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Hudson River State Hospital Data

Hudson River State Hospital “Building 51” courtesy Tabula Rasa

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S-I’s HRSH Data Page:


Hudson River State Hospital Timeline

1866: Organizational establishment; board of managers assembled.

1867: 296-acre tract in Poughkeepsie secured as build site in the Hudson Valley. Dr. J. M. Cleaveland selected as first medical superintendent of HRSH. Board of managers selects Frederick Clarke Withers as architect. Calvert Vaux & Frederick Law Olmstead selected to design the grounds and landscape. Main building construction started. Dock and wharf constructed.

1871: Main building, laundry & tailor shop completed. HRSH opens its doors; first 7 patients admitted.

1873: Public concern & criticism over HRSH build costs.

1876: Fourth hospital building completed.

1880: Main building group completed.

1886: HRSH School of Nursing founded.

1889: Central Group (Blocks A, B, C, D) and Edgewood buildings opened.

1891: HRSH initiates uniform policy for attendants.

1892: Eight patient cottages built. Campus now referred to as “hospital” and not “asylum.”

1893: Carpenter Shop built. Investigation into HRSH financial affairs by State Commission in Lunacy finds institution “grossly mismanaged.” Dr. Cleaveland resigns; Dr. Pilgrim becomes second superintendent of HRSH.

1894: HRSH begins annual “Field Day” event.

1895: HRSH gets electric lighting.

1896: HRSH mortuary & laboratory completed.

1897: Greenhouses & Staff cottages added to HRSH.

1898: North wing opened.

1899: Railroad line from Poughkeepsie to HRSH opened.

1900: Tenant homes constructed. HRSH’s Dr. Pilgrim achieves national acclaim for “Hour of Death” study.

1904: Superintendent house & Staff House #13 built. HRSH employees form a union.

1905: Amusement Hall built.

1906: Ziegler house remodeled as HRSH staff house. HRSH kitchen gets first “chemical refrigerator.” Sunrooms added to cottages 4 & 5. Blacksmith & garages built. Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Chapel opened.

1908: New $100,000 80-bed acute hospital (“psychopathic building”) under construction. Inwood Hall opened. Dr. Pilgrim’s tub therapy (“Live for weeks in the bathtub”) makes national headlines.

1910: HRSH patient library opened.

1914: Farming operations begin at HRSH. Scarlet fever sweeps the hospital, which shifts to use of pasteurized milk.

1916: Dr. Charles W. Pilgrim leaves HRSH to become chairman of state hospital commission

1917: Dr. Walter G. Ryon becomes 3rd superintendent of HRSH.

1918: HRSH 25% overcrowded and serves as Medical Advisory Board draft examination point for World War I.

1920: 105 acres added to HRSH bringing total size to 894 acres. Patient shelter pavilion opened.

1923: HRSH opens new $75,000 tuberculosis hospital.

1924: Cottage 4 renovated and re-opened as Cleaveland Home.

1926: Dr. Clarence O. Cheney becomes 4th superintendent of HRSH. Avery Protestant Chapel & another staff residence with garage built.

1929: Brookside infirmary & Avery Home opened. Staff apartments #2 and #3 and staff cottage #2 opened. Power house and machine shop built. HRSH 20% overcrowded.

1930: Auto repair shop opens at HRSH.

1932: Ryon Hall opened. Pilgrim Home & Poucher Homes opened. 5-family staff building #4 opened. Dr. Ralph P. Folsom becomes 5th superintendent of HRSH.

1938: HRSH begins practicing insulin therapy.

1941: Dr. John R. Ross becomes 6th superintendent of HRSH.

1945: Dr. Ross fires four attendants after “Ryon Hall Incident,” sparked to attention by Eleanor Roosevelt column.

1948: HRSH opens new food service training school. Refrigerating plant opened. Dr. Ross resigns; Dr. Wirt C. Groom becomes 7th superintendent of HRSH.

1950: Dr. O. Arnold Kilpatrick becomes 8th superintendent of HRSH.

1952: HRSH opens the $8M+, 960-bed Dr. Clarence O. Cheney Memorial Building. Unions clash with HRSH management over patients performing maintenance & road upgrades.

