5 Spooky (Insider) Facts About The Glore Psychiatric Museum

If you grow up in a town with something weird or noteworthy, you sort of become desensitized to it. It’s just a normal thing that you pass by every day. In Saint Joseph, Missouri, that place is the Glore Psychiatric Museum, a morbid trip through the brutal treatment of mental illness through history. It’s the sort of place that draws curious visitors from far outside the town and occasionally gets national attention for just how out there it is — a site that deserves its time in the spotlight. It’s eerie, bizarre, and possibly even haunted.

Oh yeah, and I spent a summer working there, so I know all about it .

5 From Hospital To Museum

Let’s table the discussion of ghosts for a second because honestly, the definite eeriness of the Glore Psychiatric Museum deserves just as much credit as the spirits that may or may not reside there. Glore is housed in a real insane asylum, or part of it anyway. The museum is located in what used to be the surgical building of the State Lunatic Asylum #2 , which opened in 1874 and sounds like a location that should be in the new Resident Evil game. The campus of the asylum was large and almost entirely self-sufficient. As forms of occupational therapy, patients at the hospital grew crops and did other activities that kept the hospital running for more than a century.

giant patient treadmill from Glore Psychiatric Museum

This human hamster wheel provided electricity, we assume.

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In the 1960s, George Glore entered the picture. Glore was a longtime mental health professional, and in 1968, he and patients at the hospital constructed what would become the first exhibits in the museum. It might have looked like he was constructing torture devices because that’s basically what he was doing. Glore wanted to increase awareness for how poorly the mentally ill were treated, even in that very hospital, and did so by creating reproductions of horrific inventions that asylums used to “treat” patients. This includes the “Bath of Surprise,” a tub that patients were unexpectedly dropped into — the shock of the water was supposed to calm them down.

Device to rapidly immerse a patient into a bath of ice water, for psychiatric treatment

Some got so calm, they never spoke again.

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After these exhibits were finished, they were put on display for the public for Mental Health Awareness Week, and they were a big hit. Some people were fascinated to learn about just how inhumane old hospitals were; others just thought the macabre stuff was cool. Either way, the success of the exhibits led to the formation of a permanent museum for them. Then there was a whole transition in the way that mental illness was treated that led to the old asylum growing obsolete. In the end, most of the buildings that made up the asylum campus were turned into a prison, except the old surgical building, which became the permanent home of the Glore Psychiatric Museum.

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Yes, the museum is scenically located next to a prison.

Related: The 7 Most Horrifying Museums on Earth

4 Is It Haunted?

All right, now let’s get to the question that everyone wants to know: Is the museum haunted?

Initially, publicity for the museum came from the brutal reproductions that George Glore made, but as it settled down in its location and visitors regularly came by, the museum earned itself a new reputation. According to many, the museum was haunted by the ghosts of the asylum’s tortured patients. During my time at the museum, I heard all sorts of stories from other museum employees, volunteers, and visitors. Some said that they heard screaming in one place or another. Others felt unexplained bursts of cold air as they walked through the old hospital. Regularly, ghost hunters make their way to the museum, either because they heard from other paranormal folks that it’s a lively place or because the museum hosted a ghost event.

Glore Psychiatric Museum - Rectal Dilators

Note that fans of haunted places have their own definition of “lively place.”

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Now, did I ever have my own paranormal encounter? Was I in contact with a specter? Well, on my very first day there actually, I was walking through the halls of the museum alone when I heard the distant voice of a child. “Mommy!” the voice called. A chill sent through my spine. The stories were real. The voice got closer. And closer. Then . I saw that it was a kid and their mom down the long hallway of the museum, and their voice had been echoing.

Glore Psychiatric Museum Tranquility Chair

Looks like that kid needed a timeout in the “tranquility chair.”

