The Trespasser stood poised by the open window, ready to climb into the abandoned insane asylum. After a cautious hike through the forest and a mad dash across the road, he had made it to the woods surrounding the building. Sweat poured from his face and adrenaline shook through his hands as he pointed his video camera, first into the basement and then hesitantly towards the group of uniformed police officers huddled below him in the parking lot. Having grown up in the area, The Trespasser knew these were the “almost cops”, gung-ho recruits from the Cedar Grove training academy. Not being full-fledged 5-0, they were salivating to make their first bust.

Above the squawk of the radios, The Trespasser could hear police dogs restlessly barking at their leashes in the hot August sun. The sound of the K-9s made him nervous, but he had made it this far and wasn’t about to stop. Judging by the shiny uniforms it didn’t seem like the police planned to enter the building; they would have worn SWAT uniforms for that. It looked like they didn’t want to get their clothes dirty, but The Trespasser knew that if he was spotted by even one set of eyes, all fifty cadets would swarm into the abandoned hospital and hunt him down like a rat.

dark entries
The window was open at the top and the camera rolled as The Trespasser swung his leg over the bottom pane and climbed into the basement. The hospital smell hit him hard as his boots touched the floor. The insane asylum hadn’t been abandoned long enough to lose its antiseptic stench. Second thoughts rushed through his mind, but the paper had reported that demolition had already begun on the South end of the complex. The county’s timetable for total destruction was less than six months away and this might be The Trespasser’s last chance to see the portions of the asylum he had not yet explored.

The room he had entered was crammed with rusted shelves. The floor was crispy with peeled paint and fallen plaster. His steel toed boots crackled and echoed despite every attempt to remain quiet. When a squawk from a radio penetrated through the open window, The Trespasser was suddenly frozen in a wave of paranoia. Had the cops caught his scent? After a breathless pause, he swallowed his fear and quietly turned the knob leading into the basement corridor.

The hinges squeaked as he pulled the door towards him, collecting a large pile of paint chips and plaster dust as it swung. The darkness that lay beyond was so thick it seemed to stream into the room, canceling out the small amount of light from the open window. He carried no flashlight, but felt a noticeable relief as he stepped into the blackness. It was nice to leave the police radios behind and to surrender to the ghosts of the hospital swirling around him in the dark. Now, with rooms on both sides to mask the sound, he let his footfalls echo with less caution and began to explore the hallway by the intermittent flash of the camera.

The irregular bursts of light revealed crumbling walls, lined with antique furniture and ancient medical devices. The Trespasser smiled in the darkness, happy to finally be experiencing this section of Overbrook. These wards in the main hospital buildings were some of the last abandoned and had been inaccessible before the hospital officially closed. Now the patients had been gone for over a year and decay reigned supreme. Overbrook was now officially condemned.

underneath overbrook
at the base of the hilltop
overbrook basement

The only landmark in the basement corridor was a thin crack of light surrounding a doorway. The Trespasser crept toward it in search of a set of stairs. Swirls of rusty dust shimmered in the sunlight as The Trespasser parted the door from its frame with a dry squeak. X-ray equipment, bags of fluid, IV drips and discarded hypodermic needles lined the shelves and floors. Raw medical waste was abundant in this basement room and The Trespasser’s camera greedily clicked away at the hospital files and patient records that had been left behind.

Rummaging through the filth, he came across a stack of X-ray slides and a set of trays used for developing the images. There was one box that lay open on the table. The Trespasser switched his camera to movie mode as he used his bare hand to close the slide. It wasn’t until later when reviewing the footage that he realized he had foolishly exposed himself to radiation. The crackling and spitting of the invisible particles were clearly captured as interference on the video. Later, while watching the footage at home, it occurred to The Trespasser that the thick rubber gloves and lead lined aprons had probably been hanging on the wall for good reason.