1954: HRSH opens Ross pavilion to serve psychiatric patients with tuberculosis. HRSH kicks off NBC’s “March of Medicine” mini-series, which featured tours of mental institutions.

1955: HRSH reaches peak patient population of 6,000.

1956: HRSH opens day hospital treatment center for outpatients.

1957: Dr. Robert C. Hunt becomes 9th superintendent of HRSH. Lobotomies & insulin therapies discontinued.

1958: HRSH opens third intensive treatment unit for geriatric patients. “Search for Sanity” film which features care & treatments at HRSH airs to the public.

1959: HRSH begins experimenting with outpatient pre-hospital care & treating psychoses without hospitalization.

1960: 90% of HRSH wards “unlocked.” Farm operations at HRSH terminated.

1961: HRSH opened Hillcrest Academy children’s school on upper campus in newly-renovated older building.

1962: Dr. Herman B. Snow becomes 10th superintendent of HRSH. Hospital loses accreditation due to use of foreign doctors. Food services training school re-opened with $200k Federal grant.

1965: HRSH receives accreditation again.

1969: $2.9M contract awarded to build new rehabilitation center at HRSH. Local communities push back against outpatient HRSH halfway home program.

1971: 67,000 square-foot Rehabilitation Center opened (later re-dedicated as Herman B. Snow Building).

1972: Civil Service Employees strike and walk off their jobs. HRSH re-opens Kingston Halfway House. HRSH offers vocational training program through Dutchess College. HRSH now entitled to accept Medicare benefits after being approved by Social Security Administration as a medical-surgical hospital.

1973: HRSH deeds 33 acres, currently used by the hospital as a landfill, back to Dutchess County.

1974: HRSH School of Nursing accepts final incoming class. HRSH begins organizational metamorphosis into HRPC.

1975: North and South wings of Main building (Building 51) empty.

1977: HRPC accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. School of Nursing closes after 91 years; final graduating class: 1,062.

1978: Hillcrest School closed.

1979: North and South wings of Main building officially closed. HRPC supervisors begin sending requests to OMH to consider demolition of Building 51.

1982: HRSH Historical Museum established in former patient library.

1987: Historic Preservation and OMH clash over plan to demolish Building 51 North & South wings. Flooring in the South Wing collapses. Contractors refuse to work in the buildings.

1988: Another section of flooring in South Wing collapses, this time shearing a steam main. Following the 1987 death of Dr. Snow, the 1971 Rehabilitation Center is re-dedicated as the Herman B. Snow Rehabilitation Center. 250 visitors gathered and planted a time capsule. OGS investigates costs to mothball Building 51.

1989: OGS returns estimate of $2.9M to stabilize Building 51. Central admin section of main Kirkbride building (Building 51) added to National Historic Landmark registry. Roof ripped off section of Building 51, HRPC spends $45,000 to repair.

1990: Environmental impact consultants inspect Building 51 and prepare a report. Plant superintendent asks for $60,000 to board up windows of Building 51 with plywood.

1994: Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center consolidated into HRSH/HRPC.

1997: State of N.Y. begins quietly marketing HRSH/HRPC property.

1998: Developers look at Cheney Memorial Building as a potential rental apartment complex. Hudson Heritage, LLC, is formed for the purpose of purchasing & redeveloping the lower campus.

2000: Hudson Heritage signs contract with state of NY to acquire the land for $1.9 million. Cheney Memorial Building is abandoned.

2001: HRSH/HRPC lower campus closes, remaining patients moved to Ross Pavilion at upper campus.

2002: Alliance House crisis residence opened. Last of admin functions vacated from main building.

2004: HRSH Historical Museum re-located to 2nd floor of Cleaveland Home.

2005: Sale of lower campus finally closes – 156 acres of HRSH/HRPC sold to Hudson Heritage, LLC, for $2.75M. HH applies for re-zoning licenses. Town of Poughkeepsie installs building moratorium.

2007: Major fire burns most of South wing. Entire roof is destroyed, exposing wards.

