Some people scare easily, and some don’t. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m a New York-based Photographer/Actor/Writer who has been researching a new play I’m creating, AMP, about electricity and electroshock therapy. I decided to visit these asylums in New York and Massachusetts with my director, Emma Rosa Went. What we discovered in these abandoned places was beautiful and truly frightening. Luckily, I took my camera and have decided to use some of the photographs in the show.

Here’s a bit of history on each mental institution – Letchworth Village – named for William Pryor Letchworth, who espoused reform in the treatment and care of the insane, epileptics, and poor children. The “village” in Rockland County NY consisted of 130 sprawling neoclassic buildings including small dormitories, a hospital, dining halls, basketball courts and a graveyard with roughly 900 unmarked graves of the mental therapy patients on the 200-acre site. Reports of inadequate funding and improper care of the residents date back to the 1920s. Accounts have surfaced of residents being found unclothed, unbathed, severely neglected. In addition to rampant abuse among the institution’s residents, staff also suffered at the hands of co-workers, including incidents of rape. In 1950, the institution gained notoriety for conducting one of the first human trials of a still-experimental polio vaccine. Unable to give or refuse consent, children unknowingly became test subjects for medical testing. Brain specimens were harvested from deceased subjects and put on display in jars of formaldehyde. In 1996, the mental institution was permanently closed down. The negative energy in this scary abandoned place is palpable; a village of deafeningly silent tombs that nature has reclaimed.

Craig House – built in 1859 in Peekskill NY, for the Civil War Officer General Joseph Howland in 1859, the gothic mansion was turned into America’s first privately licensed posh mental health hospital in 1915. Zelda Fitzgerald was treated here for $750 a month in 1934. She was later moved to a cheaper hospital, the Highland in Asheville, North Carolina, where she died in a fire awaiting electroshock therapy. Frances Seymour, Jane Fonda’s mother, slit her own throat in one of Craig House’s high turrets and Rosemary Kennedy ended up in this fancy loony bin after her lobotomy. As is the case with many of these scary places, there is a quiet sense of desperation and finality.

Tewksbury Hospital– what used to be Tewskbury Alms House is now the Public Health Museum and Tewksbury Hospital. An 800+ acre site, listed in the National Register of Historic Places located on a campus in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. Historian and sociologist David Wagner estimate that one-third of the original population were children, and of the remaining adult population, 64% were male. The overwhelming majority of inmates were immigrants, mostly from Ireland. Anne Sullivan, famed teacher to Helen Keller, was housed here from the age of 10 to 14 years.

In 1883 Massachusetts Governor Benjamin F. Butler accused Tewksbury management and staff of “trading in bodies of dead paupers and transporting them for a profit to medical schools” and profiting from “tanned human flesh converted to shoes or other objects from Tewksbury paupers.” Ten thousand patients are buried here that they know of; they suspect 20,000 passed away. Vintage electroshock therapy machines are still stored in the basement here; a treatment often used to subdue patients before lobotomies, which used a voltage strong enough to power heavy machinery.

(​all photos by Jody Christopherson)​

More info: jodychristopherson.wixsite.com

Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Ramps Like Arms, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Welded Door with Rust, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Patient Housing, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Basketball Court, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Patient Housing, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Interior Staircase, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Rusted Iron Window, Patient Housing, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Patient Housing, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Broken Phone on Staircase, Letchworth Village, Thiells NY

Administration Building, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Raccoon, Letchworth Village, Thiells, NY

Front View, Craig House, Peekskill NY

High Turrets, Craig House, Peekskill NY

Side Staircase, Craig House, Peekskill NY

Great Room, Craig House, Peekskill NY

Courtyard, Craig House, Peekskill NY

1859 Building Marker, Craig House, Peekskill NY

Public Health Museum at Tewksbury Hospital, Tewksbury MA

Patient Entrance To The “Delousing Room”, Public Health Museum at Tewksbury Hospital, Tewksbury MA

Public Health Museum at Tewksbury Hospital, Tewksbury MA

Vintage Dentist Chair, Public Health Museum, Tewksbury Hospital, Tewksbury MA

Nurses Kit, Public Health Museum, Tewksbury Hospital, Tewksbury MA

Vintage Electroshock Therapy Machines, Public Health Museum at Tewksbury Hospital, Tewksbury MA

Death Cabinet, Public Health Museum at Tewksbury Hospital, Tewksbury MA