Glore Psychiatric Museum

Glore Psychiatric Museum (St. Joseph, Missouri)

A Glore-ious Place!

Glore Psychiatric Museum
April 21, 2001

Those who know my morbid nature (and don’t you all?) probably already know this, but I’ve been shivering in anticipation for a visit to the Glore Psychiatric Museum since I first heard about it several weeks ago. The reasons are multi-fold:

1) I have an intense love for the old, picturesque “Kirkbride Plan” asylums built in the 19th century – hence my frequent visits to the often quite tragic Historic Asylums Of America website which chronicles the renovation, preservation, and (frequently, sadly) demolition of these fine old structures.

2) I find the treatment of the insane in the Victorian era (and prior… and beyond…) to be immensely abhorrent, and I can’t help but wonder if I were born in that era, would I have been one of the tortured, imprisoned multitudes?

3) It’s just fascinating to visit morbid old places!

So, on an overcast April morning I set out to drive all the way across the state of Missouri to see remnants of the State Lunatic Asylum #2 in St. Joseph. I stopped briefly in Columbia (half way across the state) to pick up my friend Lacey. While there I took a picture of a powerhouse out of sheer perverse fascination. We may not have enough power to go around in California, but at least we don’t pollute the environment by burning coal to harness our electricity! (We use much safer nuclear power instead…) 😉 I kept thinking of the Navajo speaker I saw in Columbia a few weeks ago that said that coal was Mother Earth’s liver and the white man was ripping the liver out of the Earth. There was a lot of liver lying on the ground.

Once I overcame my ridiculous geographic curiosities, I picked up Lacey and we were on our way. It was a long drive filled with splendid conversation. Eventually, we drove past Kansas City and north to St. Joseph. After one wrong turn (maps can be sooooo tricky!), we found our way to the Glore Museum… and gosh, it was incredibly underwhelming! Where was the beautiful old 1874 Kirkbride building?? Well, as I was soon to find out, that beautiful old building was now a prison – hidden behind ugly barbed wire topped fences – and the museum was now housed in a more recent section of the old asylum. After my initial disappointment melted away – it took several hours and hundreds of tranquilizers, of course – I decided to buck up and do the right (morbid) thing, and enjoy the museum for what it was – a tribute to the imaginative and creative drifters who were imprisoned in the asylum, and the insane sadists who lorded over them.

When we first entered the museum, we were greeted by a very friendly staff member who gave us a brief history of the asylum. The State Lunatic Asylum #2 was built in 1874 and was active until 1997. During that time, it held as many as 3,000 patients at a time behind its “brick walls of divide” (hopelessly obscure Red House Painters reference). We were given instructions to take the elevator to the 3rd floor to begin our tour, and so we did.

The first thing we saw – and certainly the most memorable – was a display of the stomach contents of a particularly disturbed inmate. You see, in 1929, a patient with a proclivity for swallowing odd objects became acutely ill and was rushed to surgery. During the emergency procedure, 1,446 objects – including 453 nails, 409 pins, 63 buttons, 42 screws, 5 thimbles, and 3 salt shaker tops – were removed from her intestinal tract. Tragically, but unsurprisingly, she died during surgery.

That was quite a way to start off the tour, and as I walked away pondering what it must have felt like to walk around with 453 nails ripping at your intestines, I soon found myself staring at another wicked relic: blood-letting blades, cup, and stick. Blood letting was one of the best ways to cure practically any ailment in the olden days. Yep, if you just bleed people long enough they will be too weak to complain! They are cured!! And of course, no one was more annoying than the mentally ill. See that truncheon-y looking stick? That was used to tap on those rather vicious looking blades to force them through the skin and cause the patient to bleed. The glass bleeding cups were placed against the skin and either heat or cold was applied to them, causing a vacuum to form inside the glass. The patient’s blood would be sucked to the skin’s surface – then the blood was collected in the cup. Tidy, n’est pas?

