Glore Psychiatric Museum
in St. Joseph
State Lunatic Asylum No. 2, opened
November 9, 1874,
Glore Psychiatric Museum
Much madness is
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
'Tis the majority
In this, as all, prevails
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,--you're straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.
one of the 50 most unusual museums in America, Glore’s Psychiatric
is a macabre collection of unsettling displays documenting the
treatment of the mentally ill over the centuries. From a
nineteenth-century dousing tank to an exhibit of more than 1,000 metal
objects removed from a patient’s stomach, you will no doubt come away
from this interesting museum highly enlightened and very glad you’re
not crazy (assuming that you’re not.)
The story begins in 1872 when
State Legislature approved $200,000 for the building of a Lunatic
Asylum and St Joseph citizens convinced
the legislature to locate it just east of their city. Opening
its doors on November 9, 1874, the hospital was called the State
Hospital for the Insane No.2, or more familiarly named the Lunatic
Asylum #2. Beginning with 25 patients, the first hospital
superintendent described the institution as "the noble work of
reviving hope in the human heart and dispelling the portentous clouds
that penetrate the intellects of minds diseased.” And so it was
for the next 127 years.
In no time at all the hospital’s 275
beds filled when relatives could no longer handle the special needs of
family members with mental illness. Soon, an additional 120 beds
were added, then another 250, then more and more over the years, as
the hopelessly mental ill poured through their doors. In the
hospital’s early years, the asylum was a self-sufficient institution
where the patients worked on a farm, raising crops and livestock, to
provide food for the facility. Allegedly, the hospital needed
only to purchase salt and sugar to supplement their food provisions.
continued to be referred to as the State Lunatic Asylum #2 until 1899,
when it gained the name the St Joseph State Hospital. By the early
1950s, the facility had grown to nearly 3,000 beds and housed some of the
most criminally insane individuals in the state, as well as those that
could be rehabilitated, and others who were merely depressed. According to the museum, a few of these patients were just mildly
depressed individuals who were dumped there by annoyed relatives. With modern medications, more and more patients began to return to
society. Throughout its history, the hospital underwent a series of
experimental treatments for its patients, some of which sound more like a
cause rather than a cure for insanity.
Lunatic Assylum #2 Patients on an
afternoon stroll in
1902, photo courtesy
Glore Psychiatric Museum.
In 1967, a museum
was started in a ward of the
St. Joseph State Hospital by a man named George
Glore, a lifetime employee of the
Mental Health. Beginning with several full-sized replicas of 16th,
17th and 18th century treatment devices that were
created for a mental health awareness exhibit, he soon began to look for
other items that would illustrate how the treatment of mental illness had
progressed over the years. George Glore spent the larger part of his
41 year career with the Missouri
Mental Health in developing the largest collection of exhibits featuring
the evolution of mental health care in the United States. Glore
retired from government service in the 1990s.
A display of hydrotherapy at the Glore
Museum, April, 2005, Kathy Weiser.
By the early 1990’s the majority of the
patients of the asylum had been released back into society with the help
of modern medications. In August, 1994, the state of
approved a bond
that allowed for the large asylum campus and hospital to be converted into
a correctional facility. By July, 1997 a new state-of-the-art
building was completed across the street from the original campus and the
new Northwest Missouri
Rehabilitation opened with 108 beds.
was also in 1997 that Glore’s Psychiatric Museum was forced to move from
the campus and soon relocated to a 1968 building that once served as a
clinic for patients at the mental hospital, which now sits right
outside the prison fence. The Western Reception, Diagnostic
and Correctional Center opened on the old asylum campus in 1999, now
confining over 1,800 inmates.
visit to the "new” three-story museum is extraordinary as you view its
many exhibits displaying how the mental health industry has changed over
the centuries. While at the museum you will view treatments ranging from
dousing tanks, to cages, straitjackets, dungeons and electroshock therapy.
More exhibits display mannequins that show
examples of the unspeakable treatment received by the mentally ill, such
as burning at the stake; douching tubs, where patients were drenched with
ice cold water; electroshock therapy; hydrotherapy, where patients
were kept in water for hours on end, and a mannequin in a fever cabinet.
Back in the old days, fever cabinets were used in the treatment of
syphilis. Lined with rows of high wattage light bulbs, the treatment
was utilized to elevate the patient’s body temperature, intending to kill
the virus and cure the syphilis.
Also featured is a "Tranquilizer Chair” where
patients were said to have sometimes been strapped into for as long as six
months. While sitting in the chair, patients were subjected to all
manner of treatments such as bloodletting with leeches or a knife, placing
of their feet in scalding hot water, or more ice cold water dousing.
You'll also see the Lunatic Box, used
during the 18th and 19th centuries. Here,
violent or "out-of-hand” patients were placed in standing position in
the coffin like box until he or she became calm. In total
darkness, these men and women would be made to stand for hours in
their own excrement until their attendants decided they were
More displays reveal several former
patients’ unique disabilities. In one glass case is an
arrangement of more than 1,400 metal objects, including nails, screws,
pins, bottle caps, bolts and buttons swallowed over the years by a
woman who was discovered eating a tasty nail in 1929. Though
this patient with a compulsive need to swallow metal objects obviously
survived the effects of the metal in her stomach, she died on the
operating table, when the objects were removed.
Continued Next Page
The Fever Cabinet was used to try to "sweat"
syphilis out of a victim. April, 2005,
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