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Rolling Hills: A Night in a Haunted Asylum

Introduction: The Rolling Hills Asylum, also known as the Genesee County Poor Farm, is believed to be one of the most haunted asylums in New York. Rolling Hills was opened in 1827 as a poor house for people unable to care for themselves, including physically disabled people, orphans, and the elderly. The building saw over 1,000 deaths, many of whom are still believed to wander the halls. Today you can tour the building and join in on a ghost hunt.

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A room in the asylum.

The History

The Rolling Hills Asylum sits tucked away in a secluded area of East Bethany, NY at the corner of Bethany Center Road and Raymond Road. Rolling Hills opened in 1827 as The Genesee County Poor Farm . The building was first used as a poor house where people who were unable to care themselves were sent. This included physically disabled people, orphans, and the elderly. In 1828 the county added on a stone addition to the building to house criminals and lunatics. A poor house is generally run by local government as was the case with the Genesee County Poor Farm.

The asylum functioned as a poor farm, meaning that the property was a self sufficient farm. The “inmates”, as all staying at the poor house were referred to, worked on the farm as able. The farm provided food and fuel, making the cost of caring for the “inmates” about a dollar a day. The inmates able to work also produced items to sell to further reduce the costs. Also found on the farm were a variety of animals, including pigs, horses, chickens, and ducks, as well as vegetables and fruits. The farm also contained a bakery and wood shop.

By 1950 the property served primarily as a nursing home and by 1974 all remaining residents were moved elsewhere in Bativia. In 1992 the building was re-opened as a mall, known as Carriage Village. The mall was renamed the Rolling Hills Country Mall in 2003 after being purchased by new owners in 2002. In 2007 the mall closed and the building was left to the elements until the building was opened up for ghost hunts.

On the more eerie side of things, the farm contained a cemetery where residents without families would be buried. It is believed that over 1,000 people died on the property, many of which were buried on-site. It is said that many remain on the property, most notably Roy, a seven foot tall man, Nurse Emmie, a nurse hated by patients and staff members alike, and Ray, a maintenance man who is believed to have attacked women in the basement.

Rolling Hills has been featured on many ghost shows, including the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, the Travel Channel’s Paranormal Challenge, and SyFy Ghost Hunters.

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An old bath tub in the asylum.

Exploring the Haunted Asylum

The thought of going on a ghost hunt never really intrigued me, but a couple friends of mine decided they wanted to go and I decided I would tag along. As an urban explorer, I was more drawn in to explore the mostly abandoned building more than the ghost hunt itself and being a skeptical I didn’t really believe I was going to encounter anything walking through the building. Never did I think that this experience would make me want to join any ghost hunt I could find.

We pulled up to Rolling Hills about 15 minutes before our scheduled start time. We pulled into the Bethany Center Road parking lot and joined others near the entrance as we eagerly awaited our tour.

a haunted asylum
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The back entrance of the Rolling Hills Asylum.

Our four hour ghost hunt started out with an orientation and overview of the history of Rolling Hills. While we were sitting around the long table signing consent forms, the sound of a young girl’s voice cold be heard behind us. I looked over at my friend who was sitting right beside me and by the look on her face I could tell that she had heard the same sound.

The asylum is in a secluded area with only a house or two across the street. We looked out the window and there was no one in sight. My friend decided to ask the tour guide if the room we were in had reports of supernatural activity. He said that there was, but also that the ward directly above us was one of the busiest rooms in the building. My friend and I were convinced that we had had our first encounter on the tour.

After the orientation we were given a partial tour of the building with directions and suggestions of where to go for the most activity. We are then released to explore the building.

One of the first rooms we explore was Roy’s room. Roy was a seven foot tall patient who suffered from gigantism. Roy was the son of a banker whose family was embarrassed by his appearance. Roy was dropped off at the poor house when he was 12 and lived there until he died at age 62. Roy reportedly loved opera music and according to the tour guides would often time come out to “dance” with visitors if they played music. Roy’s room was decorated for his 123rd birthday celebration. We spent a great deal of time in Roy’s room, hoping for him to appear. Sadly, he remained quiet for the night.

a haunted asylum
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Roy’s Room.

