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Asylum Mind

Asylum Mind by Never You Mind Who

I suppose my grandfather had eccentric tastes. The place he called home near the end of his life was a somewhat disturbing property that would surely freak out most people.

It was a former insane asylum.

Despite its off-putting past, he talked about it like it was the most luxurious mansion you could imagine. Instead of being creeped out by it, he was proud to own such a historic old building. He bought it for a very good price but spent quite a bit on restorations.

When he passed away, I was stunned to discover that he left the building to me.

A few members of the family were a bit insulted that he gave it to me over them, but most were so unsettled by the place that they didn’t mind. I guess I really was his favorite granddaughter.

I drove up one day to take a look at the place, tour the building, and decide what I was going to do about the fact that it had recently come into my ownership. At first, I thought there was no way I’d ever actually move in.

Arriving at the property, I was confronted with the sandstone monstrosity. The building was tall, towering over the landscape, with ornate windows and gothic architecture. There was a circular water fountain in front and a large clock tower at the entrance.

Inside there were several long and empty hallways. My grandfather had renovated the opening interior room into a living room and had rearranged things quite a bit. He had changed the doctor’s and nurse’s areas into his lavish bedroom and guest rooms. The kitchen was fully redesigned with expensive granite countertops. In one room there was even a pool hall. He had really turned this grim asylum into his own personal manor. I was somewhat impressed.

At the time, I still lived in a cramped apartment, so this was certainly an upgrade as far as space was concerned. I was pretty hesitant, but eventually, I decided to sell my apartment and move in. It might be a bit creepy, but it was much nicer than the place I’d been staying and there was no way I could pass up on all that space. It’s not wise to look a gift horse in the mouth I suppose.

It took some time to get used to it, and heating the place was a nightmare. Whenever I’d walk through the hallways it'd be freezing cold. However, the bedrooms and other rooms I could heat with fireplaces and heaters. After a while, I stopped seeing it as “an asylum” and saw it more and more as just a nice house that my loving grandfather had graciously given to me. I was appreciative.

This next part is a bit difficult to describe but I guess it’s relevant.

I’ve had mental health issues all my life on and off. They tend to get worse during periods of high stress, and shortly after my move, I started having a lot of issues at my job and with a few of my relationships. I became very paranoid as a result. I was convinced that someone was poisoning my food. Even when I was self-aware enough to know that it wasn’t true, it still bothered me and kept me from eating for several days. I felt I was having some sort of psychotic breakdown.

Eventually, I sought psychiatric help and after much assessment, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I didn’t have any auditory or visual hallucinations and with the aid of therapy and medication, I was able to keep my symptoms in check and manage it.

The irony of living in a former insane asylum at the time wasn’t lost on me. My friends morbidly joked that maybe the building was what did it somehow, but of course, I’d had a history of such mental health problems all throughout my life.

Thankfully, this was the 21st century and I was able to receive proper treatment, unlike many of the poor folks who lived their lives in the former asylum that I then called home. It was also a less taboo subject, something to be discussed more openly, instead of locked away behind the gates of hellscapes like an insane asylum. Patients were once stored away from society like a dirty secret and subjected to what would now be seen as horrible medicalized mistreatment. This grim history was all around me and only drove home the point for me what progress we had made as a society and how grateful I was for it.

Then something most peculiar happened.

One night I was heading to the kitchen to get a midnight snack. I had a blanket wrapped around me while traveling through the cold hallways. While making my way there I noticed unsettling movement in the distance. The hallway I was in had tall wooden doors along either side with each one leading to a small room that the patients once stayed in. When I looked towards the source of the noise I saw a human figure walking out of an open door. The figure moved down the hallway before disappearing through another open door further down.

The figure was as plain as day a person standing there, like you or me, not transparent like a specter in a movie. It was an eerie woman wearing an old-fashioned white nurse outfit. She looked like something out of an old black-and-white photo. I felt the threatening feeling that a mysterious stranger was in my house.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

The mind is a weird thing and can play tricks on you. I would know that more than most. At first, I took what I was seeing at face value, but when I thought more about it, I wondered if it could be a product of my mental illness. I’d never had visual hallucinations before and I’d been taking my medicine.

