Tag Archives: historic buildings

Danvers State Insane Asylum and Session 9

Yesterday I watched Session 9 (from my list of movies I plan on checking out this fall), a movie filmed on location at the Danvers State Hospital/Insane Asylum in Danvers, Massachusetts. I’m not sure where I was when this film was released in 2001, but I was a different kind of nerd then, and this film just wasn’t on my radar, I guess. I enjoyed it, though I have to tell you it put me in a funk for a few hours. It belongs in the psychological horror genre, but less emphasis should be placed on the horror and more on the PSYCHOLOGICAL! The plot of the film, according to the movie’s IMDb page: “Tensions rise within an asbestos cleaning crew as they work in an abandoned mental hospital with a horrific past that seems to be coming back.” But the cool thing is that the parts of the story that pertain to the hospital itself are loosely based on real history and events.

For most of the movie, like a true paranerd, I couldn’t stop obsessing about the building, wondering what they added, what they didn’t, etc. I also couldn’t get my mind off of the fact that the place doesn’t exist anymore (more on that later.) If you’re brave, continue reading the somewhat bi-polar thoughts that came out of my fingers after the movie and after researching Danvers State Hospital all day.

 

Danvers State Hospital/Insane Asylum 

800px-Danvers_State_Hospital,_Danvers,_Massachusetts,_Kirkbride_Complex,_circa_1893

Construction on the site began in 1874 and opened to patients in 1878. Like most asylums and hospitals of this type and age, it has a complicated, sad, unbelievable, and depending on the decade, even a criminal history. Most of the infamous and inhumane treatments and methods were practiced here at one time or another, including shock therapy and lobotomies.

By the 1960s, a combination of controversy and budget cuts caused Danvers to begin shutting down sections of the hospital. For the most part, by 1985 the whole campus was closed and abandoned.

In the DVD’s special features, Brad Anderson (writer/director) and Stephen Gevedon (writer) explain that they had Danvers in mind before they even started writing the script. They also mentioned that they racked their brains trying to figure out exactly how they were going to tell the story in this building, meaning why in the world would anyone be in an abandoned asylum? This is a great example of life just before, or at least in the infancy of what I’ve always referred to as the great paranormal craze. How quickly we paranerds forget what life was like before Jay and Grant and the T.A.P.S. team. It is difficult for me to comprehend this, but Ghosthunters didn’t premier on SyFy until 2004. Clearly, if this script were being written today, asbestos would still be an issue, but they would have used a paranormal investigation team, armed with plenty of night vision and oxygen masks, to tell the story.

**RANT WARNING**
Now I know, I know… I’ve mentioned this before, but every paranormal investigator in the world likes to claim that Ghosthunters on SyFy had no influence on what they do in the field. I’m here to tell you that 99% of them are lying. It is accurate to say that paranormal investigation was not invented by Jay and Grant. It is accurate to say that a few of you may have been in the field before 2004 (like 2 of you, perhaps). However, it is also correct to say that approximately eleventy-thousand new paranormal teams and paranormal television shows have popped up since Jay and Grant popped on the scene. Whether or not the craze is truly a great thing is a topic for debate. I’ve got to be honest, though. I owe them a lot for really changing my life and my interests, and I’m giving them props where props are due. **RANT OVER**

Now cut to December of 2005, four years after Session 9 was released. Despite a brave fight by local groups and community members trying to preserve the enormous acreage of the Danvers hospital campus and its unique history, demolition began. In its place is now an Avalon apartment community. Can you believe it?!

I can’t help but think that perhaps if they would have been able to hold off for just another year or two, enough interest would have grown to somehow save this strange, embarrassing, yet fascinating and physically beautiful landmark. Now days all it takes is a visit from SyFy or the Travel Channel to put a place back on the map, turning it into a paranormal tourist spot. Many similar locations have been saved, at least for now, by funds that are raised by leading tours or by paranormal groups paying to investigate. See Waverly Hills Sanatorium as an example. I have mixed feelings on all of this, however, and I know it hits some ethical nerves of some of my readers. In my opinion, the great paranormal craze has its side effects, one of them being tons of paranormal groups trampling through historical buildings, tearing things up, and riling up spirits. These groups will leave their trash, their “trigger objects”, and their energy behind. (I have to include myself in “these groups”, by the way. I told you this was somewhat bi-polar.) And then 30 years later, will we be investigating an old asylum or a historic former paranormal training facility? What about the investigators who will have died during that time period? Those paranerds LOVE these places and the memories they made there. Are they now hanging out there for eternity too? Ha! I know I’m being silly, but it all just gets weird for me. But… at least this way a historic location has a fighting chance, right?

