OPERATION TIME: 1954 to present
KIRKBRIDE PLAN: No
Atascadero State Hospital – abbreviated to “ASH,” for short – was opened in 1954 as a state-run, self-contained forensic psychiatric center, designed to house the criminally insane. The patients are sentenced by the Superior Court, Board of Prison Terms, and the Department of Corrections. Throughout its history, it has garnered a reputation for violence among inmates.
In 1998, Atascadero State Hospital won the Ernest A. Codman Award in the hospital category.
The most recent patient murder was committed on March 30, 2008, when inmate Earl McKee (44) strangled fellow inmate Lawrence Rael (37) to death with a knotted tow. McKee had originally been sent to Atascadero State Hospital as a “mentally disordered offender,” but was later charged as a “sexually violent predator” (SVP) when he began making abusive threats towards other patients. The murder was taken into federal court.
Atascadero State Hospital later underwent renovations, with a few patients being transferred to Coalinga State Hospital. Eventually, the court mandated that the institution reduce its use of restraints and medications, which made the hospital significantly more dangerous to work at.
It is speculated that the hospital may be haunted due to the violent and homicidal tendencies that have plagued Atascadero State Hospital, but there is very little information on the paranormal activity that takes place there.
In Popular Culture
- In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Sarah Connor is sent to “Pescadero State Hospital,” a mental hospital based heavily upon Atascadero State Hospital.
- Radio host Phil Hendrie’s fictional character, Herb Sewell, was a former patient at the hospital.
- The hospital is referred to in the film The Grifters as the place where Cole was sent after his mental breakdown.
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