2008: Floors of exposed South wing are completely collapsed. HH sells its interest in the property to Community Preservation Corporation (CPC).

2011: $10 billion budget deficit forces OMH to finally close HRPC.

2012: HRPC officially closes. The last 150 patients from HRPC are moved to Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg. HRSH Historical Museum also closes and looks for a new home. CPC’s plans to redevelop the campus grind to halt, property re-listed for sale by CPC for $14M. Main Kirkbride (Building 51) National Historic Landmark designation plaque stolen.

2013: HRSH/HRPC property sold to partnership of EnviroFinance Group (EFG) and Diversified Realty Advisors (DRA) for $14 million.

2014: The Alliance, Clearwater, Highview, and Hillcrest Homes continue to serve Hudson Valley as crisis and halfway homes.

2015: EFG & DRA announce $200M plan to develop site, $14 million bill for demolition of 59 structures. Fire destroys Brookside Infirmary’s roof; exposed floors begin to collapse.

(Sources for event data in main article)

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Hudson River State Hospital Record of Fires

courtesy asylumprojects.org

Fires have plagued the HRSH throughout its history. In October of 1891 a defective flue was the cause for a fire in the attic of the administration building. In May of 1898 a fire broke out in the drying room of the laundry facilities. In July of 1921 a HRSH pumping station caught fire, which later spread to the firefighters living quarters. In October of 1922 painters at work on the buildings accidentally ignited them with a blowtorch.

In September of 1936 a fire destroyed a patient ward and caused $10,000 in damage while displacing 43 patients. Six months later, another fire broke out, this time in the women employees’ quarters on the fourth floor of the main building. That forced the evacuation of 250 patients, and after three hours of burning it caused $15,000 in damages.

Hudson River State Hospital Fire Department Helmet
courtesy Robert Rightmyer

In December of 1946 a woman was arrested for arson in connection with a fire at the HRSH bus station.

In February of 1958, 250 patients and employees had to be evacuated when a fire broke out and caused extensive damage to the South wing of the HRSH. It took thirty firemen two and a half hours to put out the blaze. On November 11th, 1959, two fires were set at the HRSH which caused heavy damage to a chicken house, a large barn, and storage bin.

In May of 1962 a fire with suspicious origins swept through the basement of the Lakeview Building (formerly the TB hospital) at HRSH. In April of the next year a fire caused $20,000 in damage after destroying a 125-foot wing of a barn used to store bedding and other hospital items.

Fire damages Hudson River State Hospital

In February of 1966 a fire ravaged a family care home operated by the HRSH, killing four patients. A major fire destroyed a hospital wing in the 1960’s and threatened to spread to the administration building, but was halted in a connecting hallway. The section was rebuilt, although some large beams roof beams still showed evidence of the earlier fire.

In June of 1967 a fire swept through a corridor and into a ward of the Administration Building. One hundred firemen from four departments battled the flames and assisted in moving hospital patients to safety. Dr. Snow estimated the damage to be around $250,000 (pictured at above right).

Firemen save Hudson River State Hospital Chapel

Fireman saved the chapel on the HRSH grounds in October of 1969. Fire was discovered in the basement of the church, fire units from multiple companies were dispatched to the scene (pictured at left).

In January of 1976 a fire destroyed 24 vehicles at the HRPC. In December of that year 40 patients had to be evacuated when a 19 year-old set fire to his mattresses at Hillcrest School and perished in the blaze; it was the second fire he had set in three months.

On May 31, 2007, lightning struck the south wing and the ensuing fire destroyed the roof. The former male bedding ward was critically damaged beyond repair (video courtesy retom7 below).

In April of 2010 Firefighters responded to two separate fires at HRPC. On April 23rd a blaze consumed a portion of Ryon Hall. Nine hours later a bigger fire destroyed one of the former staff-houses. Both fires were suspicious; authorities believe they were deliberately set.

On July 17th, 2015, the Brookside Building caught fire. The roof was destroyed, exposing its wards to the elements and hastening its pace toward a fate like that of Building 51. In October of 2015 the Hillcrest House kitchen caught fire when cooking food was left unattended.

