State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, 1939
Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, 1939 – Central Florida Tuberculosis Hospital, later known as the Sunland Training Center for Retarded Children.

Around 1952, a new series of state-of-the-art tuberculosis hospitals opened and were named W.T. Edwards, in honor of an important figure in the state’s healthcare industry who donated large sums of money to have the hospital built. Between 1952 and 1969, a total of 12 hospitals were built all over the state of Florida, including Tallahassee, Miami, Marianna, Tampa, and Orlando.

All the hospital buildings were constructed the same way; the main buildings were all very long and thin, consisting of 5 floors with a few smaller wings branching off from the main building. At the time, it was thought that fresh air was the best treatment for TB, so the buildings were riddled with multi-pane windows which could be opened by cranks. The back side of each building was a wall of windows, while the front windows were more evenly spaced apart, especially in sections that did not house patients.

When a vaccine for TB was discovered, there was no longer a need for tuberculosis hospitals and the W. T. Edwards Hospitals were all closed by the 1960s. The facilities fell under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Health and were reopened as Sunland Training Centers by 1961. The main Sunland building, located in Orlando, was the only one not housed in a former W.T. Edwards.

Orlando Sentinel, date unknown
Photo Credit: Orlando Sentinel, date unknown – The main building was a popular hangout with kids during it’s abandonment.

The Orlando Sunland Division was a residential facility which cared for profoundly mentally and physically disabled adults and children. Within a period of 10 years though, the hospital faced some crippling developments, mostly due to under staffing and lack of funds. An investigation was conducted in the 1970s after reports of abuse and neglect, ranging from getting bitten by rodents and pests to physical beatings.

Speaking strictly of the Orlando Sunland Center, investigations found that over 400 patients had gastric feeding tubes and were being fed a cereal-like gruel three times day. Investigations also showed the facility was maintaining unsafe surgical areas and used short-term doctor authorizations to administer treatments on a long-term basis.

The State Division of Retardation and local staff made promises for reform, but reform never occurred. After careful review, the Association of Retarded Citizens(ARC) filled a federal class action lawsuit in 1978, on behalf of the patients for gross neglect and abuse. This move forced the state of Florida to close all Sunland facilities in 1983.

It was reported afterwards that a shortage of staff and equipment led to a “proliferation of deformities” in patients. The deformities included “upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, skin breakdown and nutritional difficulties, all of which are much too common at Sunland Orlando,” Eileen Cox, the investigating therapist reported.




Orlando Sentinel, date unknown
Photo Credit: Orlando Sentinel, date unknown – A crib-like bed, where most patients slept during their stay there.

The building laid vacant for years afterwards, attracting kids because of stories of the building being haunted. In June 1997, a 23-tear-old man and three friends were supposedly playing hide-and-go-seek inside when he was critically injured when he fell down one of the elevator shafts. Pine Hills residents lobbied hard after the accident to have building leveled by the state.

$2 million was set aside by the state and demolition was approved. In August 1998, a pre-demolition ceremony took place outside the old dilapidated hospital, as residents celebrated the building being torn down, ending a painful and controversial chapter in Orlando’s history.

Previous staff and patients were invited as well, some were interviewed of their time there.

Mary Kortes, a floor aide who bathed, fed and dressed patients from 1977 to 1979, remembers how tough it was to work there at first. “For two weeks after I went to work there, I couldn’t sleep because of what I saw there,” she said. “Everybody who worked there saw neglect, whether they admitted it or not. The state never gave us enough money.”

Her husband, Dick Kortes, who was the plant’s operations engineer during the same period, remembers the roaches. “The place was jammed with roaches,” he said. “I mean, they would do pest control, but roaches would get inside the fire alarms and set them off, closing the fire doors. “He also remembers patients being bathed on hard terrazzo slabs and the “clunking of bodies” as they were turned.

Connie Mitchel, who has cerebral palsy and was a patient and Sunland for 20 years, remembered sleeping in a crib-like bed that she would occasionally share with rats. She said she awoke in her 100-bed ward one night to find a large rat sitting on her chest. It wasn’t the first time she had found one on her bed, she said. “All I wanted was for him to get off me,” she said.

