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A Norwich State Hospital Series: More than 13 Deaths Are Remembered on Friday the 13th

We are soon approaching the first Friday the 13th since the demolition of the Salmon Building, once home to Connecticut's most dangerous criminally insane patients.

Whether by homicide, suicide, accident, mysterious causes, or as a result of released or escaped patients, more than 13 people have been victims of the Norwich State Hospital. 

Norwich was home of the worst criminally insane patients in Connecticut with more than 700 convicts.

#1 Suicide: Patient Edward K. Arvine hung himself with torn bedclothes attached to iron grating in December 1914.

#2 Homicide: Rachel Brooks was killed in September 1918 by her husband, patient Solomon Brooks who escaped the hospital. 

#3 and #4 Accident: Teamster Fredd Ladd and night attendant Thomas Duggan were killed in 1919 by a hot water heater explosion. 

#5 Accident: Hospital cook Fred Smith was struck and killed in the roadway in 1925 by Robert Anderson, a supervisor at the nearby tuberculosis sanatorium.

#6 Suicide: Anne Prudential, a trained nurse and former patient, killed herself by knife in 1930, only days after being discharged.

#7 and #8 Homicide/Suicide: Sheriff Michael Carroll was killed with a shotgun in December 1934 by Leonard Gosselin who was about to be committed. Gosselin then killed himself. 

#9 Accident: William Smith died in December 1941 from a fatal overdose. Smith had chronic heart ailments and was mistakenly given sedatives by an attendant. 

#10 and #11 Homicide: Two police policemen in Spencer, MA, were killed in August 1971 by Robert Layne, who escaped the facility. 

#12 Homicide: Leonard Flannery was killed during the summer of 1975 by John Franklin, who was granted ability to leave eight months earlier.

#13 Homicide: Shereese Weatherly was killed in May 1976 by patient Gregory Gillepsie, who was released in June 1975.

One doctor claims that unknown numbers of inmates were chained to chairs in the tunnels, beaten by aides, burned by cigarettes, and were a part of failed experiments by doctors.

Four Convicted of Killing Children:

  • Emma Muscarella in 1928 for choking her one-day-old son
  • Florence Schwartz in 1938 for asphyxiating and killing her 11-year-old daughter
  • Joan Gronwoldt in 1961 for shooting and killing her two children
  • Garcia Ryes in 1967 for stabbing to death three children. 

In October 1971, the Salmon Building, a maximum security building with prison-like cells, closed its doors. Patients were transferred to a larger, newer facility at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown. 

The Hartford Courant praised the building’s closure: “The state is finally going to close down its disgraceful ‘maximum security’ unit for the criminally insane at Norwich..the ancient, inadequate and infamous Salmon Building”. 

This is the first Friday the 13th since the building was demolished, the first large building on the Norwich State Hospital campus along Route 12 to face the wrecking ball. Even though the building may be gone, will spirits still haunt these grounds? 