Next came the first of the mannequins (depicting hydrotherapy – one of the few “treatments” here that doesn’t look completely horrid… unless one considers that they probably forgot about people and left them in the water for hours on end). One of the most delightfully kitschy aspects of the museum are these brilliant old mannequins decked out in the most torturous devices and poses. My goodness – little did they know when they were posing in J.C. Penney in 1976 that they’d end up in such a sorry state one day!! Here’s a particularly fetching mannie in a fever cabinet: “This fever cabinet was used in the treatment of syphilis. The cabinet was lined with rows of high wattage light bulbs that produced heat, elevating the patient’s body temperature. This was intended to kill the spirochete and arrest or halt the syphilitic condition.” I’m not sure if it cured syphilis, but I’m sure it inspired Gene Roddenbury when he devised the character of Captain Pike.

And what sort of self-respecting Psychiatric Museum would be worth its salt without singing a chorus from a Ramones song? Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment! I was also appalled and amazed by the Rectal Dilators on display. OUCH!! In front of the dilators is a bullet that was removed from a patient during surgery – that was put there 52 years prior when he was shot after “courting another man’s wife”. That’ll learn you!

Something about this next mannie just spoke to me! Isn’t that straitjacket just fetching beyond belief? Or how about this psychotic sophisticate with her dainty little restraints? But don’t be too misled by such seemingly innocent looking restraints. Here’s evidence of some of the less comfy looking restraints, from the original basement of the asylum. For those unruly patients where even restraints wouldn’t do the trick, there were the seclusion rooms.

Then there was the truly Silly part of the museum: a study of the treatment of the insane over the years. Gasp as a dreamy misunderstood mannequin is burned at the stake! Shiver as an innocent brunette mannequin is doused with freezing water (ie. cellophane) by an evil eyeless mannequin! Shudder at the uncomfortable fate of this tortured soul! And the equally uncomfortable fate of this faceless soul! And how’s this for silly? No, I’m not talking about my reflection in the glass – I mean the little dolls re-enacting water torture. Something kinda perverse about that, I guess…

And here’s a lovely reproduction of a Lunatic Box. “The Lunatic Box, sometimes called the English Booth, the Coffin or the Clock Case, was used during the 18th and 19th centuries. The victim was placed in device and had to remain in a standing position until he or she became calm. A wooden piece could be dropped over the opening of the face leaving the patient in complete darkness. The patient stood in his own excrement for extended periods of time.” What a gruesome world…

As enchanting as those exhibits may have been, I didn’t find them particularly interesting. I was more interested in the history of this hospital itself, so something as seemingly mundane as a table from the asylum’s cafeteria was much more interesting to me. I was also interested in the lives of the patients who had lived here – and I found this schizophrenic’s needlepoint particularly enchanting. I would love to have it in my house! And then there was the TV Guy: “In the fall of 1971, a male patient was observed inserting a piece of folded paper through a slot into the back of the ward television set. The set was turned off and the hospital’s electrician was notified. When the back was removed from the set a collection of papers, numbering 525, was discovered. Some were written as letters while others appear to be a daily diary system. Some of the patient’s delusions, mentioned in the writings, included the belief that the hospital was stealing his money. He also believed that his knowledge was hidden away in a couple of box cars and that he could not leave the hospital until this was exposed. ” You can read his eccentric and irrational writings – they’re plastered all over the wall. Compelling stuff, of course.

And then there was the particularly touching story of the patient who believed that if he saved up 100,000 cigarette packs he would be able to redeem them for a new wheelchair for the hospital. Of course, no such redemption existed, but the hospital administration felt sufficiently moved by his efforts to buy a wheelchair and dedicate it to the hospital in his name in 1969. Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Here, of course, was my favorite room of the museum. It’s an actual morgue, not a staged one. On the table in front of the “corpse” was an example of a nameless headstone that was used in the asylum’s cemetery about a half-mile away. Of course, Lacey and I asked for directions to the cemetery and decided we had to find it after we finished with the museum…

We finished up the last few exhibits in the museum – including the staircase from the original administration building, which was recently torn down. (Sob…) They liked to decorate the old asylums with lovely and ornate staircases and lobbies – so as to fool the families into thinking, “Oh, this is such a nice place for Aunt Betty” – as they drag her away to put the shackles on her.

