Monday, October 5, 2015

Welcome to the Asylum

     The abandoned mental asylum. Insititution. Hospital for the Insane. The asylum has become a trope of horror, of modern fear. Second, it would seem, only to the haunted house. Whether the word “asylum” conjures up images of a towering, dilapidated gothic building you have near your hometown, countless horror films, the television show “American Horror Story’ or any number of paranormal, ghost-hunting programs—I bet the image is there. The building where people were imprisoned, to live damaged lives among the insane. It’s as Halloween as pumpkin pie.

The former Buffalo State Hospital, now the Richardson Olmstead Complex, in Buffalo, NY

     But what is it that fascinates our fear with asylums. Are we scared of the people who live there, once lived there, or whose spirits remain broken and left behind? Or are we afraid of how people ended up there? So quietly and effortlessly often committed against their will for being emotional, promiscuous, or the victim of a crime no person could believe. Are we afraid that, if we had been born 40, 75 or 100 years earlier, we would be committed to these small rooms with bars, to live life among a gallery of all the ways people can be damaged and broken?
     Whatever it is that holds sway over the modern consciousness, I am sure it is not the same for everyone. And that the middle ground of the in-between—fear of being committed, fear of those there—holds true for many people. And, regardless of what brings your nightmares to the doors of an asylum, the fear is true. And good fear is never fully understood.

     But we can try.  And so it was with this in mind that the Ghost and the Witch went exploring some of our local, long abandoned asylums. Western New York is rich in these sad places, that are clearly haunted, whether ghosts walk within their walls or not. 

      Tomorrow, I will begin posting about our trip to Genesee County, to the old Genesee County Poorhouse, now the famous Rolling Hills Asylum.   

Rolling Hills Asylum, Genesee County, NY

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