There is something terribly wrong with Unit X. In fact, I could say the same about most of the buildings that used to comprise Camarillo State Hospital. It was one of the last, residential “mental health” facilities in Southern California to close when the then governor shut it down in 1997. Now, California State University at Channel Islands (deftly avoiding any association with the name of the old hospital) has taken over much of the property and is renovating the old wards, or “units”, as they were labeled. I have trouble believing that these renovations will cleanse the place of its past.
Although I don’t wish to imply that every unit was responsible for cruel “therapies” designed to shock the patients into submission, certainly such treatments did exist, and there is evidence for them in various units where “hydrotherapy” was practiced, consisting of alternately scalding and freezing the patients under rows of showers in giant, common bathrooms. There is no doubt that in several units the dominant emotions were fear, anxiety, anger, and general misery. I speak with some authority on the subject, for someone I know spent a couple of very long years there and confirmed the general atmosphere of dread, the forced drugging of “uncooperative” patients and the maliciousness of some of the staff.
All this has left a residue in the abandoned units under renovation. “Residue” is not really the right word; whatever is still there is active, almost overwhelmingly so; several times in Unit X, I have been unable to continue the exploration and have needed to recover in a quiet, outside corner of a courtyard. Upon entering Unit X, the first impression for me is one of unbelievable oppression. I feel watched from all corners, and I never know which way to look, which direction to take pictures or direct my attention for an EVP session. The loud banging of the pipes from the boiler room doesn’t alleviate the atmosphere of gloom, especially when the pipes become deafeningly loud at intervals. Although I risk over-interpretation, those pipes seem to grow louder and more insistent during our EVP sessions where we are asking for responses, and apparently receiving them. The hallway of Unit X is one the scariest places I have ever been, bar none; for me, it is almost impossible not to bolt from the building when the knocks and bangs from the pipes have intensified to the point of awe.
There are rooms in this unit and others that are simply ghastly: beyond dark, they are blackly thick with some mysterious, barely contained emotion. You feel that emotion everywhere, but it’s hard to describe as a single feeling; rather, it’s as if the rage and insanity of decades had built up to the point of explosion, but with no real outlet for expression.
I worry about my own state of mind in Unit X. I will stop short of labeling the presences in there as “evil,” but certainly the energy inside is extremely negative. Walking from the stairwell out to the courtyard is like walking from chaos to peace in 5 seconds. You feel it immediately; a burden is lifted from your spirit as soon as you exit the building. Upon returning, the heaviness and fear envelop you all over again. I wish I knew exactly what it is that inhabits those buildings, but I have no idea. I don’t know what is responsible for the feelings I have there, and the inability to define it makes it more frightening for me. I could speculate about trapped, negative energies from patients and staff, or the existence of residual and intelligent hauntings (I lean toward intelligent, in this case), or simply that the walls are exuding the memories of that place in some kind of cosmic time warp, but in reality I have not the faintest idea how to understand Camarillo.
Not everyone feels the way I do. Most of the team finds it creepy and atmospheric, but not necessarily haunted or inhabited by entities of some sort. I react more strongly to this place than most; I don’t know why that is, except that perhaps it’s due to spending many months as a child in the hospital, feeling that same loss of control over my life that I’m sure the patients felt during their time at Camarillo. Granted, I wasn’t in the hospital for mental health issues, but ultimately it doesn’t matter: a hospital is a place where you lose your autonomy, where you face death (possibly your own) and where you live every moment in a regimented, controlled fashion where someone else is making all decisions for you. All you can do is wait for your stay to end and try to play the game by the rules. You take your pills, you hope that the side effects don’t make you crazy, and you pray that someone will come and take you away from all of it.
Camarillo is a place that will never escape its name and reputation. The entire campus is eerie and sad. If that is what it means to be haunted, that you are stuck in a time and place forever that you never wished to inhabit, then Camarillo is the most haunted place I know. It brings back very bad memories for me, even though I was never there.