BY: DANIKA MOIR
Photos by Will Ellis
The Rockland State Hospital for the Insane, now known as the Rockland Psychiatric Centre, in Orangeville, New York once held thousands of patients at a time, reaching a population of almost 9,000 by World War II. Because of the unequal ratio of patients to orderlies, patients escaped frequently, and murders that happened in the vicinity of the institution were often blamed on the “mentally disturbed” who had escaped from the hospital. The hospital, which opened in 1931, housed so many inpatients because medicine for the mentally ill had not been created yet. Electroshock therapy and lobotomy were the only treatment methods for those with severe cases of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. When medication for the mentally ill began to be distributed in the ’60s, the Rockland Psychiatric Centre became an outpatient centre, and the amount of patients they received declined, bringing the population down to 600 by 1999. Now, large areas of the 600-acre perimeter are completely empty.
The Rockland Psychiatric Centre opened its doors in 1931, and patients flooded into its halls by the thousands.
A stack of nudie magazines, hidden years before, was found in the basement of a kitchen area in one of the wards.
What was once new and orderly is now decayed, with paint peeling off the walls and debris littering the ground.
Will Ellis describes the configuration of the wards as “maze-like”. Wards were separated into wards for children, women, men, violent patients and criminally insane patients.
Though the hospital performed cruel treatments on patients, the bowling alley shows that the institution did try to create a somewhat normal space for patients to relax and have fun in.
Blank score sheets, possibly from the ’70s, remain on a podium behind the ball return.
It is possible that the bowling equipment that remains in the Rockland Psychiatric Centre has been there since the ’70s.