I follow my three young tour guides, struggling to keep up on foot behind their bikes. They navigate the campus with ease, occasionally jumping over a fallen branch or piece of trash. We’re on our way to the old infirmary, or the “X” building as David, the apparent group leader, calls it. He’s about sixteen years old, wearing a black and lime green Adidas sweatshirt and shorts. A white snapback hat rests backwards on his head. The snow is melting all around us in the day’s unseasonable warmth, and we avoid puddles across the ground. They lift their bikes over their heads as they walk through large patches of snow, and eventually, we arrive at the entrance to the building, a doorway of pitch blackness on the facade of a building that has seen better days.
Twenty one years after its closing due to inhumane conditions of the patients, Belchertown State School for the Feeble Minded still stands in Belchertown MA. Right next to the police station and Belchertown Garden Center, the campus sits a few hundred feet off the road, behind a large grassy field. With each open surface covered in graffiti, windows broken and shattered glass literring the ground, and caving in roofs above, the school can easily be considered an eyesore for the town. But some people still make use of it.
No longer a site for the mentally ill, and still standing due to its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the campus is now open and used for a multitude of different activities. The pitch black buildings attract adventure seekers and ghost hunters. The open campus and free space attract dog walkers, and the peeling paint and aging grace provide ample artistic opportunities for photographers.
The grounds attract all different sorts of people, with different ages, personalities and interests. And if you can get past the weather beaten ceilings and dimly lit corridors, maybe it will attract you too.
Sabrina A. is seen photographing the theatre within one of the many buildings on the campus of Belchertown State School for the Feeble Minded. The school was closed in 1992 due to inhumane conditions.
Belchertown State School has been standing idle since it’s closure in 1992. In 1994 it was put on the National Register of Historic Places.
Jeremy M. and S. Anderson, two Hampshire College students, are seen exploring the grounds of Belchertown.
Fenway and Remi both enjoying their run of the campus during a walk.
Ron S. takes his dog Fenway to the campus for walks.
A look into the hallway of the theatre building in Belchertown State School.
(From left to right) Michael B., David F., and Brendan T. are all young Belchertown residents. “We come here almost every day” said David F.
“Of course my dog is the only one who won’t sit,” said Joe D., one of many who walk their dogs across the open campus of the school.
Picture is Lello, one of the many dogs that is taken for walks across the campus.
Although it is illegal to enter the buildings, they are very easy to access, with most doors propped open. “No Trespassing” signs litter the grounds.
“I rarely see cops around here,” said David F., “usually just real late at night, like midnight or 2am.”
A view from the round window looking out of the infirmary or “X” building as it is called by some of the kids due to its X like shape on their map.
Judy R. (in focus) and Sherry G. are two photographers who have explored the grounds. “We drive around and we take photos everywhere” said Judy R.
Eric S., a photographer, walks through one of the empty buildings.
Liz P. is seen walking towards an old dormitory style building on the campus.
Eric S. is seen scouting pictures in one of the dormitory style buildings on the campus.
Objects such as this red handkerchief are placed to help frequenters of the building navigate, according to David F.
The boys worry about ghosts. “That (hospital gown) wasn’t there yesterday, I swear” said David F. (Not shown). “I know, it even looks new. This is weird ” added Michael B.
Some of the buildings are still in quite good condition, though are nearly impossible to navigate without a powerful flashlight.
Despite the passage of time and vandalism, some parts of the buildings like these windows remain almost perfectly intact.
Judy R. looks on in awe as she and Sherry G. navigate one of the buildings with cameras in hand.
Some people take getting into the buildings to the extreme. This door was bent in half.
In some of the buildings, old papers dating back to the fifties can be found scattered around the ground.
Even after all this time, artifacts like wheelchairs still sit lonely in their respective spots amongst the peeling paint and darkness.
Graffiti is found on almost any open surface of the grounds.