After we explored Roy’s Room we headed to Shadow Hallway, where we ran into the rest of the group. The tour guide joined us at this time and tried to get the ghosts to interact with us. We had a couple of run ins in this hallway. The first attempt of the guide to interact with the spirits was by placing one of the guests in a wheelchair in the center of the hall. The spirits have been known to try to assist guests who appeared as though they needed help. We didn’t get a response.

While we were waiting for a response to the helpless visitor, though, we did catch a flash of light in one of the rooms in the hallway. When going into the room we found nothing that would have caused the flash. At the same time one of my friends had had her voice recorder running. Curious about the possible encounter she played it back and a male voice could be heard at the same time saying, “I don’t like you.”

a haunted asylum
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The tour guide then turned our attention to the doors of the solarium at the end of the hall. The solarium was said to be a hot spot for activity. The tour guide paced a flashlight towards the door and told us to patiently wait. Eventually we saw what looked like the outline of a head walking back and forth behind the door.

Nurse Emmie’s room was another one of the most notable rooms in the haunted asylum that we visited. Nurse Emmie was hated by both the residents and other staff members. It is believed that Nurse Emmie was involved in the dark arts and performed rituals in Rolling Hills. We did not encounter Nurse Emmie, but while in the area my friends claim that they heard the loud scream of a woman. There is believed to be a screaming woman that wanders the hall and has been heard many times in the past.

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The Doctor’s Office.

After getting home and searching through the photos (the tour guide had instructed us to take multiple photos of the same spot), there one was image that stood out to me. Both images are of the same doorway within a few seconds of each other. The first image below appears to have a shadow popping out from behind the door. (Yes there are some people coming out of the door as well). The second is the same doorway with no shadow. Maybe it was just a coincidence, that I will let you decide!

How To Experience the Asylum

Rolling Hills is open for tours and ghost hunts. All tours and ghost hunts must be reserved and paid for in advance. Many options are available to tour this haunted asylum, including:

  • Self-Guided Walking Tour (1 hr. walking tour): $10 per person
  • Guided Historical Tour (2 hr. guided walking tour): $20 per person
  • Guided Flashlight Tour (2 hr. guided walking tour): $25 per person

Public Ghost Hunts (each includes a short guided tour followed by a self guided tour/hunt)

  • 3 hr. Psych Hold: $30 per person
  • 4 hr. Detained: $40 per person
  • 5 hr. ICU: $50 per person
  • 8 hr. Captive: $65 per person
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A Room in the Asylum

Private Ghost Hunts (each includes a short guided tour of the haunted asylum followed by a self guided tour/hunt)

  • 4 hr. winter quarantined hunts: $500 for up to 10 people, with any over 10 being $50 each (Available December through Spring any day of the week, any 4 hr. block between noon and midnight)
  • 4 hr. mid-week quarantine hunts: $500 for up to 10 people, with any over 10 $50 each (available Spring through September on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, 7pm to 11pm)
  • 8 hr. mid-week quarantine hunts: $675 for up to 10 people, with any over 10 $67.50 each (available Spring through September, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday 7pm to 3am)
  • 8 hr. private quarantined hunt: $1050 for up to 10 people, with any over 10 being $105 per person (available Fridays and Saturdays from May to September, 8pm to 4am)

***Please note that these are the tours/hunts available and prices quoted on the Rolling Hills web page at the time of writing. Please check their webpage for the most up to date information and to purchase tickets***

If you are planning to visit the asylum, please be aware of the rules and do not break them! You can find a full list of rules on their web page. A few highlights to be aware of include:

