Letter remembering the now
haunted Manteno State Hospital (insane asylum)
Patients come into and leave "Psycho" quickly.
Some stay one week, some two-but the law requires them to be taken to the state
hospital within 24 hours of the order of commitment.
The above is from the Manteno State Hospital - Annual Report
Manteno News 1953-1954
Being in the
paranormal field as long as I have and written about in four paranormal books, at times individuals write me, send me
photos etc.. that are unique. Below you will find a letter from a female that I
She asked that I not give out here name, as her mother who she
mentions in the letter below, is still alive. As you read the letter you will
see that it also was a place that was not even good for those who worked there
and it makes you wonder about those who did work there.
The woman also followed up with me when I
said I would get her letter posted:
And in way that
Karma has of biting one on one's ass, my mother now lives in the nursing home on
the very grounds where she once "worked". I wonder if she sleeps well. We
don't talk often. Thanks for all the work you're doing. Someone needs to tell the stories so we don't
forget, lest we repeat the mistakes.
I have had a web page since 2004 of some of the
facts of what went on at the Manteno State
Hospital and the web page
can be seen here:
Below you will find the letter that was sent to
Shanahan - web site:
Explore and experience haunted historic
Hello, Mr. Shanahan. I'm
going to tell you what I remember about Manteno State
I'm 50 years
old. My mother worked the 11pm-7am shift at the hospital from the time I was 2,
so that would put us in 1961 when she started there. My mother has no more than
an 8th grade graduation but the hospital didn't discriminate. Seems like if you
could stand the conditions and the smell of the place and the constant threat of
being attacked by a patient they didn't care if you had any education or not.
And those attacks were not isolated incidences. They happened relatively
often. More than a handful of the employees got seriously hurt and never went
My Mom was only attacked once, from
behind, and she was a tough little thing and managed to get away from the man
with nothing more than broken glasses. She loved her job. I cannot fathom
As a child I was aware that our medicine
cabinet was always fully stocked and I witnessed her bringing home drugs and
pretty much anything else she saw that she wanted. Of course I was a little kid
and didn't understand what she was doing at the time. She even brought home big
boxes of the sanitary napkins to clip into her old mop (remember those mops?) to
wash the floors.
But perhaps the thing my mother liked
best about her job was playing nurse. She really began to believe she WAS a
nurse. That belief set in at about the time I stated seeing her taking pills
all the time and that was unusual for her. If I asked if she was sick she would
just say she had a headache. I remember the pills and I know NOW what they
were. My mother was addicted to the Valium she was taking from the
So..........playing nurse. You'll love
this. The ward she worked on for the most of her time there (and I will try to
remember the name) was mixed, men on one side, women on the other with the
dayroom and glass- enclosed office in the middle. There was SUPPOSED to be 4
people on duty at all times and only ONE of them.............a REAL
NURSE...........was supposed to have the keys to the medicine cabinet. But the
presence of that REAL NURSE was not consistent, leaving my mother and three
others to do whatever they wanted. This lack of supervision led to a lot of
theft. She used to come home and tell us about this patient or that patient who
had family that sent them things often, NICE THINGS, as she said.
Her and the "play nurses" would open the
packages, take what they wanted and give the patient whatever was left. She
brought all sorts of things home all the time. Christmas was fun for them.
They would open the Christmas cards as they came and check for money. And
money found was put into a "fund" which they would all split after the holidays
and the cards quit coming in.
I once asked her "Well, don't you even
give them the CARDS?" Her response was "No. 1...........the money is useless to
them. No. 2.........most of them are so drugged they'll never know the
difference." This explains the boxes of Christmas cards that I am aware was
found in some of the wards.
So this kind of behavior went on for
years. I didn't really think much of it at the time because I was a KID and
most kids don't look for wrong in their parents.
So in 1974 I was a Freshman at Peotone High School. Our English teacher gave us
the assignment to "write an essay about something relating to our society". OH
GREAT. What do you write about?
By now Mom was working days and always
had to work the weekends so I asked her if I could do my paper on the hospital.
She said she thought that was a good idea and she would "sneak" me onto the ward
on the following Saturday and Sunday. You were supposed to be 18 (I THINK, MAY
have been 16) to be on the wards and I was 13.
