Have you ever had a nightmare about an old abandoned building? Maybe as a child you dreamt about all of the creepy crawlies that could be hiding beneath the floorboards and then men with machetes behind corners. Well, be prepared to be terrified again. The now-abandoned Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital, located in Gwangju in Gyeonggi-do, Korea, is reportedly one of the most haunted places on earth, and one of the coolest to visit. With an eerie back story and no apparent attempts to remodel the building for another use, the former hospital is a bone-chilling place to see a little history and a whole lot of scary.
In a town of between two and three hundred thousand people situation just southeast of Seoul the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital lies shrouded in the past. Psychiatric hospitals get a bad rap as it is, and an even worse one when they’re closed and left abandoned. Whether it’s the unsettling reminder of mental illness, the urban legends about what can happen there or the role such institutions play in haunted houses and scary movies, people are simultaneously uneasy, fascinated and terrified. The Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital in particular is an example of the frightening and the disturbing we associate with these sorts of freaky places.
Despite its current state of spine-tingling disarray, the hospital was fully functioning just fifteen years ago, full of patients, doctors and nurses. Although the details of the politics behind the hospital are largely unknown, there is seemingly no legitimate reason to explain the mysterious closure in the 1990s. Reportedly, numerous patients were mysteriously found dead with no explanations to be offered to their grieving families. Presumably the authorities found out and shut the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital down, but there is no evidence of an investigation into the hospital’s operations, staff or treatment practices. No matter the reason, the word “terrifying” comes to mind.
Although the locals do not seem to encourage visitors and have not been terribly helpful to tourists looking for a scare, the hospital gets plenty of guests. Authorities have done their best to keep people out of the desolate building but this only appears to make the sightseers interested in a scare even more determined. The building itself is made of gray concrete, spotted here and there by rusted metal doors and broken, barred windows. For the adamant visitor who manages to pry his way in, the long, dark hallways are only made more frightening by the absence of sunlight. The slender corridors are lined with shards of glass, perhaps from vandals or possibly left by uncontrollable patients on the throes of death.
Despite the building’s untimely fate, all of the furniture, fixtures and other furnishings were left in place when the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital closed up shop. Most patient rooms still have beds, chairs and futons in them, many of which are torn to shreds or completely destroyed. Rooms still have books and other relics from former patients and many have walls covered in indecipherable scribbles. The doctors’ rooms still feature rusted, decrepit exam chairs and even dusty white coats hanging on hooks, like the doctors will be back any day now to continue his possibly negligent variety of patient care.
As the haunted house industry will tell, people enjoy being scared. The terror in not knowing what might jump out at you or the thrill in imagining the creepy things lying in wait is a rush for almost everyone. Inside the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital, fear does not have to be manufactured with chainsaws, cow blood or fake eyeballs made from peeled grapes. Instead, fear breeds without help in the remains of patient rooms and terrifying examination chairs, in the destroyed hallways and the scribbles on the walls. The fear grows in corners and makes its way down the long deserted hallways, leaving the few visitors brave enough to break in to wonder what really happened in the hospital and why it was abandoned. Are the stories of mysterious deaths true? What really went on that made the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital close its doors forever? There’s a good chance that the people who once knew the answers to these chilling questions took these secrets with them to the grave.