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Every resident in Columbia, South Carolina knows about the old Bull Street Sanitarium building.

College kids break into the place from time to time and explore. Some claim the building is haunted, but the most danger you'll probably find there is some crazed homeless person.

A friend of mine went inside one time and poked around. After her experience she swore she'd never go near the place again. We made fun of her until a few days later when she told us why.

She was into photography at the time—we've all gone through that phase I think. She particularly liked taking pictures of old and abandoned buildings. The stories surrounding the historic landmark didn't faze her in the slightest. It was nonsense. So she didn't mind the growing darkness as the sun set on that hazy Autumn day.


The abandoned Bull Street Sanitarium in Columbia, SC

The inside was unremarkable. Smutty graffiti and drug paraphernalia, but nothing too sinister. She got a couple nice shots looking out of the broken windows. Then she got an idea: to get a shot from an upstairs room overlooking some of the city.

A patient's-eye-view, as it were. The stairs were concrete, chipped and dull, but she made it to the third floor with little trouble. The view was disappointing though so she gave up on the idea.

She ventured deeper into the building, hoping the interior would show less deterioration. Natural light was getting scarce so she quickened her pace. When she reached the other side of the building she came upon something rather curious: the first completely closed door she had encountered since entering. Upon closer inspection, she saw something that left her frozen in fear for a solid minute.

Tied tightly around the old knob was a large clump of matted human hair. Jagged remnants of scalp tissue had left a crimson stain at the roots. It looked fresh. She heard a faint shuffling on the other side of the door, but she couldn't shake herself from her stupor. There was scratching now, slow and quiet. Then the knob began to turn ever so slightly.

Her next memory was of being doubled over outside the building, gasping for air. She had dropped her camera, an expensive loss. But going back for it was out of the question.

After hearing this, a couple of us decided to brave the building the next day on the off-chance we could retrieve her camera. She was adamantly against this plan, but we promised her we'd go in daylight and be very careful. It might save her a few hundred dollars.

Our trip was uneventful, just a bunch of graffiti and dusty debris, until we finally reached the room. There was no hair on the doorknob and sadly no camera. But, stooping down, we found some broken pieces. Some bum probably found it and hocked it for booze.

It was then I noticed the door was slightly ajar. We had armed ourselves with some old wooden planks we'd found in the building—just in case. I slowly nudged open the door with mine. Even with light pouring through the windows, the creaking sound unnerved me. We ventured in to find the room vacant. But there were dark stains and scratch marks everywhere, particularly on the other side of the door. It wasn't clear whether the markings were made by a man or an animal. Maybe it was something in between.