updated 4/22/2016 

Willard Asylum for the Insane

In a nutshell Willard officially opened in 1869. By 1877  Willard, at 475 acres (1500 patients) was the largest asylum in the United States1 .  In 1995 Willard Psychiatric Center closed its doors, but a portion of the campus is a  New York State Department of Corrections rehabilitation facility for inmates.

Obviously, because of the New York State Department of Corrections facility Willard is usually off-limits to the public, but once a year historical tours are permitted. Currently, there are no plans for any future tours. 

 Upcoming 2015 Public Tour of Willard Asylum for the Insane

Upcoming 2015 Public Tour of Willard Asylum for the Insane

The tours have been scheduled for Saturday, May 16th 2015. 

At 11 a.m. May 16 Lawrence Mocha (the Willard Grave digger) will be memorialized at the Willard Cemetery. 

  • Times have been confirmed and are 9 am and 1 pm. , they are three-hour tours of the former Former Willard Psychiatric Center
  • The cost of tour admission is $10 per person. Children under 10 years of age  are free. Proceeds from the event will benefit a local Child Care Center, an accredited not-for-profit daycare center in the Jackson Building, which once housed Willard’s School of Nursing and is also on the tour.
  • Parking is free.
  • Visitors should gather at Camp Edgemere to purchase tickets. There will be unlimited space, but once the tours begin no more tickets will be sold.
  • Some of the buildings that will be visited are: Elliot Hall, Brookside, Bleak House, Hadley Hall and the Mortuary. Visitors will also have a chance to visit Romulus Historical Society building on the grounds and the Willard Cemetery where 5,776 Willard patients were buried from 1870 to 2000.
  • A chicken barbecue will also be available at Camp Edgemere.
  • I can’t wait, I think it will be interesting!

Books about Willard

Links of interest

If you only check one of these links out  make it Willard Asylum Suitcases by Jon Crispin the photography is beautiful, and the glimpse into the lives of Willard residents intriguing.

 

What do you think? Would you go check out an old asylum? I would! I think the history alone would be fascinating, and there has to be a few good photo opportunities in a big old building like the ones at Willard!

157 COMMENTS

  1. Ok… I know this is a little late. But, we were there for the early tour. We stood in line for a short time. We then got our tickets (which were bracelets). We then started our tour with the fire house. We visited each building. We even went in a building that we weren’t supposed to (unbeknownst to us). That was the best part by the way. We had a good time. The tour could have been better. But, understand this… They got 800 people last year for the tour. They were expecting the same number of people this year. They were sooo overwhelmed. They tried really hard to accommodate. When it showed up on Facebook it really attracted many people. Also, there wasn’t a fire…… it was steam from the water facility. They said they’d be much more prepared next year.

  2. I would really like to see this facility as my Grandfather died there in 1972. He suffered from Alzheimer’s. I was only 15 then.
    I’m amazed that this “tour” could be scheduled and not be professionally planned. Any big event pre-sells tickets, plans group size and has hand-out literature, as needed. It also seems the security was not professional (or enough of them on-hand) either. From what I’ve read much of this was not done.
    I now live in Ohio, but I may be able to come out sometime during the year to see what I can see.

  3. This tour was such a disappointment. Our five family members traveled over two hours to go to it. We arrived at 11:30 am for the 1:00 tour. We passed hundreds of cars parked along the narrow road outside the grounds. We entered the grounds and asked a passer-by where to go for tickets. He said they were all sold out. What!! Unlimited tickets it said! We parked in the first space we found. A security guard told us where to go for tickets. We hiked a long way to Camp Edgemore but got our tickets. We waited in a large group for the tour to begin. No maps and no one seemed to know anything about the tour before hand. Finally, we were told to get in groups of 50 with a guide. Our group had over 100 and some people had no tickets…no one checked or nor cared. Our guide was a spry lady who must have thought we were there to run a race. She ran us up and down the hills which was ridiculous. She got confused and led us to one building and then realized were to be somewhere else. So, off again, we ran again. Twice this happened. She read from her paper the description of the building we would enter. We were in the back of this large crowd and heard nothing. We went in the hospital which certainly wasn’t the one used for the patients of long ago. The recreation building might have been a bit older but nothing to pertain to the real living conditions of the patients of past. The morgue, inside, looked old but the new skylights didn’t correlate. The last building was the present children’s center. I didn’t even bother going in since obviously, again, it wouldn’t show us what life was like long ago here. And that was it. They said we missed he firehall because of a ruckus with the 9:00 am tour. Who cared anyway? Some of the people on the 9:00 tour took it upon themselves to enter some of the actual, old buildings where the patients lived…..that we all had hoped to see. No way…they were off all bounds. What a disappointment. This was poorly organized and poorly delivered. I realize the volunteers were trying to do a good thing with this fund raiser. However, there was no direction or leadership. We would never return for another tour. I could see this much in some of our own buildings in our home town. Those people who were turned away missed nothing except for the time and effort they took to get here.

