Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane Kingston Ontario Urban Exploring
2. Certain classes of lunatics committed to jail as lunatics dangerous to be at large.
3. Persons charged with some offence of which they had been acquitted on the ground that they were insane at the time such offence was committed.
4. Persons indicted for any offence, and upon arraignment thereof found, by a jury especially impanelled for the purpose, to be insane.
This location has been following me like a black cloud over the last few years of exploring. Its distance from where I live, on top of the fact that there is little else to explore out that way and the risks associated with it have deterred me from making the drive out there.
I have known a handful of people who have managed to get in, but they all have reported back to me the extreme difficulties they were met with, as well as the consequences of being caught…the likelihood of being caught here is high.
Over the past couple of years I have also checked in frequently with locals I know or other explorers who have been in the area all reporting back that this place is a no-go…sealed tight and well watched.
This is a challenge I was willing to tackle, but I needed more reason to make the trip. That’s where my friend Ddogg came in, I had seen some shots he posted from an abandoned prison not far from here and he confirmed that access would be easy and that he will see what he can do about scouting this place, the abandoned asylum for the criminally insane. It was looking like a road trip was in my future, so RiddimRyder, Carlo and I made a plan to head up on a Friday night and spend the weekend inside these two abandoned places. With the jail a sure thing, we had a good back up…but on Friday night, our sights were set on the asylum.
This facility was built entirely by prisoners of another prison in the area in the mid 1800’s to house prisoners who were deemed mentally ill and criminally insane. Research shows that inmates were forced to wear uniforms with a patch labeling them as LUNATIC.
Further research states that there many questionable methods used to treat patients from Chloral Hydrate and alcohol, restraints, enemas as well as lobotomies. All standard practice at the time
By 1959, patients were transferred to new buildings constructed on the same property, and the former asylum changed names and was labeled as a residence for people with disabilities. The facility closed in 2000 and the historic building has sat empty ever since.
Past photos from friends as well as Google Maps shows a simple fence surrounding the perimeter of the building, but a friend of mine in the Eastern United States advised me that they replaced that fence with a much higher, flimsier and more slippery one…….great!
We arrived in town late and scouted the property, noting the security patrol and awaiting the hourly drive by. We made our way into this old asylum, knowing that every minute inside is precious and our time inside may be abruptly ended at any moment.
We navigated the dark and quiet hallways, searching for a place to call home base for the night, finally settling in a large gymnasium, painted purple in an apparent attempt as using the colour to calm the inmates.
We tried to practice light discipline, but 4 guys at night with flashlights, it was very hard to avoid shining lights at the windows…we eventually decided to head for the tunnels and explore underground where we didn’t need to worry about light.
Long, dark and snaking in all directions we explored every inch of the tunnels, ultimately ending up underneath the base of the building in a small crawl space.
The greatest thing about exploring a place like this is the unknown, looking into rooms in the basement, rooms that look like cells some with holes in the floor that were no doubt used to chain and restrain the inmates. Your imagination can run wild wondering what went on down here over 100 years ago when mental health was treated much differently than it is today.
Sometime around 2 or 3am we decided to head up and try to get some sleep. RiddimRyder and I brought our hammocks and set up in a kitchen, ddogg and Carlo would have to sleep on the hard floor in the gymnasium.
Our sleep was constantly interrupted by the hourly security patrol who would shine his flashlight on the building as he drove around, filling the dark rooms with a quick burst of unwanted light. My anxiety and excitement also kept me from sleeping…and I don’t joke when I say I was also awoken by the sounds of footsteps that seemed to come from down the hallway, stopping at the door in our room…I don’t believe in paranormal activity but there is no explanation. We all also reported hearing strange sounds all night, such as doors closing and footsteps.
We awoke early with the rising sun, shook off the cobwebs and geared up for our explore and photographic/video documentation of this awesome old asylum.
