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Overbrook Asylum (1 of 3) - Construction of northern New Jersey’s Essex County Hospital for the Insane, known locally as Overbrook Asylum, began in 1896 and continued through the early 1900s. It was built to ease overcrowding at Newark Hospital, but it wasn’t long before it started experiencing some trouble of its own.
Thousands of mentally ill patients who required daily care were sent to Overbrook, and it was soon operating at full capacity. To handle this enormous patient influx - as well as provide for the needs of the workers - Overbrook grew into a small town complete with farms, a power plant, firehouse, theater, school, bakery, and much more. It even had a semi-professional baseball team. The facility required so much fuel and other resources that a railroad stop was constructed to service it.
There are a lot of stories of tragedy at Overbrook, and given the time period and the nature of the institution, many of them are surely true. But one stands out. As reported by the New York Times, Overbrook’s boilers failed for 20 days during the frigid winter of 1917. Twenty-four patients froze to death in their beds, and many more suffered frostbite.
Along with other asylums, Overbrook began to decline in the 1960s with the advent of new psychiatric medications and other treatments for mental illness. By 1975, it was maintaining only a very small patient population and most of the buildings were abandoned. By the mid 1990s, no more patients remained. The buildings and their contents - including patients’ records dating back to the late 1800s, were left to rot.
During the latter half of the 20th century, Overbrook became a New Jersey legend. Ghost stories proliferated, and venturing onto its decaying grounds became a rite of passage for many youths in the region.
In the 2000s, a lot of the buildings were torn down. Yet, a massive complex of structures remains - a testament to Overbrook’s former dominance of the surrounding area.
I visited in April 2014.
[Palestinian holds up a poster:
Take my water
Burn my olive trees
Destroy my house
Take my job
Steal my land
Imprison my father
Kill my mother
Bomb my country
Starve us all
Humiliate us all
I am to blame: I shot a rocket back]
The photo speaks louder than any caption ever could.
Mirny, Yakutia, Russia, March 1996
The source of the Russian diamond industry is the giant mines centred on Mirny, in eastern Siberia.
A letter from schizophrenic patient Emmy Hauck to her husband. It consists only phrase “Herzensschatzi komm” (darling please come) and “komm komm komm” (come, come, come) repeated over and over.