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Hudson River State Hospital Record of Deviance & Misfortune

Hudson River State Hospital (HRSH) was known for its adventurous, erratic, and sometimes unruly employees and patients. While there are instances of employees and patients of HRSH doing good things (such as in September of 1919 when a HRSH patient saved a Poughkeepsie citizen from drowning in the Hudson River), on most occasions there was mischief.

On some occasions the infractions were harmless or humorous, such as the time a HRSH patient posed as a consulting engineer and sent plans for an elaborate high-pressure water system to the Poughkeepsie City Mayor. The plans were actually presented at a Board of Public Works meeting. Another case: Unbeknownst to HRSH officials, one insane patient escaped the hospital every morning to work a day job as a bartender, only to return to his room at the hospital every night.

Yet another patient, posing as an attractive and wealthy female, submitted a faux romantic ad to the newspapers. For several weeks letters from all over the country flooded the local post office. When the hoax was uncovered, the man admitted he submitted the ad and “laughed heartily” as his romantic ad was read aloud by doctors (pictured below).

Hudson River State Hospital romantic ad prank

Reasons for admissions were sometimes fantastically absurd. There were many escapes without incidents, but there were far more escapes with them. Even routine discharges ended as anything but; often there was collateral damage.


In March of 1893 one patient accused HRSH attendants of breaking his ribs. In March of 1895 an insane patient was caught stealing lights from a railroad crossing after he escaped from HRSH. In October of 1895 two HRSH attendants kidnapped a Vassar student whom they assumed was an escaped patient. In March of 1897 a HRSH patient stabbed an attendant in the neck with knife.

In August of 1900 an attendant lost an eye when a patient hit him in the face with a rock. That same month another patient, concealing a firearm, unloaded five rounds at a HRSH attendant before escaping into the woods. Another HRSH escapee was apprehended in April of 1901 after he snuck over to Vassar to stare and wink at the girls. In the summer of 1903 a HRSH attendant assaulted a patient.

In April of 1904 two HRSH employees disappeared. In June of 1904 a HRSH nurse faced a lawsuit after trying to apprehend a non-patient citizen in a case of mistaken identity. In August of 1909 a 60 year-old patient wandered off the grounds and was never found. In May of 1910 a nurse at the HRSH poisoned herself in an attempted suicide.

In January of 1914 a female HRSH attendant threw red pepper in the eyes of a male attendant in a love spat. In February of 1914 an ex-patient choked a woman and stole a gun. In the fall of 1914 an attendant at HRSH was arrested for assaulting a patient. In February of 1915 a 32 year-old HRSH nurse was arrested for murder after throwing her newborn illegitimate baby in the Hudson River.

In August of 1915 a male attendant and female nurse from HRSH mysteriously went missing together. In November of 1915 a patient wrote to President Wilson telling him there were German spies near the HRSH. In December of 1915 a 27 year-old patient spent 14 hours hiding in the flue of a furnace before her moans for help were heard.

In August of 1917 an ordained Baptist minister tried to kill himself a month after being released from HRSH. The next month a former HRSH employee was committed as a patient after trying to commit suicide by drinking opium tincture. In January of 1918 a former HRSH doctor was committed to the hospital as a patient for kissing a police horse.

One young man was committed to HRSH in 1919 for annoying his neighbors by “throwing torpedoes into their homes.” In December of that year an attendant was arrested for stealing a sweater. The following year an ex-patient was re-committed after neighbors complained of his discharging a firearm “at all times of the night.”

In 1921 a woman assaulted a nurse at HRSH. Later that year an ex-patient murdered her husband three days after she was paroled from HRSH. In 1922 an escapee made it all the way to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel before being apprehended. A former five-time escapee from HRSH murdered the administrator of a different State Hospital (from which the accused reportedly escaped 25 times) in early 1929.

One patient who was released as “cured” in 1929 was missing less than a decade later. Between 1932 and 1933 a HRSH nurse contracted tuberculosis while nursing tubercular patients. In March of 1937 a former patient fatally shot his father and assaulted his mother before engaging in a gunfight with state troopers.