We tried to stay tight, or at least on the same floor so we could be close in the event of any issues, all seemed to be going well at first…
It’s 8:15 AM when I sent this text to RiddimRyder:
“Security out front opening doors and yelling inside”
Seems she must have spotted a door that one of the guys opened the night before and it didn’t close all the way. That, or she spotted us walking by a window – which is highly unlikely. The only way she could have known there was someone inside is that she was either checking doors, or she spotted one open on a patrol. Either way, she was onto us and we had to all be aligned on what to do next.
For 30 minutes we all stayed close, checking windows trying to spot the security guard who was frantically running from door to door, yelling into her phone or radio. She was on a mission and determined to find us and get us out.
RiddimRyder and I head to the other side to see if we can spot her.
8:46am, a text from Carlo
“She is inside, Holy Fuck”
We all regroup and RiddimRyder and I tell the others, no need to panic…, we convinced the others that the best plan here is to all stay put in one room and let it die down, wait until we see her drive by and give up. We didn’t know where she was, but we knew she was somewhere…and eventually she would have to return to her car and drive by. We came too far and went through too much to just walk away.
That’s when we heard her, the unmistakable sound of hard and determined footsteps and the sound of walkie talkie radio. This was new to us, security is normally not permitted to enter a building for safety reasons and they normally would call the police.
It seemed that there may have been two people, running floor to floor and room to room. At one point they were directly outside the door of the room we were waiting in….I was certain she was going to walk in and that big dumb yellow jacket would come in around the corner….but it never did.
All was quiet, we finally watched the security patrol car drive by…there was no police response and it had been just over an hour since this whole ordeal started…we were in the clear, let’s get back to exploring and shooting.
And so we explore, both wings, up to the attic and down to the tunnels, every one of us watching out the windows, listening closely for activity inside and peering around corners before we moved on. Tensions were high, but we stayed calm, aware of our situation and determined to see what we came to see.
Somewhere around 11am, we’re in the tunnels and RiddimRyder looks nervous, he heard someone walking on the floor directly above us..they were either still inside or they came back. We decided it was time to pack up and bug out. However, now we could easily run into someone at any point. We decided to take the tunnels all the way to the other end and take an old spiral staircase to the top floor and look for security…we looked everywhere and couldn’t spot the security SUV.
We decided then and there, to pack up and head for our pre-determined exit point.
As we made our way down the hallway to the doors we had been using all night and morning, we gently pulled on the door to stairwell down…it had been screwed shut. FUCK!
We move to other doors…also screwed shut, they were trying to lock us in…forcing us to call the police to let us out.
We moved to the old spiral staircases, they didn’t have doors so we could make our exit that way. As we approach the main level we see that all of the lights were on, they were off last night.
We are now in a main area where a maintenance worker or a security guard could walk by and see us…so we have to act fast.
There is only one door we can exit that doesn’t require jumping the 10 foot fence in broad daylight and Carlo/DDogg were going to go out that way…Riddim and I decided that is probably where they are waiting for us. I said let Ddogg and Carlo check, if they text us from outside, we can go out that way..if not we jump the fence.
Within minutes we hear the sound of footsteps running, Riddim and I say “fuck this let’s go” we run out the door and jump the slippery and wobbly 10 foot fence faster than I ever thought possible. We run for the tree line and look back to see DDogg behind us and Carlo stuck on top of the fence, parallel to the ground. They both made it out, we meet in the tree line…sure enough, they gently opened that one door and the security SUV was parked and running right there waiting for us.
This was one of the funnest games of cat and mouse I had ever played, I had basically told myself that morning, we’re probably going to be caught.
I thought of Captain Ronald Spiers of the 101st Airborne, made famous by Band of Brothers:
“The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it.”
I was far from the beaches of Normandy, RiddimRyder was not Captain Dick Winters and that security guard was not packing a Luger…..but when I resolved myself with the likelihood of being caught, mixed with the confidence that I know what I’m doing and I can see us through this, I was able to do what we came here to do, explore this amazing old abandoned asylum that I had been dreaming of for years, and come home with some (hopefully good) photos and an even better story to tell!
Thanks for looking, I hope you liked the story!