Staunton's Dejarnette Sanatorium

Dr. Joseph DeJarnette

Information, Updates, History and more ..

The DeJarnette Sanitorium was founded in 1932 by Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, who
was also the director of the nearby Western State Hospital (the sanitorium
was a private unit for middle-income patients that operated separately
from the government-supported state hospital). DeJarnette was a
respected doctor among the white Virginia elite at the time, but his
career would ultimately be defined by his strong support for
eugenics, specifically the forced sterilization of the mentally
ill and others he deemed “defective.”

Dr DeJarnette served as the director of Western State Asylum located
in Staunton, Virginia from 1905 to November 15, 1943.

DeJarnette drew fresh inspiration from Nazi Germany’s 1933 Law for
the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring, Hitler’s opening
bid to purge the Reich of its genetically and racially “inferior”
stock. In 1934 DeJarnette calculated that 56,244 defectives had
already been sterilized under the new regime.

DeJarnette was also a poet of sorts. He wrote a poem entitled Mendel's
Law: A Plea for a Better Race of Men, which he read in public
on a number of occasions.

This is the law of Mendel,
And often he maken it plain,
Defectives will breed defectives,
And the insane breed insane.
Oh why do we allow these people
To breed back to the monkey's nest,
To increase our country's burdens
When we should only breed the best?

In 1943, State Hospital Board board removed him as superintendent
of Western State due to concerns over his autocratic leadership style
and the decrepit condition of the hospital. He remained in charge of the
semi-private DeJarnette Sanatorium until 1947 and continued to
advocate eugenics after the Nazi Holocaust was
exposed at the end of World War II.

DeJarnette died in 1957 and was interred next to his wife, who
had predeceased him, in her family cemetery in Bath County, Virginia.

Is DeJarnette Sanatorium Haunted ?

There are many stories of paranormal/haunted activity from the
buildings over the years. Several stories from the Staunton Police
Department who have conducted training exercises on the property
grounds from time to time. A few instances where after training
and it is dark, there have been full room lights on in the buildings
when leaving the property when there is no electricity in
the buildings, has not been for years.

Could there be someone (teenager, explorer, vagarnt) in the building
with perhaps a flash light? Absolutely and we know there are
accounts of such going on . But there is a big difference from seeing
a flashlight in the building as opposed to seeing a full room
overhead light. This has occurred on several occasions.

Then there are accounts from the hospital staff that worked there.
Several staff workers as well as urban explorers have witnessed
an elderly patient who had long passed away named Mr. Atlee. He has
been witnessed on the 2nd floor, the 1st floor and near the staircase.
It was said that when Mr. Atlee was admitted to the sanatorium, he only
spoke one sentence his entire stay, "I'm never going home".

His presence is very strong, many have noted. Psychic mediums often
detect his presence on the grounds.

There are accounts of staff experiencing disembodied voices, witnessing
shadow figures, stationary objects that have moved on there own accord
and more. Urban explorers have reported telephones that ring in the
building that have long been disconnected.

As for paranormal experiences that go on to this day in the buildings,
you do have to take in account that are many people in and out of
the buildings. Urban explorers, vagrants, teenagers, all of which
are trespassing. It would be nice if ownership of the property would
allow a real paranormal investigation of the buidlings where
individuals would be cleared out so you knew the buildings were empty.

Our group, Black Raven Paranormal offered to do such with payment
to ownership but was turned down. Many paranormal teams have
been turned down over the years including many televison teams
as well. Reasons for such are the deterioration of the buildings
and safety concerns, support from the community, how the
location would be protrayed to the public through the media
and last the growing problem with trespassers and vandalism.

The chances of a complete, honest investigation of the
buildings are slim and none.

Ghost Tours at Dejarnette Sanatorium ..

In 2012, we were given permission by ownership to do ghost tours,
late Saturday afternoons in October on the grounds only. Because
of safety concerns, we were not allowed to go into the buildings.

One tour every Saturday afternoon in October. To prepare for
a safe walk up to the front of the buildings, we took on an
effort to clear the roadway, steps and more.

We portrayed the history of the buildings, Dr. DeJarnette and
the eugenics program here in Virginia. The tours were an
enormous success. So much in fact that we operated these
tours for 4 seasons. Our last tour on the property on Saturday,
October 29th, our attendance was 165 visitors.

Just prior to that tour, the media had reported the buildings were
to be torn down and a shopping mall to occupy the property.
Where that information was obtained, we do not know. It was not
from us nor was it from ownership. Whenever it originated
from, it proved to be incorrect.

The tours ended in October of 2016. Throughout the 4 seasons we
were able to conduct tours on the property, the amount of break
ins, trespassers and vandalism increased dramatically. The coverage
in the news, social media, televison certainly increased our
attendance but it also attracted many individuals with negative intentions.

We are very grateful for the opportunity we had to present these
tours, the history and the haunted stories associated with DeJarnette
Sanatorium. Personally we would hate to see the buildings torn
down. It is a piece of history, Staunton's history. Despite what
many think is a negative history, history should never be forgotten.
We must learn from history and not make the same mistakes we have
in the past. A lot of good things happened at DeJarnette but it will
be remembered more for the negative accounts and that is ashame.

Opening tour -- Saturday, October 6th, 2012

You can still view the buildings at a distance and take some
wonderful photographs. You just can not be on the property.
There are surveillance cameras 24/7 and staff on hand that is alert.
If caught on the property and convicted, the fine is $2500
hundred dollars, court costs and 20 hours community service.

Its simply not worth it. Please be respectful when you visit.

Contributors -- Dave Simms, Lewis Wiseman, Matt Wiilis, Marty Seibel, Shea Willis

Copyright 2024 © GHOSTS OF STAUNTON & Marty Seibel