Exploring the Abandoned London Asylum for the Insane
For almost 145 years mental health care had been offered on the grounds of the Insane Asylum known as the London Asylum for the Insane location. It began with the opening of the London Asylum for the Insane in 1870 when the location was considered outside London city limits.
The Highbury site was home to the London Asylum for the Insane (opened 1870), which was renamed Ontario Hospital London in 1932, then The London Psychiatric Hospital (opened in 1968) and finally renamed: Regional Mental Health Care London in 2001.
In 1963, demolition began on the Ontario Hospital London, formerly the London Asylum for the Insane, and soon after construction began on a new mental health facility – the London Psychiatric Hospital (LPH). During the 1960s to late 1990s the hospital was still a regional resource and people came from all over Southwestern Ontario to receive care. It was also during this time that many changes to mental health care were developed, including new therapies, programs and advancement
To say this abandoned Insane Asylum was creepy would be a huge understatement. Every floor, every wing is pitch black, the windows are all boarded up and the only light comes from small air vents that help circulate fresh air throughout.
The tales of the types of procedures performed in this Insane Asylum are shocking, and knowing that this building was in use during some of the darkest days of Psychiatric care just makes your mind wander – and wonder what went on in these halls and rooms.
At the time, the main Physician and Superintendent of this insane asylum thought that he could cure female patients of their mental issues through gynecological surgery.
It was a widely accepted notion that disease in one part of the body was capable of producing symptoms in a distant region, I’ll let you all figure out the rest!
A memory shared by a former employee of this now abandoned Insane Asylum:
When asked if he had observed any treatments, (Name) recalled taking male patients for Electroconvulsive Therapy, which was one of his duties as tenant staff. He alludes to one of the hospital’s major challenges, which was having enough staff to manage the volume of patients:
“You’d take one ward at a time, ten people or so. By the time the next guy was ready, he was looking and seeing the guy before him convulsing.”
He also mentioned that Dr. (Name) had ECT done on himself to prove the safety of the treatment and so he was aware of what the treatment felt like.
This Insane Asylum began using Electo-Convulsive Therapy in 1944.
Shock treatments were administered up to three times a week, and could take place over several weeks. The dangers associated with shock therapy included fractured bones from the convulsions, and brain damage.
Electroconvulsive therapy was used on patients suffering from depression, catatonic or manic excitement, paranoid reactions, hebephrenics, and schizophrenia.
Believing that there was a connection between damaged or misplaced female reproductive organs and mental insanity, the superintendent at this Insane Asylum ultimately performed over 200 surgeries on mentally insane female patients…some of these surgeries may have happened inside the operating room on the other side of this door.
Of the 106 surgeries performed between 1895 and 1898 the superintendent claimed that 71 patients, “either recovered their mental health or this was improved”
A list of some of the surgeries performed:
– 16 hysterectomies
– 12 removals of diseased ovaries and tubes
– 22 operations involving the replacing and retaining of the uterus in the normal position
– 30 operations on the cervix
– 21 minor uterine diseases
– 8 operations for vaginal lesions
All in the name of mental health….
Many doctors were publicly skeptical about the success of the superintendents surgeries, claiming that insanity could not simply be cured with a surgical procedure.
After the Doctor’s death, gynaecological surgeries performed at the Asylum decreased dramatically.