Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why Are Lunatic Asylums So Haunted?

Photo courtesy Craig Sunter - Flickr
Understanding the paranormal realm is really only a matter of understanding history. Some of the most haunted places in the world are this way because of their rich history. When a catastrophic event occurs it leaves an enduring imprint on the atmosphere. If it is a repetitive, residual haunting then the event will live out over and over again until eventually the energy diffuses away into the environment. If the traumatic event is supported by an intelligent haunting, namely an active spirit keeps the momentum of the event going on and on and on, perhaps forever. It is an intelligent haunting that keeps insane asylums so haunted because the hospital's residents continuously fuel the paranormal activity. But, with the case of the mentally disturbed, the hauntings take on a whole new dimension.

In this article we will explore that "new dimension" in an attempt to better understand why places like the Trans-Allegheny Asylum are so wrought with paranormal activity. The intelligent hauntings that inhabit these buildings have a very unique perspective on the spirit world that gives them a very powerful "insight."

Paranormal Perception

As was just mentioned, the events that have unfolded on a certain geographic spot set the stage for paranormal activity. But there is another driving force that fuels both residual and intelligent hauntings - human psychology. 

If a ghost is inhabiting an old building or home, this tends to happen because there is unfinished business or the spirit has not been able to cross over the veil. The reasons behind this can vary greatly. Perhaps someone did them wrong in life and now they are seeking revenge. Maybe that grumpy old man was so filled with hatred when he was alive that in death he remains stuck in his own personal hell. Sometimes regret keeps a spirit here, as he or she continuously tries to make up for their mistakes in life long after they have passed. The ghosts of children tend to exist because they are afraid to go to the light.

With insane asylums, the dynamic can be very different. Here psychological perception is the important element. People who are emotionally or mentally unstable do not perceive the living world as most people do. And you can be sure, that in death, they do not perceive the spirit world in the same way you or I might.

Even in the best run asylums this factor will play into the intensity of its ghosts but, with locations like the Trans-Allegheny Asylum, the instances of patient abuse and mental instability function together like a giant REM pod for ghost activity. Let's take a look at a couple asylums and see how this manifests.

Alton Mental Health Hospital

Opened in 1916 this building was designed to take on the new responsibility of the state of Illinois to care and treat the public insane. By 1921 Alton had 757 patients with 117 employees which, over the next 30 years, would grow to a population of 2,100. These are impressive numbers, except there is one problem with this many people. The building was designed with a capacity of 1,084. Alton State Hospital, as it is called today, is still open but is used for forensics studies.

Courtesy of rootsweb.ancestry.
Overcrowding was almost the norm in hospitals for the mentally insane. These patients could in no way have been given the respect that anyone else would receive if they had been admitted to a hospital for medical treatment. Handled like animals in a cage, they were most likely perceived as ignorant of what was happening to them. Packing them in like sardines, these patients became the guinea pigs of procedures that we would now view as atrocious. Back then, it was cutting edge science.

Hydrotherapy was introduced in 1924 for what was believed to be an effective treatment for diagnoses of insomnia, suicidal tendencies, and those with aggressive behaviors. 

"Continuous baths were the most effective when held in a quiet room with little light and audio stimulation, thus allowing the patient to relax and possibly even fall asleep. Bath temperatures typically ranged from 92°F to 97°F, so as not to cause injury to the patients.... Cold water was used to treat patients diagnosed with manic-depressive psychoses, and those showing signs of "[e]xcitement and increased motor activity." Application of cold water slowed down blood flow to the brain, decreasing mental and physical activity. The temperature for a cold pack ranged between 48°F and 70°F."¹

In cases of patient abuse, you can draw your conclusions. Bath waters may have been too hot or too freezing cold. Hydrotherapy was used as long as overnight and may have been administered for extensive periods of time, creating hypothermia or physical shock. Since the mentally insane may not have been treated like regular patients, their agony would have been overlooked as just being part of the procedure. In the Alton Mental Health Hospital over 65,000 hours of hydrotherapy treatment could be given in one year.

