A fabulous diatribe by the wonderful Seth Nayes about the grand adventure.
Photography by Stevie Oh
Model: Seth Nayes aka Madame Envy
The ride drew near as we set off once again for the Ohio State Reformatory. To a part of the US fastened back in time. Many familiar souls journeyed with us this year. A caravan of artists, addicted to adventure. The wind blowing us into the same place. After rolling through dirt naked in masks. Climbing ladders above destroyed elevator shafts, escaping the prison, this year knowing my way around the long halls of these rusted cells that ensnared so many long lost spirits and hearts. Lives lost. Realizing your mortality thinking of those never given the chance to live. Those who tormented others, murdered, even those who never wanted to leave, or couldn’t. But nothing prepared us for the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Riding from prison in Ohio into the very center of a town called Weston, West Virginia. Oh what a dark past this place holds. Straight into a whole new level of tortured souls. A whole playground of lost memories. Of those who lost their minds.
9 hours we had to play. Countless talent filled the halls and we had it all to ourselves. Delicious eerie paintings of past patients were displayed in the main buildings. Even patient’s diagnosis files could be found scattered about. The shots you see, is my final shoot of the day with the hotty totty, massively experienced with urban exploration himself, Stevie Oetjengerdes. He and I traversed to the top of the Women’s Ward, located behind the ridiculous main structure on the vast 27 acre property. This vintage dress originally created by an unknown mantua-maker was picked up and tailored into a wonderful Refab creation by fabulous mantua-maker herself, fashion designer Dawn Patel. Who also has a Brilliant Stranger line as well on top of many different art projects she delves into. Now I’ve taken good care of this dress in the past. But the locations we uncovered throughout this giganticsection of the Asylum were just too good not to climb around in. Even showering in, probably toxic, paint shavings. I think these shots really capture a repressed, restricted patient suffocating being trapped within these halls. Or possibly even a crazed nurse. Of course, everyone loves a good bedside manner! Don’t you think?
The entire journey culminated at this point. Our tired limbs and minds from the emotional roller coaster of tour, early mornings and late nights had come to an end. A life changing experience after a challenging start to the year. I left it all behind me, while holding onto the memory. So many lessons can be learned. Makes you grateful for the life you have. Knowing that so many lives were wasted. Admission into this entrapment were sickening and heartbreaking in the early 1800’s. You could be locked up for something as natural as a fever, small pox, even if you experience epileptic fits. Or asthma. Even grief for the death of a loved one. Careful ladies and gents, you think Texas is bad. Taking anything to prevent conception would have gotten you thrown into the abyss too. Extreme admission’s entailed nymphomania, dissolute habits, masturbation, jealousy, hereditary predisposition or even an over active mind . Getting kicked in the head by a horse could even get you saddled up to the palace of insanity. I still cannot believe how many people they stuffed into this place. Twenty four hundred were discovered when the greedy hospital was put to an end in the 1950’s. But throughout the mid-1800’s I’m sure so many were induced wrongfully into this so called “sanctuary” for the diagnosed “crazies”
So mind your P’s and Q’s darlings. You never know who wants to trap you. Keep your mind under control. Don’t let it control you. Or you too could slip into the gates of madness…