Described by many experienced paranormal teams as the “most active location on the east coast” – a night at St Albans Sanatorium is not for the weak or squeamish! Long before the St Albans Lutheran Boys School came into existence in 1892; members of the Powhatan, Shawnee and Cherokee Indian tribes inhabited this land. The Draper’s Meadow Massacre in 1775 tells the story of the horrors faced by early pioneers and of Mary Draper Ingles journey home after her capture by the Shawnees.
The Civil War also had its share of violence on this hill overlooking the New River. In 1865 Union forces defeated Confederate forces during the battles of Newbern and Cloyd’s Mountain. Union artillery bombarded the settlement of Central Depot (now the city of Radford) from the ridge where St Albans stands today.
As magnificent as the St Albans Boys School was it had its share of darkness. An article describing the school sums up some of the horror that plagued the intellectual students; “The atmosphere at the school was rough and competitive. It clearly favored the stronger boys (or bullies as we would say today) and made short work of the more cerebral types like one E. Blackburn Runyon, whose painful experience at the school was poignantly summed up by a yearbook editor in 1904: “E. Blackburn Runyon did not return after Christmas, much to our sorrow, as it put a stop to the football games on the terrace in which he figured prominently as the football.”” Though no official records indicate that students lost their lives (by suicide or by homicide) it is rumored that several lives were lost during the time that St Albans was a boy’s school.
In 1916 Dr. J.C. King converted St Albans from a boy’s school to a hospital for the mentally ill and St Albans Sanatorium came into existence. Even though the treatment of mental disorders at St Albans was far superior to the care given to “lunatics” at other facilities, many patients succumbed as a result of the experimental treatments performed at this institution. Insulin Coma Therapy (ICT), Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Hydro Shock Therapy (HST) all resulted in a significant number of fatalities. There are several documented suicides. This obituary from the Southwest Times chronicles one such lost soul “Mrs. Susan Jane Sayers, wife of W.B. Sayers, died Saturday night at the St. Albans Sanatorium, Radford, where she had been under treatment. Her condition had been extremis for some days and the end not unexpected, it being realized there was no hope.”
On June 28, 1980 the heinous murder of Gina Renee Hall was committed not far from St Albans and her blood stained car was found only a few hundred yards away on Hazel Hollow Road. Often when paranormal investigations are conducted in the basement, and in particular the bowling alley, a strange and almost sentient mist is seen in conjunction with the mention of her name.
For nearly a decade paranormal groups have investigated St Albans and the reports of full bodied apparitions, shadow figures, levitating objects, disembodied (often threatening) voices and physical contact are just some of the documented occurrences. A “ghost hunt” at St Albans Sanatorium is much more than an occasional slamming door, benign EVPs, blinking flashlights or rolling balls. It promises to be an evening complete with anticipation, excitement and fear!