Happy Halloween Dear Reader! This is my favorite holiday of the year, and here are a few (in no particular order) of my spooky/silly favorites!! Enjoy!
1.) The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (Film)
I first saw this movie on TV when I was a kid, I’m not quite sure what it is about it but It has stuck with me. It is a very silly movie, it stars Don Knotts so of COURSE it’s just plain silly but for some reason parts of it scared the crap out of me when I was little! It has stuck with me ever since, and I love it!
2.) The Woman in Black (Novel)
The woman in Black by Susan Hill is one of my favorite novels of all time. It is also my favorite horror story, and I have read/watched a lot of them. It’s quite a claim for a not so well known book. Here is why I love it so much. It is SIMPLE. No complicated supernatural history, no M. Night Shyamalan plot twists, no pushing of the grotesque envelope to see how many people we can nauseate. It is the best example I have found of a good old fashioned ghost story, and because of it’s simplicity it is as eerie as heck. Susan Hill’s story also became one of the most brilliant theatrical productions of all time (in my opinion) and later a film starring Daniel Radcliffe, although admittedly I have not watched it.
3.) Most Anticipated Horror Video Game: Silent Hills
I am a huge video game fan. I am a huge horror game fan. I am a huge Silent Hill fan. I am a HUGE Guillermo del Toro fan…NORMAN REEDUS! Need I say more?!
4.) Creepiest Classical Visual Art: Goya’s Black Paintings
A group of fourteen paintings by the great artist Francisco Goya at the end of his life, including the infamous “Saturn Devouring His Son.”
Sure one could argue that there is creepier art in the world than Goya’s mysterious fourteen, but these paintings were painted originally on the walls of his HOUSE and weren’t put onto canvas until later. His two story house outside of Madrid was called the Quinta del Sordo, the deaf man’s villa, and these creepers served as its wallpaper! It was said that they were a direct reflection of the artists terror and anxiety over his own aging and encroaching insanity…perhaps painting the walls with some nice flowers would have been a better choice.
5.) Most Interesting Local Haunt: Danvers State Hospital
The Danvers state hospital (also known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers, and the Danvers Lunatic Asylum) was built in 1874 designed under the Kirkbride plan* and opened its doors in 1878. An enormous facility with several outbuildings housing both male and female patients separated into different wings of the building by their sex and case severity. Thus giving the facility a unique architectural design and inspiring it’s nickname “The Wagon Wheel.” This unique design with it’s bizarre brick and cobblestone tunnels can be seen in the horror film Session 9, which happens to be one of my absolute favorites (which I will not get into now, because we would be here all night!)
There are many, many spooky yarns that are birthed in America’s condemned asylums, and like the others, Danvers has its share of vengeful spirit stories. Especially since Danvers has always been rumored to be the birthplace of the pre-frontal lobotomy.
Not only was Danvers a home for the treatment of the mentally ill, but it also housed a training program for nurses that began in 1889, and a pathological research laboratory in 1895. By the 1920’s the hospital was running clinics studying mental defect in children. Over that time several reports were made siting various inhumane treatments of patients, and unethical research practices, including various uses of powerful drugs, shock therapy, the use of straitjackets, and of course lobotomy. It is also not too bold to say that the majority of these practices were not used to treat patient’s ailments, but as a method to keep patients under control.
The hospital’s original layout was designed to hold five hundred patients, with maximum overflow space of about one hundred. By the 1930’s and 40’s however, over two thousand patients called Danvers home and overcrowding was severe. Patients were stuffed in all wings of the facility and living in the attic spaces and the basement.
In the 1960’s such treatment in America’s hospitals finally became extremely controversial, and there was pressure to seek alternative methods. Deinstitutionalization was sweeping the country and community-based mental health care was replacing the large government funded hospitals. Danvers State Hospital’s population began to steadily decrease.
Later massive budget cuts served as her final coffin nail, wards and facilities were closed off by 1969, and lie abandoned. By 1985 most of the hospital was shuttered, and the Kirkbride administration building finally closed its doors in 1989. The remaining patients were moved to the Bonner Medical Building , an outbuilding across the campus, until June 24, 1992 when the entire Danvers State Campus closed for good.
The entire site lay abandoned, a decaying behemoth on its seventy-seven acres, until 2005 when the property was bought by Avalon Bay Development. Within the year demolition began. Despite protests from locals, a lawsuit and being registered on the National Register for Historic places, all of the outbuildings were destroyed, and most of the main ones, leaving only a portion the brick shell of the beautiful Kirkbride building. In January 2006 the construction of 497 apartments began.
*Apologies for the unclear image, but this photo roughly shows the layout of the campus. The demolished sections are in red, the remaining in black.
Here is where things get strange, as if they weren’t when this place was operational…
Mysteriously on April 7, 2007, a fire consumed the construction site at Danvers consuming four of the buildings holding the apartments and several of Avalon Bay’s construction trailers. The fire was so enormous it was said to have been seen in Boston, seventeen miles away. Stranger still, while the fire engulfed the areas under construction somehow the remaining Kirkbride escaped relatively unscathed. An investigation was launched and Avalon Bay provided a live webcam recording of the site, however the pictures mysteriously cut out at 2:03 AM the night of the fire. It was ruled that the fire itself must have been responsible for the camera’s dysfunction and no person was ever found to be responsible for starting the blaze.
Today the Irreplaceable Kirkbride building looks at first glance to be untouched, but many argue that a beautiful restoration could have been made to the building instead of the (unfinished) modern internal structure that was cheaply erected in the Kirkbride’s belly. The only thing that remains of Danvers State Hospital are some blocked off tunnels that served as housing for utilities, it’s cemetery and the shell of the Kirkbride.
This past summer, June 27th, 2014, it was made public that Avalon Bay Communities Inc. had sold the property for $108.5 million dollars to the DSF Group. Thus far DSF has alluded to plans for a massive renovation to the property but has yet to confirm whether the remainder of the Kirkbride will remain untouched.
* The Kirkbride Plan refers to a system of mental asylum design advocated by Philadelphia psychiatrist Thomas Story Kirkbride (1809-1883) in the mid-19th century.
Images: 1.) Danvers State Hospital, Danvers, Massachusetts, Kirkbride Complex, circa 1893Public Domain 2.)”Rusted Passage” Photo © Tom Kirsch, opacity.us 3.) James Watts (left) and Walter Freeman performing a lobotomy. /Discover Magazine, Wikipedia 4.)Building Demolition & Identification Map,danversstateinsaneasylum.com 5.) Demolition of Danvers State Hospital ,danversstateinsaneasylum.com 6.) Danvers State Hospital Fire, Photo by Bradford Stevens, SalemNews.com 7.) Danvers State Hospital Cemetery, photo by: Kerri Anne's Photography