In the 1940's Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) began to be utilized as a better way of treating patients. Interestingly, this form of treatment is still used [t]oday...[and] is administered to an estimated 100,000 people a year, primarily in general hospital psychiatric units and in psychiatric hospitals.  It is generally used in treating patients with severe depression, acute mania, and certain schizophrenic syndromes. ECT is also used with some suicidal patients, who cannot wait for antidepressant medication to take effect."

"ECT treatment is generally administered in the morning, before breakfast. Prior to the actual treatment, the patient is given general anesthesia and a muscle relaxant.  Electrodes are then attached to the patients scalp and an electric current is applied which causes a brief convulsion. Minutes later, the patient awakens confused and without memory of events surrounding the treatment. This treatment is usually repeated three times a week for approximately one month. The number of treatments varies from six to twelve."²

Sometimes certain anti-convulsive drugs were used to try and keep the intense seizures under control during the procedure. Poisonous plants like curare were administered to inhibit acetylcholine receptors at the neuromuscular junction. If this was given in too strong of a dose, it would result in asphyxiation because the diaphragm would go into paralysis. 

Also administered were lobotomies. When this procedure was in its infancy, a hole was cut into the skull and ethanol was injected to calm patients and curtail their hallucinations. In the 1940's a device called a leucotome was invented which plunged through the skull a loop of wire that, when turned in a circular motion, created a lesion and thus separated parts of the frontal lobe from the brain.

Overcrowding became a motivation for doctors to find ways of calming their patients to lessen the chaos in the hospital. 

"That's exactly what happens in the 1962 novel and 1975 film 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,' in which Randall Patrick McMurphy, a rambunctious but sane man living in a mental hospital, is given a lobotomy that leaves him mute and vacant-minded."³

All three of these procedures were documented as attempts to help the mentally insane, but through the eyes of the paranormal - what did it really do?

Patients were subjected to inhumane treatments that would have left a painful and negative imprint on the atmosphere. The sheer fear and panic associated with these events would create the most intense hauntings that can be found anywhere. Take into consideration as well that the materials many of the buildings were constructed primarily of limestone, and you now add in a veritable sponge for the effects of these potential atrocities.  

Kuhn Memorial State Hospital

This hospital, established in 1832, has both a very long history and the intense procedures used on the mentally insane. Located in Vicksburg City, Mississippi, it was initially built in response to a smallpox outbreak. It also served as a hospital to serve the wounded in the Civil War. It was taken over by the state in 1871. By 1954 a local named Lee Kuhn left a $400,000 estate to the hospital when, as a result, new buildings were constructed and added to the campus. However, by 1989, funding ran out to keep it going and it closed down. It now sits as a skeleton of memories and paranormal activity on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Still today the hospital continues to have intense traumatic activity that you can read about in this article: Ghost Hunters Find Dead Body

In the video below the members of Ghost Asylum visit the Kuhn State Memorial Hospital. In this 3-minute snippet you will see that they capture a decent amount of evidence that shows why insane asylums are so haunted.

Here as well the patients were subjected to extreme procedures like hydrotherapy, ECT, and lobotomies. Even now the tormented and trapped spirits in insane asylums continue to seek out the help they needed in life and now in the afterlife. This too is another reason why these hospitals are some of the most haunted locations in the world. The "new dimension" for them is simply a continuation of the torment they suffered that shaped the perception of their world. The concepts of life and death are blurred. One runs into the other and back again. Al they can do now is scream out for help. This is what one investigation team discovered when they entered into the Kuhn State Memorial Hospital with the Clarion-Ledger news team in tow.

"...there was one particularly weird thing — a little too weird for me [reporter Therese Apel] to believe. In the embalming room, a table with a drain is in the middle, covered in thick, sandy dust. As we left that room, I was the last one out. Someone had drawn a tic-tac-toe board in the dust to see if anything paranormal would make the next move.

When we came back to the embalming room about a half an hour later, the tic-tac-toe board was untouched, but written backwards in the dust was the word 'help'."

Works Cited



³   Ghost Asylum