Saturday, November 3, 2012

Monson State Hospital

As some of you know, one of the main reasons for my obsession with asylums and dilapidated beauty is because of my aunt.  Bertha Alice Eddy died in 1958 from pneumonia.  Presumably, the pneumonia was caused by poor living conditions and her treatment at Monson State Hospital.  At the time she was there, the facility was known as the Massachusetts Hospital for Epileptics.  I’ve always felt a connection to her, and thank her for bringing my attention to this world.

My grandfather Jimmy, Bertha's brother, hasn't been feeling well recently, and when he found out that Tergg and I were planning on heading to Monson, he got excited.  He'd not seen his little sister, or her grave since 1958, when she was laid to rest.  She was only 22 when she died.  Her death certificate said the cause of death was pneumonia, but according to records, there were many deaths attributed to this.
I've been doing some research over the internet, and I've found that the pneumonia that is supposedly the cause of almost all deaths from the hospital.  The pneumonia is actually more or less a side effect of the torturous "treatments" the patients suffered.  Collapsed lungs and hours in freezing cold baths were just some of the pain that the poor wards of the hospital suffered.  It's a terrifying thought, to think that my aunt could have gone through such trouble.  It's also a fact that I'll never tell my grandfather.  He thinks that his sister died from the natural death that accompanied pneumonia in the 1950's. 
The State Almshouse at Monson in Palmer, Massachusetts was opened in 1852.  It’s name was changed to The Massachusetts Hospital for Epileptics in 1895, but the main name that it’s referred to as is Monson State Hospital.  According to the minimal accounts on the hospital, the care for the patients there was more than horrible.  Quite a few reports comment on the deplorable conditions.  Torture to the point of killing was quite the normal occurrence, according to several sources I researched.  Another odd point of interest is that some accounts say the hospital is located in Palmer, Massachusetts, while other accounts say it's located in Monson, Massachusetts.
Monson State Hospital is located on hundreds of acres in scenic Palmer Massachusetts, near the Quabog River.  The beautiful location of the hospital makes the stories of torture and death sound more like legends, but according to the survivors and the ex-employees, the hospital was a place of nightmares.  
Whether because of having no interest in the place, or following the local rumors of it being haunted, Tergg and I couldn't find one person in the towns of Palmer or Monson that knew too much about the land.  There are security cameras, gates, and no trespassing signs all over the grounds.  Because of this, only the last two photographs in this post have been attributed to Tergg and I.  The first few older looking ones are from antique post cards, and the fourth picture is an image I found on the internet a while ago.  We tried our best to find anything we could, but sadly, made the return trip with nothing.  We weren't able to find the correct cemetery, let alone the grave where my aunt is supposed to be laid to rest.  This doesn't discourage me though; it just fuels my need to find out more information!

Six

32 comments:

  1. My baby brother lived less than two weeks at this hospital. It took me years to reach the point that I can research this hospital at all. Can you share some of your findings? This is for my own personal closure.
    Jeanne

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    1. Jeanne, Thank you for asking. I'd absolutely love to help you out. I'm currently waiting to get some information from the school right now, but if you have any particular questions please let me know. I want to help you find your closure.

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    2. If you directly related, you could petition to unseal the records. You'd need to appear in court, and make your case, and the judge would sign an order to unseal for you. You could then take those to the Massachusetts State Archives, which has custody of all records of the hospital.

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  2. I have two relatives that died there, one in 1910 at the age of 13 and one in 1982 at the suprising age of 83

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  3. I just started doing research on this because I was looking up info on my family when I came across who I think is a great grandfather or great great uncle. His name was Edward Weeks and he was first an inmate and then was a patient but it doesnt state where. It says in Monson but no hospital, nothing.

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  4. My great grandmother died here in 1953 after being transferred from Worcester State Hospital. She was buried in Worcester with her grandparents. Never did know why she was sent there in the first place.