Yeah, sorry to burst any bubbles, but I can’t say that I ever saw anything too unexplainable. The threat of such a thing happening is part of the appeal, though (even for skeptics). No matter how many times I went through the museum, there was still a feeling of tension, like at any moment a door could slam shut or a figure could appear in a mirror.

Related: The 7 Most Questionable ‘Haunted’ Items on eBay

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3 You Don’t Need Ghosts To Be Spooky

The ever-present threat of a ghost sighting might be what used to bring people through the door, but what really keeps the Glore Psychiatric Museum popular is the morbidly interesting collection in the old asylum. What began with the replicas designed by George Glore evolved into one of the most unique collections of artifacts and stories that a museum has to offer.

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Outside of Glore’s reproductions, there is a lot of stuff at the museum that is real, things left behind by patients. Thousands of empty cigarette packs are kept in a cage because a patient was told by a nurse that if they saved up enough, they could redeem them for a new wheelchair (thankfully, the staff did buy him one for his efforts). There’s also an old TV is filled with written notes that a patient stuffed inside because they believed they could communicate with the people on TV. (This was decades before Twitter allowed unstable fans to actually do that.)

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And most famously, there is the stomach contents exhibit. A patient had swallowed hundreds of nails and other objects and then died because that’s what happens when you swallow hundreds of nails. All of the contents were removed from her stomach, and someone then decided that the logical thing to do would be to artistically arrange them so that they look like an ancient sculpture of a bursting sun. Now the stomach contents are one of the main focal points of the museum; at least once a day, I saw someone buy a postcard with the exhibit pictured on it.

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items found in the stomach of a patient suffering from pica taken at the Glore Psychiatric Museum

Four days a week, that person was Jared Leto.

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Together, each of these exhibits tells a story that doesn’t require ghosts to be scary. It’s a story of how society did not understand mental illness to a dangerous degree, and it says that even though we’ve come far, there is still room to improve. And it’s a story that wrote itself. Each hallway of the Glore Museum feels like it could be part of the hotel in The Shining. But it isn’t. It is a real location where real people with real problems were trapped.

Related: A Definitive Ranking Of Spooky Halloween Sound Effects

2 And Then There’s The Basement

Okay, for the most uncomfortable experience at the museum, look no further than the basement, which was quite literally designed for an apocalyptic event. Because the building that houses the Glore Museum was the campus’s surgical building, the rest of the museum feels like a hospital. The rooms and hallways have a design that clearly resembles a traditional hospital, even if new doors and other features have been added to make the building flow more like a museum. Though the basement does have jarring reminders that, oh yeah, this place is legit. The most striking of these is the hospital morgue.

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Yes, because the hospital was created to be mostly self-sufficient, that included having an on-site morgue. Patients who died at the hospital were then buried on hospital grounds in an area that is now operated by the prison. This creates a sort of weird existential dread as a museum visitor. Some patients were completely forgotten about once they entered the hospital doors. They lived there, died there, and were buried there. It’s haunting, and not just because of the ghosts.

This feeling is made even more real because the freezers in the morgue are still kept cool. This may seem like it’s done for show, a way to keep up the mystique of the museum, and in a way, it might be. It was a draw, too; at least twice a week, I would have to tell someone that they couldn’t climb into the morgue. I guess they thought it’d be a good photo op. In practice, the freezers are kept cool in the chance that every other morgue in town is full. It has never, to my knowledge or research, happened, but if any worst-case scenario ever came true, there could be coroners rushing into the Glore Psychiatric Museum with a corpse to freeze.

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Images of upcoming dread are made even more prevalent because the basement is a designated fallout shelter. Step down into the basement, and you’ll be greeted by signage to remind you that the Glore Museum basement could survive a nuclear blast. So that’s comforting, I guess. It all comes together to make the basement feel like it should be a haunted house, the sort where a cast member would rise out of the morgue and make creepy sounds. But nope. This is just a real location.

