When I was a teenager in Colorado there existed an abandoned building in Arvada. The site was the former home of the Colorado State Home and Training School, also known as Ridge Home; also known as the Home for Mental Defectives; and naturally kids shared stories of the haunted "insane asylum."
I initially started this blog with the intention of playing up spooky stories in time for Halloween, but what I found was that the true history of the old Ridge Home is much darker than most ghost stories. Using the Western History subject index newspaper index and clipping files I found a history of articles detailing the complicated history of the institution.
Article after article outlined the problems Ridge Home had over the decades it was open.
- In the 1940s forced sterilization was practiced on a regular basis.
- In the 1950s one newspaper article quoted an administrator who said that many of the Home's adult patients were far too mentally competent to be in the home, but were there because their families had abandoned them. He blamed poor testing practices and the patient's youth when admitted for the oversight.
- In the 1970s parts of the campus were ordered closed, because of cracks in the walls and foundation caused shifting ground.
- Fire safety was also deemed inadequate as the buildings were lacking both fire escapes and viable exit paths in case of emergency.
- In the 1980s there were reports of residents being neglected due to under staffing and lack of funding for proper staff training.
- At least one member of the staff was sent to prison after being convicted of abusing multiple patients and bragging about it to friends.
A 1988 newspaper article reports constant breaks-ins by thrill-seeking teenagers and homeless people looking to get warm.
By 1992 Ridge Home was closed for good.
Having been abruptly abandoned due to funding cuts the building was still filled with beds, equipment, and toys in the years following its closure. Walls were covered with graffiti tags and asbestos was leaking from torn steam pipes.
Not every story of the home was focused on financial trouble and abuse charges, over its long history there were also plenty of caring staff and administrators.
A Denver Post article from 1959 reported that the 670 children in the institution called the superintendent, Edith Raftery, mom. The paper also mentioned the high quality care she was known for dispensing and that she hadn't taken a vacation from the home in over 17 years. In June 1955 a graduation ceremony held at the home for five residents who received their high school diplomas.
The majority of the problems over the years at the Ridge Home consistently pointed back to inadequate funding that kept it from addressing its myriad of problems.
Whether the rumors of the abandoned center being haunted are true or not, it's checkered past is certainly haunting. The building no longer stands and is now the site of a large chain store, but its history can be reviewed via Western History and Genealogy's reference resources.