A Few Thoughts on Admittance to West Virginia’s Hospital for the Insane in the 1800s

The fun blog Dangerous Minds, posted this interesting list of conditions/reasons for admission to the Hospital for the Insane, also referred to as Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, in West Virginia:


Given that I’m often prone to whiskey consumption, congestion of the brain, and novel reading, I’d fear that I were ripe for admission against my 1800s will. We can laugh in hindsight, but based on these non-scientific standards for entry, anyone caught getting too riled up over their religion or local politics could be wrapped up in a jacket and swiftly tamed by morphine… neither Occupy Wall Street nor the Tea Party would be safe. Any woman could, for any reason, be judged riddled with “Female Disease.” Firefighters, who were not seen as public heroes at the time, would be whisked away as well. And why wouldn’t they be seen as insane: they run toward fire!

My overall favorite, pathetic excuse for institutionalization, though, is “Time of Life.” I can imagine the conversation in real time:

Nurse Ratchet’s pen drew stiffly over the surface of the admittance form. Her gaze down, she spoke precisely, “You’ve prescribed Mr. Chavira such grand volumes of electo-convulsive therapy, Doctor Lazarus.”

His reply was calm and curt, “It’s just the time of his life, Nurse Ratchet.”

“Ah,” she affirmed. “Too many novels. Dissipated his nerve, what.”

“Indeed. He is a hard study.”

Plus, you know, all my dissolute habits.