"We were just getting into the lobby when we heard an immensely loud banging. It sounded like someone was trying to take the building down," said Laura Leita of Long Island Oddities, a website dedicated to all things spooky and unexplained in the area.
Leita was in Building 93, the tallest of the structures at the former Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital. She said she took cover, "as if that was going to do anything if the building was coming down." Unable to find an explanation, the incident remained a creepy mystery until Leita heard from a group of volunteers who later went to the building to plunge its piping from the drains on the roof.
"As air pockets moved through the pipes, the loud banging started again," Leita said the group reported. "Sometimes we can debunk things like that."
Still, Leita said she has had other experiences and heard reports of an even more mysterious nature.
She and her husband, John, both Stony Brook University graduates, were once in one space of the property they call the "Asian mural room" for its paintings of Eastern scenes covering the walls. Leita snapped a picture of one of the walls but thought she had had her finger across part of the lens when she looked at her shot.
"There was this strange dark form in the upper left corner," she said. She took a few more pictures and the dark form persisted, following her camera's lens in a progression of shots along the walls.
Besides her own experiences, Leita said she has heard reports from others of unnatural happenings on the hospital's grounds.
"A couple of people have seen this human figure in white with a mouth and eyes that were fiery red," she said. Those sightings have occurred mostly at night, she said.
There are other factors that add to the mystique of the former psychiatric hospital, which was closed in 1996.
"There were people who spent their whole lives there," she said. "Sometimes those people wander back, trying to go home."
Leita and her husband appeared on the Kerriann and Joe Show on Blogtalkradio.com on Oct. 13 to discuss these experiences and others they've had in the region. The show is hosted by Kerriann Flanagan Brosky, author of "Ghosts of Long Island: Stories of the Paranormal," and Joe Giaquinto, a paranormal investigator. To listen to the interview, click here.
Leita considers herself an Urban Explorer, visiting abandoned buildings and documenting her experience. It can be a risky venture and not just of the ghostly kind, Trespassing into the now shuttered hospital is illegal and potentially dangerous.
Kings Park town historian, Steve Weber once worked at the hospital and now offers a guided tour of the grounds from the outside.
“The buildings are dangerous. I strongly discourage anyone from entering those buildings,” said Weber. Weber says the buildings, which have been closed for 15 years, have been exposed to the elements of the weather and are filled with asbestos.
“It is dangerous to go in. The asbestos covers your clothes and when you go home you get it on pillows, blankets. You breathe it in for weeks afterwards,” said Weber.
Brosky said she visited the buildings once when she was working for Newsday.
“I covered the psychiatric center in my book because of rumors that it was haunted, not that it is necessarily haunted,” said Brosky.
According to Brosky, once she was inside she was actually more worried about living people than ghosts and does not recommend trespassing.
Weber finds the closed buildings less scary now that they are closed.
“I used to work there. Never have I ever seen anything that would indicate that it is haunted. What I find is the opposite. The silence is deafening. When it was open you would hear the screaming. Now it is so surreal not to hear any noise,” said Weber.
A three-hour walking tour of the hospital's grounds will be led by Kings Park historian Steve Weber on Oct. 30. The tour will cost $15 and will benefit the Angels Without Faces organization. For more information, .