This strange wheelchair - that looked to have been hacked open with a knife - has been gathering plaster dust in Creedmoor State Hospital for a while now.  Creedmoor, in Queens, was once the farm colony for Brooklyn State Hospital, a Kirkbride-plan asylum located in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn.

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Yet another perfectly nice abandoned loony bin ruined by wall-to-wall guano.

The 6 Creepiest Places on Earth (Part 5)

#5. The New York Bird Shit Asylum

Generations of New York’s pigeons have flocked to the Creedmoor asylum for no reason but to poop all over it, particularly in the abandoned Building 25, and the preserved towers of guano now serve as monuments to the spirit of fuck everything about this place.

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Met up with my friend Dale early this morning and did some shooting. We were able to get out to 1,030 yards. His 6.5mm Creedmoor is equipped with a Bushnell Elite Tactical DMR and XLR Industries Element chassis. The JP Enterprises muzzle brake does a great job taking any hop out of the rifle during practical LR precision rifle matches. 

We also took the opportunity to run some rounds over his Magneto Speed chronograph. The version 3 is a sweet set up and with the updated muzzle velocity and standard deviation information we updated our Kestrel’s with Horus ATRAG to generate DOPE for the rifles! 

A faux Eames chair was left in a shaft of light in a hallway on the second floor of Building 25 at Creedmoor State Hospital, almost certainly by another photographer who sets up their shots.  But one never knows, and in any case I shoot the built environment however it presents itself on a given trip - so I paused for a shot.

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I’ve found a lot of amazing things in abandoned asylums, but this is hands down THE BEST thing I’ve ever found. And it’s not from a magazine, it’s hand drawn with pencil and was stapled to the wall in the janitor’s room in the basement. Also in that room were sexy pin-ups from the 70’s, some great old records and patriotic doodles on the inside of a cabinet.

The Western Lights,” Creedmoor had said. “Or the Western Sea, toward which we are heading. Sea, sky, land, day, night, indistinguishable, not yet separated. Where creation begins, or maybe hasn’t happened yet. How many explorers have come this far? Not many. One day we may come to the shore and make our stand there against the Line under the light of its mad energy. They should write a poem about us.
—  The Half-Made World, Felix Gilman

Classroom in Creedmoor State Hospital’s Building 3 Complex.  Sadly, the entire complex was covered in graffiti from local “urbex” crews, but a few rooms - such as this one - have largely escaped the wrath of spray paint.  I will never understand the inclination to vandalize historic insane asylums, but sadly, it happens all too frequently.

Something More Wrong
by Katherine B. Olson 
A life unfolds in Ward 3B, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. 

In the mornings, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center’s Ward 3B resonates with a brand of white noise unique to a psychiatric hospital. It is loud with tinkling and crashing pumped in from television speakers: the metallic rush of the Price is Right wheel pulled by the show’s spinning, smiling winners. Loud with the snores of still, slumped bodies in sticky vinyl chairs, with the shuffling of the 40 slippered and sneakered feet that pace between the two dayrooms, that wander around the nurses’ station. Loud with the rollicking cackles of Caribbean therapy aides. With occasional outbursts over thefts real or perceived—“I wanna see her fit in a size 18! Let me see her breasts fit in my size 18 shirt. I wanna fucking see that right now, hippo!” Fights flame up and flicker out, undulating with moods, obscuring but never quite eclipsing the television and the miniature people who live so noisily inside it. The floor echoes with the game show announcer introducing his grand prize, a state-of-the-art home entertainment system. “If you’re anything like us,” he booms, “you watch a lot of TV!”

Alice Trovato watches a lot of TV. Sitting here, she looks like any other 52-year-old Queens housewife idling the occasional lazy morning in her living room to the soundtrack of soap operas and sitcoms. But Alice, clad in a navy institution-issued sweatsuit that stretches at the belly and tennis shoes that squeak across the linoleum, can be found here every morning dispensing wisdom to fellow inpatients, her surrogate daughters, from a chair she calls her “therapist couch.”