The things I saw that weekend are burned
into my soul. Upon walking thru the door the smells attacks you first. It
smells like urine..........REAL strong, no matter which corner you turn. I had
brought a book and was sitting in the dayroom where Mom could see me from the
office and I began to read.
This very lovely young Spanish woman (I
think Mom said she was only 20) came walking in, smiling at me, and sat down
next to me. I said "Hi." She just smiled. She was GORGEOUS, I mean the kind
of woman that even WOMEN look twice at. My Mom came out and told me she doesn't
speak English but said she never gave them any trouble so it was okay if she sat
there with me. So we sat there and smiled at one another like fools and she
looked at my book and nodded approval.
I had a friendship bracelet on my left
wrist that my best friend had made for me. I had worn it for several years and
this girl was fascinated with it. Kept twirling it on my wrist and saying
""pretty". I thought "Well, she knows ONE word of English." She just kind of
hung out with me as I watched the people. Most of them were so obviously
drugged it was pathetic. They were spitting on the floor, saw one guy whizz on
the floor. Putting out cigarettes on the floor. Nobody gets up to clean it.
At lunch time they were all called to
eat. One guy wasn't hungry, I guess, and said he didn't want to go. You don't
tell these people no. He simply said the food sucked and he didn't want to
eat. So they said he was "disturbed" and while my mother talked to him to
distract him, another "nurse" came up from behind and stuck a needle in his arm
and POOF! Sedated. They got him back to his bunk, came out laughing, and
went on their merry way. I don't blame him about the food. It was inedible.
It didn't even SMELL like food. I brought my own lunch that day and I sure was
So that night I was asking my Mom about
this pretty little lady. She said the girl was married and she THOUGHT her
husband had committed her but she wasn't sure. She told me that hubby and his
family come to visit pretty often and bring her really nice things. She said
the way they were dressed.....they had some money. She told me the girl's
father was a large handsome man with sparkling white teeth and had diamond chips
in the middle of his 4 front upper teeth. My Mom didn't know why she was
committed. Said she had never looked at her file. The girl was inconsequential
because she required no attention. Mom said she was always very
Sunday morning comes and off we go to
work. I can't say I was thrilled about it by now and I wasn't even sure I
wanted to do the report on this but I was a bit intrigued by the lonely pretty
girl who couldn't communicate. I think she must have been waiting for my Mom to
come in so see if I was coming back cause she was right there when we went
She smiled at me and came and held my hand for a moment and gestured
that we go sit down where we sat the day before. Mom went into the office with
the other ladies and started planning their day and BSing. This girl was
waiting for them to turn away from us for a second and when they did she turned
to me and said (in perfect English) "Your bracelet is SO pretty. The person who
made that for you must love you very much." I WAS FLOORED! I said "My Mom
said you didn't speak English!" She said "I know. I think it's better this
way. I just pretend I don't understand them and I'm a good little girl and I
keep quiet and I just follow the routine. It's the easiest way to avoid
problems." She pointed at Mom in the office and said "Your Mom.......she's one
of the nicer ones. She's not as rough as the others."
If one of them turned our direction (to
check on me, I assume) she would glaze her eyes over and revert back to the
persona that she felt kept her safe. She made me promise not to tell my mother
she could speak and understand English as well as we do and to this day, I have
never told my mother.
A little before lunch her family came to
visit. Mom was right...........her Dad was like Ricardo Montalban with 4
diamond chips in his front teeth. Her parents and husband all visited that day
so I got to see all of them. They were dressed in VERY expensive clothes and
just SPEWED wealth and sophistication. Of course they brought a package for the
girl. A box. They spoke Spanish to one another. Her secret seemed to be
safe. After her family left my mother and another lady came and got her and
told her it was time for her medication. I saw what they did. They took her
back to her ward. Mom said she'd be asleep for a while. Then they took the box
her family had brought and went to the office and went thru it and kept what
they wanted. I remember the one lady saying she just LOVED when they brought
her clothes because she was the same size and she couldn't afford this kind of
stuff. I was appalled.
Later on, close to the end of the shift,
my girl woke up and came back out and sat with me and we spoke quietly every
chance we got. She was so fascinated with that stupid bracelet. I saw Mom
getting her stuff together so I knew we were leaving. I explained to her that
my best friend had made that bracelet for me so she could always be with me.
