Forest Haven Mental Health Center


If this was civilization, you wouldn’t be too upset to be left behind.


When that airy but not-so-distant music came drifting in on the thick evening breeze, we all froze. Chills like it wasn’t June, but December. The tune was upbeat, with a female singer, but echoing through the vacant buildings around us, it rang of dread and menace. Moments ago, the only sound had been the glass shards crunching between our sneakers and the cement floor. But now… Now…

Why would anyone else be out here, and why in hell would they be listening to Top 40?

That’s the closest thing to a ghost story that I have to share from my first visit to Forest Haven Mental Health Center, which was shut down by a 1991 court order on charges of systemic abuse and negligence.

And that gets to the heart of the real horror. It is not some music, which is embarrassingly Scooby-Doo when you get right down to it. For me, urban exploration is a lark. I can leave any time I want. I can go home when this place gets to be too much. Or when it gets dark, and I get too scared to stick around.

The mentally disabled residents of the District – the patients of Forest Haven – had nowhere else to go when things got dark. This was home, whether they liked it or not. Or prison. Unlike me, they couldn’t run back through the woods to the safety of a waiting car. They had no alternatives, and until the very end, too few champions. And they most definitely had something to be scared of.

On January 12, 1990, The Washington Post offered a glimpse into what went wrong at Forest Haven, reporting, “A 31-year-old male resident of Forest Haven, the District’s center for mentally retarded adults, died Wednesday, becoming at least the sixth resident to die at the Laurel facility since May.”

If you let it, though, this building affords those who dare to enter it the opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of horror – the way that we treat weakest among us.

The way that we treat the weakest among us…

I’ve heard it said that that is one way you can judge a man’s character, so why not a whole society’s?

Walking from room to room, you get the feeling that you are last survivor of some horrible, cataclysmic conflict, one which resulted in the utter annihilation of mankind and all his decency. That you are alone at the end of civilization. It could have been atomic bombs that shattered these windows and burnt this building to a charred ruin. But it wasn’t. Whatever happened here was more subtle than that, even if it was no less evil.

Though if this was what civilization had to offer, you wouldn’t be too upset at its passing.



Learn more

Abandoned Washington DC by Thomas Kenning


68 thoughts on “Forest Haven Mental Health Center

  1. How did you get onto the property? i have been looking for contact info for the owners, which all i could track down was DC-government on a environmental record on file, but do not know what division or person to contact about seeking visitation permission…. any suggestions?

    Posted by Matt | November 1, 2011, 1:51 pm
    • Hey Matt,

      I don’t have any more info on the owners than you do, sorry!

      Posted by DCinruins. | November 2, 2011, 3:05 am
      • It is owned by the militray. The grounds are heavily guarded with DNR, MP as well as state and county police who use k-9 dogs. Wouldn’t advise going at night because that is when they are patrolling the heaviest. During the day you have a better shot. It is off of Rte 198 in Laurel …You cant miss it the gate is stil there at the enterance.

        Posted by Myssie Ebright | August 21, 2012, 4:38 pm
  2. Absolutely the best description of the place and the sadness that is still evident within the walls.

    Posted by Susan Redmond | February 3, 2013, 7:47 pm
  3. I want to go, Jon.

    Posted by Donella | February 11, 2013, 7:18 pm
  4. We went this weekend. Was very creepy and there’s definitely sadness in the air. Slamming doors, clothes scattered about, shoes, toys… we didn’t venture deep in the buildings out of respect, but we definitely got some good pics and really want to go again.

    Posted by AJ Wellons | May 28, 2013, 1:01 pm
  5. There weren’t dogs. There was a guard, and he was actually really nice. Explained that I was there for a school project and wanted to snap some pictures. It took a few minutes to convince him, but he let us in. We didn’t touch or take anything – just snapped tons of pics and looked around… planning another trip…

    Posted by AJ Wellons | May 29, 2013, 1:32 pm
  6. Thanks, AJ….please keep me posted. I’d love to go. It looks way more interesting than Henryton, but on our little hike to the campus, we found a swimming hole with a rope swing 🙂

    Posted by Donella | May 29, 2013, 1:42 pm
  7. LOL now that sounds like a fun time!
    This was our first “adventure” to a place like this. I will email you directly 🙂

    Posted by AJ Wellons | May 29, 2013, 2:00 pm
    • AJ…want to go again? I have a few folks who want to go including me. Send me an email!

