Wayne County Poor House – Eloise Asylum

Main Asylum

Main Asylum


Eloise Insane Asylum
30712 Michigan Avenue
Westland, Mi 48185

The History

Wayne County Poor House, also known as Eloise Asylum was first founded in 1832 and by 1834 it was already in a state of serious neglect.  So, the Nankin Township purchased 280 acres of property on which to build a new hospital.  Sitting on the land was the Black Horse Tavern, which once served as a stagecoach stop between Detroit and Chicago.   The Black Horse Tavern, which was little more than a log cabin, became the keeper’s quarters. In 1839 a frame building was put up to house the patients.  A cookhouse was erected in the back of the log building and was used for cooking for both patients and the keeper’s family. Early on,the poorhouse accepted the indigent, the infirm and mentally ill. The “insane” were kept chained and housed on the top  floor of a farm building that was used as a piggery.

Wayne County Morgue

Wayne County Morgue

During the mid to late nineteenth century, the Wayne County Poorhouse and Asylum became one of the largest public health facilities in the United States.  The complex was self-sufficient, housed it’s own employees and was able to supplement it’s income with profits from a dairy farm, a piggery, a root cellar, and a tobacco curing building.   The grounds had its own powerhouse, railroad, police department, fire department,  laundry facilities, bakery, and it even had it’s own amusement hall.   The doctors often used entertainment therapy which required them to provide music, recreation, and television to the patients.

Eloise was one of the very first hospitals to use X-rays for diagnostic purposes.   It also housed the first kidney dialysis unit in the State of Michigan.  Beyond that, the facility had radium treatment for cancer patients, and the sanitarium was one of the first to use “open air” treatment for tuberculosis patients.  Psychiatric patients underwent electroshock and insulin shock therapy at the facility and the asylum was one of  the pioneers in the field of music therapy.

As the years went on, the institution grew to be very large because of the population explosion in the Detroit area.  Housing only 35 residents in 1839 the complex grew exponentially and housed about 10,000 residents at its peak during the Great Depression.  As you can imagine, with this many patients, the asylum was extremely overcrowded.  There were reports of  beatings, violence and other atrocities throughout the facility.  Soon after the institution’s hay day, the population started to decline due to rumors of misconduct and overall neglect of the facility.  The farm operations ceased in 1958.  Starting in 1973 the psychiatric buildings began to shut down. The remaining parts of the psychiatric division closed in 1977 when the State of Michigan vacated the asylum.  This left only the general hospital in operation until it closed it’s doors for the final time in 1984.

Map of Eloise Grounds

Map of Eloise Grounds

Many unfortunate individuals who came to stay at the hospital never lived outside it’s grounds again and as a result, Wayne County Asylum is said to be one of the most haunted locations in southeastern Michigan.  The hospital housed many famous people during it’s operation.  The most famous was probably inventor Elijah McCoy, who spent the year prior to his death as a patient in the Eloise Infirmary.  Other well-known people who died at Eloise include Jul Kustus who played outfield for the 1909  Brooklyn Superbas.  Kustus died in the facility of tuberculous on April 27, 1916.  Larry LeJeune, a Major League Baseball outfielder who played parts of two seasons, 1911 for the Brooklyn Dodgers and 1915 for the Pittsburgh Pirates died in the facility on April 21, 1952 of unknown causes.  Charlie Krause, a Major League Baseball second baseman who played for the 1901 Cincinnati Reds died in the facility on March 30, 1948.  Marty Kavanagh, a was a Major League Baseball infielder who played 5 seasons with the Detroit Tigers and also played with the  Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals, had a .249 batting average and .330 on base percentage was the last famous person to die here in 1960.   The cemetery located on the grounds is home to over 7000 former residents of the asylum, and is considered one of the haunted hot spots on the property.

The Haunting

All that remains of the once prestigious 75 building hospital are a few decaying buildings including the fire station, the powerhouse, the bakery and commissary buildings and the main infirmary.  An abandoned stone well sits on the grounds and reminds us of the  painful history that many here once endured.  A golf course now sits where staff members once transported patients through tunnels from building to building.  There have been rumors of people finding  medical waste and other strange items hidden near the tunnels that once sat here. People exploring the facility have reported discovering  jars containing human body parts, documents outlining strange medical procedures, and creepy snapshots of patients in the abandoned buildings that were torn down in the 1980’s. Recent investigators claim to have seen a spirit woman wearing white on the property.  She is often seen on the upper floors and roof of the old D building, which now houses government offices. All but the first floor of this building is off limits to the public. Many claim to hear strange moans, screams, and roars throughout the grounds and many see what they believe are lost souls wandering throughout the old cemetery.  Many other myths and tales are told about this property, many of which can be read here.







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2 comments for “Wayne County Poor House – Eloise Asylum

  1. Erik
    March 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Cool !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. April 29, 2014 at 5:59 am

    as a kid my friends and I lived in the shack town area, and we use to play over in the eloise fields and we we go down in the tunnels the ran under merriman rd from the shacks to the elosie hospital and more than once we would hear voices and you could just feel someone watching you

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