Wednesday, June 4, 2008

As stated in a previous post, The Ridges closed in 1993. But something occurred in December, 1978, that sealed the fate of the hospital as a place that would be haunted by spirits.

Margaret Schilling was a patient at the Athens Asylum, for what I could not find out, but the most memorable thing about her was her death. She "mysteriously" disappeared, or wandered off, depending on who you ask, and a search party was sent out to find her. There was no trace of Margaret.

Six weeks later, a custodian found Margaret's body in a vacated section of the hospital ward. The body was completely decomposed, but something unusual remained: a perfect, stain outline of her body. 

There are many rumors surrounding Margaret's death. It was revealed by the asylum that she was a low-level patient, and was allowed to wander the grounds at her leisure. There is also a rumor that she was having an affair with an attendant and found herself pregnant, and the attendant locked her up there to take care of the problem. Whichever you believe, the phenomenon of the body stain itself was enough to scare people.

On my tour, the guide let us know that modern science has determined that it is more of a photograph negative than a stain. As you can see in my photos, there are windows in front of the stain. As her body decomposed, the fluids were constantly passed over and over again by the sunlight from the windows, developing a photograph of sorts.

The biggest reason why mystery continues to surround Margaret, is in part due to the Fox episode I linked to in my first post. The network developed a rumor that a student once touched the body stain, claimed Margaret's spirit had followed her home, and then later committed suicide in her residence at Wilson Hall.

Wilson Hall was built in 1965, and was previously called West Green building #5. And West Green also happens to be the closest residence green to The Ridges. But do the math, and a simple newspaper archive search, and it is plain to see this fabricated story is just that: a phony. 

Wilson Hall was built before Margaret Schilling even disappeared. That's O.K., but do the math. Margaret did not disappear until December 1978, 13 years after Wilson Hall was built. But that still makes it possible for the body stain to be touched and taken back with the girl. Oh, but wait again: did The Ridges allow tours while patients still occupied the building? No, they did not. So the suicide of the Wilson Hall resident must have occurred sometime between 1993, when The Ridges closed, and 2000, when tours were no longer allowed. 

Don't you think a story like that would have made statewide, if not national, headlines at the time? I don't recall hearing anything like that on the news; and both the Athens News and the Athens Messenger have no records of a student death occurring in Wilson Hall during that period.

A journalist at The Post came to the same conclusions as me about Margaret and the Wilson Hall suicide. In this report, there is reference to claims that Wilson Hall is haunted based on reports by girls living in Wilson Hall, one of who was the "victim" of Margaret's haunting and supposedly died...Except the interview and article were published before Margaret's disappearance.

An interview and article was done by The Athens News with R.J. Abraham, who had been interviewed by the Fox production company for the show, and he was disappointed with the results of the show, because he, like me, feels that The Ridges were a place of beauty, not of fright.

So, fact: Margaret Schilling did die at The Ridges and did leave a body stain.

Not a fact: A girl committed suicide in Wilson Hall after touching the body stain. 

My next post will examine the pentagon theory of Athens, Ohio. It is said that there are five cemeteries surrounding Athens, and connecting the lines creates a pentagon-like shape, making Athens a hotbed of spiritual activity. Is this true? Read my next post!

**I recently created a photo album if you are interested in seeing all of my pictures from my tour of The Ridges**

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Correction and Transparency

I apologize that my first link did not work. I have tried this again, so hopefully the real Ridges pictures are here. Thank you for your comments alerting me to the fact that it did not work correctly.

Secondly, I have been asked how I was granted entrance into The Ridges. I am an Honors Tutorial College student here at Ohio University. During fall quarter of every freshman year, the incoming class has to take a seminar. Our seminar was taught by Dean Fidler and Assistant Dean Hodson, and focused on The Ridges and Athens County History. We read a novel titled Madhouse: A Tragic Tale of Megalomania and Modern Medicine. While this novel did not focus on The Ridges, it did focus on a similar asylum and similar treatment practices. At times it was a slow read, but still very fascinating and I recommend it if you are interested in learning more about the doctors involved with leading lobotomies on patients. But I digress...

At the end of the seminar, the deans had arranged for the class to take a special, one-time offered trip in and throughout The Ridges. I know that they had to pull a lot of strings to do so, because of all the problems previously caused by students entering The Ridges. For me, this was the fall of 2006. So, most of these pictures are a little over a year old (except the first picture of the first post, which I just took 2 weeks ago). 

As promised, my next post will focus on the body stain, and expunge the rumor of the Wilson Hall "suspicious death". I just wanted to clear up any confusions or possible conflicts of interest.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

An Introduction to The Ridges

In 1867 the Ohio Legislature created a commission to find a suitable site for an asylum in south-eastern Ohio. Athens, Ohio was found to be that suitable site. Construction began on a Kirkbride building, and the Athens Lunatic Asylum opened on January 9, 1874.

