11 Apr 2009
20 teens arrested at old psych center
Cops say Web site drew them to 'haunted' Main Building in Middletown
Middletown police Lt. Paul Rickard checks the old Main Building at the former Middletown Psychiatric Center, where 20 Washingtonville-area teenagers were arrested Wednesday night and charged with trespassing.Times Herald-Record/JOHN DeSANTO
MIDDLETOWN — Maybe hanging out at an abandoned psychiatric hospital sounded cool and fun. But the old Main Building at the former Middletown Psychiatric Center, where 20 Washingtonville-area teenagers were charged with trespassing Wednesday night, is fenced off for a good reason.
"The bricks have been falling off the building — and the bricks are actually holding up the building," said Middletown police Chief Matthew Byrne. "The building's literally falling apart."
Ceilings and floors in some of the rooms have completely collapsed, and pieces of furniture have been moved to cover holes. As the wind blows through, there are occasional creaks. The building is one of the oldest on the campus.
But on Wednesday night, police say, 23 Washingtonville High School students went to the old state hospital after finding the place listed on a Web site touting "My top 10 abandoned haunted places," half of them in Orange County.
Byrne said someone at a nearby building noticed cars parked near the Main Building about 11:20 p.m. Police found 20 of the teenagers inside the 10-foot-high fence that surrounds the structure. A couple of the gates were unlocked. The 20 teens were charged with trespass, a violation. Three teens who were sitting in the cars were not charged.
Byrne said he suspects the kids were inside the building.
Thursday morning, the city Public Works Department repadlocked all of the gates and posted "hazardous building" signs along the fence. The property is owned by HSB Development, a holding company based in Oceanside.
"We're sending a letter to demolish the building as soon as possible," said DPW Commissioner Jacob Tawil. "If they want to contest it, they'll have to provide an engineer's report. From our point of view, it must be demolished immediately."
Byrne discouraged other would-be explorers from visiting the site.
"The building is not haunted," he said. "It's actually a big danger to the public."