Mental hospitals, insane asylums, call them what you will. Because of the nature of their existence, they will always fascinate and frighten us in equal measure. Especially older ones, as we know all the dreadful things that must have occurred there back before psychiatry had advanced. And, what with older buildings inherently creeping us out anyway, is there a more unsettling building than an abandoned mental institution? We think not. And here, for your viewing delectation, are some of the most unsettling asylums that have been left to rot and terrify in equal measure…
Whittingham Hospital, England
At one time the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom, Whittingham was closed under a storm cloud when allegations of patient abuse and neglect were uncovered in the mid-60’s. ‘Misbehaving’ patients would routinely be locked outside as punishment and fed ‘slops’, a gruel-like mixture of runny food leftovers. Events were to take an even darker turn when a worker, dishing out some patented ‘wet towel treatment’ (strangling someone with a wet and twisted towel until they lost consciousness), accidentally killed a patient and was imprisoned for manslaughter.
Beechwood Lunatic Asylum
A rather politically incorrect name by today’s standards, Beechwood ‘Lunatic’ Asylum was, until its demise in the 1950’s, Australia biggest mental hospital. It was famed for its bizarrely lax entry requirements. Often, patients were not even fully assessed. A doctor’s note or family recommendation – along with payment, of course – was enough to guarantee you a nice long stay at Beechwood. Many families did not claim back bodies after patients’ deaths either, leaving the hospital effectively a mass burial ground for the unwanted.
Topeka State Hospital
Topeka closed its doors in 1997 with a fine reputation. But it had fought hard to overturn its name as a cruel institution. A writer visited once back in the early 1900’s and was shocked to discover patients naked and shackled with no formal treatment of stimulus. They were just contained, restrained and pained.
Athens Mental Hospital
Ohio’s Athens Mental Hospital was open for most of the 20th Century as a home to some of the USA’s most crazed criminals. Early in its incarnation as a mental hospital, Athens gained a reputation as Lobotomy Central. Experimental brain surgery was the order of the day for decades, effectively turning America’s most dangerous felons into feet-shuffling zombies.
Metropolitan State Hospital
Another asylum based out of New England’s home of the occult, Massachusetts, this hospital specialised in children. Specifically, the sedation of children. Things could be even worse for adults, though. The place became known for patient-on-patients murders towards the latter part of the 20th Century…
Pleasant dreams, everyone.