Glenn Dale Hospital, located just outside Bowie, MD, has been abandoned since 1981, when it was closed due to asbestos. Or was it? Some locals claim it was closed because the ghosts of former patients at the TB sanitarium had made normal hospital operations impossible, while others say, no, it was trouble from the Goatman, a half-human, half-goat experiment-gone-wrong that had escaped the hospital and now roamed the surrounding woods, preying on young curiosity seekers.
Ha ha, no, but seriously, it was closed because of asbestos. But haunted or not, Goatman or not, this sprawling compound – 23 buildings scattered over 216 acres! – is arguably one of the best urban exploration sites in the DC area. The only catch is that it might not be around for much longer. The Washington Business Journal reported yesterday that the Redevelopment Authority of Prince George’s County is now actively soliciting developers to come in and redevelop the hospital into a retirement community. (Okay, the other catch is that it’s *technically* illegal to explore the grounds of the hospital, so, you know, “don’t do it,” wink wink nudge nudge. Proceed at your own risk. We are not responsible for injury, death, future health issues, citation or arrest. You are exploring under your own decision.)
The hospital opened way back in 1934, when tuberculosis was a death sentence. Anyone with so much as a suspicious cough was packed off to the hospital, often against their will, and basically warehoused until they died. After science discovered that antibiotics could eradicate the bacteria that caused tuberculosis, Glenn Dale was repurposed to house District residents with “chronic conditions.” After its closure, Marion Barry tried and failed to get it converted into a “spa and wellness facility” for city employees, and later, the military used the facility for training exercises.
These days, the place is in serious disrepair. According to Wikipedia, the main building is “extremely dangerous and filthy. Large pieces of rusty, sharp metal, cloth and debris hang from the ceiling, and the buildings contain large amounts of asbestos and lead paint. The hospital basements are also infested with rats and bats. In addition, parts of the walkways are flooded with nearly 3 feet of water.” A DCist story from 2006 found dead rats, ceilings close to caving in, swastikas, satanic pentagrams, and graffiti reading “Go back please” and “Welcome to hell.” Other accounts describe buildings full of equipment and unmade beds that seem to have abandoned in an emergency, and a strange meeting with park police that involves shadowy figures and a cop emptying his gun at “something they never found.” (Honestly, after reading all of that, I REALLY want to go check this place out. But I won’t. Because it’s illegal, wink wink.)
Oh right – on the subject of illegality, the place is patrolled by Park Police (the compound is technically owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission), who are reportedly not shy about issuing tickets for criminal trespassing. Some people even say that a park policeman lives on the actual campus, but we all know that no one is living full-time on the grounds of a haunted Goatman asbestos hospital for a public employee’s salary.
So if you do visit (which you shouldn’t do, because it’s illegal, wink wink), what should you be sure to check out? Well, for starters, there’s a morgue in each main building. Major points for exploring the morgue of an abandoned haunted hospital. The huge, falling-down auditorium is equal parts majestic and terrifying, and the views from the roof decks, if you manage to navigate the rickety staircases and rotten floors, are still breathtaking. There are also tunnels linking the buildings; if you have the nerve to travel through pitch-dark underground tunnels underneath a haunted hospital, you’re a braver person than I am, which is saying a lot considering I nonverbally hit on Famke Janssen in public in 2001. (She made a face like she’d just smelled something rotten.)
Okay, if you’ve read this far, you deserve some cool photos to look at. Here you go.
(Photos courtesy of Pablo Maurer/DCist and M-NCPPC)