After being torn down in 1999, all that remains of the Sunland facility is the old administration building.




44 Comments

  1. Nice creepy story for Halloween. :-)

  2. Great post. Sunland Tallahassee was closed in 1983, demolished in 2006. I have never been able to find an answer as to why it closed. These pictures look as though the hospital was relatively untouched – the one here was ransacked and destroyed by kids/thugs/whatever.

  3. Awe this article immeadeatly grabbed my attention I thought it was still there…I wash I got into photography and urban exlporation earlier:/

    • I feel the same way sometimes :/

    • I actually have a picture of that night when I fell down the shaft.. this picture is of some kind of open area like a deck of some sort that we were on at one point but up high like not on the ground and it is all rocky like a castle.. It must of been taken only minutes before I fell.. I think I might have even taken the picture, I dunno, my friend would know better.. she was the one who gave me the pic much later after I was home from the hospital..

  4. HI there! We’re part of a group called C.P.I. (Cougar Paranormal Investigations) Yes we went there lol! The “Administration Building” has not been demolished as of yet. We visited on 4/25/2012 and again around February 2013 with a different group. The main hospital and other buildings were demolished which is where the playground for the park that is there now resides. The Juvenile Center is still there and some other buildings towards the left side of the park by the woods. You can still see the foundation to some of the back buildings behind the main hospital and the parking lot lamp posts.

    We were told by the founder of Ghost Trackers out of Kissimmee who had a television show on ABC for a bit, that what everyone thinks is the Adm. Bldg. was actually the original TB hospital from the 1930’s. Now I’m not sure how long that particular building has been there but after taking a look at our pics and then the 2nd visit we realized that there may be something to that “theory”. If you look at where all the windows are placed they are inlaid between concrete not the brick. The concrete part & windows look like something more recent than the rest of the building. As if those opening could have been just large opened up windows/porch where the beds could have been brought out to for patients to get the fresh-air treatment. They are on both 1st & 2nd floors all these openings. We could be totally wrong but working on getting more info.

    • Hi, my friends and I are currently creating a documentary for a Florida history competition on sunland hospitals. Were actually going to visit the location soon and take our own photos for documentation. That’s a very interesting and definitely possible theory! I’d love to know if you get any more info on the topic.

    • Do you know who owns the building/area? Some film students are wanting to get permission to film.

      • No, I just know the facility was state owned but no clue anymore. I was actually just there today taking pictures, we couldn’t find he admin building.

    • Do u have video and pictures from going to the asylum .if u do can u send them to me

  5. I live right down the street and in my high school days we used to explore the place at night, crawling through cuts in the fences and broken windows. We definitely have some scary stories about that place. It’s both enchanting and hauntingly beautiful.

  6. Are yall sure this is admin building still around? I went to take photographs of it last summer and literally walked around for a good amount of time and all I could find were old bricks laying around. If it is can someone give me a good description of where to find it because I could swear I just could not find it anywhere, to the point that I google mapped it live while I was there and it was showing me an abandoned area.

  7. I was the guy that fell down the shaft… seems like another lifetime ago… I don’t know if it was the very first thing that I remember in my coma afterwards or if it’s what I sensed when I laid there..but I remember being on the floor of a square room with old medieval like walls and no roof, like inconceivable like…

    • Wow, I’m glad you found this site. Do you think it’ll be alright if I email you to ask a few questions about that night, or whatever you remember from that night?