Next to the X-ray room, was the sterilization center for the entire hospital. The medical waste was thick and moldy, piled high atop hospital gurneys and strewn about on the floor. Industrial-sized sterilization chambers gave way to strange chemistry sets, complete with glass distillation jars, pressure gauges and rotting rubber tubes. He stepped lightly through the biohazard and quickly out into the hallway. The Trespasser isn't skeeved out by much, but he didn't want to catch the insanity that had once been a plague between these walls. At the far end of the sterilization room, a doorway led him into a damp corridor where he was greeted by a warm wind steadily blowing from the entrance of an underground tunnel.

the cooler

The Trespasser was familiar with these tunnels; both from his own explorations, and from a very special tour he had received as a kid. In his youth, he had briefly held a position at a public relations agency, one of his many failed attempts at keeping a job. This PR agency happened to represent the local union in charge of operating the boilers at Overbrook. One of his early writing assignments had been to go to the insane asylum and interview the engineers for the union's newsletter. Interviewing the boiler operators was a great opportunity for The Trespasser to see the underbelly of the still working complex. It provided a sanctioned occasion to photograph and explore the steam tunnels and even came with a guided tour. The engineer who showed him around was more than happy to allow The Trespasser into his subterranean world. They walked what seemed like miles of tunnel, ducking steam pipes and avoiding cave crickets. The tunnels connected the buildings and one by one they stopped at steel doors to peer through reinforced-glass windows into the basements of the locked wards.



Strange tales from the depths of the abandoned mental hospital. Inspired by a lifetime of trespassing in Overbrook Asylum, author Wheeler Antabanez captures and preserves the dark mood and creepy ambiance of the now demolished institution.

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Now, standing at the entrance, looking into the blackness of the tunnel it didn’t seem as inviting as on The Trespasser’s guided tour. The lights had been on back then, when the tunnels were in use. Now, the darkness was as thick as a moonless midnight. The damp air flowing ceaselessly across his face spoke of asbestos, crickets and dripping water. The warm draft also suggested a current of life that still breathed beneath the abandoned hospital, a foul, rotting jet stream for the ghosts of the people who died here. Without a flashlight, the tunnels were too forbidding and after snapping a couple pictures, The Trespasser turned around and resumed his search for the stairs.

When he finally found the door, he was nearly blinded by the sunlight shining into the stairwell. Paint peeled like a bad case of poison ivy, bubbling up the walls and oozing dust like puss. The air was dead and stale, reeking of old hospital. Sweat ran down The Trespasser’s body, but his muscles felt strong and alive, pulsing with Overbrook’s heartbeat. Climbing the stairs, The Trespasser ignored the lower wards and headed directly to the top floor. Turning the corner into the hallway, he found himself in the dentistry wing. Vintage dental chairs sat abandoned under thick layers of dust. Shelves and workstations overflowed with discarded dentistry tools and unused prescription drugs. The Trespasser spent a considerable amount of time in these rooms, going through each and every drawer and cataloging the contents with his camera. As a child, The Trespasser had once found a jar of morphine at the Tuberculosis Sanatorium located on the top of the hill. He was too young to know what to do with it, but if he found something like that today, there wouldn't be any questions.

tunnel entrance under fairview
bridging the gap
under fairview avenue towards administration

There was nothing of value however, because many an explorer had been through here already. All that was left were antibiotics, outdated Novocain, rusting scalpels and moldering denture making supplies. After thoroughly going through the exam rooms, The Trespasser made his way into the waiting area, which was covered in spray paint and medical trash. In the middle of the room was a 8mm projector with reels of film strewn about its base. The Trespasser was especially interested in the film and held it up to the windows to try and see the images. As he crouched on the floor, examining the reel, a bright red patch on the tiles caught his attention. Forgetting the film, which was crudely shot and blurry anyway, he made his way toward the red goo. At first it looked like someone had spilled a red slushy, but as The Trespasser got closer, the goo took on more of a gelatin texture, as if a giant gummy worm had melted in the sun.