Though Alice’s skin is pallid and her cheeks sunken, her brown eyes are comparatively lucid in a room filled with women alternately sedated or enraged. She comforts Shania, who believes a bulldozer is parked inside her forehead, and Sabrina, who thinks an ex-boyfriend has taken custody of their nonexistent septuplet babies, whose names she cannot always remember but each of whom is called a different diminutive form of “Angel.” She chides the woman called simply Rodriguez—who scratches and spits during fights and has an unnamed communicable disease the ward psychologist says “you don’t want”—for disrupting therapy groups, and counsels Cynthia, an obese 20-something who hears voices, against her meal of Snickers bars—a meat patty, pastries, and Pepsi—even as chunks of cream cheese dangle from the girl’s lips and bits of bagel fall to the floor.

The dayroom is not a living room and these women are not Alice’s family—her own grown son and daughter live, as does Alice’s husband, on their own on the outside. Alice’s “daughters”—the three or four young women who call her Mama, waist-deep in depressions and psychoses similar to those Alice herself has battled, for a comparably shorter period, over the last five years—stroke Alice’s scalp, tie her hair up for her in a tight bun, and unleash to her their problems, actual and imagined, comprehensibly or unintelligibly. She is the ward’s elected president, a self-described advocate for those here contending with disorders she believes are more incapacitating than hers. Most days, she’s feeling better.

Sometimes, though, angry voices and strange images emerge from the tightly folded recesses of her mind. Remnants of an abusive childhood, embedded in her memory the way accustomed-to house mice are in the walls of her old apartment, their presence, though once infuriating, forgotten until one scurries out from a hiding place, irrepressible, and she is forced to admit: “You’re here for your own self, too.”

Alice arrived at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in September 2010 after spending eight months in Elmhurst Hospital Center following her latest suicide attempt. By the time she arrived on Creedmoor’s 3B, a ward historically known within the hospital as “one of the wildest” wards for its “out of control female patients,” she had been living full-time in psychiatric wards for over a year, had tried to kill herself in five separate, violent suicide attempts, and had been admitted to 14 different hospitals. For Alice, Creedmoor is both the latest stop and the last resort on a five-year-long involuntary journey into the depths of her illness.

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Our Longreads Member Pick: Something More Wrong, by Katy B. Olson

This week’s Member Pick comes from The Big Roundtable, a new site for narrative journalism founded by Columbia University professor Michael Shapiro. And they’re giving Longreads Members early access to a brand new story, which won’t go live on their site until next week.

“Something More Wrong,” by Katy B. Olson, is an in-depth look inside the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, New York. Olson explains:

I had always hoped to write about Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. I grew up in a neighborhood a few miles away from the New York State psychiatric institution, and, with all the whispered local rumors as well as books like Susan Sheehan’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning account, Creedmoor maintained a haunting and mysterious presence in my childhood.

My chance to go inside Creedmoor came in 2010, when my mother began working there part-time as a chaplain. After months of negotiating access to report on my Columbia Journalism School thesis, I began interviewing staff in December 2010; many mentioned Ward 3B and its suicidal ‘wild woman’ patients. Soon I was spending two to four days weekly, for six weeks, with the women of 3B: attending groups, doing arts and crafts, eating together, and, as the patients do, relying on aides and their keys to open every door.

In writing this piece, I wanted to understand what drives people to commit suicide. Alice, my subject, like all of us, searches for a reason to live. For some people, causes understood—chemical imbalances, childhood traumas, drug abuse, alcoholism—and many more undiscovered, the will to continue this search can crack and break. For those who have never battled demons like Alice’s, who have never questioned their desire to live, Creedmoor and the people it cares for are unsettling reminders of instincts we cannot—or do not want to—understand.

Though I’ve not come much closer to understanding what it is that makes the will to live so fragile, Alice herself has stripped the fear from me—the fear of Creedmoor and its historical nightmares, and the fear of confronting the very human instinct to give up, which lives in all of us.

Read an excerpt.

Update: The story is now free for everyone here


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