      Posted by Donella | March 19, 2016, 9:07 pm
      • Both Access roads make this site unreachable. One side has New Beginnings Center guards that will not allow entry. The other end has the Woodlands Job Corps where you need a reason to be entering their property and sign a check in sheet. Unless you are confident you can come up with a solid reason for being there, your attempt will be uneventful like mine.

        Posted by Dramity | October 11, 2017, 6:00 pm
  8. Anyone have an address? I want to go, but, for the life of me, cannot figure out how to get there.

    Posted by nwheat14 | June 5, 2013, 12:08 am
  9. It’s along Fort Meade rd in laurel, google search New Beginnings Youth Center and use that address.

    Posted by Jon Shold | June 5, 2013, 6:54 pm
  10. had a great visit this past weekend.

    Posted by AJ Wellons | June 11, 2013, 12:48 pm
  11. Strange we didn’t see you guys when we left around 7:15

    Posted by Jon Shold | June 11, 2013, 1:21 pm
    • we were in the woods at that point. came out of the woods around 7:30. decided to be bold when it was time to leave and went right behind the guard gate, down the road, and down along the fence by the storage place. much faster route lol still a few more buildings to take a look at eventually.

      Posted by AJ Wellons | June 11, 2013, 1:47 pm
  12. When I went last week, saw no guards anywhere. It was afternoon/evening on a weekday. Took the path through the woods. Definitely check for ticks after heading home, had one on the back of my leg even though I was wearing pants. I only got to explore the treatment building directly outside the woods and the main building (administration building), really want to see more next time!

    Posted by Sarah | July 2, 2013, 2:17 am
  13. Hi there! I’m visiting from the West coast and looking for a little low key exploration. 🙂 This might fit the bill. (I do my best to keep it legal — social engineering is fun!) To say I’m not familiar with the area is an understatement, but thanks to Google maps…

    I’ve found Fort Meade Rd in Laurel, but haven’t pinpointed the spot yet. If someone with knowledge would want to email me, that would be much appreciated! I’m sure I’m looking right at it thanks to the tip re: storage facility, but want to make sure. If you’re in the area and want to join, I’ll buy ya lunch! 🙂 Hit me up at .

    Also found an interesting thing in the area on the maps — what did this used to be, anyone know?

    Posted by freeflowgirl | October 3, 2013, 6:01 pm
  14. I live in the Midwest but my office is in DC, so I get to the area quite often. After reading about Forest Haven, I made the trip to the facility this past Monday. I wasn’t really prepared (I had the location, a flashlight, and little else). I parked at the Moose lodge on Ft. Meade at about 4pm and headed through the woods to the buildings. I first came across a different building just into the woods, far away from the facility itself. Not sure what it is – it seems to be the same vintage as the facility, but doesn’t seem to be connected. At any rate, after poking around there for a bit, I proceeded to traipse through the brush to the main campus. Let me tell you, I’m in my 40s and I was pretty freaked walking through those woods alone – in broad daylight. Maybe it was the anticipation.

    After about 1/4 mile and crossing a little creek using a fallen tree as a bridge, I came to the main admin building. At that time, I didn’t see or hear anything – no guards or other people around. I walked through the admin building and took a few pictures. It was starting to get dark and the hairs on the back of my neck were starting to stand up, so I left the admin building to explore a few others. You could easily spend a few days really exploring this site – lots of buildings there to go through.

    I wanted to see the prison building, or at least I thought it was a prison due to all the razor wire. I had a rough idea of where it was based on what I could gather from Google maps (it’s northeast of the admin building, tucked back in the corner of the campus). On my way there, I went into another building. Just as the door behind me closed, I heard what I’m pretty sure was a walkie-talkie going off. I stopped in my tracks and looked out the window behind me, bracing myself for a confrontation with a guard. I saw absolutely no one, nor heard anything further. No more squawks from a walkie or footsteps or anything. Weird.

