Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital

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Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital was a hospital in Marlboro Township, New Jersey which was operated by the State of New Jersey. Construction of the hospital began in 1929.[1] It first opened in early 1931.[2] According to the site plan, the hospital's campus was on 468 acres (189 ha). There is a perimeter fence which completely enclosed the property.[3] The land was mostly a rural environment. When it closed, the hospital was on 594 acres (240 ha), having enlarged the grounds over the years.[4] It opened with a capacity to accommodate 500-800 patients.[5][6] The grounds construction continued after opening and when completed, the hospital was expected to have a capacity of 2,000 patients.[7] However in 1995, the hospital served an average of 780 adults per day with a staff of 1,157 employees and a total budget of $55.5 million (Fiscal Year 1995).[8][9] The budget in 1998 was $68 million.[2] The hospital will finish demolishtion in early 2015.


When first constructed, the hospital was composed of 17 "state of the art" cottages and central buildings. The hospital treated adults and children but in 1978, a decision was made to only admit adults and adolescents. The youth were transferred to other hospitals.[10] In June 1980, adolescent patients were also phased out of treatment at the hospital.[11] The cottages were Tudor style dormitories which housed as many as 55 patients each. Additionally, a small cemetery was established for patients who died in residence and were unclaimed by family. The cemetery, with 924 marked graves is open to the public. The cemetery is located across the street from the hospital main gate on County Route 520. See topic below.

Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital had a history of problems. For example on November 2, 1979, 131 patients became ill and four patients died of food poisoning.[12] The suspected cause was Clostridium perfringens.[13] On May 9, 1987, the eighth probe was conducted by the Public Advocate's Office into patient deaths.[14]

A woman who disappeared 48 hours before the hospital noticed her missing was found frozen to death outside. A woman was restricted to liquid food due to an eating disorder, choked to death when someone gave her a peanut butter sandwich. A patient died from brain swelling caused by a sodium deficiency noted in her charts 6 weeks earlier yet left untreated. A man who was strapped to a bed for 80 hours over 5 days died from blood clots caused by the restraints (which must be loosened every two hours).[15] The hospital closed in 1998 following a 1993 investigation by then State Senator Richard J. Codey, during which he went undercover at the hospital and found rampant patient abuse, wasteful spending, and other illegal practices.[16]

Mennonite Camp[edit]

From November 1942 to October 1946 the Mennonite Central Committee opened a Civilian Public Service camp on the ground of the property. The Mennonites are restricted from military service and some men of that faith chose to serve the country by helping out at the hospital. Most of the men served as ward attendants. Over the four years the unit grew to one hundred and three men, many married.[17]

Prior Land Use[edit]

The grounds which became the hospital were largely rural farms before construction began. However, there was a rather large distillery on the property which was torn down to make room for the hospital.[18] From 1825 to about 1850, part of the land was used as a tannery by John Hulse.[19]

Prison Farm[edit]

In addition to psychiatric patients, Rahway Prison had a work camp established on the corner of the property. The prison farm helped with the care of the livestock and farming. It was a low security prison camp.

Codey Investigation[edit]

Senator Richard J. Codey had gained access to the hospital by applying for employment using the ID of a convicted felon/possible sex offender.[20] His background was never checked and he was assigned to work on one of the most regressed cottages at the hospital; Cottage 16. This cottage housed patients on two levels; first floor and basement. The basement level, all male, housed patients who were often speechless, incoherent or actively psychotic and included those who had murdered outside or inside the hospital. Senator Codey used his experience at the hospital to advocate for stricter rules of employment, including fingerprint and background checks. Additionally, the investigation resulted in the head of the hospital, Dr. David A. Sorenson, being "reassigned".[21]

Current use[edit]

Marlboro was informed by the U.S. military that it would be using the property for military training. This training exercise includes using explosives in and around the buildings on the property.[22]

When the hospital closed, the water treatment facilities still serviced some of the buildings in the community. Currently, there is one functional facility left. Its water facilities still serve an adjacent building, the addiction treatment center; New Hope.[23]

Since its 1998 closing, the abandoned hospital has become the focus of numerous local legends. An abandoned slaughterhouse on the property fueled legends of a murderous farmer.[24] It was said that the farmer would lure you down "death row," as he had to two slain hospital guards.[25] Trespassing at the slaughterhouse became a frequent problem, and the township publicly stated that trespassers would be prosecuted.[26] According to an issue of Weird New Jersey magazine, and the book "Convergence," shadow people were often spotted in, or around, the slaughterhouse. The slaughterhouse was razed.

