New Jersey Lunatic Asylum
The 1800's saw many new additions to the state hospital. These additions included added wings to the Kirkbride building and extra buildings being constructed on campus. As the need for more space became evident, the additions to the Kirkbride would house about 250 patients. After the construction of Greystone (the state of NJ's second state hospital), the state was to be divided in half by each institution. Greystone was to serveBergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union and Warren, and this facility would serve the central and southern counties. The hospital would continue to grow in size and would eventually house all nurses and doctors, including a school of nursing. It was a self-sustaining campus with its own farm, dairy barn, laundry services, food services, and power/water services.
The state hospital had a similar timeline to similar facilities. What sets this institution apart from others is its dark history. That began when in 1907, Dr. Henry Cotton became the medical director of the hospital. D.r Cotton's main belief was that all mental illness stemmed from untreated infections of the body. This methodology is what sparked torturous and experimental procedures to be performed at this state facility.
Cotton began to experiment on patients by removing their teeth, as he believed teeth harbored infections. If no improvement in mental health was seen, their tonsils would then be removed. Dr. Cotton removed many organs at random in patients at the facility. He removed testicles, ovaries, gall bladders, stomachs, spleens, cervixes, and an astonishing amount of colons. He reported to the public that 85% of patients that underwent this were cured of their mental illness. This was a lie, close to 45% of patients who saw Dr. Cotton died shortly after. Many died from an infection of the experimental surgeries and complications of the removal of a vital organ. When this information came to the public, Cotton retired from the state hospital in 1930.
SPECIAL NOTE: This is an operational forensic psychiatric facility along with a prison on campus. Photography/videography is not allowed under any circumstance. Anyone found on the property without cause or permission is subject to penalties by Human Services police.
This location is one that I am frequently asked about, and frequently giving disappointing answers. This particular summer, my best friend and I were working together, lived across town from each other and were virtually glued together at the hip. We were just old enough that we were living on our own, aside from roommates or boyfriends, but not quite old enough to care about much else. School wasn't in session, and we worked a rotating schedule of 10 hour shifts to have long weekends off together whenever possible. It was the summer of madness.
On this particular weekend, we had been awake for well over 24 hours by the time we had arrived to this State Hospital. Still collecting our thoughts from another bizarre series of events stemming from poor impulsive decisions the night before, we made a quick pitstop home with just enough time to charge our gear and make sure our pets knew we hadn't abandoned them before rolling back out for another mission.
We met up with another group a few miles down the road, and the rest is sort of a blur from there. Next thing I know, I'm being shoved through a second story window in the middle of an active campus as everyone starts to haul ass inside. For all I know, I could have been being abducted by aliens, or undercover police officers, and I was in such a combined state of fatigue and adrenaline I didn't even care. I brush the dust off my clothes, gather my backpack, and off we go.
The first hour or two weren't particularly exciting, I snapped a few photos and poked around, but the area we were in was a more modern section and not really my style. The good company made up for it, as we chatted and joked around as we got to know more about the rest of our group. Another girl in the group spent a while posing for various portraits as I sifted through various drawers and random boxes.
Eventually, the self-established leader of our group announces to us that we will be making our way to the Kirkbride wings. This is where the fatigue and adrenaline come back into play, as I cannot remember a single thing between that point and being in the active tunnels, where I have to remove my glasses that are now fogged up. I specifically remember my friend taking my arm and leading me blindly through steam when suddenly I hear a big "SLLLURRPPP PLOP!". We all froze for a second, before our group leader calls out that he's okay. A sigh of relief. Turns out even with good vision, it wasn't very easy to navigate these dark, hot and steamy halls coated with mounds of wet asbestos. We laugh it off, and once we are safely out, help him clean off a little.
The wing of the Kirkbride was everything I had hoped for, and then some. Bubble chairs, broken down wheelchairs and decrepit hallways. A horror buffs wet dream come to life. Wet spend a few more hours in there, careful to document as much as we possibly can, realizing that it may be quite a while before we step foot back into these halls again.
The day ended as abruptly as it started, as I jump from a second story window and am quickly ushered back to the car. We return to the meeting point, and quickly part ways. My friend and I safely return home, shower, and sleep for what felt like an eternity.
New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum (2012)
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