In a similar vein, Lisa Rinzler has catalogued and photographed items found in the attic of the abandoned Willard Psychiatric Centre in New York’s Finger Lakes. Among the items found are hundreds of suitcases belonging to former residents, with photographs, drawings and notes by staff. One note, regarding a patient named Ethel, reads:
She is a manic of rather neurotic type, who is inclined to pout and grumble and find fault. It was discovered yesterday that she and Miss ___, another patient, had been in the habit of getting into bed together, probably at night, but they were found in bed together in the daytime and said to be having a jolly time. When discovered by Miss McMahon, charge attendant of the ward, they giggled and chuckled and told her there was a place for her if she would like to get in.
The site also includes recordings of recollections by former staff and inmates, spanning the 1940s through to the 1980s, with graphic descriptions of the facilities, treatments and the experience of a typical night shift. If the psychiatry of yore is a subject that intrigues, it’s worth a visit. Though you wouldn’t want to stay.