Florida is a popular tourist destination due to its scenic beaches, theme parks, and natural landscapes, but beneath its sunny exterior lies a darker side. The state is home to several abandoned sites that are now in a state of decay and are known for their spooky histories. One such place is the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital, a former psychiatric institution located on the Carlstrom military airfield premises. This unsettling relic is a reminder of its grim past and the horrors that once took place within its walls.
The History of Carlstrom Field
The G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital has a disturbing past that dates back to its origins as Carlstrom military airfield. The airfield was founded in 1917, located just south of Arcadia, in response to the United States’ involvement in World War I. It was primarily used as an advanced school for pursuit pilots, providing a six-week course that could accommodate up to 400 students. Following the conclusion of World War I in November 1918, the airfield’s activities gradually decreased and eventually led to its closure in 1926.
In March 1941, the Riddle Aeronautical Institute took over the operation of Carlstrom Field due to the high demand for primary pilot training during World War II. Under their operation, the 53d Flying Training Detachment was activated and led by Brigadier-General Junius Wallace Jones. Interestingly, Jones had learned how to fly at Carlstrom himself.
Carlstrom Field, built alongside remnants of World War I-era structures, boasts of unique architecture. The buildings are grouped within a circular road, while the southern perimeter is encircled by five hangars. Interestingly, the flying operations are carried out from a vast 1-square-mile grass field, as no paved runway was ever built.
After World War II had ended, Carlstrom Field stopped its operations and was later transformed into the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital in 1947.
The Horror of G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital
George Pierce Wood Sr., a former Florida House of Representatives Speaker and a staunch supporter of mental health, was the namesake of the hospital. Despite this, mental health advocates claimed that the hospital did not provide adequate care. The hospital was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in the mid-1990s, following reports of abuse that included resident deaths, sexual assaults, and beatings.
Back in 1995, Governor Lawton Chiles received a letter from the U.S. Justice Department that shed light on the disturbing reality of the facility. The letter detailed nine deaths that had occurred there, each one more tragic than the last. One of the cases involved a man who was suffering from delusions and amnesia. He managed to flee the facility, which lacked proper fencing, only to be found dead a month later near a tree that was a mile away. Another patient, who also fled, ended up taking their own life in a nearby orange grove. These incidents serve as a harsh reminder of the dire consequences that can arise when proper care and security measures are not in place.
In a heartbreaking incident, a woman who had fled was hit by a car and lost her life on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. What makes this even more alarming is that some patients, who were supposed to be on a soft food diet, choked to death on solid food. Sadly, these were not isolated incidents, and as a result, the state closed down the facility within six years primarily due to financial reasons. As a result, around 300 patients had to be relocated to other state-run mental institutions and community treatment programs.
The Eeriness of G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital Today
As of today, the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital stands alone, abandoned, and forlorn. The once vibrant and functional buildings are now covered in graffiti, with broken windows and peeling paint, and surrounded by overgrown vegetation and ominous barbed wire fences. The remnants of the past can still be seen in certain rooms, with old furniture, medical equipment, and the personal belongings of former patients and staff strewn about. Of particular note is the hospital’s seventh floor, which used to house a psychiatric ward that included a receiving unit for Baker Act patients. These patients were subjected to involuntary examination and treatment under Florida law due to mental health concerns.
For many years now, brave urban explorers and those fascinated by the paranormal have dared to enter the hospital’s premises. They have reported experiencing eerie occurrences, such as unidentifiable sounds, ghostly whispers, and even sightings of apparitions. There are those who firmly believe that the hospital is indeed haunted, with the spirits of those who suffered and died within its walls still wandering its corridors. Alternatively, some believe that the hospital is a place where malevolence thrives, and darkness looms.
Florida’s G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital is a site shrouded in mystery and dark history. Its rundown appearance and disturbing past are constant reminders of the injustices that have plagued the mental health system, leading to tragic outcomes for many. The hospital’s walls hold untold stories that continue to intrigue visitors to this day. Regardless of one’s beliefs in the supernatural, there’s an undeniable chill that overtakes anyone who sets foot in this eerie, abandoned institution.