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.”


The Garden Of Eden

The Garden Of Eden (Lucas, Kansas)
A Comtesse travelogue to see the glass-covered tomb of a true American Eccentric!

The Garden Of Eden
Lucas, KS
May 20, 2005

Samuel Dinsmoor was an eccentric Civil War veteran who built his vision of the Bible out of concrete in the tiny town of Lucas, Kansas. His labor of love was created from 1910 to 1930. Which is all good and well, but this is the morbid sightseer, after all, and the real reason why anyone of morbid disposition should wish to visit the Garden Of Eden is to see old Samuel himself: in his self-built mausoleum, behind glass. Dinsmoor is alleged to have said, “I promise everyone that comes in to see me (they can look through the glass lid of the coffin and see my face) that if I see them dropping a dollar in the hands of a flunky, and I see the dollar, I will give them a smile.” As B. Amundson states, “The coffin is not airtight, so the smile will not endure forever. See it while there’s still a grin on Dinsmoor’s crumbling face.”Therefore it should come as no surprise that when I was assigned the unenviable task of having to work in Topeka, Kansas (ie. The Dullest Spot On Earth) for several weeks in 2005, the first gleeful thought that came to mind was that I’d actually have a chance to view Samuel’s moldy old face. Of course, I’d have to wait until the weekend and I’d have to drive over two hours to get there, but hopefully I’d be able to bring back some lovely photographs of the crypt to make it worth my while.Unfortunately, as with most great things, this one did not quite come to fruition. Although I did make it to the Garden of Eden and I did get to see Samuel in all his moldering glory, I was not allowed to take photographs inside the crypt. You know, “out of respect for Mr. Dinsmoor”. Whatever! He’s the one who put himself on display for all eternity!! Annoyance, you are a cruel bedfellow indeed! So, it is with an apologetic heart that I present to you this photo gallery of The Garden Of Eden, missing its most fascinating feature. Hopefully, there is enough mental instability to be found to make up for it!It was a brutally hot Saturday when I arrived in Lucas, Kansas (aka The Middle Of Nowhere, population 436). I parked down the street from the Garden Of Eden and as I walked up towards the house, I could see the insanity all around me. It’s really hard to miss – especially since there is nothing else to see in Lucas. The first thing I passed was the crypt containing Samuel himself. Kinda looks like an unfinished pyramid, doesn’t it? The inscription on this side of the crypt is for Dinsmoor’s wife. She must have been touched.I then caught my first glimpse of the crazy cement statuary that Dinsmoor created. At first glance, it’s hard to understand exactly what he was trying to represent with his wacko figures, such as this wolf or coyote or something barking up a tree or this Native American taking aim, and something like this just screams schizophrenia. But I was sure that the tour guide would explain it all to me, and make figures like this one take on significance. However, even after taking the guided tour, I can’t say I understand it much better. Of course, that could have something to do with my very shaky memory…We met for the tour inside the cabin that Dinsmoor constructed. The walls were covered with some portraits of old Sammy and his first wife. And I think this is a family portrait with his second wife, who was 20 years old when he was 81. Lucky old coot, eh? But he had a way with the ladies, as you can tell by this picture with its caption, “Dinsmoor showed his flair for showmanship by marrying his first wife on this horse, August 24, 1870.” Now, that’s a honeymoon stallion!The furnishings inside the house were rather threadbare and creepy, such as the chair made from pieces of dead animals and the like, but there were some interesting old pieces of artwork to be seen as well. I thought the best piece of furniture in the house (if you call it that) was this fireplace near the gift shop. We also got to see the room in which Mr. Dinsmoor died in 1932. Look, there’s the bed that he croaked on! I could almost feel his creepy old face scowling at me as I took the pictures.

And look – there’s the toilet where he once sat! (Okay, maybe not, but maybe that bathtub was there when he was alive.) Here’s the room that I would have wanted when I was a kid – the attic! Something about those slanty walls just makes me all nostalgic for Grandma’s old house in Duluth. Ah, I can almost hear Grandpa yelling at me for sliding the bed across the floor now. Those were the days.

Be careful, don’t get vertigo! We’re going downstairs. Nice wood work, isn’t it? The stair railings, along with this door, were handmade by Mr. Dinsmoor himself. Talented guy, eh? And you haven’t seen the half of it yet.

