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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The lost souls inside the Insane Asylums

According to New Orleans City Insane Asylum Record of Patients (1882-1888), the types of insanity below were the more common and the cause for many people to end up in an asylum.

Most of them, never had a chance to get out of places like this, most of them died, whether from old age or from getting ill as a result of poor care received by the staff and poor hygiene of the place. There were even homosexual and physically ill people (dumb, blind, mentally retarded) Many of the sick were abandoned to their fate and agonized until its end.

" Sometimes the patients died out of the staff members' sight, and weren't discovered until days later, rotting away in some forgotten room. Eventually, all of the nightmarish trappings of asylums were introduced: solitary confinement, straightjackets, electroshock therapy (which gets a bad rap, but was likely overused as a means to control patients rather than as a mode of treatment), and the lobotomy."

These are some photographs, of the thousands of people that ended up their lives in asylums, all across the world the stories are the same, sad and unfortunate. It's hard to think about how most of these people were not visited by their family and finally buried in unnamed graves to be forgotten. 


Jacob Stihl, male, white, aged 23 years, single, a native of Switzerland. Recommended his commitment to the State Insane Asylum, on January 3d, 1883, finding him suffering from Melancholy.
It is with difficulty that any thing can be obtained from him except the fact – that – he has sinned, and that – God may forgive him for his sins. To most questions asked he answers, “If God says so, or if God is willing”. He will prostrate himself on his knees, implore God Almighty, the Holy Ghost, & remains apparently in prayers for an hour or more.
He is a Swiss, has been in this country since last May. Some of his countrymen have expressed the belief that nostalgia might be at the bottom of his troubles. I have been unable to find out from him, whether he has relatives in Switzerland. The Swiss Consul has written to his home, to find that out*.
March 9th/82 [sic]. Left asylum, in statu quo [sic], to go back to his home in Switzerland.
*It looks like this word is “lout”.

Chronic Mania

Wilhelmina Steinheiser – female, white, about 58* years of age, a native of Germany, recommended her commitment to the State Insane Asylum, at Jackson, on February 6, 1883, finding her suffering from Chronic Mania.She is very talkative, but incoherent. Her appearance is somewhat suggestive of a disordered mind. Twenty-three years ago she was confined in the S.I.A. at Jackson for insanity. This is her 2d attack, and dates back 18 months – She has been at the La. Retreat for 9 months. *Can’t tell if this number is 28 or 58.


James Connolly, white, male, 17 yrs, native of N.O., La. recommended his commitment to the State Insane Asylum at Jackson on February 6th, 1883, finding him suffering from Stupidity the result of Epilepsy.
This child was at the City Insane Asylum, for several months. Last September when the inmates were sent to Jackson, the Judge Mause? & myself refused to send him there finding him suffering from Epilepsy. Since then he seems to have become quite stupid.


Unknown woman alias Queen Victoria, white, female, native of Germany? [sic] recommended her commitment to the State Insane Asylum at Jackson, on February 12th/83, finding her suffering from Incoherency.This unfortunate creature was picked, on Feb 1st/83, roaming about the streets and charged by the officer (Armstrong) with being insane. Her conversation is very incoherent. All I can make is that her troubles are here? - showing the praecordial region. This led me to inquire if she had any husband & children. She says her husband is up there (heaven) & her children, to the number of 4, are dear. She speaks German. From this I suppose that she is German by birth & that afflictions might have been the cause of her insanity.

Acute Religious Mania

Nellie Simpson, female, black, 24? [sic] yrs, native of Bayou Boeuf, La., recommended her commitment to the S. I. A. at Jackson, on February 12th/83, finding her suffering from Acute Religious Mania.Her face is badly marked by Small-Pox. She imagines that the Angel is in her; then it is a snake; then she will jump up, run about will [sic] her hands raised to heaven, howls, beats her feet against the floor, etc. etc. She makes night hideous by her shrieks & cries, tears her clothes to pieces, & stripps [sic] herself naked. In a word complete Religious Maniac.

Paralytic Insanity

John Howard Curry, male, white, 49 years, native of Louisville, Ky, married, recommended his commitment to the S.I.A. at Jackson on February 17th/82, finding him suffering from Paralytic Insanity.This man who, always was sober, and industrious, showed the first symptoms of insanity last September when, while at work, he sported [sic] a pattern. He has the symptoms of softening of Brain & Spinal Cord; uncertainty in speech, movements & walk; difficulty of micusiition [sic], incontinence of urine, shooting pains in the body and abdomen. Bowels so far regular. Boulimia, says he is hungry, something is gnawing him inside, wants to eat at all times and yet says someone wants to poison him. His legs so weak, that they will scarcely support him; he falls constantly. Complains of his head and has been a sufferer of neuralgia of the head. One of his brothers, is said to have died of brain softening at Hotel Dieu.


Laurent Charles Moroy, male, colored, 27 years, single, native of St. James Parish, LA. recommended his commitment to the S. I. A. at Jackson, on February 17th, 1883, finding him insane, suffering from Incoherency.
This is this unfortunate man’s third attack, the first dating back 7 years. It is impossible to obtain anything from him. All I could obtain was that he was born in St. James Parish.

Delirium of Grandeur

Mrs. Mary Nelson, white, married, Irish, committed August 14th, 1882.
This woman is very quiet in her speech and in-offensive. Her movements are slow and sluggish. She has a marked irregularity in the beatings of the heart. Her pulse is 96, but when the irregularity takes place, it scarcely beats two (2) pulsations in five (5) seconds. She complains that she has been robbed of her money, amounting to One Million of Dollars, which is in the hands of …..[sic] and yet she is dressed in rags and dirty. Hence her commitment on the charge of Delirium of Grandeur – Her education is very poor, or more properly she has none; she is of the laboring class.

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