Written By: LFG
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Throughout history, there has been a perpetual quest to discover how the mind works. As such, several institutions have been put up in hopes of curing the mentally ill. Sadly, it wasn’t an easy path after experiments weren’t always successful. One institution called Letchworth Village became well-known for its dubious methods of care.
Built in 1911, the Letchworth Village is situated in Rockland County, New York, and served as a facility for patients with physical and mental problems with admissions ranging from newborns to geriatrics. But a considerable number of admissions were children aged five to sixteen years old. It became one of the largest in the entire United States, with roughly 130 buildings in a vast land area of 2,300 acres. William Pryor Letchworth became the inspiration behind the asylum’s name thanks to his stellar work in treating various illnesses, including epileptics and the insane. Regretfully, he never saw the finished structure after he died just before its opening.
To avoid overcrowding, each building planned to only house 70 patients at a time. The entire area truly resembled a village as they also had bakeries, churches, and dormitories. It was ahead of its time as unlike other asylums, some patients worked in the land as farmers, tending to animals and crops. This became a leisurely activity for many and, in a way, proved to be quite therapeutic.
Polio Vaccine Trials on Children
Despite reports of patient maltreatment, Letchworth became a reputable name in the industry, especially amongst health care professionals, after it became a makeshift research facility for the polio vaccine. One of the most notable events in the asylum was the polio vaccine trials administered to some of the patients, particularly the children. Performed in February 1950 by an immunologist named Hilary Koprowski, it was deemed as the first-ever trial in humans, putting Letchworth in the map globally in medicine.
About twenty children were administered with the vaccine, as there were no hard guidelines on human trials compared today. The trial proved to be a success after none of the kids developed any complications, and about seventy percent even developed the antibodies.
Reports of Abuse and Neglect
Letchworth Village was initially expected to set the standard for quality care, considering how almshouses were doing poorly in comparison. Its first superintendent, Dr. Charles Little, had a backward way of segregating patients, and even classified them by using derogatory names like “idiots, morons, and imbeciles.”
However, the population grew over time; and by the 1960s, the asylum had 5,000 patients. Some people were placed in hallways as there were no rooms left—it became a nightmare for everyone since some residents failed to perform personal hygiene. The attendants could no longer monitor each person properly, and ultimately, it led to the deterioration of the facility and resulted in patient neglect and abuse. Children were unattended and became malnourished. The caregivers were quick to deny this claim, saying they lacked supplies, but it wasn’t the case in reality. They weren’t given the chance to attend schooling, regardless of whether they could comprehend without any problem.
A journalist named Geraldo Rivera published a documentary which featured institutions, including Letchworth Village, revealing the nature of its living conditions. This report caused a public uproar, and eventually, patients were vacated to better facilities. By 1996, Letchworth Village was officially closed. Some medical staff lamented how it could have been avoided if only the state funded the institution properly, adequate staffing could have been enforced. Aside from that, one could also blame the family members who abandoned their loved ones to rot in Letchworth, as many of them never went back to visit as soon as they left.
Letchworth Village Today
Letchworth Village remains to be one of the most visited abandoned places in the country. Paranormal enthusiasts and curious trespassers shared how the entire area has a high energy, especially in the Nameless Cemetery, where hundreds of unnamed patients are buried.
All that’s left of Letchworth’s glory days are its decaying surroundings and vandalized buildings. Many visitors often report hearing children’s laughter and other spooky sounds inside the abandoned structures as well. Perhaps, one could surmise that the spirits of the tortured patients have never left Letchworth after all.
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