Hollowed out facade of the central part of the main Danvers building.

Hollowed out facade of the central part of the main Danvers building.

So let’s get back to the demo and that mean old Avalon company and the apartment community, which I believe was completed in 2007. Interestingly, of the massive hospital campus, which consisted of an enormous main building (shaped like a bat) and several outer buildings (click HERE for an aerial photo), the facade of a small central portion of the main building was saved (see photo to the right). Though this portion was hollowed out, leaving only the front face of the building, I have to say, what they attached to it looks pretty cool to me. There are several other buildings and typical apartment units now on site, but apparently some of them are in the ominous “new” asylum building. Check the Avalon site HERE for cool interior photos. (On a related note, check out the former Michigan Insane Asylum, which is now residential condos, office, and retail space.)  Part of me thinks it is completely annoying and greedy for a company to come in and do this and then fake us out with a phony tiny portion of a Danvers building. But that’s silly, right? Why should a place stay abandoned, damp, and dark, with endless walls of peeling 1960s hospital green paint? Another part of me thinks it’s a really cool way to preserve at least a portion of Danvers, in a way that only a big company with big money can do. Another part of me thinks ARE THESE RESIDENTS CRAZY?! WHO WOULD MOVE IN THERE?!

………………………..and then the last remaining part of me wants to move in there. 

The new Avalon community building attached to the facade.

The new Avalon community building attached to the facade.

 

Clearly I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I’d REALLY love to hear from residents of this new Avalon community. What are the chances of this post finding someone who lives in the new faux Danvers building? Contact me!

 

My resources for this rambling post:

Session 9 DVD Special Features & Commentary

http://www.danversstateinsaneasylum.com/home.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danvers_State_Hospital

http://www.avaloncommunities.com/massachusetts/danvers-apartments/avalon-danvers/pictures/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0261983/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Session_9

 

You might also like: 

Rosemary's Baby (1968 (Big Séance)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968 (Big Séance)

The Milton Schoolhouse, Alton, IL (Big Séance)

The Milton Schoolhouse, Alton, IL (Big Séance)

Papa Jack's Pizza: Final Investigation Report (Big Séance)

Papa Jack’s Pizza: Final Investigation Report (Big Séance)

There's Just Something Romantic About a Staircase  (Big Séance)

There’s Just Something Romantic About a Staircase (Big Séance)


Defining “The Big Séance”

Since The Big Séance has gained quite a few readers in the last few months, I’ve gotten a few questions regarding the title of this blog and what weirdness we’re all about here. Is this really a séance? And if so, why the pictures of historic buildings? Why the cemeteries? Well I’ve wanted to compose some thoughts on this for quite a while, but the time was just never right, and I guess the inspiration just never came. It is true, the blog has changed and grown (as most of them do) over the last year and a half, so I suppose it’s time to update the old “About” page.

The online Merriam Webster dictionary defines séance as “a spiritualist meeting to receive spirit communications.” The word itself comes from an old French word that means “sitting” or “to sit”. Well the way I look at it, I’m sitting as I write this post, and I’m seated every other time as well. That’s how I came up with the name.

…I’m kidding. Oh come on. Laugh already.

In all seriousness, from day one my plan was to create a blog that covered paranormal and spiritual topics, with an emphasis on spirit communication. I’d highlight some of my team’s paranormal investigations, share some evidence, etc. A lot has changed since then.

I don’t think there is a more dramatic or fun form of spirit communication than a séance. Am I right? Picture any séance you’ve seen from an old movie or TV show. An old Victorian house, dark and ornate décor, candles all over, perhaps a Ouija board, a fabulously costumed medium, and of course no séance is complete without theremin music for an extra spooky effect.  

In an early blog post on the topic of the séance, I thought back to my earliest introduction to the concept. Allow me to plagiarize myself.