Then I took it off and put it on her and told her that now SHE has a best
friend, too. She was delighted. She squeezed me so hard I almost
We left and I never knew anything more
about her. I asked Mom about her once and she told me the girl had been moved
to another ward. But I never forgot her.
So I wrote my report.
It was hard to write. Pretty heady stuff
for a 13 year old. I was trying SO HARD to understand the things I had seen and
make SOME sense out of. But I did the best I could and handed it in
Tuesday morning I step into English class
to some very COLD stares from my teacher. We hated one another to begin with
but this was NEW hate. When we were all seated he said "Class. I read your
reports last night and you all did very well, with one exception." I think I
shrunk in my seat a little. I knew what was coming. He held up my report,
announced that was MY WORK, and he stood up and ripped it into a million
pieces. He announced to the class that it was "Utter bullshit. We don't treat
people like this anymore and I made it all up and for that, I get an F for the
assignment." I protested, telling him I had spent the weekend there with my Mom
and if he didn't believe me he could call her. He said "I'm not calling your
mother. This is bullshit and I refuse to deal with it. Don't EVER turn in
something like this to me again unless it's MEANT to be fiction." So I got an
My mother didn't care, she had her
Valium. Oh, and that teacher worked only that ONE year at Peotone High because
he frequently spoke to us that way. He got busted when one of the kids turned
on the intercom before he came into class so when he started his tirade it was
broadcast in the office.
My mother continued to work there until
late 1975. My father bought a house in southern Illinois and moved us there and NOW I
understand that it was to get her away from that place and all the drugs she
eating like Tic-Tacs. I remember those first few months in the new house when
she was always on edge, very withdrawn, not like herself. As an adult I would
have to think that WITHDRAWAL is probably the proper word for it.
I remember when I was little and we used
to go get her paycheck and the place was surrounded by high fence. One day Mom
said they were taking it down, claiming that a "caged atmosphere" wasn't
inductive to any of them getting any better. Yeah, that's it........it was the
I moved back to Manteno alone in 1977
when I graduated high school.
After the fence came down of course the
patients came out. Just a short walk thru a cornfield and you're in town, where
some would wander aimlessly with drugged amazement thru the drugstore and some
would go straight to the bars, particularly the R&W, which was sitting right
there looking at them as they approached town.
My Dad liked to drink and he liked the
R&W and there were MANY times someone would come in and go down the bar
whispering to everyone "Give me a drive to Chicago and I"ll give ya $50".
Someone would call Security and they would come and get them and tote them back
but I imagine a decent share of them managed to make their way out.
Then there were the ones who walked out
and never made it to town. My Dad was buddies with the guy who used to own that
cornfield they had to walk thru to get to town. Every year he would harvest his
corn and every year he would find one or two bodies of the confused ones who got
into that large field and got disoriented. I remember him telling Dad one day
"I'm selling my farm. I'm sick of the bodies every year." He sold his farm and
equipment and retired.
I lived there for 3 years, until late
1980. There was a lot of controversy over that place and it's futu derly and
childlike by now. There was a "Half-Way House" sort of place behind Main Street where
many of the men lived in rooms with 4 or 5 beds and some of them found menial
There was one lady that EVERYONE knew.
Her name was Shirley but most people called her Squirrely Shirley. Ask anyone
in Manteno and they know who she is. As recently as 2 years ago Mom said Shirley
is still walking around town, pushing her little shopping cart, saying hi to
everyone, always smiling. She must be old as the hills by now but it would
appear that she fared better than most of them.
The re wasn't looking good so they
decided to let some of the harmless ones out. They were el sights and smells of
that place will never leave me. As an adult I realize that was a pretty
traumatic experience for a stupid little 13 yr old farm kid and I ponder my
mother's "wisdom" (ahem) in taking me there. It was no big deal to her. She
didn't see it like other people did. She saw nothing wrong with it.
I can't remember the name of the ward she
worked on but it seems it was closer to the back and somewhat to the middle of
the grounds. And it WAS a male/female ward, that I remember for sure.
So that's about all I know.
I don't know how much it could help but
there it is.
Use it as you choose, as long as I remain anonymous.