  4. I took the day off from work and drove an hour to sit in traffic for 45 minutes and then be told that they were sold out. The job of an events coordinator is to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for an event. I feel as if this was a failure on that person’s part, I was told that they didn’t expect this big of a turnout but if anyone had done their research they would know that social media will take a small event and make it huge. In addition to doing their homework they should consider pre-sale tickets online, set a number and that should alleviate some of the chaos that ensued. The fact that there was no parking for the people that were there on time is also an issue. I read that they had to purchase their tickets and then drive to another building, this should not have been the case with the amount of traffic issues already occurring. I feel as if this event is going to be attempted again that it might be a good idea to hire some more tour guides and stagger the tours from 9am – 1pm every hour, this would give the second tour guide an opportunity to keep an eye on the end of the first group as well to rid themselves of any potential trouble makers, and so on with the remaining tour guides. Please take this as constructive criticism and utilize some of these ideas to make an optimal experience for future tours. Although I am very disappointed that I was turned away from taking the tour I would consider going again. The fact that over $300,000 was turned away is a little sickening, what organization wouldn’t be able to put that money to good use.

  5. We drove all the way up there to be told by the CO directing traffic that the 9am crowd was so big and became unruly by climbing over fences and destroying the historical site that they cancelled the afternoon tour

    • It was also canceled due to a fire in another building.
      Also, I live in Willard. The amount of people flying down my road, which happens to be a dead end, was ridiculous
      Thinking they could avoid the traffic getting out. EVERYONE missed the NO OUTLET sign as you drive in to Willard. Did they expect 3,000 people? No. Poanning future tours with shuttle busses would be a fantastic idea so mext time I dont6take it upon myself to block my road do my kids can play outside safely.

      • You knew that there would be a tour being local. You also should of seen all the cars doing about 2mph. Im sure you had enough time to be safe.

    • We drove there and were in bumper to bumper traffic for about 2-3 miles and then turned around by a cop at the top of the road who said it was cancelled because of a fire. However, my friend meeting me there had gotten her tickets and when I called she said they were just waiting for their guide and it looked like people were still buying tickets.
      We found out later about the vandalism. I had bought BBQ tickets too, but was not able to pick them up because we were turned around. I tried to call to ask about getting my money back, but there is no one answering the phone and you can’t leave a message at the ESC child care where I bought the tickets from.
      Suggestion: Sell tickets for the tour ahead of time so you have an idea of how many people are coming and do the tour more than once a year. Definitely press charges on those trouble makers that obviously have no respect.
      This was very disappointing and I don’t understand the lack of planning!

      • Cris, we had a similar experience and I would like to leave my comment. I can’t figure where to make this comment, however. How did you do it? Thanks, Sandy

  6. Drove from Toronto, Ontario…… 4 hours for nothing! I’d really like to know the truth, was it fire or bad tour planning!??,?

    • There was a fire call to the Day Care center basement. I happened to be going to my car which was parked nearby.

    • there was no fire though. someone turned on the furnace in the children’s building which caused smoke to set off the fire detector (I was there when the 2 fire engines showed up and cleared the building). Honestly, I think they were ill prepared for the crowd that showed up & shut down early because it became so unruly.

  7. We were so disappointed today after driving for the afternoon tour, sitting in traffic for over 1hr only to be told it was closed. We are hoping you will continue with the tours maybe more often in the summer months so more people have the chance to come. I’m sure everyone was caught off guard with the volume of the crowd. Would be a great way for the state to make money giving tours.

  8. Will they be rescheduling? I got there almost an hour and a half early only to be turned away after sitting in traffic for over an hour. Very disappointed.

  9. This was very disappointing. The 1:00 tour was sold out at 9:00am. There may have been only 1000 people there last yr, but when u advertise on Facebook and other social networks, word gets around fast! They may not even do it again after this year because of lack of security! Seriously!? This said there was unlimited space!! Tickets need to be sold in advance next yr. And if they were smart, which this state is clearly not, they would open Willard more then 1 day a year! Perhaps every weekend for the entire summer! Look at how much money they lost because of being so unorganized. So many people we so excited for this tour and now we may not ever have the chance to go again. Thanks to the people that ruined this for 100’s of people.

