Arguably the most famous haunted place in South Korea is the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital. When it was still standing it attracted a lot of ghost hunters, curious tourists and urban explorers. What was it behind the place that drew all these people?

One of the allegedly most haunted places in South-Korea was the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital (곤지암 남양신경정신병원). It was closed down in the 90s and the owner left the country after not documenting for the public the reason why it closed down according to myth. And the legends, rumours and tales started spinning, everything from murderous patients, mad doctors and so on.

So spooky did the world find this place that even foreign TV-station CNN called it one of the world’s most freakiest places in 2012, really making it an international destination for thrillseekers. Today however the empty building been torn down. But before that it managed to become one of the biggest hotspots for ghost seekers in Korea.

Let’s see how the abandoned hospital became known as one of the most haunted places in the country and unravel some of the legends it became known for before being demolished with nothing left but its legend.

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The Asylum: This is how the abandoned hospital looked before being demolished in 2018, hidden away between trees at the foot of a mountain..

Abandoned Asylum in the Mountains

Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital was a building near the small city of Gwangju outside of Seoul in a residential area at the foot of a mountain. The old ruins of the abandoned hospital was just remote enough to be considered a spooky and haunted asylum tucked away in the mountains, and close enough to visit from big places like Seoul to spread the word of ghosts and mad doctors. Much to the locals’ nuisance as they have hated the rumours about the place that have drawn people from all over the world to trespass to have a look for themselves.

According to those who tried to find their way there, the locals around the place are not so forthcoming with giving directions to the site. This of course has fueled the excitement for the urban explorers and paranormal researchers alike, and every year thousands of people broke through the barriers to get a glimpse of the allegedly haunted asylum. 

The Mad Doctor at Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital

So what really went down inside Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital before closing? Let’s have a look at what the legend claims happened inside of the supposed haunted asylum.

The Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital first opened its doors in 1961 and was a full functioning one all the way up to July 1996. Nurses took care of the patients on the three floor hospital and the doctors made their rounds, just as expected. But over the course of the last decade the hospital was in operation, mysterious things kept happening according to the legends the place left. 

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Many of the patients spent most of their lives inside of the walls of the old and overcrowded asylum. Some even say that some of the souls will spend the rest of eternity in this old asylum. 

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The story goes that the patients started dying mysteriously without a good explanation. In addition to dying patients, there were also some of the staff that went missing and turned up dead in the rooms inside of the hospital. From a medical standpoint it was first believed that it could be an infection seeing as it also afflicted some of the patients family members as well, but no, it turned out to be something much more sinister. 

Apparently it was the owner of the asylum who went insane himself and kept many of the patients prisoners and killing them one by one until he was stopped. It wasn’t until the government came to investigate because of the missing staff that he was caught and fled to America, causing the hospital to shut down. 

There were also rumours about the director of the hospital took his own life after being found out to be behind the dead patients and missing staff, becoming one of the souls haunting the place.

But even after the mad doctor was caught, the souls of the victims could never be at peace, long after the hospital closed down and became forgotten for a long time as time ate away at the building.

According to the locals, screams had been heard coming from the abandoned building along with mysterious figures lurking around the dark hospital, believing it to be the haunted souls of the asylum. Poor victims that turned to vengeful spirits, haunting the premise and seeking revenge on those who wronged them.

The people that dared to visit the haunted asylum to check out the stories told of scary encounters they could only explain as paranormal. There were reports of dropping temperatures when it suddenly turned cold on a hot summer’s day, opening and closing of the heavy doors without a draft and they kept hearing voices of people that weren’t there.

The Legend of the Haunted Hospital Grows

Although Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital was such a well known place, the facts of the asylum’s history is hazy, especially after it has been mixed in with unverified legends and blockbuster movies. In 2008 a ghost hunter show showcased the hospital where they brought on shamans and reported that there indeed was something going on in the place.

It was not the only “documentary” that were made of the former hospital and helped to make it a well known building in the entire country and beyond.

The Documentary of the Ghost of Gonjiam: The ghost hunter “documentary” series Ghostspot aired an episode in 2008 about the legends of Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital. This definitely helped further the legends of the place and made the whole nation aware of its existence.