I quite liked the kitchen with its old stove. They don’t make them like that anymore. Every now and again my old digital camera would act up and take bizarre photos, but I always liked to pretend that it’s because there was a ghost on the premises. So, given that concept, let’s welcome the ghost of Samuel Dinsmoor to the room! Oooh, creepy! Possibly even more creepy was the barbed wire collection. But, then again, this is Kansas, so what did I expect? I don’t remember what the story was with this gun cabinet, but it sure fit in nicely with the barbed wire, don’t you think?

Before leaving the house, we passed through this wonderfully creepy old basement storage area with a curved roof that had some wicked looking hooks sticking out of it. Of course, I don’t need to tell you where my mind went while wandering through this room. Of course, the official explanation was: “The ‘arched cave’ was used for storing home canned food and cured meats. It also served as a storm cellar against tornadoes.” Mmm-hmmm… and what else? Funny how they never tell you the full story in these tours.

With this, we left the arched cave and went back up the stairs to the first floor. We passed a 343-piece chess table made by S. P. Dinsmoor and I thought, “Okay, so now we know what he did on rainy days.” But it was time to let the sun shine on his outdoor creations!

Samuel Dinsmoor was a folk artist extraordinaire. If he’d lived in Georgia in the ’80’s, he would have been friends with Michael Stipe, for he was definitely the Reverend Howard Finster of his time. His specialty was sculpture and his medium was concrete – not exactly the finest of materials. But he did a very good job with what he had to work with. He was ever-so-innovative too! He used bottles to create these decorative arches on the porch. You’d never guess it, would you? 😉 He even signed the cabin, so no one would forget whose handiwork it was!

The first sculpture I saw up close was this very nice deer. You can see that it was originally painted brown, but a lot of the paint is worn off. This is true of all of the sculptures. The sculptures are supposed to be representations of Dinsmoor’s religious and populist political beliefs, but I don’t remember the explanations for most of them, so I might as well just let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy Dinsmoor’s dementia!

Cat fights snake with lightbulb in mouth!

Um… let’s see… America stands on a tree that says “Chartered Rights” on it while a couple of people saw off the limb it’s standing on with a saw that says “Ballot” on it.

Here’s a close-up of the Ballot saw…

Some chesty guy points the way. I’m a bit disturbed by how distinct Dinsmoor sculpted those nipples.

Imagine staggering home drunk one Sunday morning and looking up to see this lighting your path!

Here’s a view of the back of the house.

This strange-looking turkey/eagle bird carrying an American flag can be found at the front of the Dinsmoor tomb. Its symbolism is entirely lost on me.

Oh, look – there’s a naked woman pointing at the chesty man. Hey, wait a minute… why is the woman naked while the man has pants on? Was Dinsmoor from Hollywood? Or perhaps Samuel didn’t want to have to confront his latent homosexual tendencies by having to sculpt a concrete penis? Or maybe he was just a sexist? Will we ever know the truth?

This angel with pterodactyl wings hovers above the Dinsmoor tomb.

Here’s a close-up of the star spangled banner at the base of the entrance to the crypt.

It’s hard to say which sculpture is the strangest at the Garden Of Eden, but this one would be my pick. This is called the Crucifixion of Labor. Here’s how Samuel himself described it: “This is my coal house and ash pit, with Labor crucified above. I believe Labor has been crucified between a thousand grafters EVER SINCE LABOR BEGUN, BUT I COULD NOT PUT THEM ALL UP SO I HAVE PUT UP THE LEADERS – LAWYER, DOCTOR, PREACHER, AND BANKER. I DO NOT SAY THEY ARE ALL GRAFTERS, BUT I DO SAY THEY ARE THE LEADERS OF ALL WHO EAT CAKE BY THE SWEAT OF THE OTHER FELLOW’S FACE.” Indeed.

Here’s a close-up of the doctor (upper left) with his wicked scalpel.

Here’s the lawyer (lower left) in all his greedy glory.

Here’s poor Labor being crucified. I don’t know about you, but I really feel for the guy…

Here’s the heartless preacher (upper right). Notice that he reaches for Labor’s hand as if to offer his support, while he continues to pontificate with his other hand? Bloody typical.

And, finally, here’s the Banker (lower right). He looks rather vacant and dull, don’t you think? But then again, have you ever met a banker?