In a sign-of-the-times, a hospital cook was accused of being a German sympathizer in 1943 and had his citizenship revoked. In November of 1943 an escapee was questioned by police for the murder of a 19 year-old Army student nurse. In January of 1951 a former HRSH patient was wanted for questioning on charges of child molestation. In June of 1951 a 23 year-old HRSH patient stole a taxi a month after his release.

In November of 1951 a former patient was arrested for shooting at four people in his father’s house. In October of 1952 an ex-patient was wanted for questioning in the death of a woman found in a canal. In July of 1955 a 20 year-old HRSH parolee beat a person to death shortly after his release.

An ex-patient was arrested in April of 1956 for attacking two women. In May of 1957 a 23 year-old HRSH escapee stole a car. In October of the following year a 27 year-old escapee did the same before leading police on a wild chase. In January of 1959 a 40 year-old HRSH patient escaped twice in a span of several weeks. Months later a 51 year-old ex-patient of HRSH, who claimed he escaped from the hospital, was charged with 20 counts of arson.

A 17 year-old escapee was apprehended in December of 1959 after stealing a car. In August of 1960 a 27 year-old patient was arrested for assault. In October of that year a 24 year-old patient escaped, stole a rifle, and remained missing for two weeks. The following month a recently-released patient had to be re-admitted after exposing himself in public. In 1961 one man shot & killed his brother-in-law after a disagreement over whom should sign the release form for a HRSH patient.

In the spring of 1961 an ex-patient set a dairy barn on fire. In the summer of 1962 two young patients subdued an attendant, escaped from the institution, stole a car, and then killed someone in an ensuing highway crash. In 1964 an 18 year-old patient was critically injured when she leapt from the Vanderbilt Bridge. In the spring of 1965 a 21 year-old patient was arrested for burglary.

In the summer a 20 year-old HRSH escapee stole a car and crashed into three other vehicles before being apprehended. The HRSH suffered another black eye in 1965 when a police raid on the hospital resulted in the arrest of three men for illegal possession of narcotics. Four others were charged with possession of a dangerous weapon, and an eighth was charged for possession of obscene literature.

In the fall of 1965 four teenage patients escaped by wiggling through a fourth-floor window of the Cheney Building and sliding down an improvised rope of bed sheets. Once free, the group’s 17 year-old ringleader started fires before committing burglaries at knifepoint. Another HRSH patient had to be re-committed after he was caught exposing himself to teenage girls.

In the spring of 1966 a seventeen year-old escapee avoided capture for nearly a month. In 1966 police apprehended a 21 year-old HRSH escapee after a lengthy standoff and pulled a 24 year-old HRSH patient off a bridge just before she jumped. In 1967 State Police investigated the discovery of a fetus found in the sewage plant of the HRSH.

Man who chased nun is captured article Hudson River State Hospital

In 1968 one escapee was wandering the streets with a bible preaching sermons to whomever would listen. Two other escapees were apprehended by a police officer at a school bus stop after scaring children. In 1969 one HRSH escapee broke into a local residence and made himself at home. Later that year another patient was transferred to jail after chasing a nun with a knife (pictured at right).

In 1973 a HRSH attendant was arrested and charged with “custodial interference” for taking an 80-year-old patient from the hospital to a remote area in town and leaving him there. In July of 1975 two HRPC residents escaped and stole a loaded propane gas truck before flipping it on the highway a short time later. In October of 1976 an argument became heated when five inmates barricaded themselves in HRPC before setting sheets on fire.

And they liked to break glass. ‘I can’t keep up with [the patients] anymore, they put out so much glass,” said a janitor while covering a window’s cracks with duct tape. ‘‘It happens quite frequently around here.”

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Hudson River State Hospital Record of Employee & Patient Deaths

Hudson River State Hospital patient census and deaths, by year (chart data sourced from HRSH Annual Reports)

Deaths at Hudson River State Hospital were not uncommon, which is not surprising because it was a hospital. Our sample size is comparatively small, but we know the annual patient mortality rate during HRSH’s early years fluctuated between 7% and 19%. A conservative 5% mortality estimate of HRSH’s 6,000 patients in 1955 would equal 300 patient deaths in that year alone.

