During a road trip made in September last year, I visited 2 abandoned mental asylums in the same day. One was in the process of getting demolished while the other one was decaying rapidly. Both have a very tragic past as you'll discover by reading this post. One is known to be haunted while the other one, we can only guess.
The Saint-Julien hospital was built in 1870 but had to be rebuilt in 1917 when tragedy struck. A violent fire not only destroyed the hospital but also killed 46 people.
Serving as a mental institution for young girls, the reputation of St-Julien took a turn for the worst in the 1950's with the Duplessis Orphan scandal.
During the 1950's and and early 60's, normal children but orphans were falsely labeled as mentally retarded by corrupt doctors and put in Quebec's most important psychiatric institutions, which included the Saint-Julien hospital, were they suffered terrible treatments.
The sanitized version of this scandal, which broke in 1990, implied that Quebec's prime minister at the time, Maurice Duplessis, conspired with powerful Roman Catholic Church figures and groups to transfer children from orphanages to mental institutions in a bid to gain more federal funding. They were also fingered as the main culprits in this scandal. Convenient fall guys as Duplessis was dead and the Church, well, has been practically extinct for a while now in this province.
While the church implication was certainly motivated by money, the fact that an extremely large percentage of children were experimented on with electroshock, insulin shock therapy, unapproved and dangerous drugs like Chlorpromazine (Largactil) and Metrazol and in fewer cases, lobotomies, certainly indicates that psychiatry was at the heart of all of this.
While religious groups owned most of those mental institutions at the time, it is not them, the nuns, who orchestrated the treatments nor did they cared about cutting edge psychiatric experiments carried on during those years.
Physical, mental and sexual abuse at the hand of the nuns, priests, helpers and guards were widely reported by the Duplessis Orphans who first came out publicly as an organized group in 1990, but nothing compares to the trauma many suffered as a result of the barbaric medical experiments they had to endure during the many years they spent locked up in those institutions. And those were the lucky ones as many were severely brain damaged while plenty others died. "One of the surviving orphans claims to have transported over 60 cadavers between the operating rooms and the morgue" reports Radio-Canada News.
Two very prominent colleagues at McGill university in Montreal, Ewan Cameron from the MKULTRA fame and Heinz Lehmann, the man who introduced Chlorpromazine (also known as "the chemical lobotomy") in North America seem to have played a role in the Duplessis Orphan scandal.
Dr. Heinz Lehmann worked at the Verdun Protestant Hospital (now called the Douglas Hospital) where a number of Duplessis Orphans resided during his years and his drug of choice was, you guessed it, the very experimental Chlorpromazine which was given to a large number of orphans.
His esteemed colleague Dr. Ewan Cameron, the man who said that "The only cure for mental illness is to eliminate its "carriers" from society altogether." (Carriers of course means those with a mental illness), was president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association in the early 50's while also serving as the president of the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Cameron was also known to have used treatments such as insulin and Metrazol shock therapy and lobotomies during his years at the Brandon Mental Health Facility in the 1930's. It was also admitted that he later used electroshock treatments for his mind control experiments while working the McGill's Allan Memorial Institute in the 50's. The use of Chlorpromazine by Cameron has also been reported.
Odd that those experimental "treatments" favored by Cameron and Lehmann were precisely the ones used on the Duplessis orphans.
The photo above shows the center piece of the gigantic, kilometer long, Saint-Julien mental hospital, right as it was being demolished in late 2012. In the 1950's, over 1500 young girls were residing within its walls.
Perhaps also destroyed today, the decaying play area, surrounded by fences was directly behind the hospital. No neighbors behind, just a forest.
The play area also included a swimming pool.
This was an extremely eerie place to walk in, just as the sun was setting. Very quiet yet chilling.
The changing rooms.
This is the cemetery right in front of the hospital. Many children and teenagers who died at the hospital were buried there.
The "haunted asylum" as the locals call it was first built in 1939 as a monastery. It was then sold in 1953 and converted into a religious institute for young men. It is in 1958 that tragedy first struck at the "Maison Notre-Dame de la Chesnaie" as it was called back then when 3 young teens died in a fire.
The building was then sold to the government in 1969 and converted into an insane asylum for adults. Tragedy struck a second time in 1988 when another fire killed 9 patients aged from 32 to 50 years old.
Now abandoned for more than a decade, this old mental asylum is viewed by many as haunted and has been the site of many ghost investigations by local paranormal groups.
Above is the creepy decaying entrance.
Even creepier is the pool on the left side of the building. Frogs seem to like it though.
Above is the left side of the building.
And this is the right side with a sofa chair, if you need a rest.