Is Milledgeville's Central State Hospital Haunted?

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, many of the historic locale's abandoned structures are threatened with deterioration.

Photo by: Craig Dominey/Moonlit The abandoned Jones Building, built in 1928-1929, was named after Superintendent Dr. Lodrick M. Jones. It was permanently closed in 1979.

Listen carefully to Smyrna native Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she awkwardly tells Richard Gere that she’s from Milledgeville. Director Gary Marshall asked her to name towns near Atlanta that her character Vivian, a poor Southerner, could be from. Nothing she said satisfied him and eventually she said, “Buckhead,” which he loved. She explained to him that she couldn’t be from Buckhead because “that is where all the rich people live.” They settled on Milledgeville after she told him all about the insane asylum there, Central State Hospital. 

When the state legislature saw a need for a "state lunatic, idiot and epileptic asylum,” the facility opened in 1842. Its population grew upward of 13,000 patients and was at one point the largest mental health institution in the United States and the second largest in the world. The asylum put Milledgeville on the map and the hospital thrived; it even had its own nursing school. 

Eventually overcrowding became a problem and the staff was simply overwhelmed. Patients were reportedly left to the wander the hallways and there was little time for structural maintenance and it began to fall into disrepair. Today many of the buildings are abandoned and crumbling though the hospital is still in operation. In an effort to save the historic buildings, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation placed it on its 2010 list of Places in Peril. 

More than 25,000 patients, perhaps more, are buried on the site, which encompasses more than 1,000 acres. Ghost hunters and believers in the paranormal will tell you that many of them aren’t resting so easy. It comes as no surprise that there have been numerous reports of strange noises, sightings and other odd occurrences on the grounds. 

Access to the deserted buildings is rare for safety reasons. We’ve got a rare look inside the hallowed and haunted halls, if you dare. Also, hear a real ghost story about Milledgeville at the Moonlit Road podcast

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