After purchasing a t-shirt, some postcards, and a squishy brain stress ball, we wandered back to the parking lot and I decided I had to venture up to the prison fence to try to get a picture of the old asylum, despite the warnings of the museum employee who said that they tried to confiscate her camera the last time she tried to take pictures at the fence. But no one seemed to notice my blatant disregard of the warning signs, fortunately. Well, except for this little cutie I passed on the way back to the car. Of course, we know why he was hanging about the asylum – ’cause he loves Nuts! Hahahahahaha… I slay myself… (so you don’t have to).

After leaving the museum, we drove off to try to find the cemetery, which the tour guide stated was just around the block, across the street from a Food 4 Less. We followed the instructions to a little parking lot beside a monument next to a large field with the old asylum visible behind the trees in the background.

The tombstones themselves were sadly nondescript – just an anonymous number left to memorialize a living, breathing human being. To make matters worse, many of the stones were in state of disrepair, although a restoration project is in the works, thankfully. There were a couple of ‘named’ stones – obviously paid by private dollars – that stood out in the mix. Before leaving, I took one last look across the fields to the old Asylum and reflected on the lives that passed on those premises.

As I drove away from the State Lunatic Asylum #2, I took one last picture from the car. A beautiful place – pity about the prison!

Courtesy of Tee

I received some additional images and information in July, 2005 from Tee, who provides the following information. Thanks Tee!

The first one is of the back side of the Administration building taken in 1991, well before it was turned into a prison. You will note the barbed wire cage on the top of the roof. They had to add that, I am not sure of the year, due to suicides from the roof.

The next set of 5 pictures are of the original building. It is a series of long hallways. Although remodeled many times over the years you can see a lot of the original architecture remains. This building housed the museum later on before it was moved to where it is now and before the building was made into a prison. I took this set of 5 in the foyer – from the North, South East and West views and one looking up at the sky light. They had to close it in due to the same problem with suicides. While my grandmother worked there many many years starting in the later 1930’s there were a lot of suicides and at least 5 from beyond that sky light and one thru the glass that had been replaced.

The West picture view, shows the double doors and a row of chairs . This is what became used for offices for personnel during the mental hospital time frame.

North view – shows the massive stair case.

East view shows the elevators which lead up to the other floors and an original piece of furniture which is a bench and coat rack. The pictures show the original floor tile made of ceramic and the original ceiling and some of the bead board. That is the original staircase redone after a fire I believe.

Skylight view – shows that it has been closed off from above. The original crown molding is still there and cathedral woodwork over doors.

The next series will be pictures from inside the Glore museum which was entered by climbing the steps in the picture and going to the northwestern side of the building. These were also taken in 1991.
pic 1 – crafts preserved that were made by patients, some utensils are also in this china cabinet
pic 2 – These were the rooms, you could still see them all along the hallways although being used for other purposes then (I myself had training and watched video’s in one…but fell asleep and had a horrible dream..I could not relax in there and kept feeling as if someone was watching me and I kept hearing whispering. very odd) anyway… that is a mannequin to symbolize a patient… (not even close I’m sure) and the same beds they used (prob the same mattress) and bedside stand. Note the architectural detail on the window, they are all like that. [Awesome windows! – Despair]
pic 3 – The infirmary there is a dentist chair, very antique tools and medical instruments etc.
pic 4 – The type of bars used on most of the rooms, this is a room divided by such bars
pic 5 – A medical treatment (torture box) The idea was to isolate the patient to somehow force them to come to their senses so to speak. If they were faking etc they would surely drop the facade after a day or so in here. The patient had to stand, not enough room to sit and they slept, urinated, ate (if lucky) in this box.
pic 6 – Another medical device (torture chair). The bucket represents the potty part of the chair… leather restraints replaced a sort of metal device that used to hold the wrists and leather restraint across the chest. Blood letting was used with this chair, as well as leeches, shock treatment and my grandmother told us even lobotomies.
pic 7 – Dungeon picture – the word Dungeon was added for the tourists… but it is a dungeon made of wood. Very hot in summer.
pic 8 – This was used as a crate to hold veg and potatoes, onions etc when my grandmother worked there…but in earlier years it was another kind of holding cage for patients. They lay in it (and their own excrement) until they were removed, if they lived thru it.
pic 9 – This is a large wheel with a door (the door is in the back and cannot be viewed for safety purposes at the museum) the idea was they put a patient in there and turned it …and turned it ..and…you get the idea. They would get dizzy, vomit etc…
pic 10 – This is a vat of ice cold water. There is a trap door device at the top like a gallows and the patient would stand and with no warning, be dropped into the icy cold water. The idea was to shock them out of their illness and back to reality. This was the main theme in treatment during this time. Most died from drowning due to the shock of the water and sometimes they were drugged or simply could not stand up out of the water. Some hit their heads on the way down and escaped the drowning.I cannot find my photo of the spinning board. In which many patients were placed. Unfortunately they didn’t think about gravity… spun them pretty fast and their brains came out their eye sockets.Many of these devices were used well into the later 1940’s…and believe it or not, although lobotomies were stopped being done across the US, this asylum continued to do them into the 1960’s I am told. They also continued to do shock treatments well into the later 1970’s and early 1980s (just FYI).

