I was horrified by the " Fancy Mental Patient Costume" that was thankfully, recalled almost as quick as it hit the store shelves. I hated it simply, because it is not accurate of any mental patient ever. Who the hell do they base these ghastly things on? We are not the scary pictures of the past wide eyed and drooling. We are not crazed ax murderers or "leather faces". We are simply regular people, but that is not the image the word mental illness patient conjures in our minds. In our minds we see the past and all of it's scary implications, never fully realizing the truth behind them. That being said, I have no issue with the Asylum type haunts and before you show up at my door with burning torches, pitchforks, and copious amounts of toilet paper; here is why.
There is no place quite so scary and creepy as an asylum. Not just because the buildings are dark, dilapidated, dank and vast in scale. Not just because they seem haunted by their past but because they are haunted by their past and every horrible thing that was perpetrated in those halls, those rooms, and those offices. There is really few places that contained more evil in them than state run institutions for what they called the "undesirables". People, even to this day, have warped images of the mentally ill, specifically because of the pictures from these times showing scary looking individuals in various states of confusion. It wasn't that they actually looked like this normally, but rather this is what they looked like after they received treatment there. After they were locked away. After they were imprisoned. After they used as human lab rats.
To understand my opinion we have to go back in time. A small history lesson if you will. In America around 1907 a new fad was starting to take root and sweep through the world and by the 1920's it was all the rage. It was called eugenics. It sounds like a harmless enough word. It doesn't bring up scary or dangerous connotations. It sounds like a medical term, like maybe you fell down a flight of stairs and now you have to use eugenics to heal the broken bone. It sounds like a treatment option. It is not. This seemingly innocuous word should have struck fear in the hearts of millions but it didn't. Instead it was commonly swept under the rug and not discussed openly. You would be worried using the terms we would use today to describe it. It would be called discrimination, prejudice, genocide, and in some circles fascism.
Asylums were first built to embody beauty and cleanliness. They were to treat and help those that suffered. It was the common belief that the environment of those that were ill helped caused their ailments, therefore decent food and a beautiful view could help cure their illness. Asylums were ,strangely enough, supposed to offer security, safety, and hope for it's inhabitants. At some point asylums started to deteriorate. They became overcrowded, and as times changed so did the way people viewed what was mentally ill and what wasn't. It was common to find in their words "feeble minded, epileptic, insane, blind, deaf, inebriate, criminalistic, deformed, and dependent" people in asylums. They took in homeless people, alcoholics, women who suffered from postnatal depression or the loss of a child, the senile, the elderly, people suffering from end stage syphilis, those suffering from extreme poverty, and people they at the time considered to be sexual deviates (aka promiscuous women and homosexuals). Most of these people would not be deemed insane today.
In truth, eugenics is simply a belief that all disabilities are a sign of weakness. Natural selection is the holy grail of eugenics so believers held stead fast to the belief that those that were considered unfit should be sterilized. Lest they breed. Many were open to doing human testing on those they found to be "undesirable" and some even were accepting of genocide. They encouraged doctors to test on patients and in some cases told them to let the patients die by neglect.
To further prove my point, in 1907 some state run institutions received permission to sterilize (involuntarily and or unknowingly) and castrate some of their patients. The movement swept across state after state. This was some of the first horrors to await those that were institutionalized. Now to be clear this did not happen to just the mentally ill. It happened to anyone deemed by the various states that enacted this sort of "treatment" as undesirable. Their fear was that what they felt was "weakness" would continue to spread by hereditary means or that it was a genetic issue. They wanted an illness free society. What they deemed to be a perfect normal civilization without any "issues". They called it survival of the fittest. They took Darwin's idea of natural selection and they wanted to be the ones to inflict it. Therefore, it was becoming common practice to sterilize these "unfortunates" to prevent spread of anything they deemed unworthy. Sterilization also was done in some prisons and other state ran institutions. It did not matter if your only crime was your mother had gone insane from end stage syphilis, you could be involuntarily sterilized if they thought you were also undesirable. In fact, America led the world in it's sterilizations of the mentally ill or otherwise "unfit" between 1907-1939 sterilizing 30,000 people in 29 states.
