Saturday, October 24, 2009

Urban Exploration near Bowie

Legend has it that an asylum for the criminally insane once operated on the grounds of the shuttered Glenn Dale Hospital near Bowie. A different story claims that the buildings on the hospital grounds are "sick" with tuberculosis, and anyone entering these buildings may catch the disease. Yet another rumor claims that experiments on patients at the hospital resulted in the creation of a creature with a human body and the head of a goat - the legendary Goat Man that roams the woods near Bowie. These are all tales that can be found on the Internet, seen on the pages of Weird Maryland and heard in conversations with Prince George's County locals.

The truth is that the 23 building campus was originally built to treat tuberculosis patients, and after a cure for tuberculosis was discovered, the facility was used as a nursing home for the poor. The presence of large amounts of asbestos finally forced the closure of the hospital in the early 1980s, and the buildings on the property have been abandoned since that time. Some police training took place on the grounds of the hospital, but the majority of visitors to the site since the closure are young party goers, urban explorers and ghost hunters.

This building is known as the adult hospital building. Although it was not the first building to be erected on the 216 acre site, it is referred to by many as the main building. The adult hospital building appears to be the most explored, most photographed and most vandalized. Points of interest in this building include patient rooms, a theater, a morgue and basement tunnels connecting this building to other structures on the campus. Urban explorers report that the tunnels are partially flooded with water, and they are not suitable for exploration.

Here is a closer look at the adult hospital building. Lots of fresh air was considered essential to the treatment of tuberculosis patients, and that therapy was taken into consideration when the hospital was designed. The top of the building contains an open air walkway that can be seen at the top of the picture. Patients also had access to a large balcony from their rooms on the second floor, and the balcony railings can be seen in the picture above. Urban explorers that are familiar with this site know to keep away from these open areas to avoid detection.

The Washington Post Magazine published an emotional story a few years back about one family's struggle with the forced hospitalization of a loved one at Glenn Dale Hospital in the 1950s. Etta Young spent 114 days living in a room on the second floor of the adult hospital building, and she spent countless hours in the fresh air of the balcony. The physical and emotional scars from her time at Glenn Dale Hospital stayed with her for a lifetime.

Ivy grows through a first floor window at the adult hospital building. A second floor balcony railing is visible above the window.

This is the end of the semi- circular drive in front of the adult hospital building.

The sidewalk and steps that once led to the front door of the adult hospital building are blocked by vegetation.

Whether you consider yourself an urban explorer or a fun loving party animal, the Park Police consider you a trespasser. This police substation is located directly in front of the adult hospital building, and some reports claim that an officer or two actually live here. I took all of my pictures from the edge of Glenn Dale Road - from the legal side of the "No Trespassing" signs.

Nice doggie! Nice doggie.

The Glenn Dale, Maryland site was chosen for the hospital because of its remote location and abundant country air. Most of the property still contains undeveloped open space, including this spot to the South of the adult hospital building. I doubt many people these days would consider this location remote.

The first buildings to open at Glenn Dale Hospital in 1934 supported the treatment of children suffering from tuberculosis. Nurses working with the children were housed in the building pictured above. This structure is located about 30 feet from the edge of Glenn Dale Road - directly across from the Park Police substation.

Here is a closer look in one of the windows in the nurses' quarters. Electrical wires hang from above, and plaster and concrete are missing from the ceiling. These buildings are falling apart.

A slate roof covers the nurses' quarters. Some of the tiles have come loose and have smashed on the ground below. The adult hospital building and other structures have slate roofs too.

An open walkway connects two buildings that housed the nurses.

The water tower and incinerator.

View Larger Map

A bird's eye view of the Glenn Dale Hospital site. The adult hospital building is in the Northwest corner, and the children's hospital building is in the Southwest corner.

There is no shortage of people that have explored the insides of the Glenn Dale Hospital buildings. The Opacity Web site contains a terrific collection of pictures of Glenn Dale Hospital and other abandon sites throughout the world. I also found this informative site containing maps, pictures and some history of the hospital. My wife came across a YouTube video featuring our next door neighbor and his friends exploring the adult hospital building. The video is somewhat interesting, but you have to put up with teenage boys being teenage boys for six minutes.

The Bowie Baysox and Tulip Gulch Productions are hosting a haunted house each Saturday and Sunday in October for people 14 and older (click here for details). This year's show is called Glenn Dale Asylum Haunted House. The following promotional video contains some of the pictures from the Opacity slide show.

The future of the Glenn Dale Hospital site is still unknown. The Prince George's County Council is in the process of updating the master plan for the Lanham, Seabrook and Glenn Dale areas, and the Gazette reports that residents would like the county to do something with the site. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is in the process of nominating the Glenn Dale Hospital site for placement on the National Register of Historic Places to ensure that the open space be preserved. Current Maryland legislation restricts the use of the land as follows.