    I made my way to the prison and started going deeper into the building. I got mostly to the end of the main corridor when my flashlight beam fell across a huge pile of bottles and what appeared to be someone’s makeshift living quarters. Not to be disrespectful, I promptly turned around and went back to the streets. Plus, that freaked me out a bit. I had the distinct feeling that I wasn’t alone.

    It was really starting to get dark so I decided to hoof it back through the woods and back to the car. I spent just a couple hours there. I generally don’t get too worked up about this kind of stuff, but there’s definitely a sadness in the air here. I had horrible nightmares that night, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about my visit. I’d like to go back with some more daylight and do a better job of recording my visit. It’s a sobering experience, that’s for sure.

    Posted by oldspice | November 14, 2013, 5:44 am
  15. Hey Oldspice, drop me a note when you are in the area again. I’d like to join up if possible.

    Posted by sathus | November 25, 2013, 10:31 pm
  16. Very nice location and stories, thanks!

    Posted by MatericLook | December 5, 2013, 11:28 am
  17. Looking for more info on exploration of this site… specifics, really. If anyone can help, please hit me up at – thanks in advance.

    Posted by J Combs | January 26, 2014, 6:28 am
  18. Same as J Combs – I’m looking for information about this place. Mainly some direction of any kind. Seems tracking through the woods is the common theme. Please email me at Thanks.

    Posted by Steve | April 18, 2014, 1:29 am
  19. Let me know when anyone wants to go. I’m itching to explore this place!

    Posted by Donella | May 16, 2014, 3:05 pm
  20. Hey I’d like to visit this place…I have some questions. Where would one park? What’s the guard situation like? An other useful info would be great too. Email is

    Posted by Eyal | June 22, 2014, 8:26 pm
  21. Am interested in checking out this place! Planning a road trip very soon. Has anyone recently visited or have any information that maybe helpful? Please contact me. Thanks!

    Posted by Tabtiha | June 26, 2014, 12:42 pm
  22. Been about a year since I went, still got all the details if you need some info. Email me at if your interested. I also know of some similar institutions in central maryland.

    Posted by Jon Shold | September 10, 2014, 8:01 pm
  23. I just went today but couldn’t figure out how to get past the security guard. I parked somewhere and walked through the woods for hours and found something similar to forest haven but not the same place. if anyone’s going there again soon and wants to email me and maybe we can meet up because I really want to explore inside forest haven. my email is or text me at 703 268 8716 I really really want to go inside!!

    Posted by Gianna | November 22, 2014, 11:03 pm
  24. Hey I really want to go. Can someone give me the address and the times to go please. Thank you

    Posted by Ashley Martin | February 28, 2015, 11:35 pm
  25. I really want to go. I live in laurel and had no idea it was here. If anyone has been here before and knows how to get to it and would like to meet up with me and a couple friends that would be great.

    Posted by Rosealia Perini | March 30, 2015, 2:58 pm
    • Hey all,

      I explored Forest Haven in 2013 and 2014. I’ve been in pretty much every area that is abanoned, with the exception of 1 or 2 buildings that posed too many threats (too close to neighboring facilities that were open, too structurally unsound, etc.).

      If you are trying to go visit the campus, absolutely do your research!! There is a lot at stake by going here and if you actually plan a trip here, be smart about it. A lot of these buildings are in terrible shape, filled with asbestos, debris, dust and falling ceilings/unstable floors. Also, I’ve read about many security encounters from other explorers (although none of the times I went did I run into any security/police). On top of that, there are vandals, drug addicts, squatters, homeless people and gang members that regularly occupy the grounds.

      Go during the day. Also, I know a lot of great resources and I have a lot of personal advice from my explorations here. Email me at if you have any questions at all. I can also tell you about my experiences here, to give you an idea of what it was like. As I said before, I’ve been here several times and more recently than not.

      A lot of articles I’ve read from other explorers are years old and the advice is outdated and not as helpful. Things change overtime. Go sooner than later. Many similar institutions are being torn down or already have been in recent years.


