Thursday, June 9, 2022

HGB Ep. 438 - Glore Psychiatric Musem

Moment in Oddity - The Wheel Bug (Suggested by Jannae McCabe)

There's an insect known as the wheel bug. It's found in Florida but is also known to be found from Rhode Island to California and further south into Mexico and Guatemala. This insect is part of the assassin bug family and measures 1 to 1 1/4 inches long. This insect is a dark, robust creature with long legs and antennae, a stout beak, large eyes on a slim head, and a prominent thoracic, semicircular crest that resembles a cogwheel. As steampunk fans, this insect caught our eye with its cogwheel feature immediately! These are largely considered beneficial insects as they prey upon many garden pests that harm crops and blooms, although they have also been known to prey upon bees and ladybugs and sometimes are cannibalistic. Interestingly, some brave souls have been known to keep these specimens as pets, however be forewarned, a bite from these little buggars has been compared to being more painful than a bee or wasp sting. But those who enjoy this insect state that once adapted, they are very unlikely to bite if handled gently. Although these insects can give many gardeners the creepy crawlies, the only insect species in the United States that sports a cogwheel as part of it's exoskeleton, certainly makes it odd.

This Month in History - Edison Patented the Electrographic Vote Recorder

In the the month of June, on the 1st, in 1869, Thomas Edison patented the Electrographic Vote Recorder. This invention was registered with patent #90,646 and was meant to be a voting machine for Congress. Legislative bodies would be able to record their votes accurately and instantaneously with this invention. Unfortunately, his creation stirred little interest and was never manufactured. This was the FIRST of Edison's 1,093 US patents. Some of Edison's most famous patents are the light bulb, phonograph, motion picture camera, and storage battery. He meticulously recorded his work in 4,000 notebooks to protect his intellectual property, but also with hopes to influence generations of inventors. Despite the lackluster interest in his vote recorder, Thomas Edison went on to be one of the most inspiring inventors of all time.

Glore Psychiatric Museum

The term asylum means refuge and that is what lunatic asylums were meant to be, places of safety for those experiencing various forms of mental illness. But as we have found, very few asylums did more than house the mentally ill and use them as guinea pigs for various forms of torture. That is why so many of them have spiritual residue. The Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri is a location that documents both in words and visual recreations, what life in an asylum was like for many people. Objects from many former asylums have become part of the collection and possibly have brought along attachments. Join us as we discuss the history of the former asylum that was here, the history of asylum treatments and the hauntings involved!

The rise of asylums began in Europe in the 17th century. Treatment of the mentally ill before this time was horrendous. The Age of Reason should have brought a time of better care for those suffering from mental illness, but that anything but the case. Rather than being places of refuge and care, asylums became like human zoos, places to store those not fit for society and observe their odd behavior. Bethlehem Royal Hospital was the earliest official mental asylum, opening their doors in 1247 in London. In later years, the asylum opened up their doors and charged for public viewings. Why take a stroll through the park when you can walk through the local asylum and tease the patients? Bethlehem Royal Hospital charged two pennies each for this kind of access. The doors leading into these areas were nicknamed the Penny Gates. And while it is horrifying to think people were walking through these places unsupervised, imagine what happened when the public had no access and asylums could do what they wanted unfettered with no public oversight.

Francis Fauquier was the Royal Governor of Virginia in 1758 and in 1766, he called on the House of Burgesses to establish a public hospital for confining and treating people “deprived of their reason…a poor unhappy set of people who are deprived of their senses and wander about the countryside, terrifying the rest of their fellow creatures.” The House of Burgesses agreed that a place needed to be built. The first public hospital for the mentally ill in America opened in October 1773 in Williamsburg, Virginia. And asylums continued to open throughout the United States. The Missouri General Assembly approved $200,000 for the creation of a second asylum in the state in 1872. They chose the city of Saint Joseph as the site for the State Lunatic Asylum No. 2, which opened on November 9, 1874. The original plan was a Kirkbride building, that would house 275 patients in 32 dormitories in 76 individual rooms, but the hospital actually started with 25 patients. Thomas Kirkbride had designed these plans for asylums to provide healing through architecture with lots of light. The wings were staggered to allow sunlight into all areas.

The first superintendent was Dr. George C. Catlett who had been a medical purveyor for the Confederate Army and oversaw the treatment of soldiers for several years. He wrote of the hospital that they were “taking it from mere name, bare walls, untenanted and unfurnished halls into a systematically arranged operating institution prepared to take its position in the benign firmament with its sister associates, and to be consecrated for all time to the noble work of reviving hope in the human heart and dispelling the portentous clouds that envelope and penetrate the intellects of minds diseased.”

Two years after opening, the asylum had 293 patients. This was on the route out west and families occasionally dropped off "problem" family members along the way. A new wing was added at this time and this was for more violent patients. This brought 120 more beds, which were eventually increased to 250 beds. A fire damaged much of the original Kirkbride building in 1879, but no one was killed thanks to the efforts of the staff. A new hospital building was constructed near the burned shell of the former asylum and the new asylum was opened in 1880. This new building could house more patients and had a bowling alley, billiards room and gym. And like many of the other asylums in the country, this one was completely self-sufficient with its own livestock and crops on a farm, a slaughterhouse, poultry house and greenhouse. They only needed to purchase sugar and salt. 