Something about this mysterious slime repulsed The Trespasser. That, coupled with the radio squawks still coming through the windows made him want to branch out into the other sections of the building that weren’t so close to the police gathering. Back in the hallways, it didn’t take long to locate the corridor bridging the hospital complex together. The Trespasser had driven under these bridges many times when Overbrook was still in operation, yearning for the time when the buildings would be abandoned. He couldn’t see it, but a huge smile was written across his face as he peered down the long corridor. He was finally fulfilling the lifelong goal of seeing the main wards from the inside.

long hallways
resusci anne

He crept through the long hallway pointing his camera out the windows, capturing the grand scale of the hospital face from the inside out. Somehow this one corridor perfectly personified the entire complex and captured the mood of the anguish, suffering and death that once took place here. Overbrook opened in 1897 and, back then, their methods of treating the insane leaned more towards torture than therapy. Frankenstein-style laboratories, electric shock treatments, medieval restraint practices and a general ignorance about the nature of mental illness made Overbrook a particularly bad place to be a crazy person.

essex county hospital center
Thousands were tortured within these walls under the guise of medical treatment and this hallway captured the mood. In his mind, The Trespasser imagined patients wandering through the hallways wearing hospital gowns and lining up at prescribed times to receive their medications. He could almost see the schizos, psychos, murderers and suicide attempts aimlessly shuffling through the peeling paint. The Trespasser had read many histories and archived news articles about Overbrook and was aware of the wretched conditions that existed here for the patients. The summers were sweltering in the locked wards with nothing but fans to blow around the stagnant reeking air. The winters were drafty and because of the steam heating, the wards closest to the boilers would be sopping with heat while the furthest would get so cold that a layer of ice sometimes formed in the toilets.

There was a winter here in the early 1930’s when the boilers broke down and could not be immediately fixed. During the ensuing month, more than 30 patients froze to death, with many more suffering from severe frostbite. This was Overbrook's most publicized tragedy. The 4-drawer morgue was pushed far beyond its capacity forcing the newspapers and politicians to take notice of a problem they would just as soon brush under the rug. Mental illness isn't pretty, which is why Overbrook is setup more like a prison than a hospital. It was a place to lock away society's undesirables so as not to embarrass family and friends. The sealed wards were built to cage the madness, so it couldn't get out into the general public. The majority of Overbrook's occupants were unaccounted for and unloved.

The Trespasser could feel the ghosts of Overbrook's past in the hot drafts. It took little imagination to picture days spent whiling away the time, surrounded by crazies. Horror, dementia and human anguish fairly oozed from the walls. Pain was evident here; from the hospital smell, to the ancient equipment, to the empty chairs still inhabited by the spirits of insanity. There had been much death within these wards and much suffering. The peeling walls, the stagnant heat, the festering shadows all retained the mood of trauma. The Trespasser felt at home here. What is it about these buildings that have always called to him? What attracts The Trespasser to the darkness and the pain of Overbrook?

x. ray burns
developing room
gyno chair

Perhaps it was his own internship in the Mentally Ill Chemically Addicted unit that cemented his love for these buildings. Although The Trespasser was never a patient in the hospital, he had been, in his adolescence, a trustee. He had been given the key to the MICA Ward and it was his job to make coffee for the Narcotics Anonymous meeting, which met every Friday at 11:00 PM.

The meeting was called Late Night. It was aimed at attracting young people who were new to the life of sobriety. Originally the group had met in a church basement in Verona, but due to the age bracket of the attendees, it tended to be a rowdy crowd so eventually they were kicked out. A few devoted members, The Trespasser included, did not want the meeting to die. Luckily it turned out that some people knew some people and, after strings were pulled, Late Night found a new home in Overbrook.

At the time, The Trespasser wasn’t necessarily staying clean by choice. It was a forced sobriety, but once Late Night moved to Overbrook, he embraced this particular NA meeting. He volunteered to make coffee for the group, which meant he was given a key and was expected to show up early to setup the meeting. On Fridays, he would arrive 2, sometimes 3 hours ahead of schedule just so he could wander the ward. These were the days when the hospital was still in operation, but on Friday nights the entire MICA unit was abandoned. At first he was alone in these pre-meeting hours, but as the weeks rolled by, his friends started showing up early as well. It didn't take long for the Back Male Hill of Overbrook to become The Trespasser’s own little NA clubhouse where one could always find the cute girls fresh out of rehab and the young junkies come to collect their sobriety fix.

