The Haunting of the Ladd School

The Ladd School – Washington County, Exeter, Rhode Island

Photograph ©

Exeter, Rhode Island

Built on more than four hundred acres of farmland, the Ladd School opened its doors as a mental rehabilitation hospital in 1907. In the beginning the building was quite empty; only caring for eight patients after it had been open for two years.

By the year 1915 the population had expanded to some one hundred + patients. However, by 1923, they had more than three hundred patients and they were considered over crowded.

More buildings were later added and the patients kept rolling in. By 1950 the population reached nearly one thousand. At this point they were over crowded again and on top of that they were ill equipped to take care of their ever-growing populace. In fact, the school had no dental care, no morgue, no recreational facilities, no chapel and no “functional” hospital apparatus! Also, there was only ONE certified doctor on the staff; Dr. Joseph H. Ladd. The remainder of the staff was either uncertified to care for the patients or they had little training.

In 1956, Dr. Ladd gave up on the school and retired and Dr. John G. Smith took control of the facility. Two years after that an investigation was launched due to numerous allegations of patient abuse and neglect. The inquiry into the schools conduct and facilities showed that allegations were true, to a terrifying degree.

Due to the overcrowding factor, it was found that patients slept head to feet, side-by-side, on cots that were placed only nine inches apart. Many patients had been beaten routinely due to disruptive behavior. Many of the patients’ rooms were not equipped with a sink and toilet. The entire facility was infested with vermin; including the kitchen and dining areas. Patients were given incorrect prescriptions, wrong dosages and medications administered by unqualified personnel, causing many deaths.

One female patient was impregnated twice but it is unclear whether or not it was caused by another resident or hospital staff. A nine-year-old boy was found asphyxiated in one of the shower stalls after someone had stuffed him into a laundry sack. An elderly man died after being shoved down a stair well by another patient.

In 1983, after a lawsuit was brought against the state of Rhode Island and the Ladd School, Dr. George Gunther was brought in. Dr. Gunther tried his best to straighten out the mess, moving patients, demolishing old buildings but his efforts were lost when the Governor of Rhode Island decided to have the school shut down in 1993.

Today, locals and curious trespassers swear that the place is haunted. Many have reported hearing moaning, phantom footsteps or shuffling and crying throughout the main building and other surrounding buildings. Many have also claimed to hear disembodied voices murmuring, whispering or crying out. Doors have been seen opening or closing without explanation; these same doors also seem to lock at times even if there is no lock on the door itself. Also heard in patients’ former rooms is an eerie growling sound when no animals are present. Some visitors here have also claimed they were touched, shoved or they’ve had items knocked out of their hands by some unseen force.

Outside of the facility, visitors have claimed to see human-shaped shadows moving across the field and into the woods. Voices have been heard out there as well and many have photographed glowing orbs. Also, car radios are said to go haywire or stop working all together and a few people have claimed that their car alarms or horns have gone off for no reason.

All in all, the Ladd School was a living nightmare for its many patients. It is no wonder that many of these residents still roam the halls even after their death. Unfortunately, these poor restless souls will probably always remain here; wandering the desolate halls alone and crying out for help that will never come.