January 03, 2014

Photo Essay: Lanterman Developmental Center, Pomona, Haunted & Closing

"I wonder what kind of state this place will be in, in five years," I said pessimistically as I wandered through the quiet neighborhood streets of the Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona, a notoriously haunted place that officially announced its closure in 2010 but won't be totally vacated until the end of this year.

When Lanterman originally opened as the Pacific Colony in 1917 in the nearby town of Walnut, it was devoted to housing the "feeble-minded" as "inmates," protecting society (mostly, the residents of the now-ghost town Spadra) from their "insanity." It moved to its current location in Pomona in 1927. The Colony was renamed the Pacific State Hospital in 1953, when a shift in understanding about disabilities meant that disabled residents were newly considered "patients."

These days, another shift and few new definitions later, disabilities are now seen as "special needs," and Lanterman refers to its residents as "clients."

Lanterman's announced closure in 2010 was heavily opposed by many advocates, parents and family members of its residents, despite its troubled and storied past. During its normal operations, the care facility was heavily criticized for resident injuries and even deaths - some as a result of abuse, others neglect, others under more suspicious circumstances, many not reported. One man was slain, his killer never found.

Walking through the campus on New Year's Day, I could just feel vandals biding their time, waiting for the site to be completely abandoned before coming in and breaking windows, tagging walls, and setting fires. I'm sure ghost-hunters are chomping at the bit.

For now, it's just peaceful and quiet. It hasn't yet become derelict. Some of the buildings are a bit shabby, but nothing is exactly languishing.


In fact, most of the grounds still look cared-for: the roses still in bloom, the lawns manicured and fertilized, the gates closed and the doors locked.

But if you figure out how to get into the facility...

...the signs of neglect...

...though in its early stages...

...are evident.

No one waits at the tram stops...

...and the tram remains parked...

...and unmanned.

There is basically no traffic to direct...

...though our car passed a few others, all parked.

On one side of the train tracks, there are operational facilities...

...some still in use, providing support services to the remaining developmentally disabled still receiving treatment.

Some haven't been in use in a long time. The center (including its acute hospital unit) reached its peak in the late 1960s, when its population reached nearly 3000.

It's a huge facility with dozens of buildings along named streets across over 300 acres - much like a military base, much like a planned community, for one reason or another rendered a ghost town. Its current population is less than 10% of its peak.

On the other side of the train tracks, there are staff residences...

...mostly vacated...

...whose lawns need raking...

...whose stoops need sweeping...

...but whose windows remain unbroken, and doors remain locked.

It's interesting to visit a site like this at this stage...

...before it's trespassing...

...before vandalism.

It's pristine.

It's serene.

It's old.

It's dying.

You have to look for the decay - like the flower boxes falling off their widow sills - but it is there.

But there are flowers still, and there is whimsy.

There are plenty of recreational areas, though perhaps no longer being used.

Lanterman Developmental Center must complete its closure and full vacancy by December 31, 2014. It's not abandoned yet, but it will be.

What will become of this sprawling state property and its 120 buildings? Will it be fenced off, or left open for runners and dog-walkers and bicyclists?

Will it attract derelicts and tumbleweeds?

Will the reported hauntings worsen, those who have passed increasingly stirring in their unrest?

Will it be razed? What will be built in its place?

After all, conditions at the nearby facility for the criminally insane, the California Colony, got so bad in the early 1920s that it was shut down, and the LA County Fairgrounds (including Fairplex and the Halloweentime Fearplex) opened in its place, some relics of the former Colony available for occasional touring.
We shall see.

Related Reading:
History of Lanterman Developmental Center (State of California Department of Developmental Services)
The strange but true story of Fearplex at Pomona (

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Where the Dead Rest in a Dead Village
Photo Essay: Rancho Los Amigos, Abandoned County Poor Farm, Downey (Exterior)


  1. I have been on the grounds here three times as a security guard for motion pictures and tv shows.
    Once in 2016, once in 2017, and this last week, of July 26, 2019!
    My b'day!
    I really love it being here.
    Ground squirrels, bunny rabbits, coyotes. Cool sounding birds, the trains that pass by all day long, the eeriness of the empty quiet buildings.
    Wednesday night, 07/24/19, I heard what sounded like somebody falling out of the top of a palm tree and making a huge thud hitting the ground!
    Later on into the night, one of the campus police walked around the area of the commotion. I told him what I thought it was. He told me that it was a huge tree branch broke off of a tree, and fell really close to a wall of one of the buildings.
    He said that if the branch was a foot close to the building, it would have crashed through the roof!

  2. I was there just today, 2/25/2020. CCC has a presence on campus and I, working in the entertainment industry, can tell you this place has been jumping with production activity for at least the last eight years. Tonight I was there servicing two of the three shows that are currently filming on campus. The place is far from deserted, the ghosts are not alone...

  3. I work in Fire Safety in the film industry and have been assigned here several times in the past two years. In fact, I worked this week. Very good State security here. No vandalism. Quite the compound!

  4. Beautiful location to explore. I work in the film industry and I spent hours endlessly exploring the buildings on my days working there. I hope I work there again someday.

  5. I worked here many, 35 years, and I saw or heard nothing ghostly or haunting. Just old scare story from a time long ago. Talked to no one who has a personal encounter. I have worked all shifts.

  6. In 1963. I took a course labeled ‘Exceptional Children’ as part of a program in Special Education. The course included an eighteen week first hand introduction and overview of California’s Pacific State Pomona. Nothing in my entire life comes close to being as dramatic as seeing hundreds of FLK’s (Funny Looking Kids) horribly deformed!

  7. I was an RN. Employed at Lanterman. Loved every minute. It is not haunted