After my experience photographing the old Medfield State Hospital last year, I became very intrigued with abandoned buildings and the stories held within the crumbling walls and grounds. It also made me feel a sort of obligation to make sure that the history, no matter how horrific, and the people who were forced to live there are never forgotten. Last weekend, a friend and I drove out to western Massachusetts to check out the Belchertown State School "for the feeble-minded" and see if what we heard was true- that it was haunted. I should give some background on the "school", which actually had nothing at all to do with education or learning. The difference between these types of schools and an asylum is that they were for those who were deemed "mentally defective" as opposed to mentally ill. Mental deficiency was the term used to describe mentally and physically disabled people at the time the school opened back in 1922, which is the reason I use it here. Also, this school admitted children, many of whom would spend their entire lives locked away or strapped to beds here.
To the outside world, the school and staff at the Belchertown School were legitimate, taking care of the patients left within their care. People sent their children here, unaware of the harsh conditions and the inhumane treatment waiting for them behind closed doors. The school operated without any issues or questions from the outside until the 1970's, when a newspaper article brought to light the horrendous treatment of the patients and the decrepid state of the school. It was finally closed down in 1992, after several lawsuits and 70 years of harm done to innocent people. I will spare the details of the lawsuits and the treatment of the patients, as I don't think it is appropriate for me to share here.
Needless to say, it is terrible to think about the horrors these people had to endure and the fact that people in the medical field would ever think it was okay to hurt the people they took an oath to protect. I am continuously blown away by the way we treated and at times continue to treat each other because of ignorance.
Back to present day- I was expecting that the place would feel creepy and unsettling when we got there and I was right. It was quite chilly with a dusting of snow on the ground, but we were determined to explore, hoping to get into one of the buildings and see for ourselves what was left behind. We explored the grounds for about an hour and a half and, as you will see in the accompanying gallery, we found a few buildings with open doors and we did bravely venture in, though not all the way, as it was very dark down the hallways and super creepy. We wandered to one of the further corners of the property and heard lots of noises coming from one of the other empty buildings, but were not willing to head in even though we saw the door ajar. The sun was going down and the full moon- yes I said full moon- was rising, so we decided we would check out that particular building next time in daylight...and preferably with a few other people. We followed the moonlight back to my car and knew that something was definitely going on there. It wasn't until later that night when I checked out my photos, that I realized how interesting this shoot really was.
A few days ago, I posted a picture of my friend looking into an open building. I posed the question "What's he looking at?" Well, that photo was taken in Belchertown and if you check out the rest of the gallery, you will see exactly what showed up in my photo taken through that cutout...it's strange because I used no flash and there was no glass in the window to reflect anything. Also, curious- it only showed up in 2 of the pictures I took in a matter of minutes in the same exact space. You can decide for yourself what you think you see. Personally, I have no idea, but it's interesting nonetheless.