Book Excerpt: Two and Half Years in a Lunatic Asylum

…I wish to relate a fact which has come under my observation within a few weeks past.

I was in a town in the northern part of Saratoga county of New York State about the 25th of June, 1868; and while there I was told that one of their neighbors was about to take their son to the Asylum at Utica in the western part of the state, who was subject to epileptic fits.  They asked my advice

The brother of the young man who had fits was present. They did not know, that I am aware of, that I had any knowledge of the asylum. I asked them why they were going to take him to the asylum? I saw that he hesitated to answer. He finally said they thought it would be best, he would say no more.

I asked him if they thought the doctors there could help one with fits better than other doctors?  I received no answer.  I then told him just what I thought, “that many had been deceived by supposing they could cure epileptic fits at the asylum, and that they would miss it if they took him there for that purpose.”

They were entire strangers to everything pertaining to the asylum, yet I saw they were intent upon taking the young man there. They started with him the next morning, and took him to the asylum in Utica.

After the young man, the brother of the patient, had left, the family where I stopped,  explained to me the probable reasons why they were going to send him to the asylum. Firstly, the young man had become of age, and was not capable of supporting himself; they were afraid he was getting, or would get, suicidal; he was getting to be a burden to the family.

His own mother was dead, and he had a step-mother. If they put him in the asylum they would get rid of the trouble of looking after him, and would save his support by throwing him into the asylum as a county charge. Yet they were not poor. There can be no doubt but many are sent there for similar reasons.

on ManyBooks.Net by the Reverend Hiram Chase.

The story start with Chase suffering an anxiety attack over losing his contract at his Methodist Church.  The elders of the Church promised him a renewal but it seemed never to come through and the closer he got  to his termination date, the more frenzied and worried he got.  Eventually, his wife, had his committed to the State Asylum in Utica, New York (near Rochester); what happened to her I cannot say at this point because I am only half way through, it’s a short book, about 85 pages and rather riveting.  It reminds me of the movie with Olivia de Havilland, whom I just adore, in The Snake Pit.

As I have been reading it, I have reformatted some of it for modern viewing.  When I am done I will post the updated version on and embed it here.

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