Dr. Charles Woodson became the new superintendent in 1890 and he brought some reforms with him. He asked to have a separate hospital building to be built for patients with contagious diseases. A Typhoid outbreak in 1893 was kept at a minimum because of this action. Woodson also was behind the building of a power plant on the property and getting a proper sewage system. He also installed pipes with small holes around the porch and when the weather was warm, staff would run water through them to produce artificial rain, which helped to calm the patients. This was a type of hydrotherapy. In 1899, the name was changed to the St. Joseph State Hospital. This took away the terms lunatic and asylum. Dr. Woodson would move on in 1907 and Dr. W.F. Kuhn came on board and he brought with him an exercise regiment. All patients were required to walk a mile every day. He also started staffing the men's wards with women, which was considered controversial at the time, but proved to be brilliant because the male patients were better behaved and more well-groomed with the women around. Kuhn also implemented a non-restraint policy.

The farm expanded under Dr. Kuhn's watch and patients started making things like furniture that could be sold to help raise money for the operations of the hospital. As the decades passed, the asylum became more crowded. Getting enough staff was always hard and became even harder during the World Wars when staff joined the military. The Red Cross Gray Ladies were brought in to help with the under staffing, but there were never enough beds or staff. After World War II, there were 2,485 patients in a mental hospital that was meant to serve far fewer people and the staff turnover was very high. This led to a series of experimental treatments being tried on patients, including lobotomies. Dr. Walter Freeman arrived at the St. Joseph Mental Hospital on July 8, 1949. That day, Freeman performed 10 lobotomies in three hours and the local paper reported that this gave patients hope that they could return back to their homes and their lives. As we know, lobotomies were not a good thing. Dr. Willis McCann came to the hospital in the 1950s and this era would end the labor work for patients. Most would be left to wander the halls or stare at TVs all day long. Tranquilizing drugs would be used to keep patients even. Climate control would come to the hospital.

Towards the end of the 1950s, a Dr. George Glore came to the hospital. He eventually became the director and in 1967, he started a little museum a ward of the St. Joseph State Hospital. This became the Glore Psychiatric Museum and was an extensive collection of implements used in the care of psychological disorders dating all the way back to the 16th century and carrying up to the 19th century. Glore spent most of his 41-year career with the Missouri Department of Mental Health gathering his collection. He retired in the 1990s. Most patients had been released by the early 1990s. In 1993, the Renz Correctional Farm was damaged in a flood and the 150 inmates were brought here temporarily. But the move proved to be permanent. In 1994, Missouri approved a bond to allow the asylum to be converted into a jail and today it houses around 600 inmates mostly serving time for drug charges called the Western Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center. The Glore Psychiatric Museum was moved into another building on the property. The rest of the patients were moved to a new facility in 1997 that is across the street from the original campus and was named Northwest Missouri Psychiatric Rehabilitation.

The Psychiatric Museum documents the times when patients were kept busy with menial tasks like sewing, cooking and farming. But they also got to hold dances, play croquet and board games and exercise on gymnastic equipment. The museum displays many artifacts from the mental hospital that include uniforms, medical equipment, artwork and photographs. One exhibit tells the story of a man who spent 72 years as a patient in the hospital. There is another exhibit featuring thousands of empty cigarette packs in a cage. Apparently, a nurse had told a patient that empty cigarette packs could be redeemed for a new wheelchair, so he saved them even though the nurse had been lying. The staff did eventually get him a new wheelchair for his efforts, which came to 100,000 packs. Another exhibit has an old TV stuffed full of 525 written notes. A patient thought he could communicate with the people on TV through these notes. A more disturbing display is a stomach contents one. A patient was suffering from pica and liked to swallow nails and other objects. This patient ended up swallowing 1,400 metal objects, including nails, screws, pins, bottle caps, bolts and buttons. She died on the operating table when the items were being removed. Someone arranged the objects into what looks like an ancient sculpture of a bursting sun. Visitors can even buy a postcard featuring this uh "sculpture."

Things were not as bad here at the State Hospital No. 2 as they were in other asylums. The museum reveals how patients who weren't docile were treated throughout the years. Those that were harder to maintain were locked away from the public and restrained and basically tortured in a variety of ways. Chains, Strait jackets, cages and Utica cribs were used. Utica cribs were popular in asylums during the latter half of the 19th century. The Utica Crib was invented in 1845 by Dr. M.H. Aubanel, who worked at the Marseilles Lunatic Asylum, and was introduced at the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica in 1846 by the first Medical Superintendent there, Dr. Amariah Brigham. This device was archaic at best and torture at worst. Different institutions designed different cribs, but they all basically were coffin-sized, enclosed boxes with wood slats or metal screening that latched closed. The term crib was used because they resembled cribs, but in a much narrower design. A patient could only lie flat inside. Superintendents that approved the use of the contraptions defended them by pointing out that all varieties of restraints were used on patients and this was just another form. They also pointed out that violent patients would become calm and stop acting out after hours of confinement in the crib. As the years progressed, there was enough of an outcry that the lids were removed from many of the cribs. 