The culmination and peak of the legend must have been when the movies like commercial successful Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (Korean: 곤지암) from 2018 didn’t help to quench the rumours about the asylum being haunted by ghosts. Although the movie itself was primarily filmed at Busan National Maritime High School, a supposed haunted place in itself, it capitalized on the legend behind Gonjiam.

It was kind of a big controversy when Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum came out in theaters as the owner of the building tried to stop the movie as he feared it would affect the property value.

But he lost and the movie was aired, making it a paranormal hot spot to visit once again, despite of the owner trying to keep people out. Barbed wire, cameras and warning signs have tried to keep visitors out since it closed down, to no avail. And the legend would not stop until the whole building disappeared. 

Unraveling the Legends Behind Gonjiam

So why did Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital close down then if not for a mad doctor, missing nurses and murdered patients? More mundane reasons like financial difficulties, unsanitary conditions and big problems with the sewage systems according to the owners of the building was most likely the case. And with the water pipes not up to modern standard, they had no choice to pay up or shut down.

The director that was rumoured to have taken his own life had really just started to work at another hospital after Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital closed down. The children of the director inherited the hospital, but the costs of operating the hospital was too big and they decided to let it fall into ruin, perhaps not realising the stories an abandoned building can create.

In regards to the missing staff and murdered patients at the hospital, there are no evidence for it at all. According to a journalist making a piece on the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital, they found out there had been no suspicious reports about the hospital over the years about missing people and dead patients.

The source to this article delving into the truth behind the claims was among others a policeman in the local police district. In fact, the patients that resided in Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital were supposedly transferred to Yongin mental hospital after the hospital closed down.

Como parte de un video de exploración urbana, dos adolescentes entran al Hospital Psiquiátrico de Gonjiam ?ubicado en Corea del Sur-, un lugar que fue cerrado en los años setenta debido a la inexplicable muerte de algunos pacientes. Mientras intentan abrir la habitación 402, los jóvenes comienzan a escuchar ruidos raros y captan en su cámara el rostro de una espectral mujer que los observa desde una de las habitaciones aledañas. Este video hace que el programa web Horror times se interese por el caso y decida realizar una investigación en el lugar. Para hacer del programa algo mucho más interesante, el presentador Ha-joon (Ha-Joon Wi) invita a algunas personas para que observen lo que sucede en el lugar. Charlotte (Ye-Won Mun), Ah-yeon (Ah-yeon Oh) y Ji-hyun (Ji-Hyun Park) son las primeras en llegar a la reunión de presentación, mientras conversan sobre los motivos por los que les interesó asistir a lugar, aparecen Seung-wook (Seung-Wook Lee) y Sung-hoon (Sung-Hoon Park), que serán los encargados de filmar y mantener todo el equipo en orden. Después de la reunión en la que beben y se conocen mucho mejor, los exploradores parten a Gwangju -la ciudad donde se ubica el sanatorio- y montan una tienda de campaña desde la que Ha-joon les dará órdenes mientras ellos exploran el lugar. Con cámaras GoPro de doble visión, los aventureros comienzan el camino al interior del recinto en busca de un fantasma que pueda ser captado en video. Pese a las burlas iniciales, cosas extrañas comienzan a suceder en el psiquiátrico y los entusiastas jóvenes comprenden que no se encuentran solos en ese lugar.  - ENFILME.COM
Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital Movie: The movie based on the legend from 2018 was a box office success. Screenshot from that iconic scene. //Photo: Source: IMDB

So, although alive in legend, the former hospital and legendary haunted building is no longer there for those curious about the legend to see for yourself and we have to make due with movies, picture and old footage. In 2018 Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital was demolished, the same year that the movie made the legend last forever on film.

There are plans that it may be a new apartment building at the place, further erasing the history and creating a new one at the foot of the mountain. So perhaps now the legend of Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital will die out as an actual place and story, as the building can no longer attract the curious people looking for a thrilling legend? Or maybe the spirits of the place now just lost their home?

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References

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