Just like in Verona the meeting often got loud and out of hand, but this time there was no one to complain. Most Fridays, the addicts would stay long past the serenity prayer, talking and gobbling cigarettes as if they were candy. It was during these times, when the lights were turned down and the long corridors were lit only by the exit signs, that The Trespasser would strap on his roller blades and glide through the hallways. One night, The Trespasser found a steel lunch delivery tray with a good set of wheels. His friend Ann immediately hopped on and the two spent hours rolling around the hospital, spinning in circles, narrowly avoiding iron doorframes, tables and chairs.

denture making supplies

As the fun evolved, the meeting began to grow. It had always been candle lit in the church basement, but in the MICA dayroom the darkness ate the light from the few measly candles the group could afford. The Trespasser fixed this by embarking on a mad candle-collecting spree. He raided every thrift shop, Salvation Army, garage sale and dollar store. The result was a pyre of candles set up on an altar in the middle of the ward. Every Friday, young addicts sat around this small inferno and poured their hearts out to the group. Maybe it was the hypnotic flicker of the candles, maybe the darkness, or maybe it was Overbrook itself, but the secrets came pouring out of people. Shocking revelations were made, teary confessions were heard and a certain safety was achieved for a bunch of lost kids in an otherwise insane world.

So is this why The Trespasser feels safe here? Is this why he feels he has the right to be here even though there are fifty cops just below who would arrest him on sight? Is it arrogance or proprietorship that allows The Trespasser to wander these abandoned hallways unobstructed by neither ghost nor man?

None of these questions mattered as he crept low through the buildings. His only thought was to see as many of the wards as possible before the afternoon sun went behind the mountain. He made his way through the wings with a silence and a purpose long practiced on the outskirts of these main wards. Along the way, he diligently captured photos and video for he knew these walls wouldn't stand much longer. When the heat and smell had finally taken its toll, and the longing for a drink of cold water had become overpowering, he snuck out of the hospital and managed to get back to his vehicle unapprehended. Driving home, the adrenaline pumped through his veins, but even as he congratulated himself on a job well done, he knew his mission wasn’t fully accomplished. There was still one room he could not rest without seeing... the morgue.

reception hallway
the bridge from inside

For weeks it bothered The Trespasser that he had not found the morgue. He had sworn to himself not to risk another trip to the hospital, but it gnawed at him. He even began to dream about it. Meanwhile, the police presence was intensifying. Newspapers published stories almost daily about the arrests of curious thrill seekers on the Overbrook property. It turned out that the same day The Trespasser had made what he thought was his final trip, 6 people had been arrested on the hospital grounds for trying to break in. Those arrests capped a month long crackdown which netted 40 something arrests. The Trespasser knew the risks perhaps better than anyone, but like a bird watcher after an endangered species; he had to see the morgue for his life list.



Strange tales from the depths of the abandoned mental hospital. Inspired by a lifetime of trespassing in Overbrook Asylum, author Wheeler Antabanez captures and preserves the dark mood and creepy ambiance of the now demolished institution.

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He woke one morning to the sounds of a rumbling August thunderstorm and decided today would be the day. On his last visit, the path to the building had been much too crackly. He had been waiting for rain to soften the leaves of the forest floor and finally it had come. Over his morning coffee, The Trespasser reviewed once more the google satellite images of the Overbrook property. He would follow the same plan as before; park in the lot at the end of Lewis Road in Cedar Grove, duck into the woods and follow the trail up the hill through the woods. Halfway up the mountain he would sneak across the athletic field, ducking under the hill so no motorists could see him from Smith Drive. From space, he could see the small clump of bushes where he would catch his breath. Then, making sure no one was coming, he would dash onto the road and almost instantly be back in the patch of trees behind the Front Male Hill where he would make his entrance through the window in the Reception Wing.

chemistry set

This route had worked perfectly last time and The Trespasser saw no reason to deviate. As he sipped his morning coffee he clicked over to youtube and reviewed the videos, which he knew contained footage of the morgue. It was hard to discern many clues as to where it would be, but The Trespasser had a good feeling that it would be in the basement of the reception building, which was the lowest, darkest basement in all of Overbrook.