      • Sure, I don’t mind that.. I do know that there are a lot of articles about Sunland and most of which that I have read will talk about what happened to me, as it was the reason that they torn it down.. well, it was the “straw that broke the camels back” anyway, and 9 times out of 10 there will be some detail wrong. For example, they will say my name was Kevin and not Keith or they’ll say I was a “local teen” when I was in fact 23… So I don’t ever mind answering questions or talking about it.. just click on my name and msg my facebook.. I’m not sure if I should type my email on here.. lol

  8. OMG, my buddies and i broke into sunland MANY MANY times, sometimes camping out in there. VERY VERY Creepy! Noises could be heard thruout the night and lots of weird stuff! Before it was closed we would climb the Huge Oak Tree that sat very close to the Bldg and we would peek in at night…. One time we saw what we described as a “WaterHead” for lack of a better term, it was a small child with an Enormously overgrown and deformed head, and a Nurse was Bathing him…. The Creepy part was that the child was Staring and pointing DIRECTLY at us!!! But i dont think he could see us, as it was well lit inside the bldg, and pitch black outside, so who knows! It was just the CREEPIEST Place on Earth as far as WE were concerned!!!!

    • Do you know if the building is still there now? I’m a film student at Full Sail University and I would like to shoot my short film there.

      • Nothing remains of the Hospital or Administration buildings. The Hospital was torn down in the late 90’s and the administration building was torn down a couple of years ago.

        I had been inside the hospital quite a few times after it was abandoned but the brick administration buildings adjacent to the hospital were heavily boarded or bolted up. We could never find a way in absence of prying or busting down a door, which would have made too much noise.

        I have personally seen files people had taken as souvenirs regarding patients files etc. I even knew one guy who had brought home a children’s toy he had found in the building, which was really creepy.

        Another thing that stands out in my mind about Sunland was that on the side of the building there was a hole cut in the fence, and near that hole was a large window on the ground floor that was completely busted out (You wanted to try and sneak in on the side and avoid going up the main steps in front to avoid being seen. There were two Orange County Deputies that lived in the houses/trailers near the hospital, not to mention regular area police patrols, and in later years private security truck that patrolled the parameter. The could and would take you to jail for loitering around or trying to sneak into the place). Anyway, at that side entrance was the daycare for the employees children. It was really creepy that they still had a bulletin board up with construction paper cutout balloons with the children’s names on them.

        When we first started going out around ’94 they still had furniture and fixtures still in the place. It was creepy as all fuck that they had cribs large enough for a grown adult with a locking cage type apparatus on top. They also had rows of conjoined toilets probably five or so deep, so they could take a group to the bathroom at the same time. The furniture and files were all eventually removed long before they tore the building down to help discourage kids from hanging out in there and wanting to explore. It didn’t work, but nice try.

        There were many large holes in the ceilings and floors of each floor all the way to the top floor(in some places (you could literally look up and see daylight where it had rotted/eroded away and water standing in a lot of places causing the floors to be very unstable. It was obviously very dangerous and we were rightfully concerned about possibly falling through the floor. as it was that bad.

        A lot of the hospital by time we were going out there was impassable for the reasons mentioned above, or at the very least require a lot of effort to get to. There supposively was a morgue in the hospital but we were never quite sure that we’d found it. There was also a crawl space it was built upon, some say that it was a full basement in some places, but we never wanted to try and squeeze down in the crawl space for obvious snake, spider and god knows what else concerns. I’d love to hear more people’s stories, memories and experiences of the place.

        Chris

        • Oh, yeah and one more thing, the hospital was filled with asbestos. That is one of the reasons it wasn’t torn down sooner. It costs a lot more to do a demolition like that since asbestos is a biohazard and has to be carefully dealt with. They couldn’t just go in like they do for a typical demolition and just knock walls down or implode them with charges since that would send out carcinogen out into the air.

    • Your story sounds crazy but I actually believe you. I am a rational logical person, but I and three other friends had a scary supernatural experience at Sunland in Orlando in the Mid 90’s when we were teenagers. We had been out there quite a few times, but this time we were out there during the day on a weekend. We were doing a walk around the perimeter fence before we headed home after exploring inside and we saw what looked to be a lady way up on the top floor sitting in the window. The crazy thing about it was that this lady was translucent and was like you could see right through her. When we waved at her she actually waved back. We all saw the same thing and were scared freaking shitless and ran away as quickly as possible. I haven’t been out there in 20 years and I still have nightmares on a semi regular basis about this place. I swear to god I am not joking or exaggerating about any of this.