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  5. I was just at monson state today and we tried to go to the cemetery as well. We however did find it but there is a gate and it is closed. It says no trespassing state property I find this very strange because I have never been to a cemetery that you can not enter. Another odd thing that we noticed is that there are still lights on in many parts of the hospital. We went at night so we saw a lot of lights on this does not make any sense because nobody is allowed in these buildings anymore because it is closed. So no idea why so many parts of the hospital have lights on. Also I don't know if you will be able to find her grave anyways due to information that we have found. As i have heard patience where numbered rather then going by there names. So im not sure how you would really go about this. If you have any questions for me I wouldn't gladly let you know any information that I have. I have been doing a lot of research lately on this. Also my husband works at Worcester state hospital he has seen the things that go on in these older hospitals, and some of it is very creepy.

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  6. I am as well doing research on this area and the hospital through I have no known relatives that were ever in this place. There have also been missing people who were there that have vanished without a trace. I feel that much happened there when they changed the name to The Massachusetts Hospital For Epileptics in 1895. Dr.Everett Flood was a resident Doctor there and also an active member of the Eugenics Program and he was also the superintendent. There are many stories of what happened while he was there and what he did and the surgeries he performed on patients including children. Presently they are trying to sell the land and no one wants to buy it.

    I did find out that there is a Cemetery that is called New Hope Cemetery and I have a link to the pictures and it names people on it that I believe were in the Hospital as they show just a stake sticking up out of the ground that says Row #1 and so forth. I believe the people of the town make a gravestone with all the names written on it that are there. If you are interested in this I will post a link here. There were human bones that were found there and like Garnett mentioned they were only know by a number,even the children and that goes back to the Orphanage and Orphan Train History. Monson had the largest Orphan Asylum in the State of Massachusetts. There was the Old Children's Colony. The older buildings are full of abestos and other toxic hazards so hopefully people are aware of this as well.

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  7. just went there a few days ago. I live one town over. very weird what is going on there when we drove threw say people going in to one of the building with children I thought it was closed. Paying a lot of money for empty building and security officers for something that is closed. I just don't understand.

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  8. Just went back today. We saw the houses across the street. Their is three brick building and three houses. two playground and two swimming pools. It is very run down but still creepy to see just makes you wonder what went on there. A lot of small beds and cribs. We still have a lot to see have not gone on the side of the big buildings It is a little harder to get to the building without anybody seeing you. I have been doing a little research And that was not a nice place. But I haven't seen any chains from walls or anything like that So I don't know how I really feel. Don't know If I believe all the rumors and tails that have been told.

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  9. There is much happening there and I am still investigating the area. I do Earth Healing and since the Tornado went through Monson back I believe in 2011 and then the October Earthquake of 2012 I believe it has triggered memories within Mother Earth. I don't know if anyone understands any of this,yet that Tornado did alot of damage throughout both Springfield and Monson areas. I was wondering if this place was hit at all on its path? From what I have heard it didn't. I do believe in some of the stories as I have researched archives.

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  10. Six, I understand that while the Monson Police Department takes trespassing at the site very seriously due to the poor condition of many of the buildings, they will make reasonable accommodations to grant access to the New Hope Cemetery at the Monson Developmental Center. Consider contacting their Chief of Police.

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  11. when there today. There was a lot of people in one of the buildings. We went to the building across the street. They r in very rough shape Just don't understand all the people in the building.

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  12. There are two news articles out sharing what is going there that I found on the web one from 2011 and the other one from this year. I am now searching the Massachusetts State Archives as I am looking for information on three people that were there and only known by a number. I just don't understand why you cannot find any information on the State Almshouse,State Hospital or any history on this place? I have even checked New York and the Orphan Trains and all history concerning State Institutions. This place is mind boggling and makes me wonder what they don't want people to know. My friend who near Monson was in the area a few weeks ago and said that it was being patrolled by Police..

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  13. Would anybody be able to say what road the cemetery is on, or how to reach it?

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  14. I visited Monson State Hospital in the late 1960's, when I was in high school. (I think we went for some type of community service project.) I hadn't thought about the experience in decades, but after reading your blog, it all has come flooding back. I can close my eyes and see the faces of the children and young adults, many of whom were severely disabled, and hear the sounds, and smell the overpowering smells of the place. It was an awful, sad place.