Related: This Is The Coolest (And Creepiest) Basement We’ve Ever Seen

1 It’s Not All Doom And Gloom

While the museum has a lot to say about a dark subject, there is a sort of comfort in it all too. Artifacts that demonstrate patient mistreatment sit near displays of patients’ artwork that attempt to explain to the misunderstanding public how they were feeling. The same basement that feels like a set in a post-apocalyptic movie also contains classic cars that had been painted and decorated by young patients at the hospital. The cars were taken to car shows and won major prizes.

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I guess what I’m saying is that when I walked through the museum, I never just felt creeped out or anything. Yeah, there is a perpetual eeriness to it all, but at some point, I just accepted going down the rabbit hole. As I got deeper, the sights got stranger, but I also grew to understand it more.

A piece of cloth embroidered by a patient suffering schizophrenia, demonstrating the nonsensical associations between words and phrases characteristic of thought disorder

Day 1: That schizo patient was nuts!
Day 101: That’s some pretty neat embroidery, actually.

This is what I saw with a lot of museum visitors too. They would come in thinking they would find ghosts or see the crazy things that people used to do. When it was time for them to leave, though, it was like something had grown in them. They came to understand the differences in people and to not brush everything that diverts from their norms as “crazy.” And before they left, they always made sure to drop a quarter to take home a stomach contents postcard. I like to think it left a positive impression on them.

Glore Psychiatric Museum in Missouri

This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item linked from this post, RV Hive may receive a small commission, at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting the work that goes into developing RV Hive!

Glore Psychiatric Museum in Missouri

For a unique museum visit, check out the Glore Psychiatric Museum in Saint Joseph, Missouri.

We stopped by as we drove our Airstream across the country as it made for a fascinating rest stop and educational experience in an old psychiatric museum.

The original State Lunatic Asylum No. 2 opened in 1874 and had 25 mental health patients.

The resulting museum is considered by many to be the largest and best exhibition explaining the evolution of mental health care in the United States.

The Glore Psychiatric Museum has been recognized as “One of the 50 most unusual museums in the country” and after our visit, we’d agree.

But “unusual” is a good thing. For example, check out the details of our visit to the Museum of Clean in Idaho or the Museum of the Modern Housecat outside of Asheville, North Carolina.

The award-winning museum chronicles the 130-year history of Missouri’s state mental hospital. Visitors start with a short video that explains the history of mental health treatment.

State Lunatic Asylum

State Lunatic Asylum

Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals (The MIT Press)

  • Christopher Payne
  • Publisher: The MIT Press
  • Edition no. 1 (09/04/2009)
  • Hardcover: 209 pages

One thing that really helped put the museum displays in context is how it explained although many of the “medical” treatments on display in the museum may seem harsh and completely inane by today’s medical standards, the doctors and nurses of the early years of mental health treatment were just doing what they thought was best to help the patient.

Patient-designed display of life in the state mental hospital

Patient-designed display of life in the state mental hospital, including Barbie in a straight-jacket

The mental health medical field has progressed significantly since many of the early treatments on display (here’s looking at you “Bath of Surprise!), but the treatments were conducted on mental health patients prior to doctors and nurses knowing any better.

They were honestly trying to do what they thought was best for the patients. These seem cruel by today’s standards, but whose to say that in 100 years, a museum may display today’s mental health treatments with the same type of wonder as to what the medical field was thinking?

After watching the video, visitors go through several floors of museum exhibits, including surgical tools, seemingly bizarre medical equipment, patient artwork, and more.

Glore Psychiatric Museum Displays

The museum has many interesting displays, including the several profiled here. Some were used in the state psychiatric museum, but others were in use before the museum’s time.

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Bath of Surprise

For example, the “Bath of Surprise” was a 17th century device for calming disturbed mental patients. The patient was dropped suddenly through a trap door into a tub of cold water. The thinking of the time was that this shock would break the chain of delusional ideas patients exhibited. It also was used because it caused fear in patients who were “stubbornly opposed to the use of medications or determined not to submit to rules established for the common good.”