  9. Hi, i went there a few times when it was open , I would ride my bicycle through the area , back around 1975/76 , my bike was built in 1889 it was the type with the large front wheel and small rear wheel ,, 54 inch front ,18 inch rear ,, I will never forget the anxiety I created when the patients saw me ride around , . It seemed like I was the only joy they had in many years , .. I remember some of the patients who wore complete face guards ,they seemed scary, I was told it was to protect them from themselves ,, I grew up near there , in the community called pine hills .. thanks walter branche

  10. Every time I get notified of someone commenting on this article I spend the rest of the day pondering about things.. Anyway, the thing that has me beside myself the most is how 18 or so years after I fell I never put it together about a certain experience I remember having in my coma with Sunland and it’s infamous neglect of children… I always knew about “patient neglect” from hearing stories and whatnot.. but I never really thought about it further than that even tho I have always heard about “children” in those stories..

    ..After I fell I remained in a coma for two months. It was full of dreams basically. Everyone knows how weird dreams are so imagine two months of them with no consciousness or recognition of breaks in between. I can remember a time in my coma where I knew I was laying in a hallway in front of a nurses station, the station was behind like a curved wall, and a small child was placed at my side wrapped in a blanket.. It was long ago but I clearly remember the weird sort of cringing like feeling like something was really wrong with whatever was just put on me… it was sort of like tucked into my side between my arm and my ribs and I will never forget the uneasy feeling that turned to comfort sorta like a kinship feeling was being shared between us.. At first I was very uncomfortable and wanted to get up so badly but just couldn’t move..then I remember a feeling of care for whatever was on my side laying or sleeping on me.. I don’t really remember after that or what the next thought was in my dreams or coma… but anyway, ever since putting together that memory(or experience from my coma) together with the fact of Sunland being notorious for the neglect of children, I always wonder if indeed there was a connection between the two.. I Also ponder whether or not I experienced this “dream” while I was laying at the bottom of the shaft for two hours and not later while in my coma at ORMC.

  11. Your full of shit murdock.

    • lol I’m sure it sounds like it my friend.. It might be because I proof read and edit what I type over and over and I may articulate a bit much here or there and by the time I am done it might not come off to the reader as genuine I guess.. I’ve always been picky about the way I word what I type or how I sound, but believe me, you couldn’t imagine what I went thru physically nor mentally after I fell. It was the kind of experience where it takes months to relearn your reality.. 18 years later I am good as gold and I assure you that what I tell anyone or what I type about what I remember from my ordeal back then is not full of shit…

  12. You must have no life to be making stuff up like this. Looks like we have a attention whore here guys!!! get a life Keith

    • wow.. there is no win here for me… and I guess it sounds like made up bs because I tried to make it punctually or grammatically correct.. Think what you want.. your comment does initially burn a little to think that I went thru what I did to have someone actually say afterwards that I have no life and I made it up, but as I’m typing it goes away because I understand that you have no clue.. how could you.. I’m just curious though, what is it that you think I am making up? That I am indeed the guy that fell down the shaft? Or the memories I spoke about? Is it the connection between the building and the memories that I wonder about?? If you need verification about who I am there are plenty of articles on line just google my name and Sunland… or “man falls down shaft at sunland” or something.. If you don’t think what I said is genuine then don’t believe me..you don’t need to show your immaturity and insult me like that.. but this is the internet and I know it comes with it..

  13. Can anyone direct me to photos of the Ft. Myers Sunland Training Center that was closed in 1983? My brother was there and I’m trying to research his life. Thank you.

    • Gale, or Keith if you don’t mind. If you could help me. My sister was also a patient there. This one in fact. In Orlando. From 1961 to 1969
      She passed away in 1969. I’m just now beginning my research. My mother passes away this past December. And I’m reading letters from the hospital they sent my mother over a 8 year period. Things just didn’t seem right. That’s why I decided to look it up. And see several articles on abuse. Any info you have would be very much appreciated

  14. Keith Murdock was, indeed, the name of the person who fell down the shaft (I was not one of the EMS workers who responded, but I was on duty that night). Whether this poster is or is not the same Keith Murdock, I obviously can’t say for certain, but since the victim’s name wasn’t widely publicized at the time, and it’s been nearly 20 years, and he’s got many of the details correct that I remember my coworkers who WERE there talking about….I kind of tend to believe this person that he’s the guy.

