A history of Eloise as haunted attraction opens in historic former Westland psychiatric hospital

Eloise Asylum, Westland’s newest haunted attraction, opens Friday inside a building with a dark, eerie past. 

More: Alice Cooper visits Eloise Asylum Experience

While the abandoned building has been known for allegedly being haunted in recent years, the walls of the old psychiatric hospital hold more than just ghosts. The history of Eloise, once a sprawling campus, dates back to the 1800s.

Before Eloise, the Wayne County Poor House was in Detroit. As the condition of the Detroit poor house deteriorated, it was relocated to what was then known as Nankin Township, where Eloise now is.

The space served as the poor house beginning in 1839. It changed names several times throughout the years and also served different purposes -- it was the poor house, a general hospital, a mental hospital, and a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients.

Eloise became its own city, occupying 902 acres near what is now Michigan Avenue and Henry Ruff Road. It had more than 70  buildings, including a bakery, a school, fire department, police department, a post office, and more.

There was also a place where employees lived, a farm, and a cemetery to bury those who died at the hospital.

At the end of the 1920s, Eloise had 10,000 patients.

Eloise was considered to have advanced treatments. Doctors at Eloise used X-rays for diagnostic purposes, radium to treat cancer, and "open-air" treatment for tuberculosis.

Patients underwent a variety of treatments for mental issues, including electroshock therapy, insulin shock therapy, music therapy, and television therapy. Some lobotomies were also performed.

Eloise stopped offering psychiatric care in 1979 and the general hospital shuttered in 1984.

Many buildings were demolished shortly after the hospital closed and much of the land is used for other purposes now, such as a strip mall where the Kroger at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Merriman Road is located, and a golf course.

Other buildings, such as the bakery, have been demolished more recently after damage from vandals. Arsonists lit the bakery on fire in 2016.

However, several buildings still stand, including the Kay Beard Building, which housed psych patients and was used as an administration building for Wayne County for a period when Eloise was closed. The commissary building is now a homeless shelter.

The Eloise Cemetery on the south side of Michigan Avenue still exists, too. It is a field full of small brick markers with numbers on them. More than 7,000 Eloise patients were buried in the cemetery, many of whom whose families couldn’t be found or who could not afford to pay for the burials.

After burials stopped at the cemetery in 1948, unclaimed bodies were used for research by the Detroit College of Medicine.

Eloise is designated a Michigan Historical Site.

While the Kay Beard Building has been empty, ghost tours have been offered of the building because it is said to be haunted. The building has also served as the set for a movie, and will soon be a real haunted house for Halloween. Money raised from the Eloise Asylum will benefit the shelter in the commissary building.