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This photo below is posted in my gallery on Deviantart. This is a corner of the actual Boneski building. The top floor was the residential rehab section. This particular part would have been the females' quarters. The bottom floor held the detox unit. It would have featured a heavy steel screen over the windows.
Seen in the background (behind the railing) is the new administration building. Taken in 1999, it was only 3 years after the official closing of the hospital complex.
The time spent in detox was horrible. We were constantly being monitored, and evaluated. Mostly to see if those fresh off the streets are so far gone that we'll break into the DTs, or convulsions, vomiting, etc.
My current roommate/ex- came to visit me in the first few days. He brought reading materials: books, Rolling Stone and Playboy. Pornos were contraband.
He recalls that I came out in my jammies, and those stupid foam slippers. My hair was mussed up, as they didn't allow combs down there. I was long over due for a haircut. He would tell me later that with all of that, I really did look quite insane.
A week later, I was approved to go upstairs to the residential rehab. I wasn't as bad as many who are admitted into detox. Alot of guys actually do need the time to dry-out, simple to survive.
One of the first things that they do is assign a room, and read the rules. You were assigned your colour group. This is the group that you attend all your meetings with, and one is supposed to be honest and open with them. I never developed those feelings of comraderie with them.
We were also reminded the reason why we were there (court-ordered), and told how important that it is that we do well. Failure from there would mean, as it did for many, the very real possibility of a trip to jail. It was literally the last stop for most of us.
I was reminded that I had to serve my 90 days. That was, at that point, the longest term that anyone was given by the court. To be sure, there was only a SMALL handfull of the 30-or so of us, who had to do that long. The average person had to serve 45 days.
I was not allowed to wear my clothes that I came in with. Early on, i was taken with a small group over to the Lodge building, to an outpost of the Salvation Army. This was called "The Nook." These donated clothes were the only thing we were allowed to wear.
If you've never availed yourself of the opportunity to obtain clothes from the Salvation Army, I'd strongly recommend not depriving yourself of this most vivid experience.
Since we were all outfitted with the "Nook Look" I didn't feel too funny; but the fact is that being a big person, nothing really, truly fit. I felt odd, just being there, trying to come to terms with sobriety, and living a straight life, away from home, living with strangers, and on top of it being totally removed from almost all things that were comforting.
Suffice to say, I had a hard time adjusting.
Anybody who's ever been to an A.A., or N.A. meeting knows what happens when one gathers together a bunch of sick-ass addicts. Tempers flair. Everyone is edgy, raw, loosly bundled nerves. Peoples' true personalities bleed through, like the rust underneath the flaking chrome of a untreated bumper.
I certainly was no exception.
Part of the intention of rehab is to put the "client" into unfamiliar surroundings. Another part is to pressure him to get his feelings flowing. Another part is to challenge one so that he can know his boundries, and limitations. At that point, ideally, one's supposed to ask for help, or at least acknowledge that the First Step is correct, that one is powerless.
One of the frirst things that i was told by one of the other clients is that I needed to "accept things." I was resentful of this, of him talking to me like that, saying that. He didn't know me. He wasn't part of staff, so he shouldn't tell me what I need.
Another aspect of the rehab is that we're supposed to challenge each other. That is the purpose, allegedly, of the colour group. To challenge one another to better ourselves, and face our true nature. At that point, I didn't feel like challenging myself, or anyone else, much less have anyone challenge me. I simply wanted to "do my time" and get out.
After a week in the rehab, clients were allowed to start participating in recreation time. I tried to explain that I was healthy, and that I'd been active out on the streets, but it didn't matter. Rules were rules.
The first rec thing that I remember was softball. Often, our rec time was dedicated to running a circuit around the perimeter of the Boneski building. I believe one full lap was an eighth of a mile. Mostly I would just walk, and talk with one or another of the females there. When asked why i wasn't running, i'd complain of sore feet due to my flat feet.
One of the rec sessions we were escorted through the tunnels to the (former) staff clubhouse. That was an interesting experience in itself. The tunnels are long, extremely long, and dank, and dark.
It is these tunnels, like those of many other similar asylums, that have given rise to many rumours, seemingly from the moment they became ensnaredd in in the public consciousness. It's not difficult to believe that the imagination is the only limit to the public's perception of what happened in those tunnels.
During the walk through that dark, deserted place, I was told that they stretched out to the far reaches of the grounds. A map of the grounds shows the tunnelling system underneath about one-third of the buildings, not extending to the "newer ones"--those built in the late 40s or later.
Walking thru the belly of that menacing underground serpent, with it's tentacles sprawling an eternity of steps, we had no problems believing that they touched every building on the grounds.
Contrary to popular belief, the main reason for the tunnels was not to convey inmates during the rainy and snowy weather. They were designed entirely with the purpose of containment; to bring inmates from one building to another, ncluding the chapel, without running the risk their escaping.
In our case it was indeed true that we were being escorted through them to keep us dry.
We came upon a huge steel door, with a bank safe-like locking mechanism on it. Behind, was a store house of canned goods in amount long enough to last the residents of the building directly overhead about 3 months. This was one of the fall-out shelters spread around the grounds.
I wouldn't say there was a point where it felt things were going smoothly.
It was during one of these lapping sesions that this kid Kevin f*cked with me. As I was walking with one of the ladies that I really liked talking to, he goes to run and jump inbetween us. I see him out of the corner of my eye, and give him a good elbow as he's plowing through. Even though he instigated this, I still got in trouble because I was bigger physically. I had to apologize to this prick, after being called into "conference" with him and one of the staff.