Maryland House Bill 113 restricts M-NCPPC’s use of the Glenn Dale Hospital site, requiring that 150 acres be kept as open space in perpetuity and the remaining 60 acres be sold or leased to a developer of a continuing care retirement community.


  1. That is really interesting. I always enjoy reading about the history of old buildings. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Absolutely fascinating post, thanks very much. I love this sort of thing and while pictures are awesome, it's really helpful to get the history of the site too. Pretty creepy that the morgue is actually still inside the building... wonder if there's anything in it? There's an old hospital in the UK that was recently converted into apartments and apparently the morgue is one of them (but they had to notify potential buyers first of course!!). Hopefully this building will be saved, although if the historic buildings register is anything to go by, that doesn't necessarily mean it will actually be renovated.

  3. Cyndy and Tom, thanks for taking the time to read the post. There are actually two morgues - one in the adult building and one in the children's building. You can see pictures if you follow the Opacity slide show link. Those pics must have been taken several years ago, because I've seen other pictures on other sites that show more vandalism and decay. I believe this hospital is a frequently visited site - perhaps more so during Halloween week.

    Tom, I saw your post on Detroit. Not sure if you have ever seen these Flicker photos from Detroit from a photographer and blogger going by the name Sweet Juniper. The Detroit Public Schools Book Depository is an interesting set. Sweet Juniper's blog is here.

  4. Nice post - tuberculosis pictures ..Keep Posting

    tuberculosis pictures

  5. i am sorry i am not trying to intrude or be rude but the more you advertise the more people go into the buildings. i work for the government and i was required to do an inspection of all of the buildings and there not in good shape. the adult hospital left wing wis leaning 27.6 degrees to the right and any high wind or jult such as people running down the hall way could cause some beams to break or come loose and cause a chain reaction to bring the whole building down. there is excessive rott and mold along with lead paint filling the air. it will etimate a little over 200 million to rennovate the whole campus

  6. Anonymous, Good point. Consider readers of this blog warned.

    I was attempting to provide a brief overview of why Glenn Dale Hospital was built, the history, the present and the future - not just the bits about people exploring the buildings, although the trespassers are part of the present and most recent history of the property.

    The current conditions of the buildings and the potential danger to trespassers would be a great addition to this post. If you're willing to point me to that information or someone who can provide it to me, I would be most grateful.


  7. During the 60s and 70s, Glenn Dale was an institution for people with mental retardation. My family spent many Saturdays at Glenn Dale -- we'd load the car with toys and go around playing with the children whose families had essentially abandoned them there.

    I actually have many fond memories of that place, setting aside the fact that it was little more than a prison for the kids who lived there.


  9. I cant stand teenagers who vandalize stuff just to ruin it. I would love to just walk around and explore the historic buildings simply for the experience. Why exactly do police patrol the grounds? Just to preserve it and protect it from vandalization? Or just to catch trespassers because its state or government owned?

  10. Anonymous, I assume it is because the buildings are dangerous to explore at this point. They are literally falling apart, and the asbestos doesn't help. I don't think it's to protect it from vandalism as the buildings are probably beyond repair at this point.

  11. I am new to this area and stumbled upon the hospital complex by accident while house hunting. Not knowing anything about the area or the hospital I hope might lend some credibility to my opinion that this whole area is crawling with paranormal/supernatural activity. We didn't know where we were...never heard a thing about it...were totally surprised to see these buidings in the middle of the green woods, yet we could feel something and it told us to turn around "NOW!" Since then 2 of us have been having nightmares. Just had to look it up to find out what it was and to give my opinion that the buildings should be torn down and a park should take their place.

  12. My Dad was admitted to Glenn Dale Hosp in 1942 with TB. He had contracted it in Nicaragua while serving in the USMC. Unfortunately back then no one knew that much about it and he had it really bad before he was diagnosed. Unfortunately, they didn't know when I was born and I contracted the disease from him before he was diagnosed. I was 3 months old at the time. He spent 5 years there and the earliest I really know where I was and why we were there was when I was about 4. We would go out as often as we could and they would let him come out on that little porch with a ramp and railing in a wheel chair and I got to sit on his lap. The halls of the hospital scared me to death and still have bad dreams about them. The smell inside, couldn't tell you what it was but hospitals back then had the same smell, made me sick to the stomach and I hated to go in. The halls looked soooooo long and ceilings looked huge to me back then. Although I have lots of bad memories of Glenn Dale, I also have wonderful ones getting to know my Dad as he was getting stronger. I hate that it has deteriorated so badly and the property was, and probably still could be, beautiful.