Bath of Surprise

Bath of Surprise

Blistering

Another unique mental health treatment was the use of blistering in the 17th century to help cure hysteria in female patients. Also known as cauterization, the prevailing thought at the time was that hysteria in women was caused by a misalignment or wandering of the uterus. To fix the wandering uterus, the female patient was burned on the forehead with a red-hot iron. Ouch.

Blistering mental patient treatment Blistering of female mental patients

The Lunatic Box

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the lunatic box was used to help calm mental patients. The patient was placed into the box (sometimes referred to as the English booth, the coffin, or the clock case) and had to remain in a standing position until he or she became calm. To add to the treatment, the opening over the face area in the box could also be covered up, thereby leaving the patient in total darkness.

The Lunatic Box

The Lunatic Box

The patient was typically left in the lunatic box for extended periods of time. He or she would be fed a meager diet of gruel or gravy and would have to stand in his or her own waste. To add to the discomfort, the patient would have to sleep either standing up or in some undoubtedly uncomfortable position.

Blood Letting

Blood letting of medical patients is a practice that continued into the 19th century. To “let” blood, medical professionals of the time used either a special knife, cupping devices, or leeches. The patient was bled frequently in order to rid them of the impurities contributing to their mental disorder that were thought to be present in their bloodstream. After extensive bleeding, the patient was thought to be improved due to their weakened position and inability to resist.

Blood letting

Blood letting

Tranquilizer Chair

The tranquilizer chair was developed by the “father of psychiatry in the United States” Benjamin Rush. Developed in the 18th century, a mental health patient could be strapped to the tranquilizer chair until he or she became calm. The chair held the patient’s arms, legs, body, and head in a state of total immobility, which was intended to lower the patient’s pulse and relax the muscles.

Tranquilizer chair

Tranquilizer chair

While the patient was confined to the chair, Dr. Rush would perform various treatments, such as bloodletting or placing the patient’s feet in scalding hot water while ice was applied to his or her head.

O’Halloran’s Swing

In 1818, Dr. O’Halloran was a physician in Ireland who developed a new version of “the swing” to treat mental patients. In this revolving swing, the patient sat in the swing and was spun at the rate of 40 to 100 turns per minute. Centrifugal force forced blood to the patient’s brain which caused intense anxiety, false sensations, fear of suffocation, nausea, vertigo, vomiting, and more. Patients were put in either a seated or laying down position.

Patients in either a seated or laying down position in the swing The Swing

The medical thinking at the time was that the swing’s use would help delirious, melancholic, obstinate, and uncooperative mental patients to train them to be obedient to prescribed rules of the time.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

As the mental health field progressed, researchers looked for new and improved ways to understand and treat mental health patients. At the University of Iowa, British born medical engineer Harold Shipton served as one of the pioneers of the electroencephalogram (EEG) field and its use in mental health. Shipton believed that the study of small electrical changes in brain activity would aid in understanding of brain function.

EEG patient

EEG patient

Shipton made an asute observation about our understanding of the brain. In 1975, he wrote, “to understand the functioning of the brain is perhaps the ultimate human challenge. It could be said that the brain is the only system complex enough to ponder its complexity.”

Early Tranquilizers vs Modern Tranquilizers

The Glore Psychiatric Museum makes an excellent point about tranquilizers with its images of early tranquilizers vs modern day tranquilizers. In earlier times in psychiatric treatment, tranquilizers took the form of handmade clubs, which were used at the St. Joseph State Hospital as recently as 1950. Nowadays, however, tranquilizers take the convenient pill form.

Early tranquilizers Modern tranquilizers

Location

The Glore Pyschiatric Museum is conveniently located near Highway 29 just north of Kansas City. It’s in Missouri, but very near the border with Kansas. (Perhaps you should combine it with a visit to the Evel Knievel museum in Topeka!) If you’re roadtripping in the area, it’s an easy stopover point. The museum has plenty of parking spaces and areas to turn around for large RVs. It even has designated parking for large RVs and buses.

