Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Old Bryce Hospital for the Insane

Alabama Hospital for the Insane was designed to be a refuge for the mentally ill.  Its architecture was designed based on the ideas of Dorothea Dix and Thomas Story Kirkbride.  It was meant o be moral architecture that would contribute tot he healing process within the hospital   The hospital opened in 1861 and for a while it held to the ideals of Dix and Kirkbride.  The first superintendent, Peter Bryce, was an idealist and he had studied mental health in Europe.  He believed that patients should be treated with respect kindness.  He even abandoned the use of restraints.  The hospital was later named for Bryce and it went on to be the model for progressive mental health care.

Time quickly eroded Bryce' legacy, however.  By 1967, there were more than 5200 patients residing in a facility that was never meant to hold that many.  Observers described Bryce as a concentration camp and a model for human cruelty.  In 1970, one patient named Wyatt started a class action law suit against the Alabama's other mental hospital, Searcy State Hospital.  This lead to major change in the way the mentally ill were treated in Alabama.  The number of beds were cut drastically and humane treatment of the mentally ill became an absolute necessity.  The landmark Wyatt v. Strickney Casee would change Bryce drastically. Old Bryce was the African American portion of Bryce Hospital and was notorious for being even more cruel than its white counterpart.  After Wyatt v. Strickey and desegregation, Old Bryce was shut down entirely and other buildings were used.  The African American patients were integrated into the white population.  

Old Bryce still sits quietly deserted, however, as a reminder to the old days when patients were held like prisoners with no rights.   It is covered in graffiti and has been vandalized many times.  Its even been set on fire.  Trespassing is forbidden here, but the curious have reported seeing all manner of horrors coming out of the dark around Old Bryce.  Lights flicker on an off in the building that has no electricity.  Phones ring in rooms with no phones.  Phantom lights drift from room to room. Furniture moves on its own and footsteps echo through the abandoned hallways.  The living patients may be gone, but many believe Old Bryce is still filled with the ghosts of those who once suffered in its walls.

22 comments:

Refindlings said...

Very Spooky! I can see why it's haunted. Ps it's me Becca got another blog. :)

The Frog Queen said...

Oh, that just gave me goosebumps! Very creepy looking place! Thanks for sharing.

Cheers!

Gummerfan said...

If you grew up in Alabama, you may recall "Bryce" used in numerous expressions. "Y'all are gonna drive me to Bryce!", "You don't want to end up in Bryce, do you?" "If you don't behave, I'll send you off to Bryce".
"In Bryce" is sort of a colloquialism for going insane. :)

Missy (& various in Transplant blog) said...

Please don't hate me, but the title and certain parts of this post had me cracking up. What the patients endured in this place, of course is NOWHERE near funny or humorous by any means.

But, Bryce IS one of my kids' names. And he is "legally" mentally ill. So wow, what a co-inky-dink.

Pam Morris said...

a chilling but sadly, not unusual story when it comes to the history of mental illness and the abuse so many have suffered in these institutions. thanks for the info jessica!

Marbella Jewelry Designs said...

that is a creepy looking place and another sad story.

Adsila said...

Another great creepy place!

Courtney Mroch said...

WOW! Powerful, moving, and simply chilling. Love the lone photo you included. As usual, you did a marvelous job painting the atmosphere with your words!

Mad Jack said...

Thanks for the post. I'm something of an advocate for the protection of the mentally ill - Main Lady is a licensed clinical psychologist and I've heard first hand accounts of abuse and seen some of the evidence.

Lewis Powell, IV said...

Where is Old Bryce located in relation to the Bryce Hospital featured in this Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryce_Hospital)? Are they adjacent to each other and both located on the University of Alabama campus? I've seen this written about elsewhere, but I've always been confused as to where it is located. Thanks for the great article! This is a fascinating place!

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haking said...

Lewis, Old Bryce and "New Bryce" are not on the same campus. I can't begin to tell you where exactly Old Bryce is located in Tuscaloosa, because I always went at night and never actually was the one driving, but New Bryce is actually on the University of Aabama's Campus. I have been to old Bryce three times and eveytime had some type of supernatural experience. Yes, tresspassing as it was, it was FUN! I loved it and I'd go again, but I don't live in Tuscaloosa anymore :(

Anonymous said...