      Posted by saruhhem122 | April 25, 2015, 9:56 pm
  26. Went with three friends, and we went by a storage place through the woods. the only security we saw were from the detention center next door. Later at night the guy who was kind of leading us heard someone so we went the opposite way to avoid the guy. minutes later we heard what we assumed was a guard screaming ad then pushing a guy to the ground. so we have to assume we got lucky and the other person got caught. there is A LOT of mercury floating around in the open, which we saw people collecting. and if you do go into one of the buildings (i think it was across from the high security building which DID have waist height barb wire springs) there are actually underground tunnels which had kids toys in them. but sadly the water pipes broke so you cant really go to wherever the tunnel leads bc its a gross mushy mess. I mean, the biggest advice is to bring flashlights, masks, and shoes that you dont mind getting messed up. and avoid any place where you hear sounds. you dont know who or what made the sound so dont try and find out or you may get yourself hurt. beware some of the buildings DO have many lower floors that are basically decomposing. you have to watch your head if youre taller because youll see steel bars and ceiling stuff hanging about head height. there are ALOT of broken water pipes. also if you do find the main building, there are actually a few rooms that have client packets of information. some are tame and others tell of horrid punishments and treatment by “family”. if you go, bring a way to cut through trees and other things in the buildings if you want to go deep. alot is destroyed, but there’s still so much to see! I reccomend going but being sneaky 😉

    Posted by Marissa | July 5, 2015, 4:14 pm
  27. I have been to forest haven quite a few times now with friends (will NEVER go alone due to the fear factor); however our group is pretty bold and we have gone at night, a few times being after midnight. We take the wooded path through the woods, it’s the best route, yet it IS pretty creepy. When we go it’s to explore and to ghost hunt, so we bring recorders and other instruments used to seek paranormal activity. I read comments about how “heavily” patrolled the grounds are by security, but have only had a couple experiences of seeing a patrol car… at night, it’s SUPER easy to dodge them. There are plenty of places to hide and if you dress in all black, just standing off to the side can make you blend in with other black blobs you can’t make out at night. I recommend that whenever you walk along the road to different buildings, looking both ways before stepping on the path can help you detect if someone is walking the road also. We are pretty stealthy when we go and you do have to have that mindset. We also carry knives, which is also recommended. We have run into other explorers just about every time we have went, and most are in groups. Some are VERY loud (Not recommended to be loud, but they can be the ones to be caught so we just stay away from there location).
    Last night we were there, we got there about 10pm and stayed till 1 am. We saw a patrol car at about 10:30pm, and ran into another group of explorers, who seemed to be new at it cause they asked us questions about the place. tonight we were determined to spend more time in any particular building and we decided to plant a recorder in one of the buildings we hadn’t explored yet, and left it there for the duration of the time we went to another building, ensuring that if anything was recorded we knew it wouldn’t be us on the tape. We went to another building and conducted an EVP session. using the names of some of the patients we discovered died there. While were there we didn’t get any real activity (we spend about 40 minutes in one room that had alot of chairs facing a window). it wasn’t until we were about to leave the room that we heard noises, so we left. These buildings are super creepy! and there is an urky vibe that is easy to pick up on. We went back to the building we planted the recorder in by itself and retrieved it. When we got home and replayed the tape, we screamed at what we picked up. I get goose bumps. We heard us leave the building, and then a few moments later we heard sounds, talking, conversations. we couldn’t make out what was being said but it sounded like it was in slow motion, and we could tell whether it was male or female. we heard footsteps and music playing in the distance. I want to know what this building was used for , but we left the recorder on a large green chair that had stirrups on it, looking like it was a hospital chair. We’ve already decided that this is a building to be recorded again!
    if you yall are interested in going, be safe and stealthy. If you are looking for another location, i highly recommend Glen Dale. used to be a TB hospital. We picked up something there that I will never forget, and one that we have saved. We recorded a Male voice laugh into our recorder and then say “I waaant yooour sooooul” This was picked up during the day and by two of our team members that were female. The day was calm and quiet and WE were especially quiet due to knowing recorders were rolling. No BS here people. I’m a skeptic!

    Posted by Ree | September 23, 2015, 2:54 am
  28. Planning a venture within the next month. Sunset. Information and fellow travelers welcome.

    Posted by A | October 17, 2015, 10:50 pm
  29. Ree, thanks for the Glen Dale suggestion, that looks like an awesome location. Any issues with that guard house there?