Since it was now accepted to believe that those that dwelled in asylums were less than human, it should be no surprise that scientific experiments were to become many patients fate. First it was so called "treatments" to cure the mentally ill such as restraints, lobotomies, bleeding, purging, isolation, freezing ice baths, sensory deprivation, electroshock at high intervals, and injections of various fluids. Treatments that today would be called what they actually are, torture. Then it was trial testing time. Just to list a few "tests" done on the mentally ill, mentally disabled, and "undesirables": Injections of radium to mentally ill people to see it's affects. Injections of malaria, flu virus, syphilis and other diseases. Freezing them for hours in locked refrigerated drawers to test how frigid temperatures affect mentally illness. Trying to erase their memory by drug- electroshock- and then sensory deprivation induced comas for up to three months while playing repetitive sound loops constantly. Feeding mentally disabled children food with extract of fecal matter containing the Hepatitis virus as a condition for admission into an institution.(The parents were told the condition was a vaccine). Testing how medical procedures work. Secret investigational drug experiments....ect. These tortures and tests were allowed to go on for 65 years. Sixty five years of the disabled and mentally ill being used as human guinea pigs. Sixty five years living squalid conditions, living with barred windows and locked in filthy rooms, inadequate care, food, and medicines and being mistreated. Often times left alone in soiled clothing, or left nude. Often times abused and beaten. Often times completely neglected. Sometimes left to die alone and scared. This is the cold hard reality. This was asylum life. Yes, there were some asylums that did not operate this way but many of them did. They got paid to participate in these barbaric experiments and they, in fact, willingly did so. After all, these people were no longer seen as human. They no longer were treated as someone's loved one or relative. These people simply ceased to exist as human beings to their caretakers. Some of these experiments were so bad that during the Nuremberg Trials, parts of the Nazi defense was that some of their experiments were further studies done on the American experiments we did on own people. If that doesn't make you physically ill, then I don't know what would. We ended up helping them develop torture techniques by being equally as cruel to our own people just because they were different. We did it so well, in fact, that some of the first people during the Holocaust to be mass sterilized and euthanized; shot and gassed were...you guessed it, the mentally ill, mentally challenged, and disabled. Not long after the first gassing of a prison population in 1939 they went on to murder their "undesirables" as well. With these people, the Nazi's developed their procedures which would later be used for the extermination camps and murders of hundreds of thousands of people. And the eugenics followers were so proud of what they had accomplished. They reveled in it. They were honored to be a part of it all:
After the eugenics movement was well established in the United States, it was spread to Germany. California eugenicists began producing literature promoting eugenics and sterilization and sending it overseas to German scientists and medical professionals. By 1933, California had subjected more people to forceful sterilization than all other U.S. states combined. The forced sterilization program engineered by the Nazis was partly inspired by California's.
The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs, including the one that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.
Upon returning from Germany in 1934, where more than 5,000 people per month were being forcibly sterilized, the California eugenics leader C. M. Goethe bragged to a colleague:
"You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought . . . I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people."
Eugenics researcher Harry H. Laughlin often bragged that his Model Eugenic Sterilization laws had been implemented in the 1935 Nuremberg racial hygiene laws. In 1936, Laughlin was invited to an award ceremony at Heidelberg University in Germany (scheduled on the anniversary of Hitler's 1934 purge of Jews from the Heidelberg faculty), to receive an honorary doctorate for his work on the "science of racial cleansing". Due to financial limitations, Laughlin was unable to attend the ceremony and had to pick it up from the Rockefeller Institute. Afterwards, he proudly shared the award with his colleagues, remarking that he felt that it symbolized the "common understanding of German and American scientists of the nature of eugenics."
_According to Wikapedia_ _http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_eugenics
So in conclusion I know exactly why people still hold on to long dead and inaccurate ideas of how the mentally ill look or act like. We all have these dark grainy black and white images of mental patients in our heads. They hype up the creepy factor and seem scary. We see them that way because in all honesty that is how they were portrayed when the old pictures were taken. They were viewed as inhuman and unworthy. The pictures show not really what mental illness looks like but how people can be so unbelievably cruel to one another. They were photographed like that to try to falsely prove to the masses that the mentally ill are unstable, dangerous, and scary. A propaganda, if you will, to make a disgusting movement such as eugenics seem plausible. The mentally ill were presented to the camera in way to terrify and condemn simply so they could achieve their end goal, eradication of all things different. They, my friends were the first to promote stigma and it worked. It worked. It worked because still today in 2013, people conjure those black and white photographs in their minds.They believe the hype. The believe the stigma and all it entails. They keep making these ridiculous and insulting costumes. They still make horror movies about mentally ill patients on murderous rampages. The news papers and media jump at every chance to explain every horrible occurrence away on any mental illness they can use as an excuse. And yes, some may believe that crazy murderous villains ran loose in the asylums. They would be right, but it wasn't the patients that were the murderers. It wasn't the inhabitants that had blood on their hands or axes or scalpels, it was the doctors and staff. So I actually believe that asylums should be thing nightmares are made of. Because they were. I believe they should be Halloween fodder and haunts. I believe that anything associated with asylums should be vile, scary, and drudge up every horrid terrifying disgusting feeling one could ever remotely muster because that is exactly what living in one was like. That is exactly how the "inmates" felt. I believe that we should always look at asylums with wary glances and knots in our throats so that we NEVER sit idly by and let those horrors happen again. I am all for asylums being a bloody, gory, haunt because they truly are haunted. Haunted with the pain and misery hammered down on people that had no way to defend themselves. Our past is haunting and despicable and we need to be reminded of it constantly so that we do not repeat past mistakes and past cruelties. We should all be forced to remember. We should truly know the place where stigma first gave birth. Leave the asylum haunts up, leave the scares and blood and fear, but change the character portrayal. Make the rampaging murderous ax wielders and "leather faces" wear white coats and stethoscopes instead. It would make it far more terrifying and way more accurate.
Just my two cents,