Could I really be seeing this? I thought.

Cautiously, I took a few steps forward in the cold dark corridor.

As if on cue, the nurse emerged from the door at the end of the long hallway. This time, however, she turned and faced towards me, staring blankly. Her piercing dark eyes gazed into me. This made my skin crawl.

The woman’s uniform was a white dress, shoes, and hat. Her skin was ghostly pale, her short hair was dark brunette. She looked at me for quite a while before a wicked smile began to slowly appear on her face. We both stood transfixed staring at one another for a moment. Something about the way she was looking at me was very sinister and intimidating.

She appeared to be holding an odd shiny silver medical instrument in her hand but I couldn't see what it was.

The nurse then began walking towards me.

In a panic, I ran back into my room and slammed the door.

I stayed awake all night. There was no way I was sleeping after that. I waited for daylight. In the morning I nervously peered out the door but saw nothing. It took hours to gain the courage to investigate the hallway in the daylight only to find absolutely nothing. No one was there.

After that horrible night, I started storing snacks in my room to avoid the empty hallways where I saw the nurse. I still wasn’t sure what she was. Given the history of the building, I thought she might be a ghost, but with my recent mental health crisis there’s no way I could be sure.

One morning, I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom mirror, trying not to think about what I’d been going through. I suddenly got the uncomfortable feeling that I was being watched. In the mirror, I saw the haunting figure gradually appear behind me out of nothing. With sudden alarm, I dropped my toothbrush and turned around to look, but she was gone.

That’s when I became really convinced that what I was seeing was a spirit of some kind, but that conviction was hard to hold on to as the days went by. I couldn’t trust my own mind to be giving me accurate information on what I was seeing. I just didn’t know if this was part of my condition somehow worsening or not. I wasn’t sure which answer was more frightening, that my illness now resulted in vivid hallucinations or that an asylum spirit was pursuing me.

Then I started seeing her during the daytime more and more. Sometimes it’d be just for a moment or out of the corner of my eye. Other times I’d see the ghostly nurse going in and out of rooms doing her busywork. She always seemed to catch me off guard. I started closing all the doors but somehow I’d find them inexplicably open again.

The door physically moved. That couldn’t be the result of a mental health issue, I thought.

Then again, maybe I didn’t actually close those doors, but just tricked myself into believing I did.

Sometimes late at night when I was getting ready for bed, I’d hear the sound of her nurse shoes walking on the tile flooring out in the hallway. I’d shutter as she drew closer and closer. If she was a spirit, I wondered what she wanted from me.

After weeks of being plagued by her mysterious and threatening presence, I decided I had to see my doctor and tell him about this. I told him that I’d been experiencing what I believed to be visual hallucinations. He increased the dosage of my medication in hopes that that would help.

It didn’t. I continued to see the ghostly woman in the hallways or throughout the building as I tried to focus on my daily life. I’d see her again and again. She just wouldn’t go away. Nothing could make her leave. I’d yell out to her in empty rooms, asking her what she wanted from me or pleading with her to please stop and leave me alone in peace. She made no reply.

Then one night, as I was sleeping, I grew restless and began to toss and turn. Suddenly, I found myself awake in the dark room. My eyes strained in the darkness until I could make out what I was seeing. My bedroom door, which I had locked, was wide open.

The nurse was standing at the foot of my bed looking at me as if I was a patient in her care.

Terrified, I screamed, threw the blankets off of me, and ran out of the room.

I made my way alone through the chilly hallways to the kitchen and flicked the light on. I stayed in the kitchen all night, guarding the door and looking around the room nervously waiting for her to spontaneously appear somewhere.

I knew I locked that door. With my dosage already increased, any notion that this was a product of my mental illness went right out the window for me. I needed to research the property more to see if there was any way to figure out what I was dealing with.