    Posted by AMW | October 29, 2015, 6:54 pm
    • Hey AMW…your welcome! if you want to visit glen dale it has an adult side (where adults were kept) and a children’s side. Both are located on different sides of the main road. The adult side has the guard trailer. No issues if you choose the children’s side. Where we caught our EVP evidence however was on the adult side (during the day) … I recommend going during the day because a guard could see you with flashlights at night. Enter the adult side from the back..there is a little park that’s sits behind the building. Cut through the wooded area and there is a fence that is broken so you can enter easily. The first entry way you will then see is actually the morgue. Hope this helps. If you do a little research you can get more accurate directions for getting in the buidlings. That’s what we did. Happy exploring!!!

      Posted by Ree | October 29, 2015, 9:40 pm
  30. was at forest haven last week. spent the night there alone. wont do that again. too creepy. kept waking up to wierd noises. be careful of druggies, squatters and gang members there. I came prepared, had a pistol and mace.

    Posted by Steve | November 7, 2015, 4:14 am
  31. Considering going soon if anyone could give me any advice please send me an email

    Posted by taylor | December 5, 2015, 3:16 am
  32. I went there this weekend, was not hard to get to, 25 min walk, exceedingly erie, not many guards, only saw one who entered in a car, drove around and left, no police when I went, I was at the residence from 3 until 1030 at night, saw 2 other groups of people, can be dangerous, you could see homeless people were there, there have been reports of them attacking or acting “strange”, a lot of sharp metal and glass, if you go bring flashlights, and a coat, it was freezing in certain rooms, and if you take pictures use flash, gloves and water proof boots, don’t be a dumb dumb, and don’t enter the basements that are flooded.

    Posted by Henry H | March 3, 2016, 4:58 pm
  33. I got a trespassing ticket here on Monday 😦

    Posted by Cookies1milk | March 3, 2016, 6:44 pm
  34. How much was it?

    Posted by Henry H | March 4, 2016, 12:12 am
    • And how bad was it? Like was he a ass about it or what if you don’t mind me asking and was it security or a police officer? Because honestly when I went it was 6 in my group and we ran into 2 other groups and both of them said they have seen about 4 groups total we were entering whilst they were leaving.

      Posted by Henry H | March 4, 2016, 12:54 am
  35. It was the police and they were waiting for me in the administration building, Ever since the recent arson they have been increasing patrols and issuing trespassing tickets on site. It also wouldn’t surprise me if local businesses have begun reporting cars that are out of place

    Posted by Cookies1milk | March 4, 2016, 3:17 am
  36. how much was ticket ive been before planning on going with a group of friends tomorrow night they are loud as hell but im only one who knows how to get there downm the wood path and does anybody know the story behind the one lost building all the way in the back with the white bus????

    Posted by matt c | March 4, 2016, 4:44 pm
  37. I think that building was a juvenile corrections facility. One of the last building in use I believe.

    p.s. I would keep your group rather small if you are going. Better safe than sorry.

    Posted by Steve | March 4, 2016, 5:12 pm
  38. That building way in the cut with the bus in the back is the Detention Center, and it Included “seclusion rooms,” 6 by 8 foot cells with nothing more than a mattress and a toilet. Heavy solid metal doors, two observation courtyards. Patients who misbehaved or were too much trouble to monitor were usually kept here – and these residents usually performed more labor. This is where they kept the most violent patients and where they administered Thorazine. Leaving patients lifeless and still

    Posted by Ree | March 5, 2016, 10:38 pm
  39. I am from PA and live about two hours from forest haven but me and my friends always go here, during the say of course because we are too scared to go during the night, but let me tell you some very weird things happen during the day. one time me and my friend jonah were there and we were in the building that has a piano and we searched the whole building (even seeing the piano just making sure no one else was in the building) and when we went down a floor we started hearing the piano playing. VERY VERY creepy. Also, one time we went into the school buliding I think it is? where the desks are and a lot of documents? and my friends saw a girl standing naked looking at the wall talking in what they thought was to be tongues. I wasn’t there for that I was in a different building but when we met up with them shortly after they were pretty freaked out so we left. but you should really go!! its super fun, and you can take some really sick pictures!

