12 days after Lincoln’s assassination,
John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed
by a self-castrated, religious zealot
named Boston Corbett. He later moved
west, lived in a hole in the ground,
started losing his mind over conspiracy
theories that Booth was still alive and
watching him, and was put in an insane
asylum. There, he escaped by stealing a
delivery boy’s horse, which he set free
with a note returning it to its rightful
owner, and was never heard from again. SourceSource 2
This was his victory portrait.
He was kind of a celeb until things died down. Then he slowly went mad. This was likely due to mercury poisoning from working in the hat industry.
At least he tried his best to return the horse. He was quite fond of his own horse, perhaps that’s why.
This curved connector hallway joined the two sandstone wards at the H. H. Richardson-designed Buffalo State Hospital, probably the most architecturally rich asylum in America. The curvature was a brilliant forethought - decades after the asylum was built, it was overcrowded, but it was impossible to fill this hallway, which acted as a fire barrier, with patient beds.
I consider this among the greatest photographs I’ve ever taken. As my friends were packing to leave Taunton State Hospital on a spring night in 2006, I was setting up one last shot by the light of the full moon. I loaded my Minolta SRT-101 with Fuji NPH, a 400 ASA film that had uneven reciprocity failure - it color-shifted towards blue during long exposure. I composed this shot basically in the dark using intuition, and then just guessed that a 30 minute exposure at f/8 would work. And when I got my film back from the lab… I had this shot of a chair by a window in one of the many patient rooms in the asylum, captured entirely by full moonlight. Shortly thereafter, I dropped out of a PhD program in philosophy to do photography full-time.
The campus of Western State Hospital, early on a foggy morning. I was in town to shoot a pilot for a television show which would basically be the antidote to ghost-hunting shows; we’d go into historic abandoned buildings and discuss their actual histories instead of pretending to be scared by pipes shifting. Sadly, the pilot was never picked up. But I had a great time shooting this 1828 asylum campus!