Monday, April 28, 2014

Abandoned Places: Ypsilanti State Hospital

The Ypsilanti State Hospital was kind of a rush job. Evidently, the 20s weren't good for the mental health of Americans and by 1930 the existing mental institutions were experiencing some overcrowding. Okay, a lot of overcrowding. So the Ypsilanti hospital was thrown up in Michigan and opened within a year of when construction began. In its first few years, it was one of the only mental institutions in the United States to get favorable reviews based on its conditions for its patients.

That's not a condition that would last. By the end of World War II, two new wings had been added and the hospital was still overcrowded. Perhaps because of this or, maybe, because it was one of the newest facilities, the Ypsilanti hospital was used for various types of experimentation: early flu vaccinations were tested, studies on the effects of milontin, and, um, LSD. During the 50s, the hospital facilities were used for several films about psychological practices, including two about the effects of prefrontal lobotomy.

Perhaps the most interesting thing, though, was some early work and experimentation in group therapy. It seems that during the 50s Jesus was one of the patients at the hospital. Actually, there were three of them. I guess they didn't get the memo about the trinity not all being the same dude, because they were all going for the Jesus aspect. At any rate, Milton Rokeach thought that putting all three of them in a room together, making them confront their delusions, might force them to see reality. That's not really how it worked out, but he did get a book out of it, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.

Generally speaking, the 80s and 90s weren't a great time for mental institutions, and the Ypsilanti facility was shut down in 1991 during the push in Michigan to close down all of its mental hospitals.

All photos courtesy of opacity.

Your bonus for today: pictures from the York Street Jail.


  1. Wow, that was a lot of experimentation on patients. Sounds awful. But the idea of putting three "Christs" in the same room and having them argue it out is hilarious!

  2. Agree with Lexa - I'm sure the discussions were humorous.
    Shame such a large facility wasn't used for something else. What's in that one picture that looks like a train snaking around the building? A fence with guard houses or a covered walkway?

  3. I can't believe he really thought putting three delusional men in the same room would inject reason into the situation. Um, okay.

    The picture with the bathtubs looks like it comes straight out of a horror flick!

  4. Ypsilanti in general is a pretty crappy place. It's for the people who don't have the money to live in Ann Arbor.

  5. So many of these buildings are just wasted. Somebody should advance the idea of recycling.

    I wonder what happened to all those "mental" patients once these places were shut down?

    1. They either ended up in jail or they became "street" people.

  6. It's amazing to me the many things mental patience were used for in the past.

    True Heroes from A to Z

  7. The 20s and 30s was a strange time...I think they threw everyone in a mental institution who didn't conform to societal standards of "normal." Of course, they didn't have the medicine we have today to treat people for a variety of conditions, so that was a factor, as well.

  8. Lexa: It is pretty funny. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

    Alex C: It's a walkway. I'm assuming those were because you couldn't let patients just walk across the yard.

    Elsie: Rational people often have a difficult time understanding irrationality.

    Pat: I wonder what it was like back when they built the facility and if the facility has anything to with it being a "pretty crappy place" today.

    Jo: If it's like it is out here in CA, those patients became homeless people.

    Crystal: That's not what so much amazes me; it's they had family that mostly didn't care what they were used for.

    Stephanie: We did have a much more constrained view of "normal" at the time.

  9. Now I'm going to spend my entire day thinking about three Jesuses each trying to convince the other that he is the REAL Jesus.

    ("The Real Jesus": A play in three acts, coming soon to a playhouse near you!)

    As always, great pictures. But if you think the 80s and 90s weren't kind to mental institutions, think how the people who used to live in them feel about those decades.

  10. I was wondering why there's this awful building still sitting there with those terrible memories attached to it, and then I remembered my own city has its own abandoned sanatorium (Waverly Hills Sanatorium) with terrible memories attached to it. It now has its own website.

  11. Briane: Unfortunately, I think some of those people wish they had places like that to stay in. Well, I'm not sure about other states, but in CA many of the people that would have at one time been institutionalized now live on the streets.

    (You need to write that.)

  12. RG: What does an abandoned building do with a website? Is it selling itself as souvenirs?

  13. Experiments, lobotomies, and forced shutdowns. Ugh, what a horrible story. The York Street Jail sounds much cheerier.

  14. Jeanne: It may have been. Or maybe it wasn't. I mean, maybe Jesus -wanted- to be at Ypsilanti. Three times!

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. I hate that so many mental health facilities were shut down over the past several decades. Lots of people with mental illnesses are just homeless folks now. Very said.

    But I've often wondered whose idea it was to drill someone's brain into mush and decide it was a great treatment for criminal behavior. I mean, the very first person who was like, "I'm a doctor, I'm just going to take this icepick to your brain and see what happens. Hold still."

    Stunning pics though.

  17. Rusty: Actually, the first lobotomy was an accident, a rock quarry accident? Something like that. There was a metal pole involved and some dynamite, and the dynamite went off unexpectedly and blasted the pole up through the guy's jaw and out the top of his head. He made a full recovery... except for the personality changes it caused.

    And that's the kind of thing that will make someone else go, "Huh... I wonder what will happen if we do that to someone on purpose."

  18. Abandoned hospitals are, by far, the creepiest of abandoned places, I think. That is my conclusion for the end of this challenge.

  19. Wow, they could have shot the Asylum season of American Horror there. It looks very similar.

  20. Rebekah: I would almost agree with you except for place like the Q entry.

    Jean: Maybe they did? I haven't seen the show.