History of The Asylum

Throughout history, the mentally ill have been victims of society's ignorance and fear. Once believed to be possessed by demons, the mentally ill were treated with tribal magic and portions and forced to endure excruciating purification rituals, one of which included cutting a hole in the victim's skull to release evil spirits. Ancient societies sometimes used prayer and religious ceremonies to drive the demons out.

During the Middle Ages, fears of witchcraft spread and many of the mentally ill were hanged, burned at the stake and drowned. Others were hospitalized or imprisoned. Later cruel rites of exorcism were performed. Superstition began to recede and special institutions for the insane were built in Europe as far back as the 1500s. One of the most infamous of these was St. Mary's of Bethlehem monastery in London. At Bedlam, as it soon became known, inmates lived in filth and suffered public beatings. Today the term "bedlam" infers uproar and confusion.

One of the most dehumanizing aspects of these institutions was charging admissions for the public to view caged or chained patients, who were sometimes baited or taunted for entertainment. Besides beatings, other treatments included duckings, bleedings, leechings and forcing inmates to take purgatives and emetics. By the late 18th century, patients were given electrical shocks, a barbaric forerunner to 20th century electro-shock therapy. The rotating chair, in which patients were spun until they lost consciousness, was supposed to help relieve mental illness by increasing the blood flow to the brain.

At the turn of the century, more humanitarian attitudes led to large institutions secluded in pastoral settings, where it was believed patients could recover from stress. Despite their surroundings, insane asylums offered little peace once inside. Instead they became human warehouses from which few îlunatics,╣ as they were called, ever left. Still, asylums were considered humane, and vast improvements over earlier models. Older model asylums often fell into disrepair when modern day ideas of humane treatment for the insane became commonplace, often these buildings became a city's "dirty little secret". Some were renovated, turned into colleges, others were just lost to entropy, politicians not wanting to bring up sordid dark histories often ignored these places. Bonville State Hospital was one of these places, situated on the outskirts of St Louis, the city itself grew around the large building. Early efforts in the 1940's to renovate the building were discarded, engineers declared the site a hazard, as it was built over old mine shafts. Demolition of the building would also cost millions of dollars, so rather than set aside the money for a demolition project, the asylum building sat, swallowed by the city and surrounding woods, in fact, most people don't even know it exists.

But there is a long history behind this sad and forlorn place.... a history that is filled with social and medical reform, insanity and yes, even ghosts. Construction on the first buildings here actually began in 1885 and were completed in 1887. The hospital, when completed, resembled a medieval castle with battlements and turrets. It was a foreboding structure and one not fit for the kind of progressive medicine that would characterize 20th century mental health movements.

According to early reports, the castle-like building had been constructed over an abandoned coal mine and wide cracks were beginning to appear in the walls. The decay was believed to be caused by the collapsing of the old mine shafts. Doctor George Zeller took over as chief of staff when the hosptial officially opened, he implemented a common (for its time) system of management that included high tech restraints, padded cells, shock treatments and lobatomy. Dr. Zeller also realized that a system was needed for the burial of the dead at the hospital. He decided that the asylum would take care of the burials of the unclaimed, but that all other deceased persons would be shipped home to their relatives. The hospital╣s burial ground was located behind the main building and is marked with stones that only bear numbers, as many of the patients came there without names.

In its final years of operations, after the last of the patients had departed, staff members in the building started to report some odd occurrences. After they left, the building became the site of frequent excursions by vandals, trespassers and curiosity-seekers, many of whom have had their own encounters in the place. If spirits are actually the personalities of those who once lived and refused to cross over to the other side at the moment of death.... then wouldn╣t these spirits reflect the turmoil of that former life? And if hauntings are the residual effects of trauma being imprinted on the atmosphere of a location, then wouldn╣t places where terror and insanity were commonplace be especially prone to these hauntings?



Use the metrolink to get to the Dogtown Station


Walk down Gravois Road, through the residential section, about 20 steps past a firehydrant on the right is an unmarked gravel road, don't blink or you'll miss it, its completely overgrown by the woods there. Walk down the gravel road, watch out for branches, logs, and other woodland debris until you get to a decrepit woodencovered bridge.

Do not use the bridge! Turn to the right here, follow the ravine down aways and there's a plank over it, use that to get across the ravine. (the ravine is 20 feet across, and about 8 feet deep, the ravine is also lined with sharpened railroad spikes). There's also a trampoline here, I wouldn't advise using it to get across the ravine unless you're feeling lucky. Scattered across what would be the lawn of the asylum are various malkavian acquirements: an old carousel horse mounted in the grass, and a newly built gazeba that is nestled in the wooded area next to the ravine.

Head up the hill, you should see the asylum now. Its a dark ugly structure, windows boarded up and the roof nonexistent in parts. 3 stories. Don't use any of the doors to get in, they're all boobietrapped. Go to the west side of the building, the second window from the front at ground level is not nailed shut, push the board aside and climb in, you'll drop about 8 feet into the boiler room below. (The boiler room floor is covered in jingle bells, making it impossible to stealth or obfus in)

Use the stairs in the boiler room, but always skip the 5th step. Can't stress this one enough. Turn left at the top of the stairs and head down a hallway, make another left, you can actually follow the blue lines on the floor. Weave around following that line, until you get to the Playroom. If anyone's here, they'll be in there.

Playroom comes equipped with some old dusty furniture, tables, chairs, and a couch. There's a generator that produces light for the playroom, but it is so deep within the building that the light is not visible from the outside. There is also a large table with a computer, and various tools, and a tv set. Recent add-ons include a camera mounted at the top of the boiler room steps. Say cheese.