Scavenging the Haunted Past…and a mirror

Henryton State Hospital

Not too far from my home used to be the site of one of Maryland’s Most Haunted buildings, the Henryton State Hospital.  The hospital closed it’s doors in 1985, having been opened since the early 1920’s. In it’s prime, it housed tuberculosis patients as well as the mentally ill.

It was only after it closed, that it gained a reputation of being haunted. Folks that dared to visit, reported shadows, tapping on the shoulder, sound of footsteps…you know, the normal spooky stuff.

A view of the rear of the main building in the Henryton complex. Originally built in 1922 as a sanitarium for African-Americans with tuberculosis, it was employed four decades later as a facility for developmentally disabled adults.  Closed since 1985, there've been 70 fires there over the past decade and other acts of vandalism. The abandoned buildings are slated for demolition, but no date is set. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

By now you’re wondering what the heck a spooky old State Hospital has to do with a mirror.

When my middle son was in high school, he and his buddies loved to explore the woods near our home. The river was a favorite attraction as well as the woods. He knows the area better than anyone else in the family.  So, at one point, I had asked him if he knew of any ruins in the area or any dumping grounds.  He didn’t hesitate…the old Henryton State Hospital.  He and his friends had tried to film a scary movie there at one point and had been chased off by the police.

The police were always looking out for the old hospital since kids had been doing a bit of vandalism, even setting a few fires. During the course of being chased off, he had run into the hospital’s old dumping grounds in the woods.

Site of Henryton State Hospital

That’s a bit of the history of the area, but since that time the buildings have all been demolished, nothing left but a beautiful pasture in the woods. Doesn’t quite have that haunted feeling any more.  And that is where I wanted to go for my birthday last year.  The kids had all showed up early, it was a beautiful day and we were ready for an adventure.

Patapsco River near Henryton

To get to the site where the buildings once stood, we had to cross a river and hike up another hill. This is most of our group crossing the river. It wasn’t exactly a raging river.

 All the way on the back right is the exact moment when my oldest son is pulling a rusty rim out of the river.  What you don’t here is “Mom, do you want this?”  Well sure! From that distance I didn’t see the pounds of rust on it (look at the picture below to get an idea).

We were a bit worried there would be absolutely nothing left of the dump since the buildings were totally gone but we were able to eventually find some remains of the old dump and after a bit of picking we came up with a few rusty treasures.


This was our haul. I’m still not sure if we were just picking up trash in the woods or if these are genuine treasures.  I’m going to go with treasure.

Railroad Spike Wine Rack

I did use a piece of the rusty metal for the middle of my railroad spike wine rack. It was actually fitting that the wine rack was made for my exploring middle child and he was also the one that carried that rusty thing out of the woods.

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

This cool piece was actually found by my youngest son. He was busy exploring at the top of a hill pulling out shoes, hubcaps, and other junk when he spied this treasure.  After having been asked if I wanted any of the other junk, I was actually very surprised when he came up with this heavy iron piece.  I really thought he was going to show me another shoe.

This is a picture of the piece after it was cleaned. It looks like a piece that may have surrounded an old fireplace. If I’m wrong or way off, I’d love to know what it was actually used for. 

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

The biggest pieces of rust were removed with a hammer and chisel.  After a little more sanding, it was almost as good as new.

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

All along I envisioned my metal piece as a mirror topper and I finally found the perfect sized mirror at a thrift store.

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

I was hoping to use my metal topper with the rust showing but no matter what color I painted the mirror, the styles were too far off.

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

Finally painted the mirror with a black chalk paint followed by a dark wax.

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

The metal top was painted with the same paint to match the frame. Used the existing screw holes to attach the metal topper to the mirror.

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

Dump Find makes a great Mirror

So far, I’ve noticed no other faces other than my own coming from the mirror but I’m sure if this mirror could talk it would have a story to tell.

Shared at Metamorphosis Monday, Inspire me Tuesday,

Trash 2 Treasure, Be Inspired Tuesday, Talk of the Town,

Wow us Wednesdays, DIY Collective, Handmade Hangout Party,

Funky Junk Upcycled Link Party, DIY Sunday Showcase

Silver Pennies Sundays, Amaze me Monday,


  • Christine Keating-Ingelse says:

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this mirror! My husband and I often climb a trail to a clearing where a barn stood in the 1800’s- just to pick up what I call “rusty bits”. One time, when we found quite the haul, we got it all back to the car at the bottom of the trail when this guy walks over and offered to take all this trash off our hands. I almost hit him with it! (not really, but I thought about it!) You’re my kind of scavenger, girl!

  • peggy says:

    What a great use of a piece of history. Don’t let restoration hardware see it.

  • Great find and what a wonderful restoration and repurposing. So glad you shared.

  • ann says:

    what an amazing find. so jealous!!

  • Sandi Magle says:

    That did turn out to look abit gothic…lol. But, its’ gorgeous—needs a couple of Aubrey prints on either side…to set the tone, lol. Very cool story, my son brings me treasures still..he’s in his forties’ now. His Christmas gift was a box of vintage MatchBox cars from back to the 80’s… I totally understand, Sandi

  • Becky says:

    What a cool and amazing find. Thanks for linking up to The Talk of the Town party!

  • Trisha says:

    How fun! I want to come explore with you! I love what you did with the mirror and I was totally going to ask if it came with any spirits…let’s hope is stays un-haunted!!


  • Dolores says:

    LOVE the mirror!! Great way for both memories and a fabulous mirror !!
    Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Betsy says:

    Wow! What an amazing treasure hunt. I absolutely love how you used that “what’s it” piece on the mirror. Thanks so much for sharing at Talk of the Town.

  • Barb says:

    wonderful find and love how you used it.
    PS came over from FB and my friend Betsy and My Salvaged Treasures.
    off to see if you have FB page also.

  • Marcia says:

    So good to find somebody that I can relate to, my husband thinks I am crazy when I bring stuff like this home!

  • That is WONDERFUL! As I see it, there can’t be anything bad about hauling trash out of the woods. Which might be why my kids have hauled so much weird, mostly useless, junk home after playing in the river. Broken plastic hubcaps just don’t have the same appeal as your treasures.