The series continues with more on the hospital's history and from explorers who claim the facility is haunted.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dorothea Dix April 13, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Corey, give it a rest. Stop sensationalizing a richly historic and beautiful location with the same old tales of death, suicide and "hauntings". It's apparent you haven't done your research very well between this and your previous articles. (The Administration building being 6 stories tall, for starters? Heh.) It's apparent you haven't spent time with former employees of Norwich Hospital and their families. It's quite apparent you just have not done your research and that you are grasping at straws and writing not for the benefit of the hospital or its history and value, but just for yourself.
Corey Sipe April 14, 2012 at 05:39 AM
Reporter's Note: I welcome former employees and patients of Norwich State Hospital, as well as their families, to share their stories with me so we can include them in future editions of the series, my e-mail address is corey_neil_sipe@yahoo.com. The series is designed to explore a variety of viewpoints (some of which are quite controversial) regarding the hospital's rich and colorful history spanning over one century. Previous articles have included information from former physicians, employees, patients, along with that of explorers and historians. The next part in the series will explore the history of the hospital's buildings, the various amenities offered to patients, and the changing philosophies of mental health care.
joe April 14, 2012 at 12:52 PM
You forgot to mention the nice cafeteria and the credit union on site. Maybe some of the loans were haunted or the pasta made strange noises while you ate it. How about the garden that was to the left? Maybe, at night during full moons, tomato and cucumbers grown there, can be seen floating,trying to cross over to vegetable heaven or food processor hell.
April April 14, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Dear Dorothea, I HAVE done research. I also cared for former staff of Norwich state while I worked as a CNA and my spouse was a home director caring for former patients that were transferred to group homes for the mentally challenged after Norwich state's closure. The buildings are architecturally beautiful but the actual history behind them is far worse than the mild picture Mr. Sipe paints. Maybe it is you who should "give it a rest" and "do your research." Patients were treated very badly behind those walls and the farther back in history you go the worse it is. There were far more deaths WITH IN those walls than the handful talked about here. I'm not saying the staff were all bad people plenty were very good. The state ran that hospital so under staffed that abuse and neglect were unavoidable. Not to mention they didn't have the comprehension of mental illness that we do today. Then, if you couldn't control them you chained them up. At times one nurse was left to care for 40 patients or more alone passing meds to each person by using the same spoon over and over again. Even if those grounds aren't haunted the pain and misery suffered on those grounds has cursed the property. If you aren't completely cold hearted walk on the property and you'll feel the oppressive atmosphere that lingers in every square inch. You don't even have to go in the buildings to feel it. So dorothea my dear unless you have proof to present with your lunicy I suggest you stop stalking Mr. Sipe.
Ed Johnson April 20, 2012 at 08:38 PM
One of the most ill considered moves by Governor Rowland was to close down the Norwich State Hospital completely. This placed a large number of badly disturbed people, who should have remained in a supervised setting, out on the street. One of these, several years ago, murdered Donna Millette Fridge in New London. A section of the highway entering the city is named in her memory.
Valerie Symens October 22, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Hey Corey there was also a childs ward. Kettle north one and two. Some people would just drop off an unwanted kid and then the child would have to prove themselves sane. Not an easy task for a child. But with the help of a worker K.J. he was know as I was able to do it...... There maybe some really good stories for you to write about.
Heather Angel November 13, 2012 at 10:53 PM
My grandfather Edward Angel was the chief engineer at the Hospital and died there in a fire on January 30, 1948. He was trying to rescue the superintendant's wife, who also perished in the fire. The fire was at the Superintendant's residence. My grandfather was only 41 years old when he perished.
skrabonia January 11, 2013 at 04:50 AM
Thousands of people, if not tens of thousands, actually died at any given state hospital. Yeah, many of those were natural causes, but... And just for the sake of accuracy: the powerhouse and laundry buildings went down, before salmon did. Both of them were bigger..
Alan Duarte December 09, 2013 at 11:49 PM
I was a "patient" or rather inmate in the Salmon Building for a year in 1967-68. It was a pretty hellish place to be I was 17 yrs. old at the time. I saw things in that place that I have never forgotten to this day. I remember inmates and some of their stories. Some were there 30+ years at THAT time.
Alan Duarte December 10, 2013 at 12:07 AM
I was an Inmate at the Salmon Building for a year, 1967 - 68. I was 17 yrs. old when committed there from the old Hartford Jail on Seyms St. It indeed WAS a place with really insane people. I was foolish enough to think I would get out of prison be appearing to be insane. I guess I was convincing because I was sent there. I got out in a year but it was the LONGEST year of my life. I horrible experience. I have vivid memories of that place I will never forget...
Alan Duarte December 10, 2013 at 12:08 AM
If Corey Sipe would like some stories and info about my time in that place you can contact me. I now live in Santa Ana CA. I have a LOT of memories of that place, believe me...

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