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Danvers

Donovan Loucks describes a very interesting site that I would not otherwise have heard of. He refers to it variously as the Danvers Asylum for the Criminally Insane or the Danvers State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and specifies that it is no longer in use. It is mentioned in passing in some of Lovecraft's stories, and might also be the inspiration for HPL's fictional Arkham Sanitarium. Unfortunately, Loucks doesn't give the location, but I inferred that it must be in the large area identified on all city maps as simply the Danvers State Hospital. It's just southwest of where Highway 1 hits the 62 (Maple Street).

I drove down Maple Street and went in the official entrance, but this was both confusing and risky. There are large No Admittance signs posted, and some of the roads lead to areas where there are buildings that are still actively in use, including a large center for treating Addictive Behavior, and another unlabeled concrete building that might be the current version of the main asylum. Loucks specifies that the old asylum is located at the top of the hill, and I took the road leading upward, but it is blocked by a gate with a sign that warns you off and states that the area is under surveillance by the Merrimac Valley Guard Service.

There is another road running along the north side of the bottom of the hill; looking at the map now, I think it must be Hathorne Ave. It looks to me now like the safest way to gain access would be to approach on the 1 from the North, instead of the south, and use the exit for the 62. This lets out immediately onto this little street, next to a few houses. If you park on the road there and hike west along the road, eventually another old brick house will appear on the right; this is marked as another Addictive Behavior facility. They were having a picnic when I passed by, trying to look inconspicuous. A little further on, on the left side, there appears a paved pathway leading up the hill. This is the path that Loucks describes. It leads up through a beautiful avenue of trees and eventually reaches a short covered stairway. The top of the stairway is now blocked by a huge board, so you have to hike up alongside it instead.

As you emerge from the trees you get a distant view of a huge, sprawling brick building, surrounded by tall dead grass. Closer inspection and circumambulation reveals a venerable and somewhat menacing ivy-covered structure with long, iron-barred windows and many pointed towers and peaked gables. As I wandered around, the insects in the grass kept up a long continuous chorus like the droning in a madman's skull.

After a while, a large black car appeared in the distance and approached me. It turned out to be a representative of the guard service, but the person was more curious than hostile to see me. I gathered that their main concern is to keep homeless people from nesting in the abandoned building. It must be a pretty lonely job, keeping vigil by the abandoned asylum for hour after hour, day after day.

On the way out, I had some difficulty locating the entrance to the path again, as it is partly obscured by the trees. The famous refrain kept running through my mind-

You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave . . .


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