As of June 2013, the hospital buildings have been ordered to be torn down. Destruction of the buildings can be seen currently happening from the main road Route 520.[27]

Future plans[edit]

On November 18, 2011, New Jersey state officials announced that the hospital site will become open space for recreational use. It will no longer be under state jurisdiction. Instead, the Monmouth County Park System will oversee the property. Demolishing buildings and cleaning up the property to meet environmental standards will be necessary for completing the $27 million project. The project was slated for completion in 2013[28] but it currently appears it will be pushed back to 2014.[29] The park system has reclaimed some of the hospital land and has opened "Big Bear Park" in 2011. Demolition of the buildings began in May 2014.[30]

Hospital cemetery[edit]

The hospital operated a cemetery on County Route 520.[31] Designed as part of the original grounds plan, it opened along with the hospital in 1931. The cemetery administrators laid out the plat of burial spaces and numbered them. They proceeded to order inexpensive stone grave markers, marked only with corresponding numbers. The first patient to die at Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital was buried in plot One and Marker 1 was placed on the grave. The 600th patient to die was placed in grave site 600 and Marker 600 was placed upon the grave, etc.

Originally, the standard practice was followed for cemetery visitors to check a printed list for the plot number of their deceased of interest. They used a printed map of the cemetery to find the burial location. But as burial numbers increased, a different location method was chosen.

A central location was chosen for constructing a raised, stone dais or platform. The names and plot numbers of the deceased were engraved in brass frames, arranged at waist level in a huge circle. The dais had a rotating azimuth – like a weather vane – which could be aimed at the target marker. This allowed visitors to choose a landmark in or outside the cemetery boundary, and commence walking towards it, in order to reach the correct marker.


  1. ^ Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the New Jersey State Hospital at Marlboro for Year Ending June 30, 1955, p. 17.
  2. ^ a b Peterson, Iver (1998-07-01). "At 67, Marlboro Mental Hospital Closes". New York Times (New York Times Company). Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  3. ^ Marlboro State Hospital Site Plan
  4. ^ Kannapell, Andrea (1998-07-05). "IN BRIEF; State Plans to Sell Marlboro Hospital Grounds". New York Times (New York Times Company). Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  5. ^ "Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital". Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  6. ^ Superintendent's Report dated June 30, 1931
  7. ^ "New State Hospital at Hillsdale Bright, Cheery," Branch Daily Record, March 9, 1931.
  8. ^ Hospital investigation
  9. ^ State Commission of Investigation
  10. ^ Report to Board of Trustees, October 1978, p. 3.
  11. ^ Proceedings of a Regular Meeting of the Board of Trustees, Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital, Marlboro, New Jersey, Held Thursday, August 21, 1980, p. 5.
  12. ^ Donald Janson (1979-11-03). "Four Die of Food Poisoning In a Jersey Mental Hospital - Cover-Up Is Denied". (New York Times Company). Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  13. ^ Report to Board of Trustees, October 1979, p. 2.
  14. ^ "State Probes Patient's Death at Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital". The Philadelphia Inquirer. May 9, 1987. 
  15. ^ "What happened at Marlboro?". 2008-01-17. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  16. ^ "Marlboro on My Mind". North by Northwestern. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  17. ^ Melvin Gingerich, Service for Peace: A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee printed by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 1949, Chapter XVI, pp. 213-251.
  18. ^ Plate 39, Atlas of Monmouth County, NJ, New York City, NY 1873 - Author: FW Beers
  19. ^ page 464 - History of Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1664-1920, Volume 2 - published 1922
  21. ^
  22. ^ Anness, Kaitlyn (2012-07-26). "Hornik: State Has 'Gone Silent' On Marlboro State Hospital Deal - Marlboro-ColtsNeck, NJ Patch". Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  23. ^ Anness, Kaitlyn (2011-09-02). "Marlboro Psych Site Gets Grant to Improve Water Treatment - Marlboro-ColtsNeck, NJ Patch". Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  24. ^ [1][dead link]
  25. ^ "Marlboro Slaughterhouse". Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  26. ^ "Abandoned slaughterhouse holds legend of old farmer | | News Transcript". 2002-10-30. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  27. ^ "Cleanup under way at Marlboro hospital site - - News Transcript". Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  28. ^ "Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital site to become open space | The Asbury Park Press NJ". 2011-11-21. Retrieved 2011-12-18. [dead link]
  29. ^ Anness, Kaitlyn (2012-07-16). "Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital Cleanup Still Planned - Marlboro-ColtsNeck, NJ Patch". Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  30. ^ "Christie administration proposes 23 fee increases with new budget". Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  31. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: State Hospital Cemetery; 40°20′07″N 74°13′49″W / 40.33528°N 74.23028°W / 40.33528; -74.23028

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°20′35″N 74°14′13″W / 40.34306°N 74.23694°W / 40.34306; -74.23694