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Detroit Paranormal Expeditions
It's not hard to see why many believe this place is probably haunted.
Once the nation's largest psychiatric asylum and long an abandoned playground for urban explorers since it closed in 1981, Westland's hulking Eloise Psychiatric Hospital is open to the public this Halloween season.
Owner John Hambrick, whose development company acquired the building last year, says it was the path of least resistance.
"I've a heck of a time keeping people out of here, especially the month of October," he says. "I figured I'd do tours in October to maybe keep people from breaking in and destroying it."
It's easy to see why Eloise is believed by many to be haunted. The site has a grisly history that is the stuff of urban legends: Originally built as the Wayne County Poorhouse in 1839, it soon housed people with mental and psychiatric disabilities, and at its height developed into a sprawling campus of 75 buildings that cared for as many as 8,000 patients a day.
At one time, its patients with mental disabilities were housed on the second floor of a building used to hold pigs. It is said that people in the neighboring communities complained of hearing the eerie cries of despair from the patients mixed with the pigs' squeals.
After acquiring the building, Hambrick asked Detroit Paranormal Expeditions, a group of paranormal enthusiasts and researchers, what they thought about opening it for tours.
"They said this was the 'Holy Grail' for paranormal investigations," he says.
So last year, Eloise opened for the first time to official public paranormal tours. Hambrick says they completely sold out.
Tours are two hours long, and take guests on all five floors of the site's Kay Beard Building, aka Building D, including its basement. A different paranormal researcher is on each floor with a different piece of paranormal equipment, and they try to divine messages from beyond.
For the less superstitious, the site is open for a more straightforward historical tour as well. Eloise was also known for its then-new psychiatric treatments, including electroshock therapy, lobotomies, and sensory deprivation, and its sprawling campus was once a city-within-a-city, with its own post office and fire department.
This is likely the last opportunity to see the 150,000-square-foot Kay Beard Building untouched. The Eloise site was purchased by the Southfield-based Morgan Development last year
for $1, with plans to invest at least $20 million into the property.
The original plans called for the Kay Beard Building to be developed into a senior living center, but Hambrick says the public interest in its paranormal history has him considering transforming it into a paranormal-themed hotel instead.
"I want to theme it all into the 1931 era," he says. "There's rooms here that can be redone into hotel rooms. I want to redo them exactly how they were. The staff used to actually stay here, so there's rooms with sinks and closets, and shared bathrooms. I want to keep that whole concept, and dress people up like orderlies and nurses, and do a restaurant that's all 1931, with drinks like Singapore Slings, Manhattans, martinis, Old Fashioneds."
Paranormal and historic tours are $65 and offered into November; see eventbrite.com
for the full schedule. Eloise Psychiatric Hospital is located at 30712 Michigan Ave., Westland. More information is available at eloisehauntedtours.com
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