Kirkbride buildings are relics of an obsolete therapuetic method known as Moral Treatment. Moral treatment was a popular psychiatric treatment in the early half of the nineteenth century when asylums, following the example of the York Retreat in England, began to offer humane care to the mentally ill. Patients had a close personal relationship with the hospital staff, positive behavior was rewarded, and patients were expected to exercise self-control. Moral treatment was marked 
by a well-ordered daily routine in which patients followed a therapuetic regiment of work and leisure activities. Moral treatment is certainly more complex, and if you are interested in learning more about it see this article from the Medical Library Association.

The main building of The Ridges, seen at the top of the post, was built in Kirkbride style to give an ideal sanctuary for the mentally ill and to have them actively participate in their recovery. By the turn of the twentieth century, orchards and farmlands were maintained on the property by hospital employees and patients, making the hospital nearly self-sufficient.

The main building also had 544 patient rooms, and when it first opened it only housed around 200 patients. The patients with the most self-control participated in recreational activities like boating, painting, dances, and picnics. Church services were also offered in the asylum chapel building. Most of the nurses who worked at the hospital also lived there in order to provide better 24 hour care for the patients. I have provided original pictures of the buildings and even some originals of patients and nurses.

Many people began to have confidence in the way that loved ones were being treated in the asylum, and were approving of the moral treatment method. Unfortunately, this led to many new patients which created an overcrowding in the hospital. The patient records show an increase from the original 200 hundred patients to nearly 2000 patients by the early 1900s. Family members could have a loved one committed from something as simple as punishment for stealing, postpartum depression in women, or for other severe cases like bipolar disorder. Due to the overcrowding, and lack of staff increases, the quality of the treatments began to decline. 

Another negative influence on the asylum at the time was the invention of new and "better" treatments for patients developed by the leading psychiatric doctors of the early to mid 1900s. These treatments included water treatments, shock therapy, and the infamous lobotomy. 

The water treatments consisted of patients being thrust into ice cold water for extended periods of time. Some were wrapped and restrained by sheets that had been soaked in the ice water, too. The shock therapy, also known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT, was used to induce a seizure in a patient for therapeutic effect. Most patients were anesthetized, but included many negative effects, including amnesia. Most treatments were delivered three times a week for 8-12 treatments. However, sometimes shock therapy was used as a punishment for mental patients who were deemed to have "behavioral problems". Finally, a lobotomy was usually performed by a specialist doctor who would travel from mental hospital to mental hospital, "curing" as many patients as he could during his visit. There are also two types of lobotomies: the original open-skull surgery, and the trans-orbital lobotomy. In the original lobotomy, patients had their skulls opened and doctors separated their neural passageways. Many patients died while on the table, but the ones who survived did show signs of improvement. The main theory was that this caused patients to forget normal things, like how to sit, and therefore also caused them to forget their psychiatric tendencies. The trans-orbital lobotomy was invented by Dr. Walter Freeman in the 1950s, and used electric shock to make patients unconscious, and then used an ice pick-like tool to enter the brain through tear-ducts in the eyes. Once the pick had been hammered into the proper place in the brain, it was moved back and forth to severe neuron receptors. While many patients with sever symptoms showed improvement, many patients had no improvements but suffered severe complications, and of course, some operations resulted in death.

It was not until the 1960s that humane treatments began reappearing in asylums. The lobotomy was declared barbaric, and a new wave of psychotropic drugs became the number one method of dealing with mental illness. Also, different illnesses received specialized care, instead of one method of treatment for all mental ailments. 

The final patients of the Athens Center for Mental Health left in 1993, but not without leaving their mark. These are pictures of the windowsills, made of sandstone, and some patients used their fingernails and other odd objects to carve into them. The buildings were left vacant for several years until Ohio University bought them and renovated some into museums, office space and classrooms. 

With all of the patients who went through the system, and for some, the surgeries and treatments they participated in, it is no wonder that speculation about their souls lingering is abundant. So much so that students at OU
toured the asylum every Halloween up until 2000. Also, The Ridges landed a starring role on the Fox TV show "Scariest Places on Earth". Part 1 and 2 can be seen on You Tube. 

My next posts will investigate some of the rumors seen in the "Scariest Places on Earth" tape. The very next post will investigate the body stain and the link, if any, to the strange suicide in Wilson Hall. The next post will investigate the theory of the pentagram of cemeteries. If you found one of the other rumors more interesting, leave me a comment and I will add that to my investigations as well. For a very dramatized video that will put you in the mood for my next posts.