Gothic Blovel -- Ch 1--The Doctor Arrives

Northern Michigan Insane Asylum features sprawling green hills and landscaping as relaxing as it is beautiful. Your loved one will be as well tended as our gardens. The asylum follows the Kirkbride Plan in which patients are treated with kindness, comfort and pleasure. Indeed, restraints are considered barbaric. A chaotic mind must have peace and beauty in which to flourish, and a place of safety to do work. Patients at the Northern Michigan Insane Asylum will be comforted by music, gardening, and the great gentle beauty of Nature herself.

--Promotional Material for The Northern Michigan Insane Asylum, 1915

The Board of Directors at the Northern Michigan Insane Asylum request additional funding to support not only its current residents, but also to expand the program. While we follow the Kirkbride Plan of treating all patients with kindness, comfort and pleasure, there are certain minds that are so badly fractured they need additional care. The Northern Michigan Insane Asylum features a system of tunnels connecting the more than 4 acres of facilities. This allows for the transfer of unsightly goods such as refuse, as well as maintenance issues to the facility. Additionally, there is ample space located in the basement of the facility for those members of our society who are too disturbed to participate in the outside world. They receive kindness, understanding and the best scientific practices possible. Please consider our request for additional support…

--Grant request for funding to the State of Michigan, 1920

CHAPTER ONE

THE DOCTOR ARRIVES

1932

Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane

Course it’s raining, now,” Bill Pepperidge said, nodding to the windshield as the wiper dragged across it. Little good the wiper did in the rain, and Dr. Elliott Kinney hoped the old grounds man knew the way without benefit of being able to actually see through the downpour. The rain came in heavy sheets, bowing maple trees forward. He tried to get a sense of the grounds and the much-heralded flower and vegetable gardens, but everything was rain and dark and shadows. He felt the truck twist and turn on the road and silently assured himself that he would not let his stomach react.

“Sorry about that, Doctor,” Bill said after the truck splashed through a large pothole. Kinney tried to calm his mind. If he didn’t fall through one of the rust holes in the floor, surely the bumping of the Model A pickup would rattle his brain, perhaps so much they he would have to be admitted as a patient instead of its newest doctor. Bill continued, “Now I know you can’t see it now so you’ll have to take my word for it, but when the sun is shining and it’s coming through those maples, you’d swear the trees were on fire or something. In a good way, of course. Like a beautiful kind of…” He paused here and tugged on the brim of his hat. “Magic,” he said with a firm nod, as if he’d decided that were just the word.

He made a sharp turn, the muscles in his thin arms flexing.

The truck shifted and bounced and Dr. Elliott Kinney leaned against the window certain he was going to fall out.  If he had been a praying man, he would have whispered one then. He did not whisper.

“Beauty is important here, you know,” the grounds man continued.

Dr. Kinney nodded though he doubted the old man could see him, and he was not surprised when the old man continued talking. “Course you probably know of Kirkbride’s ideas that insane people need beauty and music and all that sort. You wouldn’t believe how much time I spend pruning bushes and planting blubs. Not complaining of course. Glad to have a job, especially with things they way they are. Beauty though, I don’t know. You one of them kind of doctors? You believe that they can be healed?”

“It’s not a matter of belief,” Kinney said.

“Exactly! I say toss ‘em in the place and lock the doors. Course they let them walk the grounds and pick flowers and such and I guess they do all right. That’s mostly for show though. The real crazy ones are kept elsewheres.” With that, Bill Pepperidge slammed the truck into park. “We’re here,” he said with a grin. “Building Fifty.” He nodded at the expansive building they were parked in front of which had, it seemed, been born from the rain and shadows and would surely fade when morning came. “Hope you’re ready for this.”

Dr. Elliott Kinney nodded once, opened the truck door and then braced himself for the onslaught. There was a hint of ice in the drops and the rain was fierce and cold and cut at his skin and made him feel, briefly, as if somehow he were still alive.

He ran to the doors and though he could hear the grounds man calling after him, the meaning of the words was lost in the rain.