He parked, hiked, scrambled, huffed and puffed and all went well until he was about a hundred yards from the building. The Trespasser was walking through the second set of woods, with his sights on the open window, when the engine of a car suddenly came around the corner. He had been creeping through the wet leaves on the slope of the hill to avoid being spotted from above, but was dangerously exposed to the parking lot below. Acting quickly, The Trespasser dropped into the dirt behind a tree and lay motionless on the edge of the forest. His fetal form was only partially concealed and he prayed that his camouflage clothing would be enough to hide him in plain sight. Through squinting eyes, he watched the sheriff's truck round the corner and come to an idling stop 15 feet below him in the parking lot. Waves of paranoia rushed through The Trespasser and he was sure that this time he had been caught. But after a few minutes gabbing on a cell phone the officer once again resumed his patrol and The Trespasser stood with shaky knees and hobbled towards the building.

roof of the bridge
dentist station

With exquisite care The Trespasser swung his leg over the windowpane and climbed quietly into the basement. Sweat poured from his face and his hands shook. Once again he was unaware of the smile written across his face. Quietly he tiptoed through the file room and eased the door open into the basement corridor. He made his way slowly through the blackness on tiptoe, unwilling to give up any sounds that would betray his presence. It was slow going down the hall and he stopped to examine the rooms along the way to make sure he didn’t miss the morgue. There were laboratories and storerooms complete with medical glassware, sterilized hospital instruments and endless medical filth. Halfway down the corridor The Trespasser heard the sheriff's truck driving slowly through the complex and looked out a basement window just in time to see the tires roll by right outside. He froze in the hallway, heart beating, breath catching, paranoid, hunted, scared. For almost a minute he could neither move forward or back, but could only stand in the dark like a statue. He found himself wishing that he could just be somewhere else, some place nice where there were no cops and no darkness and no ghosts.

admin entrance
much love

Finally though, he found his balls and crept once more towards where he was sure the morgue was to be found. In these matters The Trespasser’s instincts are seldom wrong. The morgue was indeed located at the end of the hall and as he peeked through the last door on his right, his ambitions were rewarded. He wasted no time taking pictures of his prize and it’s a good thing he didn’t because his camera only clicked 5 times before the sheriff's truck once again drove past the windows. This time, instead of rolling past, he stopped the car almost directly outside. The truck continued to idle while two car doors slammed and all of a sudden there were footsteps and talking from outside. The Trespasser didn’t dare to even breathe and instinctively crouched into the corner of the morgue. Spider webs enveloped him and he felt crawling on the back of his neck, but he couldn’t afford to make even the slightest of sounds. The voices were getting closer, echoing through the basement hallway.

the mysterious red goo
The Trespasser knew he was fucked. He knew that these police would enter the building. He knew they would want to see the morgue. He knew they would find him and he knew he would be arrested. He knew these things and suddenly with knowledge came acceptance. The fear, which had seized him, vanished and the smile returned to his face. What could the cops really do anyway? The Trespasser could afford the fine. Would they rough him up a bit? The Trespasser isn’t afraid to take a punch. When it came down to actual confrontation The Trespasser found himself strangely relieved and unafraid. It might have been this sudden drainage of panic that stopped the cops from entering the building. Like any predator, police are drawn to the smell of fear. The Trespasser’s sudden calm must have thrown them off the scent. He heard the cops walk up the outside stairs, get back in the truck and slowly drive away.

Once they were gone, The Trespasser stood up, brushed the spider webs from the back of his neck and tiptoed out of the room. His fear was gone, but he wasn’t stupid. It was time to get the hell out of these buildings and never come back. This was to be his final goodbye, but The Trespasser felt nothing but relief as he climbed out the window, padded through the small copse of forest and made his mad dash across the fields into the thick woods. Five pictures of the morgue were tucked safely in the memory card of his digital camera. The Trespasser was happy.



Strange tales from the depths of the abandoned mental hospital. Inspired by a lifetime of trespassing in Overbrook Asylum, author Wheeler Antabanez captures and preserves the dark mood and creepy ambiance of the now demolished institution.

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