Day 8

By: Jacqueline Connolly Paton

Mar 27 2011

Category: Uncategorized

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Focal Length:13.2mm
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I’m on an abandoned building kick.   Behind the Beechwood Hotel and hidden behind the gigantic UMass Medical School complexes is  a reminder of the dark days in mental health care; The Worcester State Hospital (alternate names: Worcester Insane Asylum, Worcester Lunatic Asylum, Bloomingdale Asylum).  Built in 1870, this was Massachusetts’ first asylum for the insane after a study lead by Horace Mann.  Prior to this, those deemed “insane” were put in jails with criminals, however many records and accounts compare the asylum to  a prison with the experiments and treatments they gave patients.

Life magazine photographed the common practices in 1949 including electroshock and insulin therapy as well as strange and cruel biochemical experiments.  One such treatment, a “stress cure”, would suspend patients in an armchair and whirl them violently, because it was believed that “after which a normal person would be dizzy, but a psychotic will not”

Sigmond Freud visited the hospital in 1909 during his only visit to American.  A massive fire in 1991 destroyed many of the wings which were subsequently bulldozed.  What remains is the clocktower administrator building. I would visit this place in college and even since then, more  sections of the old hospital have been demolished. Plans are in the works to build a state of the art hospital and renovate the clock tower.

One article I found talked about the treatment of epilepsy patients before it was understood.  Having a husband with epilepsy, I can’t imagine not being able to see him again because he would be institutionalized for life, poked, prodded and studied.

The first link includes photos of the hospital before the fire. from a 1949 Life magazine expose about the magazine and their “treatments”

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