This was verbatim on my to-do list this weekend, because I spent part of my 3-day weekend working, part resting (to finish getting over a cold), and I needed to make sure I did something fun too. I had intended to go to First Night in Worcester, but after reviewing the schedule I decided that I’d rather just go grab a cheeseburger and a beer and get ready for 2017. I also found 100-strand lights in different colors (red, blue, green, and white) at Walmart for $.57 each so I got all excited for upcoming holidays since looking at my decorated windows through the french doors in my living room is my new happy place.
Anyway, this isn’t about that. This is about my fun thing, which, by the way, I almost backed out of due to sheer laziness. With a New Year’s Resolution to do one recreational activity per week, I would have been starting out pretty poorly if I didn’t stick to my own plan for the weekend. At first I looked up some hiking trails, but figured they were probably kind of steep and snow-covered, and the closest is 30 minutes away. I definitely wasn’t in the mood to drive a half an hour to find out it was too snowy to proceed, so I just started Googling “things to do Worcester.” One of the things that popped up was “Old Stone Church” and seeing it somehow triggered the memory that my supervisor last year had sent an email about abandoned asylums in Massachusetts. Apparently, that email was about a book that features photos of the inside of old asylums in Mass. I was not interested in a book; I was interested in seeing what was in those photos firsthand. Back on Google, I looked for the closest former asylums that still exist. Fortunately, and as with most things, there’s a Wiki page for that. It didn’t take me long to figure out Medfield was the way to go. It’s open to the public during daylight hours AND was the filming location for the movie Shutter Island.
The sign outside the gate was a fairly ominous one, and matched the grayness of the day quite well.
I must say, weather wise, it was perfect. Cold and gray, with leaves and ice crunching beneath my feet. At times, all that could be heard was the sound of my crunching. More often, however, were the sounds of people–after all, this is open to the public and the public was off [of work and school] today. Oddly enough, this historic site has become more like a dog park than anything else, which certainly changes the ambiance of it. But in those moments where other people were just far enough away to be out of earshot, it was perfect.
I was unsure of the rules outside of DON’T GO IN THE BUILDINGS, which was pretty clear from the eight million signs on the grounds. Security patrolled, but not often, and the one police SUV I saw at the site had only stopped to speak with the Security officer and then disappeared. I kept my distance at first and felt an eerie chill of excitement as I walked up to my first red boarded-up building.
You see what I mean about the grayness of it all just fitting so perfectly?
Once I passed that building, it wasn’t long before I ran into more. And more. And so many more.
As you can see, I started to get a little more bold with how closely I approached the buildings. After all, the signs read DON’T GO INSIDE not DON’T GO ANYWHERE NEAR THEM. So I got a bit closer to inspect the wreckage.
As I approached the clocktower-apparently a staple of any good historic mental hospital-I was taken aback when I noticed that someone had decided it needed a little holiday cheer.
Amused, I made my way to the front, not expecting that there would also be decorations there.
I noticed a red snowflake ornament on the ground, the hook having snapped clean in half. I picked it up, re-bent what was left of the hook, and added it to the collection on the tree, feeling satisfied that I had done my part.
As I continued, I snapped photos of anything that struck me as interesting.
At one point I noticed a piece of red plywood and air vent on the ground and my eyes immediately shot up to determine if it had come from the building next to which it sat. Indeed, it had.
This building was situated across from one whose porch I could access, and as I contemplated what kind of photo I would take, I silently cursed the giant boulders that appeared somewhat out of place. There were more of them around the grounds and they all seemed oddly placed. A moment later it dawned on me–they were blocking underground access of some kind. And there was no way they would ever budge. They had definitely covered all of their bases when they went no-access.
It wasn’t until I had neared the end of my adventure when I saw what appeared to be an old sign informing visitors (and residents?) of directions to the buildings they may have been seeking.
It had certainly weathered over time. The building in the background on the left was the only one on the grounds labeled with something other than a spray-painted condemnation designation, and it was called “A” Building. Ignoring the quotes I chuckled to myself, thinking, “indeed.” A building.
As I made my way back to the car, completely forgetting that there was a hospital cemetery nearby, which I will have to return to visit, I couldn’t help but snap a few photos of this structure.
I couldn’t quite determine its purpose, but I’m sure it also would have paled in comparison to the myriad other buildings I had investigated.
I was there for a little over an hour and was saddened not to find any little corners to sneak into any of the buildings. The few doors I attempted to pull on had either been welded shut or didn’t have handles/doorknobs and refused to budge. When I encountered a group of college-age boys, I was tempted to ask if they’d had any luck getting into any of the buildings, but I’d left any kind of self-defense in the Jeep and I wasn’t willing to risk it.
There was only one identifiable “spiritual” moment, and it came towards the end of my adventure. I had doubled-back behind the building that I first photographed upon entering the site and as I approached it, I was hit with that scent of “old.” I’m sure you know it–it’s particularly strong in an attic, or an old book. I wondered if I couldn’t just be smelling what the inside of the building likely smelled of, but it followed me for a few minutes. It lingered as I inspected a few housing structures that were between the first hospital building and the gate. Of course it’s possible that the scent exists inside the buildings and wafted outside, getting “stuck” in my nose for a short while. I don’t particularly believe in spirits or ghosts, but I don’t not believe in them either. What I chose (and choose) to do is let it be as meaningful as it needs to be for me.
I also recognize that I titled this post “Go do a FUN thing,” and then proceeded to describe visiting abandoned asylum grounds. So welcome to my fun. And as Imagine Dragons sang through my radio as I approached the site, “I’m never changing who I am.”