Summary

The Glore Psychiatric Museum made for an excellent stopover area while RV’ing across the country. We spent several hours at the museum and it was a great place to stretch our legs while learning about how far the mental health field has progressed in the United States. There’s plenty of RV parking and the museum is very easy to get to near the highway on the border with Kansas and Missouri.

If you liked this article, please Share, Pin, or Tweet it!

Glore Psychiatric Museum in Missouri

This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item linked from this post, RV Hive may receive a small commission, at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting the work that goes into developing RV Hive!

Glore Psychiatric Museum in Missouri

For a unique museum visit, check out the Glore Psychiatric Museum in Saint Joseph, Missouri.

We stopped by as we drove our Airstream across the country as it made for a fascinating rest stop and educational experience in an old psychiatric museum.

The original State Lunatic Asylum No. 2 opened in 1874 and had 25 mental health patients.

The resulting museum is considered by many to be the largest and best exhibition explaining the evolution of mental health care in the United States.

The Glore Psychiatric Museum has been recognized as “One of the 50 most unusual museums in the country” and after our visit, we’d agree.

But “unusual” is a good thing. For example, check out the details of our visit to the Museum of Clean in Idaho or the Museum of the Modern Housecat outside of Asheville, North Carolina.

The award-winning museum chronicles the 130-year history of Missouri’s state mental hospital. Visitors start with a short video that explains the history of mental health treatment.

State Lunatic Asylum

State Lunatic Asylum

Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals (The MIT Press)

  • Christopher Payne
  • Publisher: The MIT Press
  • Edition no. 1 (09/04/2009)
  • Hardcover: 209 pages

One thing that really helped put the museum displays in context is how it explained although many of the “medical” treatments on display in the museum may seem harsh and completely inane by today’s medical standards, the doctors and nurses of the early years of mental health treatment were just doing what they thought was best to help the patient.

Read Post  How to recommend a place in English

Patient-designed display of life in the state mental hospital

Patient-designed display of life in the state mental hospital, including Barbie in a straight-jacket

The mental health medical field has progressed significantly since many of the early treatments on display (here’s looking at you “Bath of Surprise!), but the treatments were conducted on mental health patients prior to doctors and nurses knowing any better.

They were honestly trying to do what they thought was best for the patients. These seem cruel by today’s standards, but whose to say that in 100 years, a museum may display today’s mental health treatments with the same type of wonder as to what the medical field was thinking?

After watching the video, visitors go through several floors of museum exhibits, including surgical tools, seemingly bizarre medical equipment, patient artwork, and more.

Glore Psychiatric Museum Displays

The museum has many interesting displays, including the several profiled here. Some were used in the state psychiatric museum, but others were in use before the museum’s time.

Bath of Surprise

For example, the “Bath of Surprise” was a 17th century device for calming disturbed mental patients. The patient was dropped suddenly through a trap door into a tub of cold water. The thinking of the time was that this shock would break the chain of delusional ideas patients exhibited. It also was used because it caused fear in patients who were “stubbornly opposed to the use of medications or determined not to submit to rules established for the common good.”

Bath of Surprise

Bath of Surprise

Blistering

Another unique mental health treatment was the use of blistering in the 17th century to help cure hysteria in female patients. Also known as cauterization, the prevailing thought at the time was that hysteria in women was caused by a misalignment or wandering of the uterus. To fix the wandering uterus, the female patient was burned on the forehead with a red-hot iron. Ouch.

Blistering mental patient treatment Blistering of female mental patients

The Lunatic Box

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the lunatic box was used to help calm mental patients. The patient was placed into the box (sometimes referred to as the English booth, the coffin, or the clock case) and had to remain in a standing position until he or she became calm. To add to the treatment, the opening over the face area in the box could also be covered up, thereby leaving the patient in total darkness.