Dr. William A. Hammond fought to remove all mechanical restraints from asylums. He wrote of the Utica crib, “It is a bed like a child’s crib, with slatted sides, eighteen inches deep, six feet long and three feet wide. It has a slatted lid which shuts with a spring lock. A lunatic put in it can barely turn over. There is not as much space between the patient’s head and the lid as if he were in a coffin. He is kept in the crib at the will of an attendant, the key being in the possession of the latter and not of a physician. Patients have sometimes died in these cribs. DR. MYCERT, who is an authority, says the crib is a most barbarous and unscientific instrument because there is already a tendency to a determination of blood to the brain in excited forms of insanity which is increased by the horizontal position in the crib and the struggles of the patient. The crib was introduced by the superintendent of the Utica asylum. The padded room could always be substituted for the crib.”

This was a difficult topic. Some patients needed some kind of restraint to protect them, especially at night. The crib was thought to be better than bed restraints. Perhaps it would not have been as objectionable if it were bigger, but there were doctors who thought that would make patients more able to get hurt. For some patients, the Utica crib might have been helpful for them, but as is the case with any kind of treatment or device, the possibility of abuse can be real trouble. Ten minutes in a Utica bed might be fine, but hours? Many patients were left for hours and even days like this. The Utica crib was far from being the worst implement used on patients in asylums however. 

There was the "Bath of Surprise", which was a large bathtub or tank with a platform in the middle that the patient would lie down upon. This platform could easily be submerged in the water, which was ice cold. The "Giant Patient Treadmill" was like a human-sized hamster wheel made of wood. Patients were said to be able to walk their worries away, but again, this was abused for patients who were not able to remain still. The wheel was used to exhaust them with exercise. There was the "Fever Cabinet" that was lined with rows of high wattage light bulbs, so the patient's body temperature could be raised and kill viruses like syphilis. The "Lunatic Box" was a more extreme form of the Utica bed. This was an upright, coffin-like box in which patients were confined. The "Tranquilizer Chair" was the worst form of confinement. This looked similar to an old electric chair with patients having the hands and feet locked into restraints and then a hood was put over their head. This chair had a built in portable toilet, which seems to indicate that a patient would be left in this chair for hours most probably naked. Benjamin Rush, the "Father of American Psychiatry," designed this chair. And then there were the rectal dilators...

There was a morgue on site at the St. Joseph Mental Hospital and many patients were buried on the grounds. The first burial took place on December 12, 1874 and the last burial was in October 1949. The cemetery probably has 2,000 burials, but only several hundred headstones. Did some of the patients decide to stay on in the afterlife. Are there attachments to some of the artifacts within the museum? No one knows for sure the answers, but many people have experienced strange things in the museum. The building itself had once been the surgery building, so people did die here and lobotomies were given here. Dr. Glore himself claimed to experience strange things in his museum. The apparition of a man has been seen near the elevators and he usually breaks into a run and screams. Museum employees, volunteers, and visitors all claim to here disembodied screaming throughout the building. Bursts of cold air have been felt.

The disembodied laughing of children is heard as well as the sound of crying and whimpering. The soft voice of a woman has been heard asking for help. The spirit of an elderly man is seen walking the hallways and a well-dressed male apparition is seen on the third floor. Sensitive visitors claim to feel intense feelings of despair. The basement is said to be the most haunted part of the building. We've heard that the freezers in the morgue are still kept cold. Which gives it an added creep factor. A male apparition down here asks visitors what they are doing. The sound of a gurney is heard down here as well. The motion detector in the basement goes nuts at random times when no one is supposed to be in the basement. EVP has caught a man screaming "Get out!"

Troy Taylor of American Hauntings visited the museum with a small group of people one night and he walked away from the group to visit a Civil War medical display. He heard disembodied footsteps coming down the hallway. It sounded like they were coming from someone wearing hard-soled shoes. Troy glanced behind him and saw that the corridor was completely empty. The footsteps continued to come towards him and then walked past him and continued into the darkness down the hallway. Three women in the group passed a room with the door closed and they heard voices inside. They assumed some other members of the group were investigating in there, so they kept going, but one of the women went back just to verify that someone was in the room and when she opened the door, she found no one in the room. Troy recounts the experiences of a woman named Becky Ray in his book Cabinet of Curiosities 3. She had heard knocks on the third floor. She said, "While it may have been coincidence, the knocking corresponded with not only our requests for knocks, but how many knocks. We tracked the source of the sound down to a door that was locked. At this point, we all took turns listening at the door and several of us heard what sounded like a child's voice coming from the other side." A staff member unlocked the door and the office behind was completely empty.

Glore Psychiatric Museum has been named one of the "Top 50 Most Unique Museums" in the country and quite possibly it could also be one of the most haunted. Is the Glore Psychiatric Hospital haunted? That is for you to decide!

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