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Psycho ghosts

18/11/2005. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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The Haunted Film captures unusual images at abandoned psychiatric hospital in the US's Buffalo.

From the outside, the old Buffalo Psychiatric Hospital calls to mind every creepy horror-film mental hospital. Also called the H.H. Richardson Building, the hospital sits decaying on the Buffalo State University campus. Rumors of strange lights, noises and ghostly figures in the windows have persisted since the building was abandoned in 1974. Could the rumors be true?

Eight years ago, an amateur photographer entered the Buffalo Psychiatric Hospital to document the building's crumbling 100-year-old architecture, only to abandon the project almost immediately. His footage was later turned over to the Friends of Endangered History (FOEH,, who noted chilling anomalies throughout his work.

Designed by celebrated American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the Richardson building was originally intended to be a place of healing for patients suffering from mental illness. It seemed to be just that until the 1920s, when the hospital began to be plagued with reports of patient abuse. Conditions worsened until the hospital's abrupt shutdown.

Now hundreds of photos of the hospital are on display at Most are somewhat grainy and dark, but it is easy to see the interior of the Richardson Building is even spookier than its imposing exterior. Wheelchairs lie in disrepair throughout the halls, plaster and paint have crumbled from nearly every surface, and rusted old machines hint at the building's brutal past, when as recently as the early 1970s patients were allegedly tortured, starved, isolated and given electroshock therapy.

But some of the photos seem to have captured something else entirely. The image of an empty, darkened elevator shaft includes spots that look like lens flare, though there is no source of light other than the camera's flash; they could be dust, but in the photo of a graffiti-covered hallway, they appear in different positions entirely. And one photo of a staircase seems to show the outline of a cloaked figure standing in front of a curtain.

If the photos pique the viewer's curiosity, The Haunted Film itself, which costs just $1.99 to download, is more ominous. The photographer seems to be unaware of anything unusual as translucent shapes move past blackened doorways and dirty windows around him.

"I don't know how to explain what we found on the film," said FOEH founder Damien Failla. "We originally planned to make it into a documentary about the architecture of the building, but as we examined the film we found these unusual scenes. We showed them to some local video experts and they couldn't explain the anomalies either."

At that point the scope of the FOEH project changed, and was born. A portion of the proceeds from the site will support FOEH's work documenting historically significant architecture in western New York.

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