The Rabbit Holes I Go Down

A Place for… Vampires

Seaside is one of the most beautiful properties on the shoreline of Connecticut. A place of peace and sorrow, sunshine and darkness, happiness and pain, and lastly, a place for Vampires.

Illustration of vampire

The Vampire Panic of New England in the 19th century was on par with the Witch Trials in New England, another example of people not understanding what they didn’t know. Tuberculosis made its victims pale and ashen; it drained its victims of energy and spread quickly through families. This became the main reason the moniker of the vampire was given to those with the disease. Here in Connecticut and many other New England states, families of the dead would exhume the bodies, dismember them, burn the internal organs, and conduct rituals so they couldn’t return and feed on the living.

Tuberculosis had other names; in the 1700s, it was referred to as the White Plaque or Consumption. Whatever it was called, it killed 252 in 100,000 people, in the State and by 1934, 50 in every 100,000. Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria on March 24, 1882; this date is known as World TB Day!

Seaside was so much more than 1933-1958. Seaside was a hospital for children up to 14 years of age for bone, and glandular Tuberculosis, the treatment conducted at Seaside was called heliotherapy, possibly the first in the country to use this treatment. Children would spend their days outside barely clothed, even in the coldest conditions.

Seaside’s story began in the early half of the 20th century, with the uptick of Tuberculosis in the late 19th century. As a result, Connecticut found itself in need of a Sanatorium to handle the cases that were found in children. January of 1915, Mr. Morton of Saybrook, Connecticut introduced a bill that would’ve provided the construction and funds for equipment for a sanatorium asking for $125,000 for this cause. Unfortunately, the Bill was struck down just a few months later. However, the fight for help continued. Dr. Stephen Maher, a New Haven doctor,  in November 1916, attended a meeting at the Meriden Public Health Association; his presentation “How Connecticut Beat the Devil” was considered an exciting and unique manner of driving home his argument for a Seaside Sanatorium.

Post card of the White Beach Hotel Niantic,CT

This battle would continue for another few years. Seaside Sanatorium would finally be established in 1919 at Crescent Beach, Niantic after the White Beach Hotel went Bankrupt in 1918, and the State bought it for Seaside’s use. Follow the Link and take a walking tour through Crescent Beach.

Nurses Quarters at Crescent Beach.
Still standing today, used as VFW Hall.

Crescent Beach was the first site for Seaside Sanatorium, with three buildings total for its use. The Hospital, a nurse’s building, and a house for the head doctor. The Hospital had 58 beds with an endless waitlist; 25 people were employed, including 12 nurses and a teacher. Once the first Seaside opened, other Tuberculosis hospitals in the State sent patients that were children to Seaside. At a 1922 meeting of the Rotary Club, Dr. John F. O’Brien spoke to the club about the success the facility has had with two of its patients in toe, Julius and Tessie.

Postcard image of Seaside at
Crescent Beach in the old White Beach Hotel

1923 began, and the battle of expansion began with the McCook family of Crescent Point Beach. Their land was the target for the overflowing Seaside Sanatorium for the expansion of the Hospital. The McCook land was adjacent to the Hospital and was thought to make sense for the expansion. The family fought this for the next eight years; whether it was because of money or family history, no development of Seaside would happen on their land.

Postcard of McCook family home

The new Seaside Sanatorium stood on 28 acres of land at Mogonk Point in Waterford, designed by Cass Gilbert, a renowned architect. The State paid $80,000 for five parcels of land, four natural shoreline properties owned by Alice F. Merriman and Florence Merriman Morgan, the 5th being inland, the Estate of Thomas Greggs. Shortly after, the original 28 acres was the 6th purchase, making the property a total of 36 acres of waterfront property. Construction in May of 1932 as a 120-bed capacity with a maximum of 135 went up to 190 beds in June 1932 when a rearrangement of interior plans was made. Completed in 1933, the new complex had an infirmary, a nurses’ building, a duplex for medical staff, and the superintendent’s house. John F. O’Brien was the first superintendent.

Seaside’s Hospital Building taken by myself in 2021

Due to advancements in treatment during the 1940s, Seaside’s use for Tuberculosis stopped. In 1958 the remaining patients were moved to Uncas-on-Thames in Norwich; Seaside Sanatorium became Seaside Geriatric Hospital and was used for elderly housing for three years. Then, 1961 brought another name change to Seaside Regional Center for 60 patients on the waiting list for Mansfield Training Center with developmental and psychiatric limitations. Seaside finally closed its doors in the late 90s.

Nurses Building Taken by myself 2016

When Seaside was Seaside Regional Center for the Mentally Retarded, horrible atrocities occurred. Atrocities like what happened to Lisa Barry. December 15, 1997, Lisa was found dead with most, if not all, of her epilepsy medication on her bed. Hartford Courant 2001 Lisa Dawn Barry was born March 1, 1976, the daughter of Michael and Kathleen Barry, sister of Steven.

As a charge of the State of Connecticut, Lisa lost her life and body. Lisa’s body wasn’t released to her family or even a funeral home. Instead, it was released to Dr. Jack Hasson and his class at the University of Connecticut. No autopsy would be done for Lisa; when she passed. Even if there was, her family would still be in the dark as the State refuses to share findings.

Seaside and many other group homes would be brought front and center after Lisa’s death. Investigations into why and how patients’ bodies were given to Dr. Hasson for educational purposes. But as far as Dr. Hasson was concerned, it was “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL”

Unfortunately, it will never be known to her parents how she died. Although her parents would have an investigation conducted into her death, they would still have no answers, and it would end in a law suite against the State of Connecticut. Lisa was laid to rest in All Hallows Cemetery in Moosup, Connecticut. How many others did this happen to? Is there an honest answer, yes? We will never have it.

Once closed, Seaside was lost to itself, the untold stories, and the elements. The State of Connecticut still owns it as a State Park. Many want this space to be developed and the buildings taken down, but I hope not. I often visit as I find it peaceful, enchanting, and familiar. My paranormal group will go there on occasion for a visit.

Swing at Seaside was taken in 2016 by myself before being taken down

1 Comment

  1. whoiscall


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