There were a couple of animal cages in the middle of the yard. I can’t recall what sort of animals were held here though.

This cart was displayed along the back edge of the yard. Doesn’t it just LOOK like it was 200 degrees this day, which it nearly was?

Here’s another view of the animal pens. Charming, eh?

There are actually a few structures in the yard that don’t look like the work of an insane person. This little shed and multi-leveled planter are two of them.

Here is the best part of the tour – the Dinsmoor tomb where you can view S.P. Dismoor in all his moldering glory.

From this angle you can see the “angel” that appears to be waiting to pounce on whoever dares to take a photograph of Mr. Dinsmoor. I wasn’t willing to take that chance…

See what I mean? This thing was VICIOUS! See that poor defenseless starling in its hand? A second after this picture was taken, GULP – down the hatch. Now, I hate starlings as much as your next native-bird-loving ornithologist, but I still thought that this was bit extreme. I wasn’t about to mess with this wrathful mass of concrete.

After this, I was led inside the mausoleum and was able to view (under flashlight) the moldy-looking face of Samuel P. Dinsmoor. He’s in pretty good shape for his age, actually. He is laid in the same hand-made concrete, glass-topped coffin that is shown in the above picture. (Which is a double exposure of himself looking at his corpse that was disappointingly taken prior to, not after, his death.) That’s one way to save on funeral expenses, eh?

I thought this shot kind of summed up the disoriented feeling of stumbling through the life’s work of a crazy man in a tiny town in the middle of Kansas on a blazingly hot day quite well, don’t you?

Here’s another shot of that crazy light near the house. This guy scared me almost more than the angel did. Almost…

I think this is supposed to be one of Dinsmoor’s profound political statements. It’s a cat sneaking up on a bird sneaking up on… something.

Here’s another angle on the cat/bird sculpture. I still can’t figure out what that thing on the end is supposed to be. And from this angle, I’m not even sure that’s supposed to be a cat. There are so many questions to be found here!

Here’s a close-up view of one of the planters in the yard. I bet Samuel had to complete some practical projects like this to keep the wife happy.

Here are some close-ups of the animal cages. You can see that Samuel created some nice little concrete tunnels for whatever sort of critters he kept here.

This pond marked the back corner of the property. Seems pretty normal, doesn’t it?

And it’s a sign of how horrendously hot it was this day that I was nearly compelled to jump into this water. Luckily, common sense prevailed.

One of the sheds contained this collection of Dinsmoor’s tools of the trade.

I quite liked this mustachioed devil figure. Kinda reminds me of the French Taunter.

Finally, after wandering around to the other side of the house, I came across the famous “Adam and Eve” statues which grace the end of a long foliage tunnel. Very nice, aren’t they?

Here’s another angle, looking straight down the tunnel.

Here are a couple of close-ups of Eve and Adam. And the Apple. And the Serpent. It looks like Adam has a beard a bit like Samuel’s, which makes me wonder if perhaps he related a bit closely with the character?

I walked out to the road to get this shot of the side of the cabin. This is the portion of the estate where my favorite sculptures can be found.

I think these are supposed to be vultures. Their mouths are open and lightbulbs shine out of them. This must be a very strange place to be at night…

This is one of my favorite sculptures – the woman with Rapunzel hair approaches a soldier in the act of shooting. Look at the detail in the soldier – this is definitely Dinsmoor’s best work.

This section of the yard also contained this girl on a swing.

Okay, what sort of insanity is this? I’m guessing there’s probably some sort of Biblical reference, but not having read the Bible, I can’t comment on that. But there’s definitely a sword-carrying, long-bearded old man with wings standing beside a huge eyeball. I have no idea what it means, but it’s forcing me to love it.

Ack! It’s another of the creepy lunging angels!!! TAKE COVER!!!

And this bad news is just below the angel. Looks like some of its victims, perhaps? Amazingly, the concrete body looks almost as rotten as Dinsmoor’s actual body. He was definitely a man of rare talents.

Here are a couple of happy-looking people frolicking on a tree.

This flag has weathered better than the rest of them and you can see the colorful paint that once covered all of the sculptures. Don’t ask me what’s going on around the flag though – it looks like a mishmash to me too.