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  15. Thank~you for sharing..I am going to be taking a trip soon and going to go during the week where I can inquire and ask questions either from the Historical Society or maybe there Library has some information. Its bizzare that there is no info on this Hopsital at all. Maybe because the Monson Development Center is still opened?? I don't know. When I can read about all these other State Hospitals and Almshouses/Poor Houses/State Primary Schools and the suffering these people went through and they are not covering up what happened in there wheather it was negative or positive it tells me a story about the secrets that have yet to be discovered and shared with what went on at Monson State Hospital/Monson Sanitaruim/State Mental Hosptial/The Massachusetts Hospital For Epileptics/Orphan Trains/Children's Colony all these different names but all in the same place or area the truth will be revealed. When you are looking for long lost relatives that were interred there and only have a number to go by how does one have closure when there isn't any information on that person? So many people went missing from there and they have never been found. Yes, the police was involved yet found nothing. As I say,what goes around comes back around and I know that many that are searching for there relatives that were patients there or as they called them case numbers. Very sad indeed.

    It may be The New Hope Cemetery,yet I heard there was another Cemetery on the grounds where the old buildings are that are not in use..

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    1. I have been doing some research on Northampton State Hospital, formerly Northampton Insane Hospital.I learned that while most of its buildings have been torn down, one still exists and houses an office for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. They may have some information there since the two facilities are relatively close (both in western MA) and perhaps some records got transferred to Northampton when Monson closed. May be worth an inquiry. You also might check in the archives for Springfield (located adjacent to the Main Library) or Worcester (not sure if there are any but there may be a collection in its library collections) since Monson/Palmer are small towns and may not have had the resources to catalogue, etc. My family owned property in Monson from around 1960 to 2000 and for much of that time (I haven't been there for years), it was primarily rural. Palmer was a small, basically one main street, kind of town at that time.

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    2. Thank you JHH..I Just wrote everything down and will check into those places that you mentioned. I may have some luck there...

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  16. Susan Sprung is the area director of DMH, she is probably the best contact for archives location. 413-587-6200, I was there recently in Northampton for a conference, was a chilling experience. I wouldn't want to be living there. There are complex of apartments there now; 'Northampton gardens' Not my Idea of Eden. My older brother was in Munson for 10 years and enduring heart wrenching events, including sterilization that for being epileptic? Infuriating to the core.

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  17. I just lost my comment as I pushed publish and it disappeared. So I may have deleted it..Thank you for sharing about your brother gracefulmomma, I am still researching and I will give Susan a call.. Have checked out alot of archives online and called several people and sent onto the next journey as I say. I am looking for a little girl that was at Monson and will not give up util I find her..I don't know why they thought if you sterilized someone that it would cure them of being an epileptic..My Mom was epileptic and she was treated with medication and this was in the late 1950's. There were several people on both sides of my family that were in State Hospital's through our lineage..Long story..I did find lots of interesting information during my research and I keep hearing the same thing that many of there records were lost in fires,misplaced,or stored away in buildings to be forgotten and faded away.. There are records of when they were admitted and who there parents were ( found more of these in New York and from the Tewksbury Almhouse) then other places..I feel they hid the records of the patients they treated there because of what they did to them with eugenics,lobotomy's and other abuses there patients endured..I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering they went through. They were covering it up and all the lives that were lost is beyond anything I have ever known..Eventually some of this was exposed and conditions did improved somewhat and then they all begin to shut down. I would never live at North Hampton and never would have built apartment complexes there. Similar to what they did at Danvers State Hosptial and other locations..I have heard some amazing stories from people who have done Ghost Hunting there and interviewed some of the people who live there and those that have moved out because of stuff that was happening in there apartments..I am still trying to locate where these people are buried and only known as a number with no records of there deaths or what they died off. Many of these people were forgotten about and died alone. Many of us today are doing Genealogy and tracing our Ancestors and finding all these loop holes and I have been enquirer wants to know. I have even asked some of my living relatives some of these people and they tense up and don't want to talk about it as back then I guess they didn't talk about those that were mentally ill or were mentally challenged as with Downs Syndrome,and the list goes on and the strange thing is that many of these people had nothing wrong with them when you go back and research some of the history from the very beginning.

