With Halloween approaching, I've decided to temporarily suspend my normal "Quick Shot" posts in favor of a Spooktography theme. Today's spooky photograph is of a painting at the entrance to Ward 8 in the geriatrics unit of the abandoned Weston State Hospital.
The hospital, known now as the Trans-Alleghaney Lunatic Asylum, is located in Weston, West Virginia and closed in the 1990s after over 130 years of treatment for the mentally insane. The asylum now conducts tours for visitors year round.
In July 2012, I packed my camera for a rare behind-the-scenes tour of the asylum. While guests normally can explore the main hospital building and medical center, we were permitted access to places such as the woman's ward and geriatrics unit. These buildings were in terrible condition - leaking roofs had caused major mold problems and rotten drywall had formed a thick sludge on every surface. Despite the decay and dis-repair, I still had a chance to experience and imagine what it must have been like to be a patient at this hospital.
The geriatrics ward was one of the eeriest buildings. Unlike the main building, which had individual rooms for patients, the patients here were kept in prison style barracks with hundreds of patients sharing a common quarters. The bathrooms were worse - toilets were not separated from each other and there was no illusion of privacy.
The geriatrics ward caused me to think back to the 19th century cruise liners that categorized guests based on a class system; without any privacy the geriatrics patients seemed to be 3rd class when compared to the higher functioning patients with private rooms in the Kirkbride building. Part of me ached for these patients; the mentally ill deserve to be treated with the same dignity as any other human.
I took very few photos in this ward because of the chills it gave me. The one thing that really caught my attention was this painting welcoming you to Ward 8. I couldn't decide if the nurses and doctors painted this to add a warm and soft touch to an otherwise dreary and depressing environment, or if the painting was actually designed to mock the patients with it's irony. Nothing about Ward 8 was inviting.... and the rabbit wasn't making it any more so.
I'm posting this photo for the Spooktography because of the chills and eery feeling I had while standing in that ward. Even remembering standing there as I write this blog post has given me goosebumps. As a result, this is probably high on the list of the most moving photos I've taken to date.