Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Searcy State Mental Hospital

Circe was the first book I ever wrote and I got a publishing deal for the book.  However, the publisher forgot about Circe and it was shuffled around and buried and I had gotten to the point where I thought it would never see the light of day.  Circe is a dark book and I thought maybe that was for the best.  However, yesterday my editor contacted me and said they were planning on publishing it soon.  Yay!  So in order to celebrate, I thought I'd bring back an old post on the hospital that inspired me to write Circe.

Searcy is one of my favorite haunted places. I did my internship here a very long time ago and I fell in love with it's history and it's white chipped walls. Everything about this old hospital spoke to me. It was even more remarkable because most of those who worked there and lived there every day were oblivious to it's history. I found this hospital so fascinating that I wrote I book about it which will be coming out this April.

Searcy State Hospital is located in Mt. Vernon Alabama. Prior to being a state hospital the old hospital has along and dark history that is very difficult to find, but easy to see upon casual observation. The hospital is encased in long, chipped, white walls that seem as old as anything in the United States. From outside these walls, you can see a battered watchtower that gives testament to the fact that the hospital is in the same location as a 300 year old fort. The fort bears witness to American history and was originally a Spanish fort. It switched hands during the Louisiana Purchase and became a US fort. After the US took possession of the fort it was converted to a military arsenal and became known as the Mount Vernon Arsenal.

The Arsenal switched hands again several times and was taken by the Confederates during the civil war only to be passed back over the United States again in 1862. From 1887 to 1894, The Arsenal became a Barracks and was used as a prison for the captured Apache people. The most famous of the Apache people to be held in these barracks was Geronimo. The infamous Aaron Burr was also held at this secluded prison at some point.

In 1900 the Barracks were transformed once again and the prison became a mental hospital. Searcy hospital was built as the African American mental hospital in Alabama. Conditions in the hospital were beyond questionable and at one time there were over 2000 patients in the crowded hospital and all were seen by one psychiatrist. All patients were expected to work in the fields.

The hospital was desegregated in 1969, but it’s history is all around it. The hospital is still in used today, and although the residents live in new buildings, many tell stories of ghosts and devils that linger in the white walls and abandoned buildings that surround the new facilities. These stories are usually ignored, because the patients are crazy, but I’m not the only sane person who saw a few ghosts while they were working there.

21 comments:

Courtney Mroch said...

Oooooo! So any word yet on a release date? And what's your book about? Such a tease you are!

Adsila said...

Sounds like an eerie place to visit. Congrats on the book. It sounds like it will be a good read.

magikalseasons said...

Well I'm fasinated already! So please keep us updated on the release!

magikalseasons said...

Oh and I hope you are better too! I read your older post and for some reason that day my computer was wonky. Wishing you wellness & quick healing!

Lewis Powell, IV said...

Congrats on getting the book published! I would really love to hear your experiences from Searcy. Did any of your co-workers have experiences?

Jessica Penot said...

Courtney... I don't mean to be a tease. I don't have a date yet. This is the first I've heard from the editor in years.

Magikalseasons... I will definately keep you updated

Lewis. The wierdest thing about Searcy to me was that no one there talked about its history or how creepy it was. People seemed utterly oblivious to the fact that it was more than ten years old. I would ask about history and people would seen confused "What? This place has a history?" I had to do some major digging to find its history. Even if my coworkers saw a ghost they wouldn't have mentioned it. We were psychologists. That would have been crazy, right?

Bandhura said...

Jessica! Can't wait to read this! It sound wonderful! Congrats! Better late than never!

BananaCobb said...

My stepmom actually worked there. She tells me and my family her experiences all the time from when she was there, from ghost to demons. I would love to see that place on a ghost hunting show. I look forward to reading the book. Keep us updated! (:

Anonymous said...

I used to work there in the mid 90's and I saw some of theses things too.

johnannkr said...

I am just starting college to be a psychologist. I live in south mobile and thought it would be an interesting job to work at a mental hospital when I am out of school... so im just wondering, am I crazy for wanting to work there or is it all safe?

shaw robertson said...

The surrounding area is inhabited by Mowa native americans, and many are very tight lipped about about any supernatural activities. Also, many of their family members may have been patients or imprisoned there. There is a psychologist who worked there during its time, he's a pastor now. His name is John. Can't remember his last name, but a friend of his son made a film in which he had a large part in. I was script supervisor. The stories were not pretty.

Anonymous said...

Jessica,
I was doing some research on my family and found out my great grand father was a patient at Searcy from 1921 until he died there in 1924. His death certicate says he was buried there. I wonder if there are any old patient records?
Lwashington

Jessica Penot said...

John... You are not crazy. It is a good state job. I'd work there if I lived in South Alabama.

Shaw... Thank you. That is fascinating. I'll have to do some research in that area. I really appreciate you pointing me in the right direction.

Anonymous... I really wish I could help you but I don't know how to access old patient records. I know there are buildings full of them, but I don't know how easy they are to get to. I wish I could do more to help.

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Rene Jamison said...

Searcy is closed. I worked there several years and my daughter 10plus until it closed. In fact I was on the grounds yesterday as I now live in Iowa and wanted to see the old place again. My daughter lives about 2 miles away. There is a feeling about the place and I agree it would be a good ghost hunters episode. It has a way of making you love and miss it like an old friend.

Anonymous said...

I was a patient there in the early 80's for 33 days. It was for an evaluation. We were'nt out at night which probably explains why I had no experiences with ghosts or anything of the like. Still, it was a little creepy. Also I had no knowledge of it's history. We could see the crumbling remnants of the perimeter walls from the upper ward. I wish I would've known then what I know now, or maybe not. Know what I mean?

Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

My great grandmother and grandmother both worked at this hospital

Laura Level said...

We were driving through and came across this hospital. I took pictures and videos because I was really intrigued and wanted to know more about this place. When I got home I noticed young black male in the window in my video. I want to know more about this place. I would like to share my email is llevel421@gmail.com.

Travis Thronsberry said...

I used to be a patient at searcy and my experience i was attacked by a poltergeist in the hole while i was strapped to a bed and it kept doing disgusting things screams and horrifying screeches came from it and it whispered I'm number 14 with a satanic deep tone voice and it started speaking Sumerian like sha-oc-tay-nute-doca-di-en-vocoo- i remember all of it and the lizard man that one of the paitents were terrified of that looked like a serpant and a comodo dragon with sharp teeth dr.phillip t.masa did not take me or the patients seriously and some of us were even afflicted with harm by these abominations the reason i freaked out is because of esp so i went to a preacher in my local church and he cast away a host of demons which was a very wicked man i saw in jail i have also drew scetches of the individual and the individuals acomplices one of these men spray painted a wicken star in the middle of our road and our stop sign in Theodore alabama and started stalking teachers and students and has even killed them and I'm investigating a convicted serial killer which aledgedly changed his red suit into a blue suit with an inmate in jail lieing saying that he is that person with his identity and they freed a killer that is supposed to have a life sentence and was listening to demons and still up to no good some people call him the mass murderer of duluth minisodas mental ward and he killed doctors nurses staff members that is another sketch of mine of a mass murderer that in the 90s killed the entire ward in Duluth minisoda.