Death, illness and tragedy have long been part of the history of insane asylums, and for as long as they have existed, so too have the scary stories associated with them. From haunted hospitals to sadistic doctors and nurses, psychiatric wards have been the inspiration for many of our favorite horror movies and books. Yet, the true stories told by the psych ward workers below far surpass any horrors that we might have seen at the cinema or read in a book.
Without further ado, here are thirteen of the most unsettling psych ward stories shared by health care professionals.
1. Holding Her Own Eyes
My mom told me this story from her time at a neuropsychiatric ward while she was in grad school. She was making her routine room checks and happened upon the most horrific scene I’ve ever heard.
This was during the night shift, and generally, all the patients’ bedroom doors should be closed. So my mom turned a corner and noticed an open door. She saw a staff member’s legs on the floor, halfway out the doorway.
When she looked into the room, she saw the patient, a woman with a severe postpartum psychiatric disorder, who had just gouged both of her own eyes out with her bare hands. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, holding her eyes in her hands.
The first staff member to witness the scene, who was now lying face down on the floor, had a heart attack when he first witnessed the woman while he was making his rounds.
My mom screamed for help and frantically tried to perform CPR on the staff member. All the while, the woman just sat rather calmly, holding her own eyes. – nevergotchallenger
2. The Saw
I work as a psychotherapist in a hospital system. My definition of creepy is probably quite a bit different from other medical professionals.
The one that got to me the most was a patient who came to us after attempting suicide by sawing both his arms off at the forearm with a table saw. His arms were reattached, fairly successfully too, with only limited impairments in mobility. All I could think was how bad it would have to be to live in his head that sawing his arms off seemed better than that.
He has since completed suicide. – psychotherapistthrow
We had a young lady in our custody with quite a few issues. We’ll call her Jane. Jane’s first night at our facility staff doing a bed check found Jane in a puddle of blood. Turns out Jane had been slicing the skin around her shin with her finger nails and was pulling her skin up her leg, essentially de-gloving her calf.
Jane also had a ritual she performed every night before bed. While in her room she would run between walls in her room touching them in a crucifix pattern. After doing this for a few hours she would sit on her bed and go to sleep. This particular night Jane was frantic in her pace, practically running between walls. Our night staff observed the entire interaction and reported Jane screaming late into the night. When the staff went to check on Jane she reported Jane standing in the doorway smiling. The staff asked what was wrong and Jane replied, “what makes you think you are speaking to Jane?” – HUGE_PIANIST
4. The Vampire
My mom worked in mental institutions in her younger years (and actually worked at a large, well-known asylum before it was shut down.)
There was one woman there that thought she was a vampire of sorts. She was only allowed out one hour a day, and they had to use safety precautions. She had already attacked and killed at least one hospital worker before these were enacted.
When my Mom asked about her, it was revealed that she had killed at least two of her children, wounded another as well as her husband because she had some sort of physical condition called Porphyria, which apparently made her crave blood.
By the time that they discovered there was something physically wrong with her, she already had lost her mind from guilt and grief. – daviannamorgan
5. The Spitter
I’m not a psychologist but my friend is. She told me about a patient of hers who was HIV positive and a paranoid schizophrenic. He thought that the nurses who worked at the hospital he was in were trying to kill him, so he would frequently bite his tongue, and spit HIV positive blood into their faces/mouths. When they had to come into contact with him, they were required to wear full masks and gloves. – who_am_i_1234
6. The Only One
I once knew a woman who had spent part of her residency at a psychiatric hospital for people with severe mental conditions. Apparently, the grounds had a lovely, enclosed greenhouse. One day, one of their schizophrenic patients was sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette, as a heron frantically flew around. It had found its way in and, not being able to escape, it was smashing into the large panes of glass. The man just sat there watching.
Finally, my counselor asked him if the bird was bothering him and he kind of sighed and said, “Thank god, I thought I was the only one seeing that.” – somenamestaken
7. Family Photographs
My sister is the director of a psychiatric hospital. There was recently a lady there who would cut her arms, legs and torso open and place photographs of her family under her skin. – piiing
8. Time of Death
Well, my mother was a nurse that specialized in geriatrics, and she worked for several hospice hospitals for many years. She often described situations at her work with several of the patients. She would say that each person tends to have a very similar “checklist” that they follow right before death. This checklist often ended in a very similar way.
They would get caught talking to someone that wasn’t there. When asked who they (otherwise lucid people) were talking to, they would describe an individual who was already dead. When asked what they were talking about, they would say that their relative wanted to know if they were ready to move on. A pretty common response would be, “Yeah, he/she said that she will take me tomorrow at 3:00.” Well, it would often happen that they would die at the exact time their relatives quoted. – Aocast
9. Under the Bed
Once, a fellow female patient told me she found writings under her bed. They were just old, small wooden bed frames with hard mattresses that would make all kinds of noises when you rolled over, but I still wondered what exactly she was doing lying under her bed to find these writings.
When she first told me, I thought it was a joke. But sure enough, one day during group we managed to sneak away, and she showed me. Indeed, there were stories written under her bed. After that, we had everyone check under their own beds, and there was more writing under every single bed.
