A darkness seeps through the walls and floor of the abandoned asylum. Windows bang and cracks in the frames allow the wind to whistle through. It’s early fall and the trees twisting their way through the building have already begun to turn. Old trees with gnarly branches reach through the empty spaces. Moss carpets the floors and colours the walls. the ground crackles beneath the feet.
A far cry from the bright airy rooms built to accommodate the mentally ill, the physically impaired, the imbeciles. Once society believed that they should have space and care away from the heart of cities and towns. Once it believed there was no cure.
Science moves on and society follows.
New treatments permeated the wards of asylums the world over, to treat, to cure, to restrain. Bad tests, wars, illegal acts led to expansions and overcrowding.
Remnants of people walked the halls. Instruments dreamt up in far off places lined up around operating tables. Families disjointed.
Records un-kept or misplaced. Belongings abandoned, equipment forgotten, doors closed.
The goings on in asylums the world over were kept behind their grand entrances and expansive grounds. Society preferring to keep their distance. Staff, workers and inmates all residing within the boundaries.
Abandoned now, left to rot and putrefy amongst overgrown grounds that become the buildings grave. One by one they fall. One by one they are lost. One by one they march into history. A silent plea not to be forgotten.
Why am I Obsessed with Asylums Right Now?
I’ve noticed there is currently a program called ‘Secrets From The Asylum’ from ITV that has celebrities looking into their family history to find relatives who lived in the asylum.
And with the plethora of movies, books, and blogs involving an asylum they are not so hard to find.
All I can say to that is
There’s no more room on this bandwagon!
But I’m jumping on anyway. A wild ride as I cling to the back of the wagon, hair swirling in the wind rushing past. Eyes wide, laughter bubbling forth. Whispers of horrors gone by urging me on. I journey forth to the Asylum.
From the Vaults of History I give you….
Trenton State Hospital
An obvious place to begin, with its dreadful history and treatments. 1848 was it’s beginning and 1907 the beginning of it’s darkness.
Medical director Dr. Henry Cotton was certain that all mental diseases stemmed from infection. Logic told him that if the infection was removed the mental illness would be gone. Unfortunately that’s where logic stopped and insanity began. Piece by piece patients would undergo live dissections.
First teeth would be removed, all teeth, as infection was thought to be found there. It was all, of course, done with good intentions towards the patients.
If they failed to improve in their condition the medical staff would begin on the next procedure. Removing the tonsils next and then the sinus. There was an actual order to be followed and with that order the severity of the removal increased. Without antibiotics.
These procedures were seen by Dr Cotton as working and he reported to the larger medical community of his success despite his high mortality rate. By 1925 the hospital was being investigated. The good doctor, after having a couple of his own teeth removed, opened a private practice. He died in 1933 venerated by the presses.
Something about this picture draws me to it. Perhaps the bright colours of the chairs, or the obvious difficulty even an able bodied person might have getting out of one.
Kings Park Psychiatric Centre
Built in 1885 as a place of respite from city life, Kings Park was a self sufficient place. Patients could work in the grounds during their incarceration. The doors closed for good in 1996.
A new building was built in the 1930s which was out of character with the rest of the centre. Intended to relieve the overcrowding it is the only part of the Asylum that remains standing.
Without the right to consent, patients could be restrained and forced to undergo treatment including lobotomy and electroshock therapy.
Hidden beneath this great structure are a warren of dark service tunnels. With little light, creepy crawlies, and rusting pipes they are not an adventure for the feint hearted.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Opened in 1881 you could have been admitted for any number of reasons.
But the treatments for most “illnesses” would have been fairly similar. Families of patients were encouraged not to maintain contact and told not to open any letters received. – Potential for an interesting story right there don’t you think?
“Jamie discovered a strange suitcase when going through his mothers things. They’d recently had to move her into care due to age and ever increasing frailty. Her house was being put on the market to pay the expenses and it had fallen to Jamie to go through the contents of her attic. He did it with both trepidation and a little excitement, hoping to find treasures he could squirrel away that the others knew nothing about.
The suitcase was just one of the things he’d never seen before and despite having been here for more than two hours he was soon engrossed in it’s contents.
Letter after letter, tied in bundles with string, unopened, filled the faded blue suitcase. Addressed to his mother but by her maiden name, the addresses changing over the years as the new address was written on and the old scratched through. He remembered some of them.
The last one seemed to have been twenty years ago and that was the one he dared to open…”
This abandoned asylum has in part been renovated. It stands waiting for visitors to come through it’s doors on ghost hunts. And every year the grounds are host to a halloween party which draws the crowds again and again.
Step into an Asylum
Few of these buildings remain, built on huge scales and mostly intended to be self contained. Their lands are often repurposed and some buildings too have been renovated and given new life. But many have fallen victim to time and the elements. Wasting away with only the spirits of the long dead and ghost hunting visitors to occupy their time.
The walls undoubtedly hold the recordings of things that went on in these places. Should you be sensitive to such things you may have an experience or two.
I hope to use all this research I’ve been doing to write a novella centered around an asylum and would love to know if you’ve been in one and had an experience. Even when they are full of people, patients and staff these old buildings can give you the creeps.
P.S. Don’t forget to collect your raw bookage.