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Astounding Disclosures! Three Years In A Mad House
In 1851, a former patient at the Maine Insane Hospital published a scathing attack on his treatment by the institutionís attendants and doctors. Isaac Hunt describes all sorts of abuses and mistreatment. His account makes people wonder whether or not the asylum offered conditions better than those uncovered in local almshouses and jails by the investigative reports of Dorothea Dix. Out of Huntís complaints came an investigation by the Maine Legislature into conditions at the asylum. The testimony of three witnesses is included here. As Hunt was writing his exposť, a fire, partially described here, destroyed the institution in Augusta, Maine, with the deaths of 27 patients, many confined and unable to escape, as well as one attendant. This is an autobiographical voice apparently impaired by his disability, but it is valuable evidence on what life could be like in one the institutions favored by Dix.
MARY JANE WHITNEY called and sworn. I have been employed in Hospital four years -- absent about a year. I have seen Hannah Dow pinch patients ears -- patients told Dr. Bates: Hannah denied it. Dr. Bates sometimes loses his temper. Tainted meat quite frequently served up. Poorest food to lower gallery. Attendants did not eat it.
MRS. JANETTE HUSSEY called and sworn. I have baked in Hospital two years, 1846 and 1847. Dr Bates told Adams if I told any thing I should be discharged. Capt. Coggins' wife was choked by Betsy Parsons, then attendant, now supervisoress. She choked her until she turned purple, she showed temper. I have known tainted meat to be given to the patients.
MISS CHARITY TIBBETTS called and sworn. I assisted Betsy Parsons to take Mrs. Herbert down on the floor. Mrs. Parsons choked her, took her by the hair, and pounded her head on the floor severely. In the summer time about one third of the meat not fit to eat. Poorest sent to the cottage and lower gallery. Springer, a patient, was kicked by Gay because he did not work. Springer said he was sick. Choking done oftener than necessary.
MISS MEHITABLE TIBBETTS called and sworn. In 1847 I worked in the kitchen ten months, afterwards an attendant four or five months. First season I worked there, an attendant, Mary Ann Fowler, wanted me to assist in removing a patient, -- said she could not get her out of the room. After I got there she choked her. I told her if she choked her she must handle her alone. She choked her and pushed her in. She choked her out of revenge. No need of it. Poorest food sent to lower gallery and cottage. Tainted meat served to patients. Pudding made of mouldy bread.
WILMOT J. HUSSEY called and sworn. I have worked in Hospital nearly two years and a half. Went there in l846. I was carpenter. Last fall when we were repairing a drain, Gay and McGaffy were with the patients. Crowley was digging and refused to work. Gay twitched him, and shook him. Gay left Crowley -- Crowley drew the spade on McGaffy who turned round, caught him by the collar, twitched him down on his side and jumped on him, his knee coming under his ear so that I heard his neck snap. Kicked him ten or a dozen times. Crowley was quiet and offered no resistance. I think there was no necessity of striking him. Crowley had a seaton in his neck and was not able to work. McGaffy was a good deal excited and angry. A year ago last July Mr. Turner sent Potter out with Springer, a patient, to work haying. There were several others. Potter gave Springer tobacco, no doubt -- said he did. Went to field, -- when beyond the pump he would not work. Potter took him to the pump and pumped on him sometime -- say half a barrel. Dragged him off, bound him hand and foot. In a few minutes I went off and left them. I saw Hersey, an attendant, hold Frank Hart down and get on to him five or ten minutes, and choke him for singing. I was employed as repairer. I have known floors of Lodge and Cottage so hot I could not stand on them with my boots on. Might be kept comfortable with care. I have heard Bartlet say he would "stump them to turn him out." After Mr. Hunt began to work, and since, I have considered him a sane man.
AMBROSE WHITNEY called and sworn. I am baker in Hospital. Came one year ago last February. Standing guard at window, I saw Hersey and George Dennet at the other end of the gallery. Hersey seized him and threw him down, and kicked him two or three times after he was down. The patient was a demented man, and laid quiet after he was down. He could not get out if he had passed the door.
CYRUS GILMAN called and sworn. I was an attendant in lower gallery, in December and January, three years ago last winter. I was there when Eastman died. I saw his body after death. I do not know whether he was burnt or not. I did not see him roasting. He was naked. The lodge might have been made hot enough to roast a man. With care it could be properly heated. I think Eastman did not live 48 hours after he was taken out. He had wristers on, and could not get up. Bartlett said he got cast as Capt. Shaw did, and got burnt. I told Weeks, the superior that he ought to have clothes on, and not lay on hay or straw, and have muffs on. He might have been kept from tearing his clothes as well as others. Eastman might have been kept more comfortable. A human being ought not to have been kept as he was. Capt. Shaw was very much as Eastman was. I went to Weeks and interfered, and had Capt. Shaw taken into the house and clothes put on him, and muffs, and when I left he had very much improved. Bartlett told me I was not to tell anything out of the institution what transpired in it.
ESTHER GILPATRICK called and sworn. I have been a patient under Dr Bates. Last time 14 months, left 10 weeks ago tomorrow. Two or three patients irritated me, and Dr. Bates took hold of my hands. He was in a passion. He hurt my wrists so that they turned black and blue. I begged him to let me go. He sent me to the cottage and I took cold, and did not get over it for six weeks. I was sick when I was carried to cottage. I was not insane, I was angry. I have seen Mary Bean pull Mrs. Herbert's hair and ears, and pound her on the back. I have seen Mary Bean more crazy from anger, than any of the patients. I do not know of any instances, where showering has been used as a punishment.