Eloise Psychiatric Hospital: How it became local legend

Say the word Eloise to someone who grew up in Wayne County and you're sure to get a reaction.

Eloise hospital complex in Westland

Morning Musings 🤔

I've published countless historical features and profiles through the years, but there's something about Eloise that persists.

Anytime I bring up Eloise to our audience on ClickOnDetroit, the reaction is unbelievable. It seems everyone has some sort of connection to the place.

Some had relatives who stayed at the hospital. Some know of the ghostly legends. Some broke into the abandoned buildings as trouble-making teens.

The funny thing is -- I grew up in Western Wayne County, and I didn't know anything about Eloise until I started working in news. Maybe there's history in your backyard.

- Ken Haddad (Have something to say or a topic idea? Contact me: Email | Twitter)

Morning Dive 🏊

The history of the Eloise hospital is more like Michigan folklore. At its peak in the 1920s, the Eloise complex was a small city with a hospital and mental asylum housing 10,000 patients and a staff of 2,000.

History of Eloise

The Eloise began as the Wayne County Poorhouse, which opened in 1839 in the now defunct Nankin Township.

Nankin was a part of Wayne County, originally named Bucklin Township, and it included what are now the cities of Livonia, Inkster, Dearborn, Redford, Wayne and Westland.

Eloise was one of the first hospitals to use x-rays for diagnosis. It was also home to the first kidney dialysis unit in Michigan. The complex eventually expanded — spanning 902 acres, with more than 70 buildings.

The facility had a radium treatment for cancer patients, and the sanitarium was one of the first to use "open air" treatment for tuberculosis patients. Psychiatric patients underwent electroshock and insulin shock therapy. 

After the Great Depression, the population of the complex started to decrease, as reports of violence, questionable conditions, misconduct and overall neglect surfaced.

Farm operations ceased in 1958, and the psychiatric division began to close in 1977 when the state took over. The main hospital closed in 1984.

Ghost stories

Visitors have reported odd occurrences on the hospital grounds for years after it was closed.

There have been reports of people finding medical waste and other strange items. Some have reported finding jars containing human body parts, as well as documents outlining strange medical procedures.

Paranormal investigators have conducted numerous investigations on the grounds. A group recently claimed to have seen a spirit of a woman wearing white, often seen on the upper floors and roof.

Last year, Detroit Paranormal Expeditions hosted several public tours of the facility. They also captured various pieces of evidence. Check it out here.

Pssst: I'd love to hear your stories about Eloise. Drop me an email here.

Recently sold to developers

In 2018, Wayne County sold off the former Eloise complex to developers for just one dollar. The former hospital complex, spanning 28-acres, will be redeveloped into affordable senior housing and emergency housing. (Read more about why it was for just $1 here)

Chatter 🗣️

Housekeeping 🧹

Hey, if you like this newsletter, let us know. We'd love your feedback. We also offer several other newsletters that probably cater to at least one of your interests -- unless you're only interested in exit signs. We don't have one for exit signs. Sorry.

- Ken Haddad (Have something to say or a topic idea? Contact me: Email | Twitter)

Let's Link 🔗

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About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.