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  18. My uncle lived there from early 1930s until 1956 when he was main streamed and returned home to my grandmother. I do know he received EST daily and was beaten at a "work farm". He was severly emotionally scared. He had very odd habits when he came home. I cared for him for 20 years until his death several years ago

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  19. I am grateful and thankful that your Uncle did return home to your Grandmother. Even if he did have odd habits and suffered with severe emotional scars he was at home and no longer in that place. EST treatments are a scary thing and I have read in various articles that patients were terrified and often when into a fit of rage and put up a fight only to be strapped down and given the treatment. I can only imagine the state of mind they were in. Bless you for taking care of him during those 20 years and being of comfort to him. You knew his name which is a beautiful thing and he can be remembered in memories. Some of my ancestors that were in these places only have a number and nothing else. They reside in a Potters Field with many others that have been lost and forgotten...

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  20. I would like to apologize to everyone for not responding to this thread. I've had family problems and have been unable to attend to the blog. I'm back now, though, and am getting back to the blog full on :)

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  21. Hi everyone! I have done a lot of research on area mental asylums. In one earlier comment sterilization of patients was mentioned. This unfortunately happened frequently in many institutions across the United States when the eugenics program was popular. It was not done for a cure to the illness but in order to prevent those with the illness from reproducing. I am sorry for anyone's family members that this happened to and if this is information everyone knows already. My research has been on the the early inceptions of the asylums (hence the name asylum) and have found that it is important to know exactly what name the institution went by for the time period that you are researching. I attempted to access the Worcester State Hospital records for a capstone project, but was unable to gain access because all files that have patient information are protected by the DMH. I spoke with a Dr. and would have to go through a long petition process. Here is a link I found that might help with some research and gaining access to the documents http://www.danversstateinsaneasylum.com/records.html. Also, one last note. I was brought to this page after talking to a woman that worked at the Monson Developmental Center since the 80s right to before they closed. She actually described it as being a very great place for her patients. She was a wonderful woman and you could tell she actually cared a great deal for her patient. I found this very interesting considering a lot of stories and images institutions hold in our collective memory. I guess they are looking at reuse plans for the campus. That could be why there were people there and lights on. Good luck to everyone.

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  22. The patients are listed with names in U.S. censuses

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  23. My father graduated from UMass in June, 1929 with a agriculture degree. He went to work at Munson as a groundskeeper in Aug. 1929.
    His duties included supervision of the extensive vegetable gardens, dairy cows, and chickens that provided food for the residents. Munson residents were made to work in the fields and he supervised them also. He told horrible stories of lobotimized patients who when given hoes would stand statue still for hours with no sign of brain function. Oct. 1929, the depression started, jobs were very scarce, he had no option but to continue working there until 1939. He shared free housing at Munson with other workers in return for always being on call for emergencies. These emergencies included going at night into the maintenance tunnels under the hospital. They were lit only by flashlight, water leaks sometimes made wading through rat infested. knee deep water necessary. The worst part was the echoing of the patients screams through the underground tunnels. He claimed it was not the screaming of mentally unstable people but the screams of torture. Interestingly men in that era who did not want to give away assets during a divorce could have a quack doctor declare their wives "hysterical". A hysterical diagnosis was grounds for committal for life and thus a divorce due to mental illness. Commitment meant the wife would receive no assets and the husband walked into a new life assets intact. The designation epilepsy hospital was a cover that allowed families to place any unstable person at Munson although there certainly epileptics there also.

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  24. I live in Monson near the state hospital. I found this page because a woman posted a sign in the laundromat in town asking for help in locating her uncle Gary Maguire who disappeared from the hospital in 1986. It is located in the town of Monson on Upper Palmer Road and was not affected by the 2011 tornado.

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  25. I visited the grounds about 10 years ago when the main part of the hospital was still open. (The buildings in the woods on the other side of the street have been out of use for decades and are sometimes used by the fire department as a place to set small fires to train new firefighters. A man i went to school with said there are still shackles and chains in place.) The main part which was still open when I last went was well maintained and patients looked relaxed and healthy.

