Long Island’s Haunted Asylum: Kings Park Psychiatric Center
Most Long Islanders are familiar with Kings Park Psychiatric Center (KPPC), the infamous, abandoned former psychiatric institution situated in Kings Park on Suffolk’s North Shore. Many have their own tales of visiting the grounds and sneaking into the buildings in their youth. And some will share stories of paranormal experiences they’ve encountered at and nearby KPPC, which is rumored to be haunted by the spirits of former patients who died on site during the institution’s 111 years in operation. But few locals know much about the history of this once notorious institution which housed and employed thousands of New Yorkers over its century and a half (almost) in existence.
So what is the story behind the life, and now after-life, of KPPC? As a former Kings Park resident, I had the chance to get up close and personal to the eerie, menacing remains of the infamous asylum. Photography captured in August 2022 by LI Local Zinester, Annalea (me); Kings Park local and paranormal aficionado, Zach; and spooky, angsty teenager, Cori. Cori is my little sibling who was in town from Ohio and asked if we knew about “that haunted psych house place”, add that to the list of things Long Island is known for across the country.
Kings County Asylum, as it was originally named, was constructed in 1885 by Kings County (Brooklyn) to alleviate overcrowding in its own asylums. The goal was to solve the mistreatment and negligence that came with the overcrowded urban asylums of NYC by the creation of a “farm colony” asylum. The original buildings were built spaced apart across its 365 acres of farmland to create a self-sufficient community. The asylum grew its own food, generated its own heat/electricity, and produced its own textiles, with the free patient labor viewed as therapeutic.
Although established as a safe haven from overcrowded facilities, increases in patient population in the early 20th century plagued KPPC with the very problem it sought to solve; overcrowding. Expansion continued during this time, with new constructions building upwards instead of outwards. The infamous Building 93, the thirteen-story structure standing ominously over the grounds to this day, was completed in 1939 and eerily resembled the urban asylums which KPPC was originally built to reject.
The later half of the 20th century saw a decline in patient populations, with most buildings, including 93, closed by the 1990’s. During this time the upper floors of taller buildings and the entirety of some smaller buildings were closed and abandoned. Many of these were demolished into their own basements and buried over while KPPC was still in operation. By 1996, all patients were discharged or transferred to other facilities, and the 100+ building complex has been permanently closed since.
But the story does not end there. The decaying remains of KPPC have since become a hotspot for young teens and fans of the supernatural. Trespassers often sneak into the abandoned buildings, which are now covered with graffiti art, asbestos, crumbling cement, and the moss mold that is slowly reclaiming the structure. Over the years there have been many reports of paranormal encounters by those who dare enter the campus. Visitors have reported seeing apparitions and ominous figures, hearing ghoulish screams, rattling chains, and pounding on walls, doors opening and closing on their own, and more. Just down the street from KPPC is Shanahan’s Bar & Grill, a quirky dive bar with an eclectic garden patio, cheap beer, and the best wings on Long Island (don’t @ me on the wings because it’s true). There have been countless reports from bar customers and staff of ghost activity, including spirits seating themselves at the bar.
I have not personally seen any supernatural forces at KPPC, but there is no denying the spooky aura surrounding the campus. It is present in the air upon entering the grounds, and grows ominously as you get closer to the buildings. If you dare to step inside a building the feeling overwhelms, the eerie energy of the souls of Kings Park all around. To a much lesser extent, that feeling clings to the air ever so slightly all around the town of Kings Park. Whether taking a late night drive on Sunken Meadow Road, or a midday stroll on Main Street, there is a spookiness to Kings Park that serves as a unique reflection of the asylum’s spirit and spirits that remain present to this day.