I’m not sure exactly what this is but it looks like an octopus is attacking people… but it sort of looks to me like Cthulhu arising. (Though, I know it’s not.) In any event, it’s pretty bizarre.

This shot came out interesting with the backlighting. You can see the Mr.Bill-esque head at the top of the tree rather well.

I liked this Native American shooting his arrow as well.

As I passed along the front of the cabin again, I was able to get this angle which shows the dog chasing cat chasing bird sculpture, one of the planters, and the mausoleum in sequence.

Here’s another angle showing the canine figure howling up at the cat.

As I turned to leave, I took one more shot looking down the side of the house…

I also took a couple more shots of the mausoleum from the road…

as I passed by it on my way to the car.

And as I got back in the car, I stopped and took one last final shot at The Garden Of Eden – truly a baffling landmark of modern art.

I could probably end my story here, but I thought I’d share a few more strange things that I stumbled across on my drive across Kansas back to Topeka. Coming from a pretty non-religious part of the country, I get a kick out of the Olde Tyme Religion that is on display on the backroads in places like this. Therefore, I had to stop and take a couple of shots of these great signs on display in front of this tiny old wooden church in Lucas. It’s almost like they were written just for me!

“Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read… VERILY THERE IS A REWARD FOR THE RIGHTEOUS… Psalm 58:11”

“Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures… FOR YET A LITTLE WHILE, AND THE WICKED SHALL NOT BE… Psalm 37:10”

Lest we forget that we are in Kansas, I passed by a sign proclaiming Lucas to be the hometown of the 2002 International PedalPull Champ, Amanda Steinle. I took a picture to remind myself to Google “Pedal Pull” when I got home to see what in the hell it is. Turns out it’s pretty much what it sounds like – pulling carts with a pedal tractor. Yes, they actually have competitions for this! What a wacky world…

Update 7/25/13:  I received the following e-mail from Amanda herself!




So my friend showed me the web site about the Garden of Eden you have and she said my name was mentioned so I had to check it out.  Nice web site and yes I was an International pedal pull champ when I was younger haha…. I thought your page was amazing and enjoyed reading it…. I thought I would add a little more interesting info and let you know that S.P. Dinsmoor was in fact my great great uncle! Small world huh?! I bet you never thought that when you took the picture of my sign! Haha.


Amanda Steinle

Thanks for writing, Amanda!

Although culturally Kansas may be a wasteland, it does offer some very scenic views and I stumbled across some picturesque homestead ruins that I had to explore on my way home. Here, then, are a few more shots of my Kansas cross-country tour:

A nice view of the Kansas countryside.

An interesting Native American sculpture at the top of a hill, which brings back very tragic thoughts of yesteryear.

As I was driving, I spotted some ruins nearly concealed by this tree. I drove off the main highway, up a rural road to reach it and began to hike up the grassy hill.

As I approached the ruins, I wasn’t convinced that it would be worth risking ticks to visit…

An old bed frame lay unceremoniously on the ground. Not a very attractive start to the festivities.

However, things turned much more photogenic as I approached the ruins themselves.

Whenever I’m in places like this, I can’t help but wonder when it was built…

and who used to live here…

Was it somebody’s dream home before the dream turned into a nightmare?

What tragedies did these stones witness?

Did someone die in childbirth in this room?

Does this tree shield the remains of a baby lost in a miscarriage?

Did a weathered old man walk through this door each morning to greet the backbreaking toil of a new day on the farm?

Did a pie once cool on this windowsill as a lonely wife waited for her husband to return home to her?

Was a garrulous young woman driven to insanity by the incessant loneliness of the plains?

Did these walls hear the cries of a heartbroken mother whose eldest child has just died of diptheria?

How many feet passed through the threshold on frozen nights to use the outhouse, shivering all the while?

Who cut these rocks and where did they come from? How far were they hauled, and how many oxen hauled them here?

Somehow, I could just feel the intense loneliness that must have overwhelmed people in the homesteading days.

Trees growing inside the foundation told me that it had been a very long time since anyone had inhabited this space. Maybe the fact that there was no roof might have been a little clue too.

I wondered if anyone was still alive that had ever lived in this house?

If not, when had the last of them died?

Yes, these are the things I wondered as I wandered…

Sadly, I would never know the truth…

But that’s okay, because chances are the truth would never be as good as my morbid imagination.