    • Definitely a disappointment….we figured that 2 hours would be plenty enough time to get there for a 1.5 hour drive. We were making really good time and about 2 miles out we ran into traffic backed up and we sat in it for 45 minutes for the 9 am tour. We found a parking spot that we thought was fairly close as we had only seen 1 officer directing traffic and only a couple of arrows with directions. Once we arrived at the facility we found that the tours were going already and we were not able to go on one until 1 pm. We tried to get directions to where we might be able to get tickets as no one really seemed to know what was going on. They ran out of maps really early so you couldn’t even get one to see what the other buildings were as very few were marked. Arrows showing the way down in to get tickets were not up or had fallen down so it was a trick to find out where to go. We were told by some of the volunteers that last year they had 200 people and were expecting 300 this year. I asked if they had any idea how many tickets they had sold and they had no idea. We also ran into people who had paid for the tour and then lost their groups and were told to get in their cars and drive around to find them. It was extremely disorganized and chaotic for everyone!! I was so excited for this tour and we ended up not doing it because we did our own “tour” and made our own afternoon out of it. I would love to have the opportunity to do this again but in a far more organized fashion and more days opened up!!

    • VERY disappointing. I am spreading the word on FB and any other social media that it was very disorganized and this is false advertising. There was NO tour inside any asylum. It was offices that were currently occupied. The abandoned asylum was OFF LIMITS and no one could enter. Elliott Hall, famous for being haunted – you could only go on the first floor. Couldn’t even go on the second floor or into the basement! Sure, you could tour outside the buildings. You can do that anytime. So many people were so excited and showed up. So many were turned away! I was told by a few people on my walk down in that they were turning people away, but I continued down to the ticket place. Which, by the way, there was no directions to Edgemere. Online or at the site! Then you had Corrections Officers everywhere telling you that you can’t go there. I asked my tour guide when the ceremony was for the caretaker and she said that it was at 11 a.m. Oh, that was NOT mentioned on this site either. Thanks for disappointing a lot of folks. Enjoy your $10.00 from literally thousands of people. It’s no wonder it was the last year, you people don’t know how to plan anything. It’s too bad. My sister said “DITTO” what everybody is saying on here. I’m so happy to see that at least a few of the many people I spoke with today are on here complaining because the majority of people today said that the tour was awful.

      • Rolling Hills in Bethany NY does one each year, I don’t have a lot of info on it but have been told it’s worth it. Not chaotic like this one.

        • Rolling Hills Asylum is actually opened year round, with at least four pre-scheduled tours & ghost hunts each week. Public 2 Hr guided tours through the 60,000 sq. ft complex are just $20 and limited to about 40 people. Public Ghost Hunts all have the guided tour (about 75-90 min) followed by self-guided ghost hunts. The 3 Hr options are $30, 5 Hr are $40 and 8 Hr are $55. Private group options are also available. Everything is PRE-SOLD through their website and max out at about 40 people per tour/hunt. They also offer Horror Movie Nights for $15 includes snack and soft drink – starting in June with titles such as Poltergeist, The Others, White Noise and the Conjuring. July 11 & 12 – SyFy’s Brian Cano and Aug 2 they are hosting the Jason M. Jewett Memorial Cruise In Car & Motorcyle event benefiting Wounded Warriors with Pet Adoptions, Psychics, Vendors, and more – their website is http://www.RollingHillsAsylum.com

    • It was out of control, the Correction guards did not want us there and kept telling us to leave. We started the 2nd tour at 1 and it only lasted an hour because the correction guards kept driving around asking everyone to leave. The tour guides could not keep control as to many people and the guide would disappear and you couldn’t find him again. I believe this is why people were just walking at will. Only got through 2 bldgs. and was told to leave. I drove a long way and found this to be very disappointing.

    • I completely agree! I was told that it was closed and they weren’t handing out tickets too, but I got down there and they were. Yet, i wonder if it was even worth it because they didn’t even take us into any buildings that were worth it. VERY disorganized and my sister, who’s disabled, came with me and she couldn’t come in because they was no accommodations, no parkings, and MILES of walking!

        • When I called or information regarding the tour the recorded message said that most of the buildings WERE handicapped accessible. What a fiasco all the way around. A waste of time, money, and what could have been a productive day.

    • I took my 85 yo mother to this from Rochester and was so looking forward to this. My Great Grand parents worked and met there in the late 1800’s. I called a news reporter to set up info on an article as we had pictures and artifacts from Willard. We were turned away by the state trooper in the middle of the road saying there was a fire and a riot. We went out to lunch in Geneva then met the reporter anyway. I didn’t want the day to be a total loss, but I was bummed!

