USA Western State Asylum

In 2014, my travels took me to New York City where I took the opportunity to do a three-day road trip with Shannon and Karen. We drove for miles from New York City to West Virginia and back. It took over 7 hours to get to this asylum but I had seen photographs of the staircase many months prior and knew I had to see it with my own eyes.
The asylum was a place for the mentally ill, built in 1828. When it first became operational it was a pleasant place; there were terraced gardens, flowered walkways and mountain views such a place could help with healing patients. The architecture was beautiful, but by halfway through the 19th century, the asylum had become more of a center for nightmares and horror.
Overcrowding meant patients didn’t get the care they needed and techniques typical of the age of experimentation inside such institutions meant that patients were restrained, put in straitjackets and suffered procedures such as involuntary sterilisation and electric shock treatment. Many were even lobotomized. No longer did the patients plant flowers in the walkways; they now resembled the mental images now evoked by our knowledge of such institutions; suffering patients, staring into space. In the 1970s, the hospital was moved to a new site and became a prison for medium sector male offenders. This closed in 2003 and the site is now abandoned, in the process of redevelopment into housing.

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