, where the upward rise of patients hit 1500 with nearly 1000 staff up to the time of its closure in 1995.

During the 1920-1930’s, there were limited treatments available for mentally ill patients, many of which were highly experimental causing extremely unpleasant side effects. Such treatments included the use of medications such as Cardiazol and malarial treatment, along with insulin shock therapy and sulfur based drugs which were used and developed at the hospital itself. In 1941, therapies such as electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and prefrontal leucotomy (lobotomy) were becoming common place.

Although it could be argued that the asylums offered a haven for the mentally ill, where mental illness was treated, it could also be suggested that life at the asylum was both difficult and at times painful for patients as they underwent many painful experimental procedures which perhaps were not governed in the same way that such treatments are today. It can only be imagined that patients experienced much anguish and despair not only from their mental health conditions themselves, but also from the treatments that they endured.

Such buildings which are historical in nature and where both mental and physical pain have been endured, are of great interest to paranormal investigators, as many would suggest that the very fabric of the building is intertwined with such extreme experiences which can then manifest into paranormal occurrences.

There have been many claims both from Paranormal Investigators and other visitors to the hospital over the years, of paranormal activity which has been found throughout the entire complex. Both audible and physical phenomena have been reported. Apparitions have been witnessed, voices have been heard and physical contact of people reporting, that they have been touched or pushed are plenty. It is reported, that one paranormal team fled in terror from the building as they experienced what sounded like a gurney being wheeled down a corridor which was heard by the entire team. A further investigation reported that contact was made with an elderly lady through the use of a Ouija board at the hospital Chapel… Initially the energy seemed friendly in nature but suddenly an air of uneasiness descended on the group, and they all, except one witnessed her apparition walk at least 15 feet across the chapel. The team were reported to be so scared, that not one of them have returned since. A further claim has been made centering around three witches who were supposedly hung on the grounds before the hospital was built. They are said to be seen and heard in many areas of the North Wales Hospital, but there is no conclusive evidence to back up this story.

Many Paranormal teams were extremely keen to investigate this location, given the history of the grounds, the buildings and also from the reports of paranormal occurrences on the site. The North Wales Hospital being just on the doorstep was therefore a key location for our team to investigate in the very early days of our investigating. During the investigation of the site, EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recordings were captured on a digital voice recorder of what sounded like a female voice saying “push her”. This in itself is a meaningless phrase, however, on review of the investigative notes, it was noted that at the time of the recording, the team were standing at the top of a stair case in the hospital. Other personal experiences documented by the team were both of audible and physical phenomena, however, these experiences were subjective in nature as scientific evidence could not capture the claims experienced by the team members. Nevertheless, the investigation was extremely interesting and many questions have arisen about the paranormal phenomena which was experienced, captured and reported. In conclusion it is suggested that further research at the location would be required to substantiate the paranormal phenomena. Unfortunately due to substantial damage caused by a recent fire in the building, the entire site is now unsafe to investigate further and the building has fallen into disrepair which is deemed extremely unsafe to enter.

What once was a huge and very grand building which oozed history with reports of paranormal phenomena, sadly will now be lost for investigative purposes due to the crumbling disrepair of the building and the spirits of the patients and staff that once inhabited this magnificent and iconic place of mental health history will no longer have anyone to tell their stories to.