    • we rented a bus that cost $500 a bunch of us split the cost. we got there, stuck in traffic to have police tell us it was closed. friends that drove themselves got in and walked around and did indeed go on a tour. They heard nothing about a fire but said that it was a big disappointment. We went to some wineries but was not the same. so after paying for the bus and a hundred dollar tip for the driver. we never got to reach our destination..very disappointed

    • WOW! I can’t imagine that! I think this tour should be rescheduled and better planned as well. Especially since a lot of people were turned away! The more people complain, maybe they will reschedule.

  10. Got caught in traffic almost an hour before the afternoon tour. Police and fire went roaring by us headed towards the site. Cars in the opposite direction said the crowds were out of hand and that the tours were canceled.

    Three hours of driving, shot. I really hope they reschedule – and maybe learn a lesson and sell a limited number of tickets, in advance only, to avoid this problem.

  11. We were one of the hundreds wanting to go on the tour only to find out it was cancelled! Very poorly run! There should be only a certain number of tickets sold ahead of time! It was for a good cause and I would love to visit this establishment! Could there be another attempt at this only run better? Kudos to the police officers trying their best to direct that huge volume of traffic!

    • I hope in the future there is another attempt at a tour, I think there is a lot to learn from events like this.

  12. Was so looking forward to this tour. On my way there, I ran into backed up traffic and police/sheriff directing traffic. Was told it was cancelled due to a fire? Seemed very disorganized.

  13. The 1:00 tour was cancelled with no reason given. Some people said they heard there was a problem with the morning tour, that visitors were leaving the group, or that here was a fire at the prison, but no one official said anything. They didn’t post any signs, so everyone parked up and walked all the way up before hearing a thing. Very poorly run. I was so looking forward to this tour, but the way it was cancelled was utterly chaotic. Does anyone know the reason why?

    • We drove 2.5 hours to get there early for the 1pm. Got 2 miles from the turn into the facility and were met with an enormous line of traffic. When we got to the trooper directing traffic, we asked where the facility was. At that time we were informed that the 9am tour ended early and the 1pm tour had been cancelled due to “a problem at the prison”. Very, VERY disappointing to drive all that way.

      • Friends of mine were at the 1:00 pm tour and had gotten me tickets. The police wouldn’t let me near it despite having tickets purchased even though my group went through with it. it was not cancelled. It was just such a huge turnout that they started turning people away.

      • I went to the 9:00 am tour. Traffic was horrible, and we got in there around 10. They decided to do more tours than the 9 and 1. They were just putting together big groups as they came in. It was all chaos. But when we left around 2, there were people that had came in for the 1:00 tour and they were letting them come in. There were tours going on when we left. There was no fire, but someone had turned the heat up in the daycare and steam was coming out of the vents and the fire department went to that, and there were no problems at the prison while we were there. I think maybe they just weren’t letting people in at a certain time, but you still could come back and buy tickets to the tour. Which was not worth the money anyways. It was just too unorganized for so many people and you lost your group and the guide as soon as you started the tour, so you were left wandering around and wondering where they heck you could go and what was going on.

  14. We arrived at 8:10 a.m. to find about 500 people already in line, and, while we were there, probably 500 more come in behind us. The groups started being formed about 8:30a, by 9:00, we were doubled up with another group, told to get in our car, drive to Elliott Hall, where we were told by a CO we couldn’t park. That’s when the chaos began. When we parked and walked to it, there was only a lady at the door explaining what that building was. Never saw another guide the whole time. Complete disorganization and chaos. Could’ve parked and wandered about without paying, for that.

  15. Hello, we drove out for the tour and they told us that it was cancelled for today. Will you reschedule the tour?

  16. Well, I don’t know where to directly leave a message for the people running Willard tours but I’m hoping someone will see it here. I just drove two hours for the tour and was even “early” nut ran into an hour long back up in traffic. Suddenly, car after car turned around. After another thirty minutes I found out they closed the tours and we’re turning people away. Hundreds of people, we’re turned away. I totally understand that they may not have been staffed for this outcome. I’m just hoping that by seeing such a turnout this year they will consider opening the tours for a longer period of time or even more times during the year. There is obviously a huge interest in it with a lot of money to be made. Thanks for opening the Willard grounds for tours. Very disapointed that I was turned away.

  17. I think the event coordinator for these tours should learn the definition of “unlimited space”. Drove over an hour and arrived 40 minutes early to be told the tour was closed.