I must confess, I think I was introduced to the concept of a séance in a segment of The Bloodhound Gang, which was like a miniature mystery series that was a part of the 1980s PBS children’s series, 3-2-1 Contact. Anybody remember? I even had a subscription to the 3-2-1 Contact magazines for a while and have probably seen every episode from all eight seasons. Don’t tempt me to sing the theme song (or even The Bloodhound Gang theme for that matter)… because I will. I can’t be exactly sure that’s where I saw my first séance, but that’s where my childhood memory is taking me back to.

I’ve never been able to prove that 3-2-1 Contact was responsible for sparking this fascination, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. If anyone knows what I might be thinking of, please let me know. It would be truly awesome to see it again, whatever it was.

After more than a year and a half and over 250 published blog posts later, I’ve learned a lot about blogging. I’ve learned a lot about “paranormal folk”. I’ve learned a great deal about myself, what I know, and what I don’t know for sure yet. But as of right now I’d like to think of “The Big Séance” as not just a broad form of spirit communication, but a way to honor or learn about anyone’s life or past… a kind of remembrance. In an EVP session, I don’t just want to capture a voice, but I think of it as a chance for a spirit to communicate. When I highlight a beautifully historic or abandoned location, I’m imagining the lives of the people who made memories in the space previously. By photographing the beauty of an old cemetery or the resting place of a soul’s body, we show that we’re not afraid or embarrassed of what we erroneously refer to as “death”. I like to think that by thinking of these souls and wondering about their lives, we’re honoring them. And I’ll almost always have a recorder with me, whether it’s a trip to the cemetery or an actual paranormal investigation. All souls are invited to communicate or pass on messages to the living. You’ve joined me in several experiments. You’ve even shared your own experiences. Therefore, you’re not only an audience member for MY séance, you’re all participating in it! It’s a BIG séance… and it’s getting bigger.

  

P.S. 

It’s now the eve of October 1st, a month-long (maybe even longer) holiday for many of us. So whether you just like to be goofy and dress up for trick-or-treaters, celebrate to honor your ancestors or the lives of the dead, or hope to take advantage of a thinning veil that separates us from “the other side”, stay tuned throughout the rest of the autumn season!

 

Today I made another visit to the resting places of both  Johnnie and Clara, as part of my new tradition of adopting and researching older graves during the fall season. I decided to give Johnnie the opportunity to jump in the photo with me... assuming he was there visiting as well.

Today I made another visit to the resting places of both Johnnie and Clara, as part of my new tradition of adopting and researching older graves during the fall season. I decided to give Johnnie the opportunity to jump in the photo with me… assuming he was there visiting as well.

 

 


Images of America: Lexington, Missouri

I realize that probably a very small amount of my readers are from my hometown of Lexington, Missouri, but I would still like to reflect on an amazing new book by the late Roger E. Slusher and the Lexington Historical Association. Images of America: Lexington kept me from going to bed at a decent hour two nights in a row… and it started the second I picked it up off my doorstep. I stared at the pictures. I compared the pictures. I pulled up current locations on Google Maps. And I did a lot of imagining.

Growing up in Lexington, as a child you quickly learn about the Civil War battle that took place there. For me, I was always specifically interested in the history of the buildings, what was where, what used to be, etc. I wonder what my now small and quiet hometown was like when it was the third largest city in the state, hustling and bustling with four colleges at one point, theaters and opera houses, an entire block full of saloons, headquarters for the Pony Express, factories, coal mines… the list goes on. I’ve seen a lot of the local photo collections that people have put together over the years, but I hadn’t seen so many of the photos in this book. Many of the photos are aerial or taken from the City Hall dome, and they are breathtaking. (I only wish they would have chosen one of the beautiful street photos for the cover.) When you think of the historic Main Street and Franklin, you think about the old buildings that still exist being the original structures. Then I find out that many of these beautiful and historical buildings were not the first to be on those lots. And there were blocks and blocks of buildings, neighborhoods, farms, and homes that just aren’t there anymore. If I went back in a time machine to the mid to late 1800s, I’m quite sure I would not be able to find my way around.

Lexingtonians know that there is something special about their town, but this book helps you to realize just how important those remaining gems of buildings and locations are. Lexington has unfortunately lost a few of these gems this year. I suppose these things are just bound to happen with the passing of time, but I wonder if residents felt the same loss when they lost buildings a hundred or more years ago? It also kind of makes you wonder if 100 years from now people will be fighting to save the historic Pizza Hut, the last remaining Sonic Drive-In in the nation, or the beautiful and historic Woodland Creek district. Or like many cities in the early 1900s, will we not recognize the future value of our neighborhoods and just bulldoze them down to build new?  