I began to complete the drive home and stopped to read a marker that commemorated one last bit of morbid Kansas history – the Indian Wars.

And then I was back in Topeka again, happy that I’d taken the time to get to know crazy old Samuel a little bit better.

Special thanks to Christopher Gabbert for suggesting this site!

Eleanor offers the following summary of her trip to the Garden Of Eden:
“I am thrilled to be able to report to you that I made a pilgrimage to the Garden of Eden and gazed upon Sam Dinsmoor’s face, or what is left of it. It was in 1988. A morbid fear of flying (I dearly love kept me on the ground for many years, and I lost count of the number of times I crossed the country by car. I’d heard about the Garden of Eden, and Dinsmoor’s glass-topped coffin with the jug of water in it all ready for the Resurrection Day, but you have to make a fairly serious 25-mile detour off of I-70 to get there, and on several trips I had actually passed the exit that takes you there. When you’re crossing Kansas, you pretty much want to stick to business and get it behind you. This time, though, a friend and I were in his great big V-8 Oldsmobile, roaring along, heading west, when I realized we were getting close to that exit (just about exactly in the center of the state). We debated. Should we? Shouldn’t we? Yes? No? Were we too late? It was a September evening. The sun had already gone down, but there was still a fair amount of light. They’ll be closed, we told each other, it’ll be a big waste of time. We’re tired. There’s still so much of Kansas to go. But when that exit came up, my friend, who was driving, made the decision and swung off the interstate. He floored the Olds and we were in Lucas in about twenty minutes. We prowled around the completely nondescript streets in the fading light. It didn’t take us long to find it. Imagine a perfectly ordinary midwestern town of normal houses and yards, total nowheresville on the prairie flatlands, but right smack in the middle, occupying an entire lot, fortress-like, with a great arching gateway and biblical tableaux and odd statuary, all cast in cement and placed on high platforms up in tall dead trees (Adam and Eve, Lucifer, Cain and Abel, various Indian chiefs), was the Garden of Eden, looking completely deserted.
“Not completely. The caretaker was just locking up. There wasn’t another soul in sight. It was twilight by now. ‘Please,’ we said. ‘we drove all the way from New York to see this place.’ An exaggeration, but technically true. ‘Well, I’d sure hate to disappoint you folks,’ he said, and unlocked the door. ‘It’s been a slow day,’ he added. I somehow got the feeling that it had been more than slow–that we were the only visitors at all that day. He gave us the guided tour. It was incredibly cool. Just the three of us–the ‘stone log cabin’ house (also made of cement; the guy was a serious cement freak), the grounds, the tableaux, some of which were political as well as religious — ‘Labor Crucified,’ for instance, with Lawyer, Doctor, Preacher and Banker as the prominent villains. There were at least four American flags made of cement, in permanent mid-ripple. We were working our way to the best part of the tour, what we’d come all this way for, the grand finale, the Mausoleum. We’d glimpsed the outside of it earlier–an elaborate Masonic-style pyramid with many statues and another cement flag on top. It was completely dark by the time we got there. We followed the caretaker up the steps and inside, where he switched on his flashlight and shined it through the heavy plate glass of Dinsmoor’s tomb and the glass window in the lid of his coffin, all of which he’d planned and built himself. And there he was: shrivelled, dessicated, empty black eye sockets, mouth an open concave black hole, scraggly white beard clinging to his dried leather chin. ‘This don’t bother me at all,’ said the caretaker. ‘Nope,’ I said. ‘Me neither.’ And we stood and looked for a little while longer at the very, very dead face of Sam Dinsmoor in the beam of the flashlight.
“Worth the trip? Absolutely.
“We all know what’s the matter with Kansas. This was an example of what’s dandy in Kansas.”

Do you have pictures or stories to share regarding The Garden Of Eden?
Please – by all means – WRITE ME!


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!

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, California)
The magnificently strange mansion was under non-stop construction for 38 years by a wacky widow named Sarah Winchester (who had been married to one of the Winchester Rifle heirs) who was told by a medium that she had to keep continuously building her house or the spirits of those who had been killed by Winchester Rifles would come after her. So… build she did… an incredibly strange house where stairways lead to ceilings, doors open to nowhere, and the number 13 figures very prominently. Great place!