They were stories of patients who had stayed here before, or ways they were planning on killing themselves, or who the good and bad nurses were. It creeped me out. – G0ldenb0nes
10. The Test Subject
I had an hour-long conversion with a delusional guy who was confined to a mental health facility, and who was probably smarter than I am. Lots of these folks believe that somebody–often the CIA–is either beaming thoughts into their heads, or has implanted a microchip in their brains for this purpose. This guy was offering a very thoughtful argument as to why such claims should not be so quickly dismissed.
“It’s precisely because such delusions are so common that mental patients make the best test subjects,” he said. There he was, confined and protected, constantly observed, his health and behavior documented, and there is zero chance that anyone would ever take his concerns seriously. How else would you test and improve such technology? Does the government not have a strong motivation and a plausible ability to create such a device?
“You can see I’m not irrational,” the man said. “I’m just straight-up telling you that they are doing this to me. I know just how unbelievable it sounds, and yet, here I am.” – Kromulent
11. The Boy who Loved Knives
As a tech in psych years ago, there was a seven-year-old kid sent to the floor because the mom didn’t know what to do with him. Sadly, common thing to happen, even if the kids don’t have psych issues. Anyway, the mom was shaking and crying, and they had to take the kid into another room. She was genuinely afraid of her own son. She had suspected something was wrong when she kept finding mutilated animals in the backyard, but never heard or saw coyotes or anything around. The neighbors smaller pets started disappearing. The boy had an obsession with knives, hiding them around the house. Denying anything when the mom confronted him. Then when the two started getting into arguments, he would get really violent and hit her, push her down and kick her, threaten to kill her. On multiple occasions she woke up in the middle of the night with him standing beside her bed, staring her in the face. She put extra locks on her bedroom door to feel safe while she slept. The last straw was when she lifted up his mattress and found 50+ knives of all shapes and sizes under there. So she brought him to us.
I remember talking to him, treating him like he was just any other kid that came through. He seemed remarkably normal, until you spoke directly to him. He had this way of looking right through you, or maybe like he didn’t see you at all while you were speaking.
He would respond like a robot, like he was just saying words because that’s what we wanted to hear. And he would always put on this creepy, dead-looking smile. Like all mouth and no eye involvement in the smile. Especially when he would get away with something, like taking another kid’s markers and they couldn’t figure it out. Still gives me chills laying here thinking about him.
I believe I met a 7-year-old psychopath. – Fishbelly32
12. The New Mom
I was a pharmacy technician at a hospital with a psych ward for some time. We would have to go around with a cart and dispense the patients’ medications, and being a 5’2″ girl, a security guard or male nurse would accompany me, just as a precaution. I never had any real issues other than the occasional death grip onto my arm or manic outbursts, but there was one boy who was entirely different.
His chart said he was nine and he had pale skin, dark hair, and huge bright, green eyes. He always greeted me in the most polite way, asked how I was doing, and always found something different to compliment me on every time. He was extremely well-spoken and mature for his age, so I began looking forward to seeing him, as normal small talk is definitely cherished in that setting. If he saw me outside of his room in the halls, he made sure to say hello and always called me “Miss Jones” or “ma’am.”
One day, a couple of our female nurses saw me pause to chat with him in the hallway, and waved me over to ask if I was out of my mind. Apparently, when he was in kindergarten, he grew an intense attachment to his young female teacher.
This escalated to the point of him calling her “Mom” and leaving notes for her about how he wished he were her son. He had a normal home-life with both parents, and the teacher tried to explain to him that she couldn’t be his mom because that would hurt his real mother’s feelings, and that she already had that job covered.
So, he went home and, killed his own mother in her sleep by cutting her throat, so his teacher could be his mom. The female staff had a general rule of not interacting with him excessively to prevent any kind of attachment from forming. – Aacetylcholine
Nothing I can say can possibly describe the year I worked in Psychiatric Intensive Care. Creepy isn’t the thing that comes to mind when I think back on it … more heartbreaking and horrifying. But creepiness was a part of it. Especially evening and night shifts, naturally.
There is always something disturbing about watching someone while they hallucinate. You can tell it is 100% real to them, and something about that makes you believe it, on some level. A lot of stories end with, “and of course, I had to look over my shoulder to make sure”. You see the emotions it brings out.
There was a woman that came in and sat down across the table from me for her admission interview. She had bandages all over her arms and scotch tape over her mouth and ears. She looked very uncomfortable and wouldn’t really sit still. When the nurse would ask her a question, she would peel the corner of the tape back and answer, then stick the tape back on really fast.
We eventually found out that she saw and felt bugs crawling all over her, and they were trying to get inside her body. The tape was to keep the bugs out. The bandages were because some bugs got in and she had to dig them out. She couldn’t sit still because she felt the bugs all over her even while we sat and talked. The worst part was, she had some idea that it was her mind playing tricks on her. Can you imagine going through your life, feeling like someone is continuously dumping buckets of cockroaches on your head, feeling like they’re all over you and getting inside of you to the point that you’re digging chunks out of your flesh in a panic, all while knowing intellectually that none of it is real? – Fishbelly32
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