The Scariest Place I’ve Ever Been: Ghost Hunting in the Old Mid-Orange Boy Reformatory

The Warwick State Training School for Boys, near Chester NY, opened in 1914 as the New York City Farm, a rehabilitation center for alcohol and drug dependent men. 

It then became the State Training School for Boys in 1933, focused on the rehabilitation of young men, and then transformed again into the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility in 1977. It closed for good in 2011.

Since then, its inhabitants have been left in more or less peace, although the ceilings are beginning to crumble and bits and pieces have fallen to the dust-covered floor.


The original buildings are all dark red brick, which glow as the sun sets and darkness begins to settle in amongst the buildings.

Places like this are a ghost-hunters dream: an abandoned place with a long and violent history, with a record of enough deaths on the premises that it almost comes with a guarantee of being haunted.

Although the buildings are no longer in active use, the compound is owned by the Hudson Sports Complex. In the yard, there’s a full-size soccer field, with high netting that prevents errant balls from landing too close to the haunted places.
Now just an hour’s drive away from the hustle and bustle of New York City, in 1912, when the City purchased farmland to establish a “colony” for men addicted to alcohol, it was a longer drive to this rural setting.

“The Farm” was meant to serve as a rehabilitation center, offering innovative treatment plans for alcohol and drug-dependent inmates, but disappointing results caused the city government to discontinue The Farm in 1918.

However, it re-opened just 2 years later to house drug-addicted inmates of the New York City Department of Correction. In 1929, the facility was transferred to the State of New York’s Department of Social Welfare, and the facility was rebranded as the New York State Training School for Boys. 

By 1931, it housed 103 youth living in 16 cottages, or dormitories, where the boys lived on the first floor in individual rooms while the supervisor and his wife lived on the second floor.

As with most such facilities, it began with such good intentions. The boys would gain practical skills that could lead to jobs: printing, shoe repair, mending, upholstery, and barbering were among the skills taught. In addition, the boys received a full education, worked on the farm, and swam and fished in the adjoining Wickham Lake.

Eventually, though, the Training School changed. By the 1970s, the boys sent to the facility were frequently violent, repeat offenders who often escaped from the premises. In 1976, the state closed the boys school in 1976, but re-opened it a year later as the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility. The property was enclosed by a security fence and several new buildings added to the prison.

The reported paranormal activity at the facility ranges from slamming doors to grey aliens. We experienced unexplained knocks, doors being slammed, screaming EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), and rolling cat balls (without any obvious reason for the light up cat ball to roll). One individual in our group broke out in terrible rash.
Laser grids help detect movement during a ghost hunt.

Actually, the rash isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that more of us didn’t emerge with terrible rashes. No one is maintaining these buildings. Certainly, no one is cleaning them.

Strips of paint — most likely lead paint, given the era it hails from — hung in spirals from the ceilings and flaked off the walls. As we walked the floors, we trod on the bits of paint, grinding it into a dust and then, as we shuffled around, our footsteps stirred up that dust.

And, I imagine, asbestos, once touted as a fire retardant, probably forms part of the ceiling tiles and pipe surroundings.
One of my favorite ghost hunting tools is a light up cat ball.

Ghost hunting can be risky business. It doesn’t seem as fun to hunt ghosts in clean, well maintained office buildings than in sketchy buildings with piles of debris throughout…
Laptops, phones, and tablets are also helpful tools during a ghost hunt.

We were part of a larger group of about 45, although we were split up into smaller groups, rotating between four three locations: 
  • Dormitory A3, reportedly haunted by a Charles McBride and a Richard (last name unknown). Supposedly, McBride, one of the boys that came to the facility during the more violent era, had committed suicide by hanging himself, although the autopsy indicated multiple bruises on his body, including a slap mark on his face. Mist figures have been witnessed. In addition, this is a rich spot for EVPs, door slams and unexplained knocks and bangs. We heard several loud, unexplained bangs and knocks.
  • Third floor of the Administrative/School Building. The third floor was devoted to a series of chapels or worship spaces for different religions and is said to be haunted by shadow figures. While there, we experienced unexplained footsteps and rustlings. In fact, while we were investigating alone on the third floor, our cat ball lit up, then rolled a foot toward us. (Which was enough — we picked up our toys and fled.)
  • The basement of the Mess Hall, where the kitchens and refrigerators and freezers are located, are said to be haunted by shadow figures and full-body apparitions. People have been scratched. EVPs are common, and during our group session there, we heard screaming EVPs.

There was a lot of sadness, too, during the ghost hunt. In Room 309, our group encountered the spirit of a little boy who had been hurt and who seemed to be scared. 

This room was particularly active throughout evening with heavy footsteps, light up cat balls, flashlights going on and off seemingly in response to questions, a lot of movement by the dowsing rods. 

When we were investigating up there along, we heard unexplained rustling noises, although thankfully, we didn’t witness the shadow figures others have seen and photographed. But the cat ball did light up and roll toward us. That was when we learned we were not very brave ghost hunters.

In the basement of the Mess Hall building we heard screaming EVPs; the group before us captured the EVP response “fun” to the question “do you like us here?” But when the question was asked again, there was a scream in response to same question.

Getting there: Hudson Sports Complex (which owns the abandoned building); 

Hours: Check website below

Website: Hudson Sports

Can’t get enough ghost hunts? Check out the following ghost hunts and paranormal investigations we’ve participated in!

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