From 1871 until 1881 the HRSH admitted 1,671 patients, of whom 267 died. That’s a death-rate of sixteen percent across the hospital’s first ten years. Data culled from annual reports and news stories confirms a similar average in ensuing years.

Hospital deaths are not inherently suspicious, however sometimes the circumstances surrounding deaths at HRSH were mysterious, questionable, or suicide. And sometimes the patient did the killing.

Listed below are the deaths that stood out due to their circumstances or unusual reporting:

In August of 1883 a 14 year-old Sunday School student visiting the HRSH drowned in the river after being warned three times to stay away from it. In June of 1884 a convalescing inmate of HRSH cut his own throat and died within minutes. In October of 1888 a HRSH parolee dropped dead in the town post office. In February of 1889 a patient died after swallowing chewing tobacco. In August of 1891 an insane young woman died just three months after being placed at HRSH. In November of 1893 the finding of an emaciated and disfigured body of a patient opened a criminal investigation.

There were 13 patient deaths across two days at the HRSH in January of 1894. In January of 1895 the general manager of the Poughkeepsie & Eastern Railroad became “violently insane” and died after spending a week at the HRSH. In October of 1895 a HRSH patient that escaped was found floating in the Hudson River one week later. In July of 1897 one HRSH patient killed another patient in a fight. In October of 1900 a HRSH attendant beat a patient to death. In January of 1901, a 28 year-old HRSH escapee died as he fell between two cars on a moving train. In August of 1901 a 36 year-old patient died of a brain tumor. In January of 1902 a man stabbed himself in the heart and died at HRSH.

One poor man died on the train on his way to HRSH in October of 1902. In November of 1902 a HRSH attendant jumped to his death from his fourth floor window. In February of 1903 a 41 year-old HRSH patient succumbed to his mental ailment. In 1904 a 36 year-old patient committed suicide in the hospital. In July of 1905 a 34 year-old daughter of a Congressman and HRSH patient escaped with the help of the son of the hospital’s assistant superintendent, and fatally shot herself before she could be re-captured.

In November of 1905 a doctor at HRSH died from exhaustion. In January of 1908 a male patient strangled himself to death. In October of 1908 a 55 year-old patient jumped to his death from a 4th floor window after a struggle with a nurse. In March of 1910 a 49 year-old patient died from injuries suffered after being thrown from a train. In August of 1910 a 35 year-old patient died after going insane from “excessive cigarette smoking.” In January of 1911 a male patient died at the hospital with no explanation. In November of 1911 a HRSH patient died after falling off a coal railroad car on which he was escaping. In February of 1912 a female patient was found dead in her bed. In December of 1912 a HRSH parolee was killed after being hit by a car; his body was thrown into a creek to cover the crime.

1913 was deadlier-than-usual: In January a 58 year-old HRSH patient strangled herself with an apron. In July a patient smashed in the head of a HRSH attendant and killed him. In September the chief supervisor of the Inwood Group of cottages at HRSH, a 40-year veteran of the hospital, died suddenly. In early October the HRSH experienced another death. In November a HRSH attendant died of appendicitis. The next month the Head Chef was found dead in the cooler.

In the spring of 1914 a female nurse at HRSH died as a result of “blood poisoning from a cold sore on her lip.” In October of that year a 19 year-old patient mysteriously died at the HRSH and a month later a 29 year-old HRSH employee died after fighting an illness. A patient died of a “ruptured intestine” in July of 1917. In 1918 a severe epidemic of influenza and pneumonia struck the HRSH. After two HRSH attendants died of pneumonia that October, superintendent Ryon locked down the hospital. By 1919 the now-desperate HRSH experimented with an anti-pneumonia serum. Did it work? On Christmas Eve, a male nurse died of pneumonia.

In November of 1918 the son of the HRSH poultry plant manager died from pneumonia. In June of 1915 a 34 year-old patient leapt to her death from her building at HRSH. In May of 1920 a HRSH nurse died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Two months later one HRSH patient killed another patient with a shovel. In November of that year a 27 year-old worker was burned to death when a jet of steam rushed through the HRSH piping in which he was working.

knife, spoon diet fatal to actress at Hudson River State Hospital article

In December of 1920 a 27 year-old HRSH patient and former actress died after surgery because she ate two knives and three spoons (pictured at left).