  18. For future reference, “once tour begins no more tickets will be sold” means each tour separate. That way you don’t stand in line for a friggin hour before the first tour for them to be rude and ignorant and tell you to come back and wait in line again to attend the second tour, especially when you were instructed to do so from calling the day before. Completely disorganized.

  19. My father worked at Williard for 34 years. I use to visit when i was younger, it was very intimidating for sure, I cannot wait to take my dad on the tour this Satuday he has soooo many stories of the place…

      • Same thing here! We even got there over an hour early! Very poorly planned on their part. Thankfully we only drove an hr. I can’t imagine how angry you are after a 3 hr ride and then another 3 hrs home

      • Us too! We drove 3 hour for my sisters birthday gift. We waited in line till we got to the front and then a cop told us it was shut down for the day and we had to leave. I’ve never been so disappointed.

        • Me too, Michelle!! Had been soooo looking forward to it, especially since I’m a social worker at RGH ED and frequently took the Greyhound thru Willard on my way from Cornell to Rochester. The sheriff told me there was a fire… and as I was driving away I smelled smoke

      • I was very disappointed that I could not attend the 1 pm tour!!! I was looking forward to it all week! I left early just so I could buy my ticket for the tour and the chicken barbecue! I was turned away before I could even reach the road to the facility. Had to drive all the way around and spent a half a tank of gas to get home. Hope there is some reason why the tour was cancelled!! If the tour is schedule again, I hope there is better planning and maybe advanced tickets sold!!

        • I can imagine the frustration and confusion you must have experienced today. I really hope we learn what happened, hopefully this can be avoided in the future.

          • Hello. I will say we feel lucky to have been able to see the grounds and such. I will say that it should have been limited and tickets presold..and maybe do it two days. We were one of what started as a tour led by a woman who was sweet and understanding.. Even with rude people in our crowd. We noticed shortly into our tour that people (that probably didn’t pay) were in our group. We were lucky..like I said. I suggest limited presold tickets and tour guides at each building. I feel bad for your staff that undoubtedly had to deal with everything, and those who had to be turned away.

        • Well im sure they have heard all the feedback by now, but something different happened to me and my husband today. After waiting 45mins in traffic (and thats being there 30mins early) we called it quits. While i understand the parking and the fact its on a dead end road…we drive past the campus and about a 1/4 mile up the rd was the grave site, i said, “hey lets go check that out until traffic cool down” BAD IDEA!!! REMIND YOU THERE were no signs at all about posted prop. We get up the driveway and and fast as we said the place a very rude, old lady (there were about 4 of them) approached my truck and asked, “why are you here”? i answered to look around real quick and turn around! we never even got out of the car

          we followed the mowed path up a little bit past some other parked cars and started turning around at this point this rude women (about 50yards away) started screaming! ” GET OFF THE GRASS, GET OFF THE GRASS, IS THIS NESSCIARTY? AT this point we just wanted to get outta there. while coming back down, she and another old rude person approached my car again and started yelling at us!!! “what are you doing”!!!!! I dont know who these women were, but im sure they were with the planning group and were setting up a tent and a booth. There were about 8 cars up there and its all grass!!!

          I hope this women and her group of “guardians” gets fried. We were from out of town, no room to drive, couldnt go on the tour and just trying to look around a PUBLIC PLACE!!!!

          Not to even talk about the guy yelling at people from his house telling people to GO HOME!

          very gross.

          • Just to let you know- the people who planned the ceremony at the cemetery were actually a different group from the people who planned the tour. They decided to hold it the same day as the tour to get maximum exposure.

            Also the people who run the tours do so as a volunteer. I know a few of them and they are wonderful people who most likely did not expect the turn out that happened. I live locally and it was more traffic in town than we ever see. I am sure changes will be made for any future tours.

        • For those of you who missed the tour, you didn’t miss much! The two buildings and the nurse’s building that you WERE allowed in are currently occupied. If you are looking for an Abandoned Asylum. This is not the kind of tour to go on. They will NOT let you in those buildings for liability reasons. Don’t go.

  20. I can’t wait to take this tour. I grew up , and my parents still live in the same house, across the street of the willard psych center. I have lots and lots of memories of riding they the ground, swimming at the lake and going up to the cemetery .

          • Hi Betty Jo,
            I don’t really see how this would be a conflict, the treatment center is fairly self contained within a high fence. Maybe just a few more cars entering and exiting the grounds would be the only thing I could see resulting in the visiting hours coinciding with the tour, but if you have concerns you could always contact the Elizabeth Cady Children’s center.

    • 7116 County Road 132 Willard, NY 14588 is the address for the main campus, once you are there watch for signs.