  • All participants must be 18+ years to tour alone, ages 14-17 can participate when accompanied by a parent
  • A valid ID is required for entrance (such as a school ID, drivers’ license, sheriff’s ID, passport, etc.)
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled start time-no late entry is allowed
  • You must have closed shoes, anyone with open shoes will not be allowed to enter
  • There is a zero tolerance policy, anyone suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be allowed to enter
a haunted asylum
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Special Events at the Haunted Asylum

Throughout the year Rolling Hills hosts different events. In the past there have been movie nights, hunts with well known ghost hunters, psychic events, and a haunted house in the fall. Be sure to check out the Rolling Hills web page for any upcoming special events.

Jack’s Revenge

Jack’s Revenge is a haunted house event that takes place from early October to early November. You can experience one of the best haunted houses in the area in an actual haunted asylum. The asylum is decorated with spooky decor and filled with actors. Following the haunted house you can join a 3 hr. ghost hunt that lasts until 3am. Tickets are generally around $30 a person for the haunted house.

Find more interesting (or spooky!) locations.

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A haunted asylum sitting in a small, secluded town, Rolling Hills functioned for many years as a poor house for those who couldn't care for themselves. It is believed that many never left!
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  1. This would be such a fascinated place to visit! I would definitely do the self-guided walking tour because I like going at my own pace. There is no way I could do the Halloween Party there though! Way too creepy.

  2. This reminds me of a haunted house I went to in Nashville. I got a little scared just reading it from thousands of miles away! What an interesting experience- I’m not sure I have the guts for it but I’m glad I got to read your story!

    • It was very interesting, I never thought I would enjoy something like this but I did! I would never be able to do it without a big group of friends with me though!

  3. I have goosebumps now! This is so interesting, I would love it. Although the original purpose of this place is so sad and I hate to think about that period in history when disabled, etc. were “put away”.

  4. Ok – nope. There is absolutely NO way I could do something like this hahaha! You’re way braver than I am! And ugh, I couldn’t imagine going in here with open toed shoes!!!! Looks like a fun time for any thrill-seeker!

    • I thought the same way until I did it! Now I want to keep exploring! But I totally get that it is not for everyone. I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own though, I definitely need a support system!

  5. Rolling Hills sounds like a fascinating place to visit. The history is quite interesting, especially stretching back so far. There are always stories that are made and passed on with locations like this and I definitely found your experience with some unknown voices and images to be food for thought. There is so much that we don’t know when it comes to the afterlife and paranormal and this of course can sometimes play on our minds. I guess that is the attraction of places like this and why people are drawn to experience something quite different.

    • It was very fascinating learning about the history and people that passed through there. The experience was definitely unique and does make me think! I’m not totally convinced that my experiences were real, or that maybe it was just my mind playing tricks. But it was certainly an interesting experience and something to get the wheels turning about all that we do not know.

  6. the stories you shared broke my heart especially the one of Roy’s. I remember when my family and I went to visit an abandoned asylum outside of melbourne, it gave me the creeps as much as looking at your photos here.

    • The stories of the people that lived there were very sad, I can only imagine the untold ones. Roy’s story is devastating, but from what is told it sounds like he lived somewhat of a happy life there. Rolling Hills definitely gives off some weird vibes.

  7. Wow this would be super creepy but also a very cool experience! There is so much history in places like this and I can’t imagine what went on in there over the years. There is a similar place to this outside of Vancouver as well, that mainly gets used for film sets now.

    • It was definitely creepy, but also very interesting. Learning about the history is fascinating and I can only imagine all the other stories that we do not know.

  8. Going on a ghost hunt intrigues me a lot. But, we don’t have these kind of activities in Italy. I’m planning a visit to a
    Former psychiatric hospital in Volterra which is probably going to be more or less the same.

  9. What an exciting story and place. I would like to see it because I like such abandoned places where the shivers pass on your back. It’s great that you can take a trip there and learn so much about the history of the asylum.

