First, a little history. Construction on the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital began before the first world war, and was completed in 1919. It's design and layout was completely new and revolutionary. Architect James Govan worked with psychiatrists and psychologists to come up with a design that would help patients, rather than hinder them. The result was 640 acres of land with nearly 50 buildings... cottages, wards, a powerhouse, residences, kitchens, a recreation center, all linked underground by steam tunnels. It was a whole new kind of hospital.Moving like shadows between the buildings and trees, we soon arrived at one of the buildings. The door had been smashed in -- this was new -- so we decided to investigate. Stepping through the door and turning on our lights, we found ourselves standing in a large open room with skylights. The floor was littered with thousand of small plastic zip lock bags, and various other medical supplies. After some searching, a stairway that descended into the steam tunnels was found, and the lot of us filed in. These were rather uncomfortable tunnels, requiring us to crouch. A quick exploration, however, revealed that the tunnels themselves had been blocked. Retreating to ground level, we decided to try another building.
The hospital remained in operation for many years, but time took it's toll on the buildings. Many were shut down due to asbestos and structural hazards. On Sunday, September 15, 1996, the New Whitby Mental Health Center opened next door, and the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital was officially closed.
Preparing to explore the abandoned hospital is no small task. The hazards are real, the risks are real, and you could get seriously injured or contract long-term damage to your lungs. As such, respirators are a must. They must be specifically rated for asbestos. It's also a good idea to wear long pants and long sleeves, gloves, and boots.
The six of us arrived that evening at about 11pm. We parked across from the new hospital, which was very much open, and quickly scurried across the road and into the darkness of the abandoned hospital. The location is on the outskirts of Whitby, near the lake, very little nearby except for the brightly-lit new hospital.
Just being among the trees and boarded-up buildings was very eerie. The place seemed like it had been forgotten by the world: all the buildings still there, the grass overgrown, the trees in need of a trimming. The only sound was the occasional car, and the distant roar of Highway 401.
Back outside, we noticed we were directly in front of the powerhouse. Nvr2Loud and one other did a perimeter check, looking for any obvious ways in, but couldn't find any. We decided to tackle the powerhouse another day. We carefully made our way along the overgrown paths until we came to the cottage where Nvr2Loud had entered last time, only to find it securely boarded up with metal sheets and screws. Disappointed, we discussed our options. Scouting nearby buildings, we found a door that could easily be coaxed open, and before long we were inside.
This building appeared to have been some sort of a kitchen: There were large stoves, and some very strange metal booths standing against one wall. We explored this building for a few minutes before finding a staircase leading down into the steam tunnels. These tunnels are somewhat spacious, with lots of room to walk, and thousands of tiny holes leading to other tunnels and underneath other buildings. An incredible array of junk was always to be found: Chairs, refrigerators, garbage, and more. Some of the tunnels had been blocked with filled concrete, it appears all routes to the powerhouse were blocked.
We emerged into one of the cottages, and explored that one a bit. It had a kind of balcony-terrace thing, which we later discovered was a feature of all the cottages. There was plenty of vandalism, lots of junk lying on the floor, but still a lot of furniture. In one cottage we found a perfectly clean bowl and plate lying on the steps. Things like this always make it seem more creepy.
One of the rooms in a cottage had no windows, no doorknob on the inside, and a spherical window in the door. This was clearly one of the rubber rooms. Unfortunately there was no rubber or any other kind of padding on the walls.
We made our way back outside and to building number 28: the recreation building. All of the ground-level entrances were blocked, however there was one window we could climb into. The window led into the basement. Switching on our flashlights, we were amazed to discover: a 4-lane bowling alley! It had no automatic pinsetter or ball return system, however it was still an incredible sight. Leading from the basement to the ground floor were two staircases, one of which was completely blocked by chairs. Imagine throwing chairs into a staircase until no more will fit; there must have been 60 chairs in there. This did not thwart us, and we made our way up the other staircase, which led us into a massive open gym, complete with basketball nets and a stage! One end of the floor was inclined, clearly for chairs and an audience. Climbing up a ladder near the back, we discovered the projectionists booth and also a ladder that led to the roof. Some of our group went up onto the roof to check it out.
At the other end of the gym was a full-size stage, complete with curtains and wings. The cloth lay in piles on the floor, however an old-style light switchboard was still in place, and still in working condition, except for the lack of electricity. The lights themselves still hung above the stage. In the corner, a rickety wooden ladder led up to a high wooden floor above the stage, from which backdrops are lowered from. This particular building had incredible amounts of graffiti all over the walls.
Once back outside, we decided to check out the building that was closest to the road, and also appeared to be the newest. It was 7 stories high, and I think it's the nurse's residence. A quick perimeter check told us that all the ground-level windows and doors were securely covered with metal sheeting. The ground level of this building is much larger than the others, and as such it has it's own roof. We decided to try to find something on which to climb.
At this point Nvr2loud and his friend had had enough (it was about 2AM) and decided to leave, leaving just the four of us. 2 people went back into the steam tunnels, and sure enough, emerged a few minutes later with a long wooden ladder. How they managed to find that, I don't know. We propped the ladder against the building, and climbed up onto the first floor roof. To our dismay, all of the windows were also blocked on the second level. However, there was an inset courtyard with trees in it, we were about to consider climbing down into it when one of us spotted an open window over the courtyard.
After a bit of ledge-climbing, we managed to climb into the window, and were now inside the building. Deciding to climb to the roof and work our way down, we ascended one of the two staircases to the roof. The view from up there was incredible, we could literally see all of Whitby, and in the distance, Toronto.
Immediately under the roof was a mechanical room that looked like it had been put in yesterday. Aside from a little bit of dust, all the machinery was in prime condition. We also found an elevator control room, with a massive motor and cabinets of old relay-style switching circuitry. Making our way to the 6th floor, the first thing we saw was the last thing we expected to see: A loom. It was just standing in the hallway. Exploring the rest of the 6th floor was incredible; it was clear that this building sees much fewer visitors. Very little graffiti, and many things in original condition. One room even contained destroyed computer parts, Apple IIe's and IBM XT's, and even a Commodore 64. Technology from twenty years ago.
Moving down to the 5th floor, we found similar junk, including an old adding machine / that was mechanical. At least, that's what I think it was. There was also a room inside that looked like it was used as a party house: all sorts of junk and writing on the walls. One of the rooms contained what I later found out was a device for shock therapy; click the image for more information.
As we explored the fourth floor, a look out one of the windows revealed what appeared to be a pickup truck with it's lights on next to our car (this was about 3AM) Concerned, we kept an eye on it, and as it continued to stand there, we decided to get back there. Rushing past the third floor and back to the second, we quickly climbed back out of the window and onto the roof. To my immense surprise, there were other people on the roof, which turned out to be other explorers.
These other explorers were clearly not too bright: They were wearing short clothing, had no flashlights or respirator masks, and to top it all off, they were piss drunk. Directing them to the window we used to get in, we quickly left the roof by way of a thick pipe, and ran back to our car. The car we had seen in the lot was in fact their car. We decided to call it a night, and to see the 3rd, 2nd, 1st, and basement floors on another visit.
I got home at about 4 AM. It was definitely a night I'll never forget anytime soon, and one I hope to repeat before long. There's still a lot of buildings I haven't been inside.