      • We are coming quite a distance to go on this tour. I have an ancestor who was in Willard from 1880 – 1890, and we are doing a story of that person’s life. My concern is if there will be enough tickets. If we drive for hours, will we be able to get into a tour? Or is there a limited amount or slots?

        • Hi Bambi,
          I would plan on arriving slightly early and giving yourself some time for the trip. There is no limit on tickets available for the tour, but once the tours begin no more tickets will be sold. Enjoy the tour!

    • It is my understanding if arrive before the tours have started, you are fine. Last year I cut it very close, but they process payments (cash only) very quickly and I was able to get in a group with no problem. If you are late you will most likely be turned away.

  21. I have a group of 10 or so people who would like to attend the tour in May. Is there a limit to how many people? Would hate to drive 2 hours and not get all of us in. Thank you much!

  22. This look so awesome! I read the book, The Life They left Behind few years ago and as much as I would like to, I never thought I would get a chance to actually walk among the hallways at Willard. I am definitely grabbing this opportunity!

    Couple of questions, is this a self-tour or guided tour?

    If it’s guided tour, would it be possible to obtain an ASL interpreter? I am deaf and plan on bringing along my deaf son and possibly few friends as well.

    Can’t wait! 🙂

  23. I am looking forward to visiting Willard for the first time. I currently work with individuals who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses and I’m taking this opportunity to learn more about the past.

  24. I ran across this tour of Willard state Hospital. I am a 66 yr old NY State resident, who was a patient there in 1969, age 20 yrs old. i cannot remember how long i was there but i recall almost three months. It was later discovered, much later that I had Bipolar illness, but not here.. This facility was not charming nor very effective for me. Too many medications were given that did not work, but made things worse. Practices like locking a patient in a room with just a mattress on the floor were carried out. This hospital had all kinds of people in there and it was not a pretty sight at times. For over 25 years i have been taking the drug lithium for my disorder and have had no major episodes. However this place was not a help in any way.

    • Hello miss Kay , I am sorry that you had to go thru that experience . I have heard rumors of the actions that you speak of . I do believe that this place was not very high on patient care . it seems that the people who want to take these tours are not even interested in the real details . for them i cannot speak . but i will say i understand mental illnesses . i have been diagnosed with bi-polar type 2, and a couple other conditions . it bothers me that people just think this Willard place is a great place to visit . maybe they should try visiting actual survivors of the mistreatment and lack of care that was provided in this hell of a place . i would rather learn from a fellow person that went thru the nightmares and survived , then from some one who read about it all. again i am grateful for you speaking out.

      • Hi Kay & Chad, sorry for what you endured there. I had similar experience at another facility including shock treatments and over medication with a doctor I wouldn’t trust with my dog now.. If I where to go there it would be strictly to see if I could get a feeling any past residence if their spirit remained. No , I am not crazy or a ghost hunter but very sensitive to my surroundings. Glad you made it out & doing ok, me too , there are too many places that family just sends someone too without checking them out even now because they don’t want to take care of their own. Bless you both.

      • Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. I for one would not care to see the facility yet rather hear some who know, I am sorry for your experiences and wish you both well.

      • To chad, Ingy and Joanee…and any others i may have missed. Thank you for your response to my post..I just read it Apr 20 2017. Can u believe that/ i twas nice to have you all concerned and Chad..you know where i am coming from. my life was consumed with these hosp or should i say Institutions of Horror..Binghamton State hosp included. It took me 17 years to begin on the right meds and therapy. It is hard remembering the shock treatments and other horrors…BUT i am a survivor. Today i am disabled with a severe spine disease…but i handle
        it cause i have learned to be strong ! God Bless you all ! Kay

    • Kay and Chad, thank you for speaking out on your personal experience to lend a human voice to the interest and mystery surrounding institutions like this. As you are probably aware, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Destigmatizing brain illness is the goal. Creating compassion, understanding and acceptance is the goal. You are courageous for enduring your illness and for sharing your stories. Thank you.

    • If my memory is right almost all of the buildings (with the exception of the fire department) had multiple floors, and I only remember seeing a functional elevator in one of the buildings.
      The steps into each building were just a few to a handful and I don’t remember seeing any ramps.
      I suggest you contact the Elizabeth Cady Children’s center to confirm this, but I would not personally call the tour accessible.

  25. willard is awesome !! i got a great ghost picture while touring there last time .. its on our site ghosthuntersofthefingerlakes.com love the history and storys too 🙂

  26. There is a great novel written by Ellen Wiseman “What she left behind” That follows the “patient” thru the trials of her stay at Willard. Great read.