    Posted by Brianna | March 30, 2016, 2:20 am
  40. anyone visit recently? planning a trip in august or september any advice? first time going to an abandoned building

    Posted by momo | April 18, 2016, 5:54 am
    • Don’t go if its your first tims, scrath that, no one should go. I had a few friends go and they were arrested. Charged with trespassing, breaking and entering, and vandalism(they weren’t tagging, but cops found a lotta new graffiti where they were). It’s not worth it anymore. Now my friends futures are on the line. Anyways, Go if you want, but it’s foolish to do so.

      Posted by Jon Shold | April 22, 2016, 12:56 pm
      • When did this happen? I’ve never heard of Police patrolling the actual grounds, just security.

        Posted by Cookies1milk | April 29, 2016, 3:50 am
      • I went last night for my 10th time. Myself and the guys I was stationed with used to go a lot. We’ve only ever seen one patrol car and it was very easy to avoid. We always go at night. Idk who keeps seeing the patrol cars and dogs and such. We didnt see anyone last night. We were obviously still quiet and careful, but again, saw no people.

        Posted by Wes | June 7, 2016, 2:19 pm
  41. I’ve been 10 times now and only have ever seen one security patrol. It was one guy in a vehicle. He got out, shined a light in our direction (we hid obviously), and drove away. I took my wife and a friend last night and same thing as the last 8/9 times. No security or dogs or anything of the sort. We have always gone at night also. If anyone has any questions abt the place, feel free to email me at

    Posted by Wes | June 7, 2016, 2:25 pm
  42. Is anyone going today? My boyfriend and I are thinking about going and we’re hoping to meet up with a small group.

    Posted by Phoebe | June 23, 2016, 5:58 pm
  43. My friend Jamie and I really want to go, if anyone is going in a group that is tenured in this please email me at

    Posted by Chelsea | June 23, 2016, 7:41 pm
  44. What’s the security like lately? Some of my friends and I might go today but we aren’t sure what to expect and don’t want to get arrested for trespassing on private property..

    Posted by A | June 25, 2016, 11:08 am
    • Depends. Me and my boys have gone a few times. Only encountered security once. We just hid from them watches them patrol around than we decided to leave. Don’t think you would get arrested. They usually just tell you to leave from what I hear.

      Posted by Connor | July 7, 2016, 1:23 pm
  45. I go here often to this day and have never gotten in any trouble however cautious is one thing we always are when entering this property. There is a lot of great sights, i just hope that the people who continue to go, dont vandalize. This is a great learning experience– I am currently writing a “book”: on it and have had many experiences here. I will probably go again tonight. I absolutely love this place. I have never come across any security even though I have been here probably 100 times in the last year; both day and night. I will continue to go as it is very much a learning experience. Good luck and if there are any questions or anyone would like to go that has not been before, feel free to message me as I will gladly take anyone.

    Posted by sarah | October 7, 2016, 9:35 pm
  46. I went there earlier today. My first time Urban Exploring. Thank goodness we didn’t get caught, however, we didn’t see ANY guards, patrol cars, etc. Nor did we hear any. Lot’s a vandalism to the place. Found some medical equipment. We didn’t go far. We explored (3) buildings. Weirdest thing, in this one building where my friend told me medical records were being kept, the door was locked & there was some gooey, white paste on the handle. Not sure who came into the place just to do that. But there’s A LOT more to see. We plan on going back. Contact me if interested in more Urban Exploring. We plan on going to all of the known, abandoned places in Maryland.

    Posted by Elijah Hunter | January 22, 2017, 3:55 am
  47. I am highly interested in going to visit the place. I have been to places like this in the past (abandoned factories and asylums, but nothing as vast as this one). most of my meanderings had been native grounds in upstate NY and the vast Native American sites (one hidden Taylor RD burial ground site in Lafayette NY)… but none the less I wanted to get some advice from seasoned vets to get a quick rundown on what time and where to enter and all. if anyone could provide some info, please feel free to email me

    Posted by Joe | February 27, 2017, 3:02 pm

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Abandoned Washington DC – Get the whole picture with more than 350 never-before-seen full-color photos of DC in decay, accompanied by essays and stories of urban exploration in the nation’s capital. Glossy, heavyweight pages, suitable for any coffee table or bookshelf. This is DCinruins the way it was meant to be seen.

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