  10. Ooooooh! I love haunted houses and ghost stories, so while this post was chilling and a bit unsettling, I absolutely loved it! Your narrative is engaging and made me feel like I was walking through the asylum with you! Thanks for this truly interesting post!

    • I was one that thought I would never enjoy something like this because of the creepiness/chills, but it turned out to be a great experience. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  11. As soon as I opens this post I was hooked and spooked at the same time! That first image is so eerie! You are braver than me I don’t think I could walk around somewhere like this, even though its super interesting. Roys story is so sad and heartbreaking! nurse emmie is someone I don’t think I would want to encounter for sure! What a cool trip! I don’t think i would opt for the self guided tour though haha!

    • I wouldn’t have been able to do it without a group of friends! Roy’s story is definitely sad and I was not at all disappointed that we didn’t run into Nurse Emmie, lol.

  12. The Rolling Hills Asylum would not normally draw me in either. I am not a big believer in ghosts. Although I know that many people have experienced things that were hard to explain any other way. With so many deaths at this place and so many interesting stories, I can see why the Rolling Hills Asylum might be considered to be haunted. This would be a place I would pay for a guided tour. You might miss so much of the history and intrigue just walking on your own.

    • I’m not convinced completely myself, but I did have some interesting encounters. Whether that was my mind playing tricks on me I’m not sure, but it really gives you something to think about! Learning about the history is one of the highlights.

  13. Rolling Hills! I have said every year that I need to go here! It’s just awful the amount of people who passed away here. Especially those who were buried here with no family. The story of Roy is a sad one. Your photos especially the doorway photo is very creepy but, cool. I like to think it was a spirit peaking out and checking things out. I enjoy haunted ghost stories but, it’s the buildings and history is what I really love. Can you imagine what it must have been like to be there when, the building was in full operation and a city of it’s own? I recently heard that they now do weddings at Rolling Hills. Now that is just creepy! Thank you for sharing! I enjoyed this!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed. I think you really need to know the history before exploring a place like this. Without it you are missing a big piece. I always picture in my head what the building must have looked like when functional, I would love to be able to find some photos from the time but no luck.

  14. Oh my gosh! This is so tragic and cool at the same time. I would love to go on a tour at Rolling Hills in the future, adding to my list for sure. Thanks for sharing!

  15. This sounds too scary for me to visit. I have seen too many horror movies to be able to calmly walk through such an obviously haunted place. I feel sorry for those poor souls who used to live there. Roy’s story is particularly heart-breaking. I have a 7 foot tall friend, and can’t imagine someone being placed in a poor house just because he is taller than average.

    • It is horrible to think that a family would place their child in a poor house for that reason. The history is truly heartbreaking. I don’t watch a lot of horror movies (or any really), which was probably why it was a little easier for me! I never thought I would do something like this.

  16. Quite fascinating, but so so creepy. I am not a fan of Dark Tourism TBH, as i associate Travel and Tourism related activities, to be of a happy note. But then again, the history of such places do fascinate me.

  17. You are really brave to take the haunted tour. I really get afraid when I come to know something about ghost and such haunted stuff. Never knew about this Rolling Hills Asylum and that too haunted in New York. It is very sad that this building saw over 1,000 deaths, and still people say that some thing wanders too in the halls of this building. That shadow photo which you have taken within few minutes apart really looks convincing to me as I can spot shadow in one and in another it vanished. Now while reading I really feel scared.

    • It was a very interesting experience. The shadow picture definitely gives me some creepy vibes. I’m not 100% convinced, but it was very interesting to find when I uploaded the photos to my computer.

  18. The Rolling Stones Asylum sounds a little scary and I really do not know for sure whether I would enjoy. But the concept is very different as it also, apart from the thrills of ghost watching gives an insight into the history of the place. The movies would be nice though.

    • It is definitely a little scary, not for everyone, but I agree the history of the building is very interesting. Learning about it was a highlight of the trip.

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