Reasons for Insanity

After writing about the Willard Mental institution with it’s plethora of lost suitcases, I started thinking about mental illness and how far we’ve come. It’s amazing to think what constituted being insane in the past and what treatments were used.  Nowadays we can just pop a pill and be done with it. I came across the list below that is an actual admission list from the West Virginia Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (which closed in 1994) and couldn’t stop chuckling, I mean…REALLY! I would have been in SERIOUS trouble back then… between the “LAZINESS”, “NOVEL READING”, “MEDICINE TO PREVENT PREGNANCY”, and finally the “SNUFF EATING FOR TWO YEARS”. Wouldn’t we all have been locked up?

A Bolt of Blue - Reasons for submission


A theme quickly emerges in the list, which was published on, showing how women in particular were at the mercy of their husbands and families.

‘Marriage of son’, ‘desertion by husband’ and ‘domestic trouble’ all stand out as examples of inequality masked by a very different attitude to women’s rights between 1864 to 1889, when the list was compiled.

‘In 1872 … if [a woman’s] husband had a mistress or if she had inherited money … he could bring her here,’ a guide at the former asylum told the Los Angeles Times.

‘He could sign her in and leave her until he decided to come back and get her – or until she died, whichever came first.’

Women’s health issues were also seemingly neglected under a catch all of lunacy. ‘Imaginary female trouble’, ‘suppression of menses’ – which could be the case of being pregnant out of wedlock, or caused by an eating disorder or other illness – and hysteria.(via The

The Asylum has been closed since 1994 but apparently you can still get tours that are given by guides dressed in nurses costumes, and they tell all the creepy tales of woe that happened between those walls. Click here for more info.


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