For more information on the Glore Psychiatric Museum, also see:
Roadside America
Savvy Traveler

Fergus Falls

Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center (Fergus Falls, Minnesota)

A wonderful old Kirkbride-style asylum, built from 1888 to 1899, recommended by Love: “Looking back at its first five and a half years in operation, the Fergus Falls Weekly Journal proclaimed, ‘No State in the union has provided more generously to its wards and unfortunates than Minnesota…Of the fifteen or more public institutions in the state, the greatest, the most complete, the most perfectly constructed, is the state hospital for the insane in Fergus Falls…The hospital here is a model institution…” Intertwined with host community, both city and asylum swelled with local pride. Built to treat mental deficiencies, the state hospital was welcomed by the city as an economic opportunity. Unique among Minnesota institutions in its planning and construction, it existed within an American system already 140 institutions strong by 1880. Influenced by them, along with its own geography, the hospital represents a blending of major treatment and architectural issues within a local construct.”


Georgia Lunatic Asylum


Georgia Lunatic Asylum (Milledgeville, Georgia)
A Comtesse Travelogue to the old asylum, built in 1842 and still partially in use.

Where Have All the Loonies Gone?

Georgia Lunatic Asylum 
Milledgeville, GA – April 20, 2003 

Georgia Lunatic Asylum (aka Central State Hospital)
US 441 South to Swint Avenue
Milledgeville, GA
Central State Hospital Museum
Broad Street
Located on the Grounds of Central State Hospital
Phone: 478-445-6713

While in Milledgeville to visit the slave graves at Memory Hill Cemetery I heard of the existence of an old partially abandoned asylum just outside of town. I decided to divert to the asylum on my way home. I was not disappointed. Although part of the complex is still in use, and the part that isn’t is heavily patrolled, I was still able to get some nice pictures of the abandoned buildings.I was able to find a short history of the asylum at the Georgia AGHP website: “In 1837 a law was enacted to establish a state lunatic asylum. 57 1/2 acres of land was purchased to erect the first buildings. Completed in October 1842 and open for patients December 15, 1842. The first patient was identified as Tilman B., brought from Macon, tied to a wagon. He died 6 months later. The first building for black patients was erected in 1866. Georgia Lunatic Asylum name was changed to the Georgia State Sanitarium Sep. 1, 1898; to Milledgeville State Hospital in 1929 and to Central State Hospital in 1967.”I parked and began walking around the complex, and this is what I saw…

This is the remains of the Walker Building (Male Convalescent Building), built in the 1884. This building served as the admission ward for white males.

This is the Green Building down the street. It is still in use.

The crumbling steps up to the Walker Building.

This sign struck me as particularly representative of segregation.

The cornerstone.

A nice shot of the front of this beautiful old building.

I saw an open door to the basement and was ever-so-tempted to make a move… and I would have if not for 2 factors: 1) Cop cars were passing by with frightful regularity; and 2) I didn’t have a flashlight and it looked awfully dark in there. I contented myself with taking some shots through windows instead… Yes, I am a coward.