    • Molly,
      That is actually the book that got me interested in Willard last year! I loved the book, and it was very interesting to take the tour after reading it.

  27. What is the exact address to go to…I have to use my GPS…I’d be lost otherwise.. Thanks n I will be bringing 7 ppl w me …yay excited can’t wait

    • Hi Teri,
      Yay! You will love the tour, it is very interesting!
      The address of the Drug treatment center that lies in the middle of the Willard campus is below This is not where you want to go to buy tickets, but you will see signs for tickets before you get there! :
      Willard Drug Treatment Campus
      7116 Co Rd 132
      Willard, NY 14588

      And also check out this Google Map of the Willard campus, it is huge, you can’t miss it!

      • My husband and I worked at Willard during the summer when we were in college. He worked in the recreation department, I worked at The Little House where we taught patients daily living skills in preparation for leaving the facility. Both of his parents worked there as nurses as well. An amazing history…

        • Julie,
          I have heard Willard had a “family atmosphere” and many families employment there would span several generations!
          I have a friend who really enjoyed his time working at Willard up until it closed. The buildings look cold and creepy on the surface, but for many there are happy memories and a lot of history there!

  28. It’s getting much closer now to this year’s weekend of touring Willard. Colleen Spellecy and her wonderful group have worked toward dismantling road blocks put in position by the State Health laws. These HIPPA laws currently prohibit persons who have died at Willard, been buried in the previously obscure cemetery without grave markers, to have lived their lives only to be forgotten children of God. The laws do NOT protect the dead who deserve to be found and recognized, however those families out there who wish to reunite with their ancestors are told the law is protecting them.
    There simply is no sense to conger up by anyone living 100 years after their ancestor died to say they need to be protected. Living descendants should have the right to locate the departed and to place a marker where they can visit their spirit. Colleen’s group has reached out to many of the descendants and they now have been given a voice to prove the connection to the ancestor. The State is contemplating a Memorial Marker with the names of these ancestors. Personally I will be proud to see my Great Grandfather recognized, however this should be made possible for ALL by the State releasing the 5776 names to be publicized so that others too may find the lost souls.

    • I agree Ron, medical records should be protected, not names.
      Colleen and Willard Cemetery Memorial Committee have worked tirelessly. The fact the Lawrence Mocha, your Great Grandfather the 5,776 patients will be remembered during a celebration on the same day as the tour in May, is definitely encouraging, but the names still need to be released.

      • I believe almost all of the buildings (with the exception of the fire department) had multiple floors, and I only remember seeing a functional elevator in one of the buildings.
        The steps into each building were just a few to a handful, but I don’t remember seeing any ramps.
        I suggest you contact the Elizabeth Cady Children’s center to confirm this, but I would not personally call the tour accessible.

  29. Hi Jennifer! I grew up in the hamlet of Willard the first 11 years of my life on Prospect Str. My father was head cook at the Main Kitchen. I have many fond memories of riding my bike through the Willard grounds and many conversations with the residents. It is wonderful that they have tours and so much history there. Looking forward to the tour and the memories.:) Everyone will enjoy it!

    • Hi Ed!
      I am also really looking forward to the tour!
      Hearing all the stories has been the best part of going on the tour and writing about it. I love how sincerely fond of Willard people are who had connections there!

  30. We used to live on the hospital grounds in Willard. My dad was a psychiatrist there. There were some homes on the top of the hill.Are they still there. They were like 3 story homes..
    We had a great time in Willard and walking to Seneca lake. My dad is 100 yrs old..I just wanted some pics of the hops. grounds n homes

    • Hi Tulin,
      We were given very strict instructions not to wander the grounds on the tour, so I am not sure if there are other houses we just didn’t see, but we did visit Brookside house which served as the home to the medical directors at Willard, (and it was 3 stories). I took 1000s of pictures on the day of the tour, many never made it off my sd card, if you would like I can look through my SD card for more pictures of Brookside.

    • Hi Tulin. I worked at Willard in the Rehabilitation Dept. I remember your father, Doctor Bulay. Hard to believe he is 100.

  31. I think the memorial in May is wonderful. 🙂 will they also be offering toirs that day? My Great Aunt spent several years at Willard.

    • Hi Tammy,
      I have heard there might be one in the works, but approval is pending. I will definitely update as soon as an official date and time is set!

  32. Hello, I am curious about Willard Asylum. Would you be willing to share your contacts info with me? I can be reached at [email protected]

  33. Hey Jennifer,
    I saw your blog on Willard Asylum today and saw you went on a tour back in the spring. I’m a psychology student in Pennsylvania and this would be a perfect thing for me to experience! I’m wondering if you know if they’ll be another tour in 2015 or if you had any contact information that I could use to get ahold of someone in charge?