I live on the side of the river where "Old" Bryce is, and I attend the U of A where "New" Bryce is. If you're out on Highway 82 coming from town, take the left before 84 Lumber (the right after it if you're coming from Coker). You go down the road a bit, and you'll see two stone entrance things (one on either side of the road). Go down to the end of the road (or where there's a huge branch in the way like it was when I was there) and you'll be able to see the building. Word of caution, there is no sign, no markers, nothing. They've almost been trying to erase its existence it seems, so keep an eye out if you go, and it is trespassing to go inside so be careful.
As of last night, I've been out there 4 times, but only down to the end of the road once (during the day at that). The first time at night, the streetlights couldn't light up the road at all, and we couldn't see anything so I panicked and turned the car around. The second time at night, I drove just past the stone things and turned on my brights but they didn't go any further than where the light from the streetlights ended(they're yellowish, not blue) and I saw blue...things, like almost hospital gowns in a way, so I chickened out and turned the car around promptly. The last time (last night actually), I drove to where I had before and turned on my brights again. My headlights flickered (they never do that) twice very quickly, and I turned the car around. Every time, I went with a friend (she didn't see the gowns), but last night she said she saw dark hands, like the darkness was crawling toward us. We'll probably go back again, but we're never getting out of the car. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Three friends and I went there tonight. It is a very creepy place. You walk down this long stretch road that's pitch black, and the building sort of sneaks up on you. I jumped because I looked up and we were standing right in front of the asylum, when I hadn't seen it seconds before. The front lawn is littered with debris and broken glass and empty beer bottles. We walked up to the front with all of this crunching underfoot. There's absolutely no way to walk silently throughout the building. The place is in ruin. It's completely dilapidated. The floors and stairs are littered with debris, there are wires and poles hanging from the ceiling. Every last window is busted out, and in some places there were plants growing in the building. I mean, this place was just your textbook, archetypal haunted house. The place is covered with graffiti inside and out. Paintings of devils and penises and hundreds of names smear the walls. My friends and I explored the furnace room, the cafeteria, and just about every other wing of the place. Of course we hear the creepy sounds and our flashlights sent shadows flitting across the walls, which made me jump more than a few times. And overall, the place just has an haunting atmosphere. I've heard all of the stories of ghosts and seances and Satan worshipers and cult meetings, but your biggest fear should probably be cops, homeless people, and asbestos poisoning. The cops are often on patrol, and its easy to tell from a distance that there's a flashlight shining in the abandoned building, and it's completely and totally illegal to be there. I've heard first hand stories of friends entering a room and finding a homeless man sleeping, and one of my friends personally got chased out by one. And, of course, its an old rotting building, asbestos likely abounds. However, I plan to visit again. Doing research, I hear that there are other, creepier, buildings behind it. I've read of people finding lobotomy machines and masks and even some creepy drawings. I'd really love to explore some more. Overall, it's truly a haunting place. Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, it's true that hundreds have been tortured and many killed there. And, c'mon, it's a freaking abandoned insane asylum! How much cooler can that get. Definitely check it out if you get the chance.

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Jessica Penot said...

Anonymous.... Is OK if I post your comments in a future Bryce Post!

Jessica Penot said...

Anonymous... Check out my new post on Bryce. I included your comments because they added the first hand experiences my histories could not. Thank you very much for your comments! I loved them.

VSan/Vdub said...

Had a friend end up in Bryce. Awoke there after 2 days of DTs). After waking, he saw a man sitting next to his bed, looking down at him. The man was a Navajo with a swastica carved into his forehead. The nazi Navajo said to my friend: I AM HITLER. ARE YOU A JEW? That is so much scarier that orbs or footsteps lol

VSan/Vdub said...

Had a friend end up in Bryce. Awoke there after 2 days of DTs). After waking, he saw a man sitting next to his bed, looking down at him. The man was a Navajo with a swastica carved into his forehead. The nazi Navajo said to my friend: I AM HITLER. ARE YOU A JEW? That is so much scarier that orbs or footsteps lol

Anonymous said...

People... the one near UA campus is the OLD BRYCE. It was built FIRST. Look it up. It is the one most likely to be haunted. The one in NORTHPORT was built second. It is often referred to as "Old Bryce" because it looks much worse than the original. The one in Northport has fallen to such disrepair that by just looking at it, one would ASSUME it was the oldest of the two. But it is NOT. The OLD BRYCE is the one near the UA campus. NEW Bryce is the horrifically vandalized one in Northport. I promise. Look it up. Go to the historic marker in front of the one on campus and read it sometime.

Anonymous said...

Correction: Wyatt v. Stickney, the federal class-action lawsuit filed in 1970 against an Alabama state hospital and later expanded to other facilities. Ricky was in Bryce in Tuscaloosa. Our organization is the one that handled this historic case, that can never be officially closed. Ricky Wyatt is the name, and he died in November, 2011. U can read more at this site... http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/18/opinion/ricky-wyatt.html

Jessica Penot said...

Anonymous... Thank you for clarifying about the two separate facilities. I forget that locals don't always understand that the two facilities are not the same. However, I still enjoyed the stories from the second Bryce. Also thank you for adding more depth to the Wyatt v Stickney case. When I worked at Searcy in Southern Alabama this case shaped our daily work in more ways that I want to list. We were always trying to reduce beds. There is never enough insight into the events of this case.