Monday, June 21, 2010
Danvers State Insane Asylum
During the mid 1840's Physician Thomas Story Kirkbride brought forth a revolutionary idea in treating the mentally ill based on a philosophy of Moral Treatment, in other words humane treatment for the insane. Before the 1840's the mentally ill were kept in jails, locked away in basements or hidden away in the attics of private homes, the later I am sure inspired H.P. Lovecraft's tale The Shuttered Room. Kirkbride sought to change not only society's perception of mental illness but also wanted to create a therapeutic environment where patients would have curative surroundings. Thus came about the Kirkbride Plan and also the Kirkbride Buildings.
The buildings follow a simple plan, the central building with wings stretching out on either side also referred to as bat wings. These wings would house the patients and the central building would house administration. Each wing would be subdivided by wards and the more excitable patients would be kept on lower floors further away from the administration. The more docile patients would dwell on the upper floors.
The novel approach that Kirkbride intended was to offer the patient a soothing landscape away from urban life and a calmness where the ill could convalesce. Hence many of the Kirkbride buildings had rich landscaping and some even had farmland that patients could work. There was only one problem, they costs a fortune to maintain.
Although Kirkbride's original intention was noble in the late 1800's budget cuts, under staffing and overcrowding of patients brought about a different rein in what once was a benign ideal.
Which brings me to Danvers State Insane Asylum. This haven for the insane shifted attitudes by the 1920's with rumors of lobotomies, illegal shock treatments and straight jackets becoming the predominate method of treatments not to heal, but to control, which contradicted the practices of the superintendent in the 1890's, Dr. Charles Page, who declared that restraints were unnecessary for the treatment of the patients. The 20th Century slowly seem to work a demise on what started out to be a sanctuary for those that suffered mental illness. In 1992 Danvers closed its doors...but was forgotten, for a time.
Rumors of hauntings, supernatural occurrences and just odd accidents seem to plague it. Once it was going to be renovated into an apartment complex and soon after a fire of an unknown origin broke out. Now hardly anything stands of Danvers and yet it still draws attention from various paranormal groups. Whether if it is haunted or not, its history has a darkness that still hovers about the grounds.
I first became aware of Danvers State Insane Asylum when I viewed the psycho~supernatural thriller, Session 9. The film centers on an asbestos abatement crew that has been hired to remove the deadly substance for renovation. It was filmed on the center hub of Danvers that was still standing at the time. A very atmospheric piece that is chilling at moments and Danvers stands looming as the central character. I highly recommend it if you have a curiousity about the Old Kirkbride buildings.
Posted by Professor Pym at 8:26 PM