Should The Government Reopen Mental Health Facilities Around The Nation To Prevent More Mass Killings?
Buoyant Leadraft 2012/12/20 11:20:35
Is it time to bring back the classic insane asylum from the1800's - 1950's, so the mentally ill can be protected and the public protected from them?
The Most Famous and Notorious Insane Asylums in History
1844, the mentally ill were stashed away in prisons and the basements
of public buildings. But in the middle of the 19th century, reformers
like Dorothea Dix pushed to improve the standing of those with serious
mental illness, an effort that led to the construction of sprawling
psychiatric hospitals with names like the State Lunatic Hospital at
Danvers and the Athens Lunatic Asylum.
Many of these new facilities were built under the Kirkbride Plan,
an architectural guideline which ensured the maximum amount of privacy
and comfort for the patients. However the concept of "building as
treatment" soon fell out of favor, and most American mental asylums
became overcrowded Gothic palaces of abuse and neglect.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the invention of anti-psychotic
drugs like Thorazine triggered a movement toward
"denationalization" -- so much so that by the year 2000 almost all
of the Kirkbride buildings had been abandoned or downsized. The shells
of the grand structures, and tales of the horrors they housed, still
remain. Read on to check them out.
Danvers State Hospital
Built in 1878 to house 500, Danvers State Hospital (formally known the
State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers) had over 2,300 patients at its peak
in the 1940s. Needless to say, conditions were hellish. Danvers is the
rumored birthplace of the lobotomy, and doctors used that barbaric
procedure, as well as electroshock therapy, to the keep the inmates in
The facility closed in 1992, but a plan to turn the building into condos stalled when it promptly burned down.
The structure's cursed history shouldn't be that much of a surprise: It
was built on plot of land once owned by John Hathorne, the most unforgiving of the Salem Witch Trial judges.
The Athens Lunatic Asylum
The Athens Lunatic Asylum, or The Ridges, has been considered one of the more haunted places on Earth ever since an incident in 1978,
in which the lifeless, naked body of a missing female patient was found
in an unheated room that was locked from the inside.
Her corpse left a
stain, and legend has it this darkened silhouette has remained ever
since, despite numerous attempts to scrub it away.
It's also interesting to note that in 1876, two years after The Ridges
opened, the number-one-listed cause of insanity among its male patients
was masturbation, while menstrual issues were high up on the list of
ills for committed females.
With prominent former patients like John Nash, Ray Charles, Zelda
Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath and David Foster Wallace, McLean Hospital in
Belmont, Mass., has long had a reputation as the insane asylum for the
rich and famous.
The private facility was the setting for "The Bell Jar"
and "Girl, Interrupted," and a teenage James Taylor wrote one of his first songs, "Knockin' 'Round the Zoo," about his stay at McLean.
In fact, the mellow-voiced singing legend credits the Thorazine-filled
nine months he spent committed at McLean as a "life saver." Today,
McLean Hospital is one of the most well-regarded psychiatric facilities
in the world.
Pilgram Psychiatric Center
This Long Island asylum is most famous for its sheer size -- housing
about 14,000 patients during its peak in the 1950s. The massive facility
also featured a firehouse, a power plant, a bakery and a working farm.
Originally conceived with a "rest and relaxation" philosophy, Pilgram's
treatment techniques become more aggressive with an increasing
population. In addition to lobotomies and electroshock therapy, doctors
at Pilgrim violently induced patients into comas using large doses of
insulin and metrozol. A small part of the campus is still in use today,
with its abandoned acreage now fodder for photographs and urban explorers.
Topeka State Hospital
In 1913, the Kansas legislature deemed that habitual criminals, idiots,
epileptics, imbeciles and the insane could be subject to castration.
From then until 1961, when the inhumane procedure was banned, about
3,000 Kansans were medically rendered infertile, with majority of those castrations taking place at the Topeka State Hospital.
Even before the facility became a hotbed of eugenics, it had a notorious
reputation. In the early 1900s there were reports of patients being
strapped down for so long their skin had grown over their bounds.
Thankfully, the Topeka State Hospital was shut down in 1997.
Bethlem Royal Hospital
Even on a list of American insane asylums, we would be remiss if we
didn't mention Bethlem Royal Hospital in London. Bethlem, the world's
oldest institution specializing in the mentally ill, started admitting
unbalanced patients in 1357.
Throughout most of its history the
conditions in the asylum were atrocious. For example, in the 18th
century the public could pay a penny for the privilege of watching the
"freaks"; they were even permitted to poke the caged patients with a
As an indication of what a house of horrors Bethlem Royal Hospital was, the word bedlam is derived from its name.
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