The Lunatic Box

The Lunatic Box

The patient was typically left in the lunatic box for extended periods of time. He or she would be fed a meager diet of gruel or gravy and would have to stand in his or her own waste. To add to the discomfort, the patient would have to sleep either standing up or in some undoubtedly uncomfortable position.

Blood Letting

Blood letting of medical patients is a practice that continued into the 19th century. To “let” blood, medical professionals of the time used either a special knife, cupping devices, or leeches. The patient was bled frequently in order to rid them of the impurities contributing to their mental disorder that were thought to be present in their bloodstream. After extensive bleeding, the patient was thought to be improved due to their weakened position and inability to resist.

Blood letting

Blood letting

Tranquilizer Chair

The tranquilizer chair was developed by the “father of psychiatry in the United States” Benjamin Rush. Developed in the 18th century, a mental health patient could be strapped to the tranquilizer chair until he or she became calm. The chair held the patient’s arms, legs, body, and head in a state of total immobility, which was intended to lower the patient’s pulse and relax the muscles.

Tranquilizer chair

Tranquilizer chair

While the patient was confined to the chair, Dr. Rush would perform various treatments, such as bloodletting or placing the patient’s feet in scalding hot water while ice was applied to his or her head.

O’Halloran’s Swing

In 1818, Dr. O’Halloran was a physician in Ireland who developed a new version of “the swing” to treat mental patients. In this revolving swing, the patient sat in the swing and was spun at the rate of 40 to 100 turns per minute. Centrifugal force forced blood to the patient’s brain which caused intense anxiety, false sensations, fear of suffocation, nausea, vertigo, vomiting, and more. Patients were put in either a seated or laying down position.

Patients in either a seated or laying down position in the swing The Swing

The medical thinking at the time was that the swing’s use would help delirious, melancholic, obstinate, and uncooperative mental patients to train them to be obedient to prescribed rules of the time.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

As the mental health field progressed, researchers looked for new and improved ways to understand and treat mental health patients. At the University of Iowa, British born medical engineer Harold Shipton served as one of the pioneers of the electroencephalogram (EEG) field and its use in mental health. Shipton believed that the study of small electrical changes in brain activity would aid in understanding of brain function.

EEG patient

EEG patient

Shipton made an asute observation about our understanding of the brain. In 1975, he wrote, “to understand the functioning of the brain is perhaps the ultimate human challenge. It could be said that the brain is the only system complex enough to ponder its complexity.”

Early Tranquilizers vs Modern Tranquilizers

The Glore Psychiatric Museum makes an excellent point about tranquilizers with its images of early tranquilizers vs modern day tranquilizers. In earlier times in psychiatric treatment, tranquilizers took the form of handmade clubs, which were used at the St. Joseph State Hospital as recently as 1950. Nowadays, however, tranquilizers take the convenient pill form.

Early tranquilizers Modern tranquilizers

Location

The Glore Pyschiatric Museum is conveniently located near Highway 29 just north of Kansas City. It’s in Missouri, but very near the border with Kansas. (Perhaps you should combine it with a visit to the Evel Knievel museum in Topeka!) If you’re roadtripping in the area, it’s an easy stopover point. The museum has plenty of parking spaces and areas to turn around for large RVs. It even has designated parking for large RVs and buses.

Summary

The Glore Psychiatric Museum made for an excellent stopover area while RV’ing across the country. We spent several hours at the museum and it was a great place to stretch our legs while learning about how far the mental health field has progressed in the United States. There’s plenty of RV parking and the museum is very easy to get to near the highway on the border with Kansas and Missouri.

If you liked this article, please Share, Pin, or Tweet it!

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Source https://www.rvhive.com/glore-psychiatric-museum-in-missouri/

Source https://www.rvhive.com/glore-psychiatric-museum-in-missouri/

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