    Anyway…I wanted to update that the administration outbuilding has been torn down. I’m not sure when that occurred, but I had to head over that way for a little league game a couple of weeks ago and noticed the building was just gone. The portables are still there, but the place where the building was is just flat grass, like nothing was ever there to begin with. Can’t even tell where the basement used to be. Anyone know when/why it was torn down?

    • Hi Lily,

      Thx, feels good to have a lil support or verification.. lol

      If you were an EMS worker than it’s safe to assume that you are familiar if not plenty familiar with the inside of ORMC the way it was 20 years ago yes? I am trying to confirm a memory that I have that I described above about being in a hallway in front of a nurses station… I remember like a curved counter top and kind of like orange colored walls or something to that effect..I also remember a big doorway directly off to the side of the nurses station, I think I remember sliding doors but not too sure.. same as the color I may be off.. there were also greens that I remember but I was also in several different hospitals back then over the course of my coma, recovery and rehabilitation..

      Anyways like I said thank you and I hope your day is good friend~

      -Keith

  15. Wow! I’m so glad that I went then before they demoed the building. My friend had gone sometime in late 2013-2014 and it had a perimeter fence around it. So I guess DCF decided to get rid of it like everything else. Orlando area is pretty good about doing demolition on abandoned buildings after a certain amount of time like Splendid China and the hotel off 50 In Ocoee.

  16. I just found this article with some more pics of Sunland. Not sure if this is of the main building or the Administration building before demolition since it doesn’t state.
    http://photos.orlandoweekly.com/15-spooky-images-of-orlandos-abandoned-sunland-mental-hospital/?slide=1&screen-shot-2014-08-07-at-1c

  17. If you’re reading this, know that there is truth in some ghost stories.
    I need help finding information on the center that once stood behind Hillsborough community college in Tampa, the Dale Mabry campus.
    I went in. I experienced things I thought highly improbable and somewhat unimaginable. I need to know what happened there. I need to know more about the little girl who spoke to me.

  18. Looking for information on the Sunland Training Center Gainesville. Anyone have any information as to where the patient files would have been stored. Looking for files for April-May 1958. If anyone has any information or pictures please forward. Thank you in advance.

  19. i actually have been in the red brick building…trust me haunted me and a few friends went in..my friend was pushed from the stairs..my mother in law worked in it back in 1975 she said is was soo haunted but now its no longer there

    • wow, hearing you say that really makes me question the possibility of what people(my family included) believed happened to me… the dominate word was that i was pushed… some said by my girlfriend at that time… but there was equal speculation of “something else” due to the reputation of that place as well as the time that it all happened(around 3-4 in the morning in near pitch black) I really have no recollection..I remember that night walking around in the dark.. And being drunk cursing out at “ghosts” basically being a fool feeling my strength or whatever..lol I also remember breaking away from them with intention of scaring them, I think that’s when I probably lost myself.. and just got careless and sloppy trying to get a “ghost” to come out.. when I think about it all logic says, for the most part, that in the dark and being compromised from the beer that I simply fell back down the shaft. However I just don’t see myself, even “drunk”, moving backwards in the dark with no idea what is behind me.. At 23 years old I didn’t get “that kind” of drunk, it was more like the “pure liquid courage with adrenaline in a can” kind of drunk and not stupid and just falling around with no regard to my surroundings… It really burns me up that I can’t remember the moment in question yet I remember so much else.. But anyway, when you said your friend was pushed from the stairs that really grabbed my attention.. lol

  20. I grew up very close to the facility. I remember on 2 occasions at night ,what sounded like an alarm or siren coming from there followed by police officers searching our neighborhood and telling residents to stay inside and lock our doors. That was scary enough to make me try to disappear underneath my bed.

  21. My dad was here in 1958 and 1959 and saved his life..