    • Hi Brooke,
      I have not heard anything yet if there will be a 2015 tour. I am also looking forward to going back for another tour and have been wondering the same thing. I was thinking about contacting the Romulus Historical Society after the holidays about any tentative plans. I will definitely pass along any information I get.
      If you would like to reach out to the historical society use the “contact us” form at http://www.romulustown.com/ (the email is forwarded to the appropriate person)

  34. Dear Jennifer,
    Hoping you saw the New York Times article on Willard that was on the front page last Friday. Google “Restoring Lost Names, Recapturing Lost Dignity.”
    Colleen Kelly Spellecy
    chair of Willard Cemetery Memorial Project

  35. I hope you come up to the Cemetery and view the sight of the burial of 5,776 patients who have no lasting memorial of their life at Willard. While our hands are tied by OMH, we still do all we can to fight for the right to remember them.

  36. […] This weekend, on Saturday May 17th, you’ll have the opportunity to tour Willard Asylum in Ovid. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it (Saturdays in May are so precious), but a couple Finger Lakes Blogger Friends of mine will be there and I will pass on a link to their blog posts if they write about the experience. Click here for more details about the event. […]

  37. I took this tour in 2010 and wrote a lenghthy post about it. The post has been my number one attraction on my blog 4 years running. The tour is absolutely facinating and definitely worth the $10 bucks. A definite must do in my book! Cute blog Jennifer 🙂

    • I am really looking forward to the tour Eileen!
      I love finding other Finger Lakes bloggers, especially foodies 🙂
      I have checked out all your posts on your tour to Willard and they were very interesting!Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing 🙂

  38. Hey Jennifer, I am doing a school project on Willard and I am required to do an interview with someone, unfortunately I can not find anything on the internet that can help me find a supervisor of the tours at Willard, if you have an email address to that person, or anything that can help with my interview let me know please.

    • Hi Amanda!
      I sent you an email, if you don’t see it check your spam folder 🙂
      Good luck with your project!

  39. Sounds great! The idea of talking your way out (especially back then) sounds downright terrifying.
    LOL, that’s about 90% of what people know about Lowville. You’re missing roughly diddly and squat at best. We’re (I’m dragging my 10 yr old along) only making the drive because of the book and our mad rush to see ‘all things NY’ before moving back to TX 🙂

    • My mother is riding along with me, she also read the book 🙂
      Texas is quite a change from NY! I bet you won’t miss the snow next year after the winter we just had :-p

  40. Thank you so much! I was hoping they’d have a tour this year. We will absolutely be there. Do you just get tickets that day or reserve a spot ahead of time with anyone?

    • Hi Heather!
      I just heard back last night, and have a few more details, I will update the post, but this is what I heard back from the coordinator:

      • The tour takes over an hour
      • It starts at 9am.
      • It is rain or shine, but I am hoping for shine 🙂
      • Tickets are bought at the door

      I cant wait, I think it will be interesting!

      • I was looking around for how to get to this “Grandview” they mention, and I found a few references to it being “the Grandview building, built in 1860 and now used by the Finger Lakes Credit Union”. On the FLFCU.org site, they list a branch at :
        Ovid Branch (Willard) – 7116 County Road 132, Ovid, NY 14521
        So I think that’s where we’ll head, and hope for the best … it looks promising at least =)

        • I sent a message to a friend whose husband worked there, who will be going, and I got a few directions, it sounds like Grandview is at the main entrance to the Willard campus. This is what was sent to me “On 96a turn right at main entrance there will be a big white modern looking building on your right, Next building on left is Grandview.”
          Let’s hope there will be signs too I would like to avoid a wrong turn to the inmate section :-O

          • Lol, thanks! I feel much better driving from Lowville with a destination 🙂 And yes, signs would be great … I’m pretty sure I could not talk myself out of the patient side …. I can’t even talk my way out of a traffic ticket.

            See you then!!

          • Bahaha, there is no way I could talk myself out of the patient side, any talking I might do would probably only elongate my stay LOL!
            Lowville is a drive! We drove through Lowville once when we took a very wrong turn home from the Thousand Islands, That was a long trip home.
            We will have to chat after the tour about the book and seeing Willard after reading What She Left Behind!

    • We just drove by a few weeks ago on our way to a travel basketball game for one of the kids. It has always piqued my curiosity.

      You are right the suitcases are haunting. The documenting and photographing of the suitcases was part of the story line in What She Left Behind, after reading the book it was interesting checking out the suitcases.

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