February 20, 1986
Interesting article I found today that questions the connection between a satanic cult at the Pennhurst Center with a brutal sexual assault that occurred at the Embreeville Center.
State police denied that they were looking into a possible connection between the incident and Satanic cult activities that a Pennhurst official said took place among a few employees at nearby Pennhurst Center, also a state institution for the mentally retarded.
Dr. James C. Hirst, former chief of psychology and human-rights advocate at Pennhurst Center, said in an interview yesterday that police confirmed that ritualistic cult activities had taken place at Pennhurst several years ago, but he said no charges were ever brought in connection with them.
Psychiatric Hospital No. 14 was a locked facility that housed people with schizophrenia, mental retardation and drug and alcohol addiction. Around half of them took powerful antipsychotic medications at bedtime to help them sleep, officials said. Irina Gumennaya, a spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee, said investigators believed the fire started on a sofa, perhaps by a recovering addict who smoked cigarettes surreptitiously. A nurse woke and tried to evacuate the patients, but was able to lead only one woman, who had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, to safety. Another patient left on his own. The remaining 38 died of burns or carbon monoxide poisoning, many still in their beds. Among them, 11 had no known relatives, making DNA identification difficult, said Veronika Skvortsova, Russia’s health minister.
1712 Sterigere Street and 1732 Sterigere Street are owned by the Department of Public Welfare.
The Public Welfare agency determined that the buildings are “no longer necessary to conduct business at the State Hospital.” These two are among 13 properties proposed in the Commonwealth’s 2013 Real Estate Disposition Plan. If approved by the governor, attorney general and Legislature, the properties would be sold in competitive sealed bids or at public auction. Since 2011, the state has sold 36 properties, saving $5 million in operating expenses and bringing in about $30 million in revenue, according to the state Department of General Services.
Steven Chrzanowski from Gloucester City, New Jersey filed a federal complaint at the US District Court in Philadelphia on May 21st against the operators of Pennhurst Asylum for a leg injury he sustained on October 9th 2011. He claims two employees working “jumped onto or otherwise abruptly caused a hospital bed to strike the plaintiff in his left knee.”
Chrzanowski suffered a posterior horn medial meniscus tear, patellofemoral chondrosis, and infrapateller neuroma, which caused the plaintiff to have to undergo surgery.
Chrzanowski seeks compensatory damages in excess of $75,000.
Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville, Georgia is closing by the end of the year.
The United States Department of Justice along with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Georgia Department of Community Health entered into a settlement that required the state to transition individuals from state hospitals into community-based settings of their choice. Officials say they will work with contract providers to give the almost 600 employees priority when selecting new jobs.
On Thursday, forty volunteers cleaned up the cemetery at the Frankfort State Hospital and School or formerly known as the Kentucky Institution for Feeble Minded Children.
Jeff Edwards, federal program coordinator with Kentucky Protection and Advocacy, said the event was about remembrance more than anything. That’s because most people don’t know about those who are buried in the cemetery, which had been mostly abandoned. The volunteers were members of several groups, including the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities.
“This is a piece of Kentucky history that no one remembers,” he said. “We know very little about the people who lived here.”
Edwards said 371 of the 411 graves are marked as “unknown” at the cemetery, which is at the intersection of Glenns Creek Road and Cold Harbor Drive.
The hospital and school, formally known as the Kentucky Institute for the Feeble-Minded, opened in 1860 as a place for the disabled. Edwards said the Legislative Research Commission had heard reports of horrible conditions and initiated reforms. Thousands of Kentuckians had stayed there before it closed in 1972.
Mark Newton, of Campbellsville, lived in the institution when he was about 12 years old. He does not have fond memories of the facility. Newton said living there was “not fun at all.” He was in one of the first groups taken out of the home when it was closed.
Heather Bava, who helps Newton with budgeting and grocery shopping, became involved with the cleanup through Newton, but said the cleanup was important because it honored the dead. Bava said it could have easily been Newton who ended up in one of the graves.
“They had a horrible, horrible life,” she said. “It’s really sad to think people were treated this way.”
Christina Bowman, of McKee, also became involved with the event through a woman she helps daily.
“I know if it was me personally, I’d want someone to come out here and clean my grave for me and try to remember me,” she said.
Harry Gardiner wrote about his experience visiting Medfield State Hospital where his father was a psychiatrist.
I first lived at the hospital when I was 2-3 years old (1940-1941), when my father, Dr. Harry M. Gardiner, left to enter the service in World War II and we lived in Ayer, MA. He moved our family back to the MSH in 1946, when I was 8, and we lived there until he passed away in 1951.
My best friends at the hospital were David and Darel Nowers (known to those who couldn’t tell them apart as “the twins”), whose father was the head farmer. They both grew up to become head farmers at two other state hospitals in MA. At this time there were over 2,000 patients and about 500 staff at the hospital. We were never afraid of the patients and didn’t question their often very unusual behavior. That’s just the way it was.
Click the link below to read the rest of Harry Gardiner’s story.
Gardiner would very much like to touch base with anyone who might know him from his time at the State Hospital, people like Peter Stagg, Janet Mezzanotte, Tom Sweeney, and others.