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  26. I am just catching up here and reading the comments. I have researched and found information through different resources and located one of the people whom I wanted to find and created a file for them..Some were found through the census reports and some through records on ancestry.com which I am a member. You can also search on family search through the Mormons as they have lots of information too. It is the older buildings and land that I am interested in and I do know that Monson Center has changed through the years since the conditions and other things that happened there and in many other State Hospital's were discovered. I have read the histories of many of the State Hospital's here in New England as well as those in other States and several court cases from another State Hospital here in Massachusetts that fought and won and it was after this I believe when things began to change and many of these places were shut down. I often think of those that worked there for a living like 'employee memories' mentioned above and I have read other blogs that mention there grandparents or parents that worked at other State Hospital's either as groundkeepers, nurses or working as janitors and so forth. There is much more to the eugenics and in keeping them from producing children. Some of those interred at these hospitals were also Indian and Colored people. Some of these patients parents married cousins and some of their children developed disabilities. This also happened within my family years ago through the Jordans.. There were many marriages between the First Nations people and the Africans Slaves. Sometimes the Indians from Massachusetts and other areas when they did Census reports listed themselves as Negro or Mullato instead of Indian. I am Native Amercian myself and have done extensive research into this and the eugenics programs including the one in Vermont where they sterilized the Indian women so that they could not have babies and did this sometimes without them even knowing it until later on. They didn't want any more Indian children being born and if any of you are interested and want to read more about this you can research it on the web..In some records that I read they had inmates from jail or back then there were places called the farm where those that broke the law or committed a crime stayed. They worked on these hospital grounds and some of these inmates did things to these patients resulting in them giving birth to children with severe deformities in which some of these babies died and then some of there body parts were put in jars and preserved so they could study them and see what caused there deformities and another question I read in an article is how did they become with child in the first place? This didn't happen only with inmates that worked there. It was employee's as well as some of the Doctors and the patients themselves who were not as mentally ill as the other patients. I am just sharing what I have uncovered through lots of research and reading... As an Earth Healer we carry memories through our dna from our ancestors that were here before we were born. The same with Mother Earth as she is a living breathing planet. She has memories that are imprinted in her matrix on the land everywhere even the negative memories. Maybe some of you will understand what I am sharing and some may not. If many of us pick up and sense,feel and experience some of these imprints while visting these places or have visions or see something that happened a long time ago a message is being relayed to us from the imprint that we are picking up on. Many of us are empathic and we may pick up the fear,joy,horror,creeped out feelings from the energy imprint that was left there and these imprints keep showing themselves over and over again like a tape rewinding and then playing. So no matter who travels to these places they also are picking up on the same imprints. I have no idea if any one on here is Spiritual so bear with me..

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  27. The old Monson State is across the street from the main facility witch is still maintained, lighted, and protected by security guards. This hospital was not closed until a couple of years ago. Across the street there are 3 or 4 tall brick buildings witch are long abandoned and completely falling apart, down the road from there are 5 or 6 large abandoned houses (where the children were housed) witch closed sometime in the early 1980's. Across the street from there is the "New Hope Cemetery" witch is just dozens of small unmarked undated headstones.I live in Palmer and I explored the buildings once a few years ago, and did some research after. place definitely got some history

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  28. I actually had an office in the Buckley Building on the state hospital setting and have never experienced anything abnormal. There were other state workers who had offices in various buildings. In 2012, the whole campus closed and our office location had to move. We are now in Springfield. I think that everyone is making a bigger deal about this situation. Sure, there may have been staff members who didn't treat the residents the way they should, but walk into any public school with students of this nature and you will find that there still are professionals who get away with treating students with less dignity than they should. I don't think this thinking should be isolated to Monson State and everyone needs to realize that there is ill-intent by staff members anywhere you go with people who are nonverbal and unable to communicate their accounts of what has gone on. I do not believe this place is haunted. I had spent many hours staying late to finish work tasks and I was the only one in the building and probably on the campus. I never felt scared of this place. There was even a theater production company for kids who acted out plays in the building next door to me. I don't believe this place is or was haunted.

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