Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Session 9

I found an intriguing horror/thriller movie a while ago at Portland's main library called "Session 9". Almost the entire movie was shot at an abandoned mental hospital that was either an excellent Hollywood cardboard cut-out or the real thing. After the DVD was over I went directly to Google and run the name of this either real or fictional hospital through and here's what I found:

Danvers State Hospital, officially known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers, was a psychiatric hospital located in Danvers, Massachusetts.

It was built in 1878 and opened in the spring of that year under the supervision of prominent Boston architect Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, on an isolated site in rural Massachusetts. It was a multi-acre, self-contained psychiatric hospital designed and built according to the Kirkbride Plan.

Constructed at a cost of $1.5 million, with the estimated yearly per capita cost of patients being $3,000 the hospital originally consisted of two main center buildings, housing the administration, with four radiating wings. The administration building measured 90 by 60 feet, with a tower 130 feet in height. Connected in the rear was a building 180 by 60 feet, in which the kitchens, laundries, chapel, and dormitories for the attendants. In the rear is the boiler house of 70 feet square, with boilers of 450 horsepower, used for heating and ventilation. Water was pumped from Middleton Pond. On each side of the main building are the wings, for male and female patients respectively, connected by small square towers, with the exception of the last ones on each side, which are joined by octagonal towers. The former measured 10 feet square, and were used to separate the buildings. The original plan was designed to house 500 patients, with 100 more possible to accommodate in the attic. However, by the late 1930s and 1940s, over 2,000 patients were being housed, and overcrowding was severe.

While the hospital was originally established to provide residential treatment and care to the mentally ill, its functions expanded to include a training program for nurses in 1889 and a pathological research laboratory in 1895.

In the 1890s, Dr. Charles Page, the superintendent, declared mechanical restraint unnecessary and harmful in cases of mental illness. By the 1920s the hospital was operating school clinics to help determine mental deficiency in children.

During the 1960s as a result of increased emphasis on alternative methods of treatment, deinstitutionalization, and community-based mental health care, the inpatient population started to decrease.

Due to budget cuts within the mental health system the hospital was closed in June 1992. The area itself is completely closed and monitored closely by campus security.

In December of 2005, the property was sold to Avalon Bay Development. Demolition of most of the buildings began in January of 2006, with the intent to build 497 apartments and condominiums on the 77 acre site. By June 2006, all of the Danvers State Hospital buildings that were marked for demolition had been torn down, including all of the buildings on the lower grounds and all of the buildings on the hill except for the center-most sections of the Kirkbride buildings. Avalon Bay predicted that they would have properties available for rent/sale by Fall 2007. However, on April 7, 2007, four of the new apartment complex buildings and four of Avalon bay's construction trailers burned down in a large fire visible from Boston, some seventeen miles away. Find out more at:

Research ino gathered at:

Now, one of my poems that totally nuts:

To Somewhere Or By

A forest that gives way to paper.
Tarpaulin scratched across pages of verbs.
A door leading to your porcelain yes.
Pink undertones entwined or a cold sore.
Her spine curves into the turnstile.
He nuzzles closer, twice her size.
Language concealed in flashing signals.
There is rain on the rails.
The lavender in a dream (with ruffles).
Oil-slick bubbles in a burnt-blue shimmer.
The O in a vowel made from oak.
Mail that consists mostly of bills.
A leaf against my cheek.
Knew it was, anyway, and tug-of-warring.

Poem first published online at:
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and music blog:
Copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.


Ethan said...

Avalon Danvers is almost complete and there are people living there now. You can see pictures of it at:

There are/were a lot of buildings around the country similar to Danvers. You can learn about them here:

Kirkbride Buildings

Maurice Oliver - Editor said...

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I kept asking myself throughout the movie, "is this a Hollywood set or is this the real thing".

And yeah, I am interested in finding out more about places like this one and of seeing the land developer's "finish produce".


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