I began circling around the building, documenting the decay as I went…

Broken windows to peer through.

Various shots of the rear of the Walker Building.

Here are a couple of my patented “stick your camera through a hole and see what turns up” shots.

Another shot from the rear of the building.

Ah, the musky organic smell of decay!

I quite like this “stick your camera through a hole shot” – which captures an old decrepit rather dungeon-like bathroom.

Oh, I wish I’d gotten the courage up to go in there!

Another nice interior shot.

A lovely niche.

One final shot of the Walker Building.

I am always worried about being run off of these abandoned sites (I lasted about five minutes at Kings Park Asylum in New York), so I was actually relieved to see that they don’t shy away from the tourist-aspect of old asylums here. There is a museum in one of the occupied buildings (which was sadly closed when I was there – it’s open by appointment only), and there was a historic marker as you enter up the driveway: “MILLEDGEVILLE STATE HOSPITAL: In 1837, largely through the influence of Tomlinson Fort and William A. White, the legislature appropriated $20,000 for a dormitory near Milledgeville where the state’s mentally ill could receive custodial care. A four-story building was opened on this site in 1842 and together with various later additions became known as the Center Building. Originally serving only pauper patients, services were expanded for all bona fide citizens. Dr. David M. Cooper (serving 1843-1846) was the first Superintendent and was followed by Dr. Thomas F. Green (1847-1879) and Dr. Theophilus O. Powell (1879-1907).”

After I finished photographing the Walker Building, I drove further up into the complex, past the portion of the asylum which is still being used today to treat mental illness and developmental disabilities. There are some abandoned buildings up in this area as well, which are even nicer-looking than the Walker building. Alas, being so deep into the complex, there would be very little chance of breaking into one of these buildings without getting caught by the ever-lurking security.

This is the current administrative building – the Powell Building – which was built in 1856 and is obviously one of the most historic structures in the Milledgeville area. Beautiful, but occupied.

I took some pictures of one of the unused structures but most of them did not turn out, so I’m not sure what building it was. However, this image did turn out and I quite like it.

Here’s another building that is in current use. Of course, I had to take a picture of it simply for the sign.

This is the building that houses the museum, which is open by appointment only. Alas, I didn’t make an appointment…

This is the cornerstone of the building showing that it was building 1883.

This is my favorite abandoned building – the Jones Building. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? It’s really a shame they’re letting such a nice building rot away.

I adore the colorful cornice over the front entrance.

The title “L M Jones Building” can be seen over this doorway.

A sadly faded Visiting Hours sign.

A sign from the side of the Jones Building shows that it was built in 1928-1929.


I walked around the perimeter of the Jones Building taking pictures, wishing I could get inside where the good stuff is! Aren’t those urns atop the building nice?

Such a majestic building – you’d think they would have found SOME use for it?

A nice old rusting stairway at the rear of the Jones building.

A sad, lonely bench behind the Jones Building. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people had sat upon it, and what became of them…

One last shot of the majestic old building, taken from the road.

At this point, I bid the old Georgia Lunatic Asylum farewell, regretful that I wasn’t able to see more of it. Maybe one of these days I’ll go back and actually get inside the buildings.

For additional information see:

Central State Hospital 

Anyone have any additional stories, tidbits or photos to add?
If so, by all means, write me!

Crescent Hotel

Crescent Hotel (Eureka Springs, Arkansas)
Katie recommends this hotel: “It’s supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the States. They have regular ghost-hunting tours and suchlike. There’s also a lovely morgue in the basement from its days as a hospital that killed its patients — rip away the plaster in the walls and you can see bones. (More information here.) Unfortunately, I was only in the hotel for a few minutes, so I didn’t get the chance to see much. It’s also, sadly, very difficult to get into the basement to see the morgue and asylum (some of the hospital’s patients also went insane; the quack doctor’s cures affected their brains, so he basically tied them down until they flailed themselves to death). Hospital with a crazy doctor, haunted hotel, insane asylum, and morgue, all in one building? Morbidophile’s dream!”