WORTH THE DRIVE: Tour the grounds of a haunted former asylum and cemetery in Athens

An early photograph of the former Athens insane asylum, The Ridges.
An early photograph of the former Athens insane asylum, The Ridges.

Credit: Southeast Ohio History Center

Credit: Southeast Ohio History Center

For a few select nights in October, guests will be able to tour one of the most haunted buildings in the state of Ohio.

The Southeast Ohio History Center, located in Athens, Ohio, will be offering historical tours of The Ridges, formerly known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, from now and throughout the end of October.

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The Athens Lunatic Asylum was a mental hospital that operated in Athens from 1874 to 1993. Throughout its years, the asylum provided services to a variety of patients that included Civil War veterans, children and violent criminals — all suffering from various mental disabilities. Many inhumane and outdated mental health treatments, like lobotomies, hydrotherapy (water therapy in the form of baths, etc.), electroshock treatments and early psychotropic drugs were in practice at the asylum during its years of operation.

A panoramic view of The Ridges, a former insane asylum in Athens, Ohio.
A panoramic view of The Ridges, a former insane asylum in Athens, Ohio.

Credit: Southeast Ohio History Center

Credit: Southeast Ohio History Center

Surrounding the former asylum are three cemeteries that contain the graves of 1,930 former patients of The Ridges. Of those graves, 1,659 were only marked only with a number until the state of Ohio began putting names, births and deaths on each stone that was missing this information in 1943. Many of the oldest stones had not been replaced until recently.

Today, the Ridges exist as a part of Ohio University and house the Kennedy Museum of Art, an auditorium and many offices, classrooms and storage facilities.

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As you might imagine, the asylum is a decidedly eerie sight, and now, for a few select dates throughout October, guests will be able to revel in the ghostly glory of The Ridges on intimate walking tours. The tours are hosted by George Eberts, a long-time Appalachian Behavioral Health employee and Athens Asylum advocate.

Tours of the former insane asylum in Athens, The Ridges, are offered from Oct. 10 through Oct. 31.
Tours of the former insane asylum in Athens, The Ridges, are offered from Oct. 10 through Oct. 31.

Credit: Southeast Ohio History Center

Credit: Southeast Ohio History Center

Guests will meet in front of the Kennedy Museum of Art and Eberts will then lead the group on an outdoor walking tour of the grounds, cemeteries and various buildings within the complex. While on the walking tour, guests will learn more about the history of mental health treatment, the asylum, the cemeteries and more as it pertains to the asylum.

Tours will be taking place on Friday, Oct. 23 at 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24 at 2 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30 at 10 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 31 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 for members, $18 for non-members, $10 for students and children 12 and under are free. The tour on Friday, Oct. 30, or All Hallow’s Eve, will be $25 for members, $30 for non-members, $20 for students and children 12 and under are free.

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All guests are required to wear masks and the tour takes place outdoors in order to maintain proper social distancing practices.

To reserve your spot, call Dominique at 740-592-2280, ext. 100. Space will be limited, so be sure to reserve a spot as soon as possible. For more information about The Ridges, Kennedy Museum of Art, the Southeast Ohio History Center and tour offerings, pay a visit to athenshistory.org.

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