Fascinating book! If you’re in town, you can pick one up at The River Reader today!

Want to visit or learn more about Lexington?

 

The Battle of Lexington & The Anderson House

 

 

The Cannonball and the Courthouse

 

 

 

 

Wentworth Military Academy

 

 

 

 

Linwood Lawn

 

 

 

Antiques & Shopping

 

 

 

 

Related Posts:

Final Paranormal Investigation Report of Papa Jack’s Pizza

Machpelah Cemetery, Lexington, Missouri 

Forest Grove Cemetery, Lexington, Missouri

Old Catholic Cemetery, Lexington, Missouri

 


Papa Jack’s Pizza: Final Investigation Report

Papa Jack’s Pizza resides in a building that was constructed in 1869 on historic Main Street in Lexington, Missouri.

I’ve mentioned MOSS’s fascinating investigation of Papa Jack’s Pizza in Lexington, Missouri several times recently. It has taken months to complete the analysis and get to the point where I could present this report to you. For the first time ever, I’ve decided to publish the entire investigation report document for this investigation. I debated back and forth on whether or not this was a wise decision, but in the end I decided to just do it. When you click on the link below, it will open up the 27 page PDF file through Google Docs and will have all audio and video artifacts linked in the document. We’d like to thank Jamie and Kathy at Papa Jack’s for allowing us to have this opportunity. 

 

Papa Jack’s Pizza Final Investigation Report

Recent Papa Jack’s Posts: 

The Strangest Evidence from the Papa Jack’s Investigation…

Analysis Timeline: Okay so maybe I am a little ridiculous…

Putting Together a Rough Analysis of a Paranormal Investigation

Do Spirits Reside at Papa Jack’s Pizza in Lexington, Missouri?

 


Do Spirits Reside at Papa Jack’s Pizza in Lexington, Missouri?

A few nights ago, Missouri Spirit Seekers (MOSS) investigated a popular pizza place in Lexington, Missouri. This last fall I had stopped in for lunch at Papa Jack’s Pizza with some family after a morning of shopping on Main Street. (By the way, I highly recommend the pepperoni pizza with a special request of BBQ sauce instead of pizza sauce. Sounds weird, I know… but delicious!) This visit led us to discussing the history of the building and the paranormal. We learned that employees at Papa Jack’s Pizza have been experiencing friendly paranormal activity on a regular basis from the time they  moved into the building on 1014 Main Street. With an amazing view of the Lafayette County Courthouse (built just 20 years earlier) just across the street, the Papa Jack’s building is believed to have been built in 1869, which would have been eight years after the Civil War Battle of Lexington, and making it one of the oldest structures on Main Street.   

Most of the activity has been reported on the restaurant level as well as the basement. Voices, singing, whistling, footsteps, apparitions, and being touched are just some of the experiences that are reported in these two areas. However, there are two upper floors of forgotten apartment units that haven’t seen tenants since the early 1980s. In a picture below, you can see that much of the furniture and appliances in these apartments are still there, creating the eerie feeling of being in a 1970s time warp. A very musty and dusty time warp, yes, but strangely beautiful and absolutely fascinating. In another picture, you can still see a calendar on the wall that tries its best to get us to believe that it is May of 1982. As a native of Lexington, it was hard to imagine that what I was seeing had been sitting there, mostly untouched, for nearly my entire life and childhood. And as someone obsessed with studying and learning about the paranormal, it was like finding an abandoned theme park in your own town. It made me stop to realize that there are probably many forgotten gems just like this one, hidden away above the shops and stores on Main Street. 

Our goal in investigating was to find out more about the unseen tenants. One of these spirits is said to be that of a friendly little girl, so we came to play. We have tons of footage and hours of audio to review, which will likely take a month or more. But here is something that I can tell you right now before I even get started. This was one of our most exciting investigations yet! And it turns out we did have some interesting experiences on the restaurant level and in the basement that we will be looking into. And yes, the paranerd in me hopes to find evidence of spirit communication from the two upper floors of the building. 

View of the Lafayette County Courthouse from a top floor window.

View of the Lafayette County Courthouse from a top floor window.

I will likely post an occasional update right here at www.BigSeance.com, and when analysis is complete, a final report with evidence will be published at www.MoSpiritSeekers.com.

 

 

 


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