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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Haunted Alabama - Bryce Hospital

Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
Operation Time: 1861 - Present
Type: Kirkbride Plan
Status: Open


The plans for a mental hospital in Alabama began in 1852, and it was to be part of the popular Kirkbride Plan (popularized by Dorothea Dix and Thomas Story Kirkbride, who were also the main advocates for the hospital), and it would feature what was called "moral architecture".

The hospital was the first ever building in Tuscaloosa to actually feature gas lighting and a central head. It was originally entitled the Alabama Insane Hospital, and opened for use in 1861. The facility was later named for 27-year-old psychiatric doctor Peter Bryce, which made it Bryce Hospital.

Bryce believed in treating his patients with courtesy, kindness, and respect - a new approach towards treating insane patients. He removed the use of shackles, straitjackets, and other restraints in 1882. From 1872 to the early 1880s, some of the patients wrote and edited their own newspaper, The Meteor. These documents now provide an insight to what life was like in a 19th century asylum.

In the 20th century, as the patient population grew, the hospital's standards in care decreased. Lurleen Wallace, the governor of Alabama at the time, visited the hospital in February of 1967. When she visited, a mentally challenged nine-year-old tried to hug her, meanwhile crying "Mama!" Mama". It moved the governor to tears, leading her to ask her husband, George Wallace (who had the actual power behind his wife's governorship), to fund the hospital.

In 1970, Alabama was ranked last among U.S. states in funding for mental health. Bryce Hospital now had 5,200 patients living in what was described as "concentration camp conditions" by the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser. Due to cigarette tax taking away from mental health funding, one hundred employees were fired.

 Later that year in October, fifteen-year-old Ricky Wyatt, who had been labeled as a "juvenile delinquent" and lived at Bryce Hospital although he had no mental illness, settled a lawsuit against the hospital. W. C. Rawlins, Ricky's aunt, was one of the employees who lost their jobs. They were against the terrible conditions and treatments that were used only to make the patients manageable.

The lawsuit, in 1971, expanded to include the patients of Searcy Hospital and Camp Partlow, two other mental hospitals in Alabama. The court created agreements to form federal minimum standards in care of people with mental illnesses in institutions.

A new settlement agreement was made to recognize a great deal of progress in 1999. The case was dismissed by Judge Myron Thompson on December 5th, 2003. The standards in the agreement serve as a model nationwide known as "Wyatt Standards".

When it comes to the hauntings of the old Bryce Hospital, odd writings on the walls (including a lot of graffiti), strange noises, and cold spots seem to occur. There is also the feeling of being watched in several parts of the hospital. A few reports of telephones ringing (the hospital has no active phone number), furniture being moved on its own, footsteps in empty hallways, and strange cold and hot temperature swings in different spots.

Creepy but True

Most doctors during the 19th and 20th century were more insane than the patients they treated, often conducting barbaric experiments and treatments on their helpless victims. Such cases are found at Dorea Asylum and other old mental hospitals.

Key Points

  • Planned in 1852; Was going to be part of the Kirkbride Plan.
  • Was the first building in Tuscaloosa, AL to feature gas lighting and a central head.
  • Originally opened as Alabama Insane Hospital in 1861.
  • Was later named for psychiatric doctor Peter Bryce, naming it Bryce Hospital.
  • Patients wrote/edited their own newspaper called The Meteor from 1872 - 1880s.
  • In 1882, use of shackles, straitjackets, and restraints was removed.
  • In the 20th century, patient population began to rise while the care fell.
  • Governor Lurleen Wallace tires to fund the hospital
  • In 1970, Alabama is ranked last in states funding mental health.
  • Lawsuit settled in 1971 and ends in 2003.
  • Hospital is haunted by abused patients.

Key People

  • Dorothea Dix, one of the hospital's main advocates.
  • Thomas Story Kirkbride, one of the hospital's main advocates as well as the founder of the Kirkbride Plan.
  • Samuel Sloan, the designer of the hospital.
  • Peter Bryce, the hospital's first superintendent.
  • Lurleen Wallace, the governor of Alabama during 1967.
  • George Wallace, the husband of Lurleen Wallace.
  • Ricky Wyatt, a teen who revolutionized the treatment of psychiatric patients.
  • W.C. Rawlins, Ricky's aunt.
  • Judge Myron Thompson, the judge who closed the case on December 5th, 2003.
Sources/External Links


  1. These are some pretty spooky places. Your blog is very cool. Cheers!

  2. Thanks! I'm glad you stopped by to take a haunt by my blog! Bryce Hospital is definetly a creepy place...but what old hospital or insane asylum isn't? :D

    Thanks for coming!
    - Ghostly World

  3. I just went to the old hospital yesterday, after touring the University. I snapped several pictures and was shocked to see a clear image of a woman in the middle window on the third floor. I had other less clear images in other pictures but this woman was unmistakable and very unnerving.