Things started going even more sour with him after he complained to staff that someone put bleach in his clothes. He insinuated that it was me. Of course it wasn't, cause I didn't want anything to do with this little creep. I was questioned by staff. Since they couldn't prove it (can't prove something that isn't true), i was let off with a verbal warning.
My friend Mike told me, once i was discharged, that in one of the groups he confessed to doing it himself.
The second "incident" that put me "over the top" was during a nighttime goofing-around session with one of my roommates. This guy was my next roommate, after the first of the original two left. I get to know him pretty well. This guy said someything goofy, and I said I was going to "slap his pee-pee."
The new roommate, who'd been there all of three days told staff that I sexually harrassed him.
The next day, I was asked to leave.
It was that day which was the day after my sister's wedding. She was really mad, cause they wouldn't let me attend her wedding. I was mad too. That definitely was not fair.
As far as I'm concerned, George (his real name) was a f*ck. And a fake. And if there's any justice in this world, he's still an addict.
I completed 60 out of the 90 days I was supposed to do.
As I was leaving the grounds, I couldn't help but take one good, last look at all the incredible, crumbling, decaying architecture of the complex. I thought to myself that I was going to come back, and explore at depth these buildings.
Two days later I did come back to one of the meetings.
The nightly meetings were actually open meeetings, and the public was welcomed to join. In fact, they were encouraged to join, especially if the person had more than 90 days sobriety. I had 62 days at that point, but I came back anyway. I'd just got a haircut. I wanted to talk with my friend Mike, and the few others that I'd made there. I wanted them to see that I was well, and wouldn't be discouraged in my recovery, despite what occurred only days before.
I think I lasted another month before "going back out."
Things happened, and I was arrested again, this time for stealing something very large. I landed in jail. about 8 months later.
Fast-forward to 1999. Driving past the Hospital, seeing it closed, I took a side trip onto the grounds. I snapped a bunch of pictures of Boneski, and brought them home. I decided I was going to create a movie about Boneski, and my stay, and my attempt at rehabilitation.
I went back a half-dozen times with and without R.~, the person who visited me only scant few days into detox. We snapped hundreds of pictures of the grounds. At that point, we were allowed to be on the grounds if we didn't go into the buildings, or in any way vandalize them.
I finished the 12 minute movie about my stay at Boneski, using those stills, and voice-overs from people who were in that, or another rehab, or the Hospital part. It showed in 1999 at the annual CPA art show, at the Real Art Ways, in Hartford.
I look at the pictures I've taken of the exterior, of the places I've been on the Hospital grounds. I see the interior, where I haven't been. I look at all the brick, and mortar, and steel, and mesh, used to create these monuments to a time in recent history when people were labled: imbaciles, morons, dumb, insane, and can't help but wonder if it's not just better to tear them all down. Would it not be better for humanity if these monstrosities were razed, and completely destroyed? Are we better-off ridding ourselves of those demons of our past, of a dark and unenlightened age? By destroying them, wouldn't it free us of that terrible tyranny of that legacy?
Perhaps so, if that is the result from such actions.
However, where does that leave us? It seems that here in America, The United States of Amnesia, we would prefer to trade our past for a false future. It seems that perhaps it's not just America, the "first world", but humanity itself is capable of inflicting terrible pain, hurt, and torture upon ourselves. By destroying the primative remnants of that time in psychiatric history where electroshock, and trepanning were commonplace, and considered "good medicine", we only allow ourselves the excuse to forget from where we've come.
By destroying those mediaeval monuments to our hubris, and arrogance, we do not stop torture. Human beings are still being tortured by the same civilization that approved of eugenics and labotomies. By levelling the last standing vestage of those barbaric times, we are condemning ourselves to repeat those same atrocities against our brothers and sisters. We are condemning ourselves to cultural suicide, so that the only element left standing is that which agrees with the status quo, a brutal, torturous, twisted, godless spirit.
Once Fred Neitszche declared God is Dead, f*ck became the most important word in the English languag
This post was edited by zen on Aug 26, 2006.
Im a young writer that has always been deeply interested in the state hospital. Right now I am writing a novel about schizophrenia and its development in young males, where eventually my character will be court ordered to be admitted there. (takes place in the early 90's) I came across your blog looking for clients & known doctors to have been there, & I have to say your articles alone give me a real good insight to how it was there. Its going to help my story a lot, so much that i had to create this account just to thank you. If you have anymore stories or info, please post them, I love reading them.
I will be glad to give you any information and insight as I'm able. Thank you for creating an account, just so you can gather information--and thank you for being honest as to what you're looking for.
I'll send you a note with my email addy so I can answer any specific questions you may have in re: the (former) N.S.H.
That said, simply in reply to what you've just posted I'll say this: I was admitted to Boneski (the rehab section) in 1991. By then, much of the hospital was closed down. Much of the hospital campus was older buildings (build between 1906 and 194-something), and were in bad repair then.
As I write this missive, the state is in the process of tearing down the buildings to make way for God-alone knows what--some kind of mixed use site.
In 1991-ish, the only buildings open were Kettle, Boneski Rehab (Gallup), Seymour, and Lodge, as far as I know.
Once Fred Neitszche declared God is Dead, f*ck became the most important word in the English languag