One of the unique stops along the Retreat Trails is the Retreat Tower. This tower was built by the patients of the Vermont Asylum (now the Brattleboro Retreat) in 1887. At the time, doctors believed that hard, meaningful labor could help mental patients regain their stability. So a group of patients was put to work building this large stone tower, as a scenic overlook of the Asylum grounds.
While I’m sure that the doctors had the best of intentions, some patients chose to use the tower in a different manner. In the years following its construction, according to the book “Weird New England” a fair number of patients climbed to the top of the tower and hurled themselves off of it onto the rocky cliff below. While the number of suicides at this site is a closely guarded secret, the tower was sealed off and remains so today.
For those looking for the haunted side of Brattleboro, ghost hunters report sightings of an airborne human-like form at the top of the tower that appears briefly and then disappears into space.
You can find the tower off of the “Tower Climb” trail on the Retreat Trail system. It’s a fairly easy 10 – 15 minute walk from our Inn. The tower is visible from the Retreat Meadows and a lot of the north side of Brattleboro as well – particularly in the winter and fall as the trees clear.
The tower opens to the public typically just one or two times per year. The dates are not consistent, but you can certainly keep an eye on it.