I knew my grandfather had a binder of information he’d collected on the old asylum. He’d mentioned it to me before, I just needed to find it. I spent the day digging through storage until I finally uncovered it in an old tote at the very bottom of a stack of cardboard boxes.

The binder was full of newspaper clippings and documents about the place, from the time it was being built until the time it was closed down and sold. There were even letters and correspondence between staff within its pages. I learned about the grizzly history of the asylum and about the poor treatment and dehumanization of the patients there.

In order to calm patients down sometimes they’d put them in “ice baths” which were tubs filled with ice to get them to calm down. They also did electro-shock therapy on supposedly unruly patients.

But the worst of all was the many horrific Transorbital Lobotomies which were done with tools resembling an ice pick and hammer.

Lobotomies were once considered a helpful form of treatment for various mental illnesses including schizophrenia, OCD, depression, anxiety, and violent outbursts. Sometimes the patient’s relatives just simply didn’t want to deal with them for whatever reason and so they had them committed or lobotomized. Anyone deemed “abnormal” was at risk. Sometimes this was an easy way for a husband to get rid of his former wife.

The procedure essentially resulted in permanent brain damage to the prefrontal cortex and left the patient as a zombified shell of their former self.

A steel ice pick was stabbed just below the eyelid into the thin bone inside the eye socket. The end of the long silver ice pick would then be struck with a small medical hammer until the pick cut into the brain tissue. The pick was then moved around from side to side until it severed the frontal lobe’s connection to the thalamus. Their personality, their self, and their ability to make rational decisions were forever destroyed.

Sometimes the patients were wide awake during these procedures and sometimes they died from brain bleeding.

The patients were left with vacant expressions and severely blunted or reduced emotions. The doctors found them to be more “obedient” and claimed to have fewer issues from them. Lobotomies continued in the medical field until around the late 1960s.

It was perhaps the worst thing you could do to someone, like killing them but without killing them.

I soon learned there was a nurse there who was legendary for the amount of lobotomies she’d given. Her name was Amelia and if the letters are to be believed she was not the nicest of people. I was horrified when I turned the page and was met with a photo of the very specter that’d been haunting me, standing outside on the building's front steps with the other nurses. Looking into her dark hateful eyes, I was sure it was her, every detail matched. The spirit I’d encountered was the cruel nurse Amelia who worked here in the early part of the 20th century.

Not wanting to be alone or in the building at all after reading that, I asked a close friend of mine if I could come over to her place. I explained some of what I was going through to the extent that I could without seeming too off-kilter. Being a true friend, she agreed that I could stay over for tonight so I wouldn’t be so frightened. I wondered how expensive a long hotel stay would be until I could find somewhere else to live.

I arrived at her house and we talked in the living room for a while. I showed her the binder and told her about what I was experiencing. It was nice to have someone to talk to and she made me feel much more comfortable. Getting out of that depressing asylum certainly put me in better spirits as well. Saying all of the story out loud to another person, I began to doubt myself a bit. It all sounded too unbelievable to be true.

Suddenly, my friend asked, “Do you hear that?”

I listened closely.

We both then heard the sound of shoes on hard tiling. It was coming from the hallway leading to my friend’s bedroom. She got up to investigate and I cautiously followed close behind her.

Staring down the hallway we both saw the ghostly figure of a dark-haired nurse.

“You see what I see, right?” I asked.

My friend, unable to form words, nodded.

In the nurse’s hands, she held a silver ice pick and hammer.

Nurse Amelia just looked at me and smiled a foreboding smile.

In that moment I saw that my worst fears were justified and there was no longer any ambiguity.

I knew then what her intentions were for me, and I knew that I wouldn’t be rid of her. She must’ve overheard me mention something about my diagnosis while I was living in the former asylum. She knew about my condition, and she intended to use her tools to fix it, the old-fashioned way.

Written by Never You Mind Who
Content is available under CC BY-SA