In early 1921 a woman training as a nurse at HRSH died after contracting the influenza from a patient. In May of 1925 two patients drowned themselves in the Hudson River as part of a suicide pact.

During a bad heatwave in July of 1926, a 35 year-old patient died from heat exhaustion. The next summer a hospital employee reportedly beat a 58 year-old patient to death in a washroom. In November of 1934 two men working on HRSH died in a 40-foot plunge when their supporting scaffolding gave way.

In October of 1944 a 72 year-old patient was killed after being struck in the head by another patient. In December of 1945 a 13 year-old patient was killed by two hospital attendants. In March of 1946 HRSH’s 45 year-old supervising psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Wolfson, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. In April of 1946 the body of a 58 year-old patient was found floating in the Hudson River after he had been missing for two months.

four die in crash at Hudson River State Hospital article

Tragedy struck the staff of HRSH in May of 1947 when four employees were killed in a crash near the entrance to the hospital (pictured). The four victims, aged 18, 23, 24, and 26, were on their way to work the night shift at the hospital but all died from injuries when their car struck a tree shortly before midnight. In July of 1947 an 82 year-old patient died after being kicked in the chest by another patient. Three months later a 56 year-old patient died after her eyes were gouged out by another patient. In May of 1946 a male patient drowned in a water trough on the hospital’s farm. In April of 1950 a 32 year-old patient died after being assaulted by another patient.

One female patient sued the hospital for $52,147 in 1951 after being struck by another patient and breaking her hip in the fall. She was eventually awarded $11,897, but she died before the case concluded. A 51 year-old patient died in June of 1951 after attempting to leap onto a departing laundry truck. In March of 1952 a 42 year-old patient burned to death while “smoking in a washroom with other patients when his clothing caught fire.” In May of 1953 a 42 year-old patient hung himself after spending 13 years at HRSH.

In January of 1954 a 60 year-old former HRSH patient was found hanging in his garage. Another suicide occurred in April of that year when a former patient took his own life with a blast from a shotgun. In May of 1954 the body of a 38 year-old HRSH escapee was found crushed to death in a railroad freight car. In October of 1957 a 66 year-old ex-patient was found burned to death on the banks of the river six months after her release. In November of 1957, a missing 74 year-old patient was found floating in the Hudson River, two weeks after he disappeared. In February of 1961 a 57 year-old patient walking along Route 9 died after being struck by a car. In November of that year a 73 year-old female patient was found floating in the Hudson River. In June of 1962 the body of a 74 year-old male patient was also pulled from the Hudson River.

Hudson River State Hospital patient death card
courtesy Tabula Rasa

A female patient was found dead on the hospital grounds in January of 1963 after she had been missing for more than a week. In the fall of 1964 another female patient was raped. In June of 1965 the body of a 19 year-old patient was found in a pond on the hospital grounds. The badly decomposed body of one HRSH patient was found in a wooded area on campus in August of 1966. In May of 1969 a patient was found hanging in a tree. Months later another unidentified body was discovered just off the grounds of the Hudson River State Hospital. In May of 1970 the body of a 47 year-old patient was found on the bank of the Hudson River just days after she was released from the hospital.

1971 was a particularly bloody year for the HRSH after patients killed three civilians. In March 27 year-old hospital attendant Robert Cullen was killed after a patient hit him on the head with a board. In July a son receiving outpatient treatment at HRSH shot his father. In November of 1971 a 36 year-old woman shot and killed a police officer who was attempting to take her to the Hudson River State Hospital.

Seventy two year-old HRSH runaway Helen Short leapt to her death from the Mid-Hudson Bridge in 1972. In October of 1975 45 year-old Peter Gernat, a 17-year resident of the facility, was found dead with massive skull fractures at the base of a four-story fire escape (add photo of article, source to link). In December of 1976 a 19 year-old patient died in a fire he started at the Hillcrest School.

And sometimes, the Hudson River State Hospital employees did the killing.

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