Friday, July 22, 2011

green and submarine


Following on the heels of my spooky adventure with the spirits of West Virginia State Penitentiary, the next location on my US tour of places that might kill me was Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. it was here where state sponsored psycho-engineering was implemented to dizzying effects. it doesn’t take a genius to figure out their attempt to calm the masses was not only futile, but misguided - even disastrous. 

Even though it is the second largest hand-cut stone building in the world, (topped only by the Kremlin); when it opened in the early 1860’s, TALA was meant to hold only 250 patients. but, over the course of a century, the treatment of mental illness dramatically changed and by 1950 the institution was bursting with nearly 3,000 inmates - many of whom were severely disturbed and violent. the caretakers could not handle the volume so a unique community developed out of the power vacuum. the stronger patients eventually began to govern the rest of the population - complete with police force, judges, juries and, of course, executioners. there was also an elaborate black market for goods and services of all kinds, particularly for vices. this kind of system obviously prayed on the weaker inmates, so those who were truly the most in need of treatment only got worse.

As a result of the overcrowding of prisons and asylums across the country, research into crowd-calming techniques was conducted, and the (short sighted) discovery of using color as an opiate for the masses was embraced throughout the institutions. we have since learned that most of the colors used for this experiment actually made the inmates more stressed and more violent, making an already volatile situation much more dangerous. 

After only a few minutes of exploration, the eye-bludgeoning color palate nearly drove me insane enough to be committed. even the cold, hard tile of solitary confinement was painted in pastels. 

After two days, I became hypnotized by the environment - in a completely negative form. I found myself to be more aggressive towards those around me. I would get frequent, and sometimes blindingly painful headaches. and then, when the sun disappeared behind the trees and darkness consumed the air, the colors and their effects would fade, only to make room for a new horror... 

At night, alone in the vast emptiness of black, shadows would appear where there was no light. i would hear footsteps down one of the seemingly endless hallways - and if i walked to investigate the sounds, the footsteps would move behind me. doors would close as I approached them. I was never touched or assaulted. instead, i felt as if I was being watched... constantly. 

TALA turned me into a believer. with still another three locations remaining in my journey, one thought alone haunts me as i beg for sleep: Now that I am aware, what next?

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