HALLOWEEN SCARES ……… BUZZNET STORY TELLERS ASSIGNMENT # 36
My experience with Pilgrim State Hospital happened in the winter of 1974. Pilgrim State was the largest hospital in the world and it’s here on Long Island only a short distance from my house. It was a psychiatric hospital that was built in 1929 to house the many mentally ill patients that lived in the NYC area. It was believed that the rural area of Long Island was the best place to keep people in a more natural setting. The hospital grounds were situated on almost 2,000 acres, it had it’s own police department, fire department, railroad station, power plant, farm, cemetery and everything else that makes up a small city. At it’s peak there were close to 16,000 patients that lived there, also there were thousands of people who worked there.
It those days there was no anti-psychotic medicines so other means of control were used and considered barbaric. Insulin shock therapy, shock therapy and lobotomies were often done. Some times they were effective treatment and other times they left the patient even more brain damaged. So after drugs were discoved the use of these treatments were discontinued and the psychiatric hospitals became less needed. Some people could live in society safely. Of course there are people who cannot be controlled in anyway and most of the time now they end up in jail or a secure mental facility.
I had one experience with Pilgrim State in 1974 not as a patient but as a visitor. I drove out there alone to visit a friend who had been commited because of a suicide attempt. Michael was in his 20’s and always had problems with depression. He grew up with 4 sisters and a mother who did not live with him, his sisters and his father. I believe she was also mentally unstable. He was quite fragile most of his life.
I drove that winter day though the vast barren property to get to the heart of the center and all it’s tall and ominous buildings. it took me awhile to find the building he was in but it was very desolate that day the trees were bare and the ground was grey. I found the building it was a two story building that had a big entrance door but far from the parking area. I got out of my car walked up a long concrete pathway and up some steps and opened the door and walked inside.
Once inside there was a desk where a person sat and in the background there was a caged in room filled with people !! I told the woman I was there to see Michael and she took me to the door and opened it to let me inside. Michael was there to greet me and was so happy I had come to visit him. There were both men and women in there and most were obviously drugged up. Including Michael !! I don’t like to say they looked like Zombies but that is exactly what they looked and acted like. Everything was going quite well until this one woman came right up to me and said “Gimmie a cigarette” I said I don’t have any but she continually persisted. Finaly Michael asked the desk woman if we could go outside for our visit.
Michael wasn’t considered dangerous to anyone or himself at this stage so she let us go outside. Being cold out we went to my car to talk for awhile, he was allowed a half an hour out. We finally went back inside and I said my goodbyes to him.
As I left that day walking down the concrete path a man started to follow me !! He came faster and faster and I ran for dear life to get to my car in the parking area !! I had no idea who he was or what he wanted but I wasn’t going to stop and jumped into my car and took off as fast as I could drive ….. To say that experience was scary I will let you decide. I was terrified that day …… I have not retured to that place since and will not even drive though there to this day.
Many of the buildings there have been demolished but some do remain and still house some patients. Just north of Pilgrim State is The Kings Park Psychiatric Center here in my town but since I never had any personal experiences there I love visiting the buildings to take photos. I used some old postcard images here and they still make me uneasy looking at them. As for Michael I know he still living because his father passed away a couple of years ago and Michael’s name was listed in the obituary. Although I don’t have any photos of Michael anymore he looked exactly like Cat Stevens in the 70’s they could have been twins …….
So that is my Scary Story for the assignment I’ve had lot’s of scary things happen to me in my life but this one stays in my mind to this day !!