Insane Asylum Revisited
Posted by Dezra Despain
I admit that I was not thinking of storytelling when I went to the mental hospital back in 2010 to get photos. I was just curious and wondered what I’d find. I had my Canon EOS 30D and a 50mm f1.8 prime lens with me. The 50mm lens precluded any kind of wide-angle shot so some of these photos are a bit cropped.
That’s my car. Yes, it’s blue. It’s not inconspicuous so it didn’t surprise me when I returned from a short jaunt into the broken window building that a cop car was slowly passing by, probably noting down the license plate. When he saw me and my camera, he waved me on and said, “Be careful.”
The above is the only wide shot I have of the premises and I had to take it from a distance. This is one building of many and for some reason I must have really liked it because I have lots of photos of it. Perhaps it’s because I love the mechanical-looking thing right there in front of my car. The building is, I believe, the 1894 laundry building. My impression of the other buildings were of dormitories—long buildings with lots of windows, one for each room.
I love this thing. It has something to do with the laundry building. I don’t know what its function is…steam venting? clothes chute? ??? I slipped between the fence and the wall on the right and was able to look down into what I am calling the incinerator. It seems to be a place where they build fire in brick ovens.
When I said that the premises are not secured, I really mean they are not secured. The place is easily accessed right here through the incinerator…
…and here, through a basement door.
Please don’t ask what I was thinking when I took this photo at such a bizarre angle! I think I was trying to be cute and failed. Anyway, another way in. I would go back just to get a decent shot of this door.
My guess as to why the premises are not as secure as they should be is because of the on-sight police station. Cops were patrolling all over the place…I think they were keeping an eye on me to make sure I maintained my innocent-photographer profile.
What intrigued me the most about this window is it’s symbolic relationship to a church. I included the poles just to add a sense of the cross to this image. This is the 1886 power plant.
Looking through the arched windows and into the power plant you find appropriate graffiti. INSANITY, PLEASE.
Around the corner is Electric St. More than any other image, this gives me the chills because I believe electric shock therapy was one way they treated the insane. I’m sure this is really connected to the power plant, but still…. (Actually, if you look at the sign, it doesn’t say St., it says Sh…Electric SHOCK??? I’m sticking with St.)
A beautiful door.
Behind the Power Plant is a pile of trash. I chose the photos that showed discarded fencing material…odd, since I think of fences as keeping people either in or out and this place definitely fits the description of keeping people in or out. I didn’t show smashed TV’s or broken toilets, though.
Oh, all right. Here’s the toilet.
There. I really do not like photos like this. Grime makes me uncomfortable. If I had to clean this area up, I would insist on a hazmat suit with huge gloves and head gear.
Sometimes I wonder what the inmates (yes, I will call them inmates) saw when they passed by this tower with the high wall. Did they long to leave? Or did they care? I don’t have the answer.
[Central State Hospital for the Insane opened in 1848 and closed in 1994, 146 years of serving Indiana’s mentally ill. And if you wonder what happened to the patients when it closed, well, I’m not quite sure. Some went home to their families, but not as many as you would think; some ended up rooming together; few ended up homeless. I am unable to find specifics and the research done is sketchy as to outcomes of the patients, whether that is due to privacy issues or due to not asking the questions to which I wanted answers!]