“Maybe everything that dies someday comes back”.
This eerily-uttered line from Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City has always conjured some reaction from me, no matter where and when it enters my airspace. Sure, there are the obvious, on-the-nose implications of invoking this particular reference on a haunt-themed blog. Our topic today, however, is a bit more layered.
I remember the first time I read about Brook Run. It was on TheShadowlands.net, one of the longest-running paranormal websites in existence, and home to the now infamous “Haunted Places Index”. What Dave Juliano and Tina Carlson created was a user-submitted database of locations, both public and private, where ghost hunters and thrill-seekers alike could add content of a highly varied nature and quality. The index is easy to navigate, separated by state and city, making it almost too accessible.
Brook Run’s description on The Shadowlands isn’t as nefarious as most other locations’: “…extremely strange aura…”, “pictures will reveal orbs”. Nevertheless, the place had a dark and troubled reputation as the scariest spot in Atlanta. Sure, it’s a huge abandoned building. Yes, at one point there were rumors of an overzealous, handcuff-happy security guard. But was Brook Run ever really haunted?
Brook Run was constructed between 1966-1968, originally bearing the politically incorrect title of The Georgia Retardation Center. There are technically 21 structures on the property, including several non-residential buildings. The main building, the hospital, was a three-story behemoth situated in a corner of the 99 acre facility.
The hospital itself was a long-term care facility for the mentally handicapped. Were there deaths at Brook Run? Of course. Were they of a tragic nature? That depends on who you ask. The most consistent recollections seem to indicate there were perhaps a few incidents of death not linked to natural causes, but that old age was the number one cause of expiration. For a healthcare facility with 30 years of operation, this is not altogether tragic or surprising.
Soon after the building closed in 1998, the vandals and adventurous teens began to invade the property. We were all told that getting in was difficult; the fences were high, you had to time the guard’s nightly patrol, and you had to park far, far away. In reality, there were several gaps in the fences just months after the site was abandoned, the security guard was never as diligent or heroic as the rumors portrayed him, and you could park literally 200 feet away on an adjacent property.
Was Brook Run haunted, though? The jury’s still out on this one. Sure, there were people who had some experiences on the property, but no one was ever able to conduct a proper investigation. Tales of Brook Run’s ghosts were running rampant on the internet and Dekalb County wasn’t about to authorize any more publicity. A good friend of mine once persuaded the property caretakers to allow him inside for two hours to take photographs, but there were some very clear stipulations: 1. -He must obtain and hold personal liability insurance during this endeavor. 2.-He would in no way use this as a paranormal experience. 3.-In no way are any of his photographs to appear in publication or on the internet. Ever. They were solely to be used in his personal collection. Oh, and he’d have to make a hefty donation to Dekalb County as a rental fee.
Brook Run was finally demolished in the late-2000’s as part of a re-imagining of the area. In it’s place sits the aviary of the Dunwoody Public Park at Brook Run, about half-a-mile behind the skateboard park.