Love abandoned asylums? Special features for DD’s SESSION 9 Ep #320

325_Session-9-2001

What makes Session 9 truly remarkable is its location: the abandoned Danvers State Hospital, where the film was shot, becomes a character in itself. If you didn’t get the chance to urban explore the place when it was still a decaying wreck (which really wasn’t a great idea anyway since A, it was dangerous, and B, they were very hard on those who trespassed), watching Session 9 is probably the next-best thing.

That said, the history of the place is fascinating. Here are the links and videos I mentioned in the Dark Discussions episode on Session 9. And yes, I know I promised pix of me when I “urban explored” Fairfield Hills—an infamous abandoned asylum just fifteen minutes from my home—back in 2002. I put a gallery at the bottom.

If you’d like to hear the Dark Discussions episode on the subject first, you can do that on Stitcher, iTunes, and here.

Danvers State Insane Asylum

This is a one-stop shop for all things DSH: here you’ll find history, photos—vintage, urban exploration, and new—a variety of videos, and news articles.  https://www.danversstateinsaneasylum.com/

Bradlee Danvers Apartment Homes

That’s right, you can live there now! See what the Kirkbride building—inside and out—looks like today. If you’ve been a studier of the place in its decrepit state over the years, this is really wild. http://www.hgliving.com/bradlee-danvers-apartments-danvers-ma

 

Asylum

This documentary isn’t about Danvers, specifically, but gives excellent background on the rise and fall of the American asylum—it goes more in depth about some things we batted around on the episode, including Dorothea Dix and perceptions of the mentally ill. Well worth a watch. https://youtu.be/2sgNUCiAp9Q

The Closing of Danvers State Hospital 1992 Chronicle Story

Want to see what Danvers was like when it was thriving? Nothing looks even remotely creepy in this feature from a news program from the early 1990s, in which you can see the brightly lit hallways, dining hall area and gym before they fell into the states of decay we see in Session 9. With the focus on what would happen if Danvers succumbed to budget cuts, this would have aired about a year before the facility was permanently shuttered. https://youtu.be/eTCu-mP3mfs

Security at Danvers State Hospital After the Doors Closed

Get your favorite beverage to enjoy this hour-plus tour of Danvers when it was still abandoned. I’m guessing this was shot by a security guard. This is probably one of the most complete walk-throughs I’ve ever seen. https://youtu.be/7OOmzFajLqg

From Numbers to Names: State Hospital Cemetery Restoration

This is the remarkable story of former Danvers residents who took up the cause of restoring what had become “a jungle”—the on-property cemeteries where 770 patients were buried. This advocacy group has worked hard to give the dead their dignity back (their markers only contained numbers), and those deceased who have been identified are honored with an on-site memorial wall. The cemetery we see in Session 9 is actually post-clean up, so that’s an interesting thing to note. Want to know more? Peter Muise of New England Folklore shares his 2012 visit: http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/2012/07/danvers-state-hospital-cemetery.html

Danvers State Hospital Burns down

In 2007—two years after AvalonBay had purchased the property and was already deep into developing apartments and condos on the site—a mysterious fire destroyed several buildings. These guys filmed the pretty impressive inferno from a nearby parking lot. https://youtu.be/5QlEzPqICEQ Want a few more details? Here’s a brief report on Firefighting News: http://www.firefightingnews.com/massive-fire-at-former-danvers-state-hospital/

My Adventure at Fairfield Hills

I’m not much of an urban explorer, but I have done a little in my time. Right after an ex-boyfriend and I saw Session 9 when it came out on DVD in May of 2002, we decided to amp up the whole “abandoned asylum vibe” and explore Fairfield Hills, which is 15 minutes from my house.

1 Note from Fairfield Hills File

When we were recording the SESSION 9 episode, there was a question as to how I ended up at Fairfield Hills in the first place–my memory was fuzzy. When I opened the file for the short story I’d written that was inspired by this adventure, this was the note posted inside. Question answered!

 

Fairfield Hills shuttered in 1995, and driving past it post-closure at night was eerie, because there were no lights—I mean, none; it was like the town wanted you to forget about it. You’d be driving along this country road with light after light, and a couple of homes with candle-glow windows, and then—bang, this giant, ink-dark stretch of road with only the stars above you and your headlights to guide you. You could look to your right and left and never even see any of the buildings. You only knew you were past it when, at least, a streetlight appeared again.

That just made it more appealing for me, although I had no interest in going there at night, for sure, and I definitely had no interest in going inside any buildings—it wasn’t safe, but also, the police do not fool around regarding trespassers (read a later-than-my-visit article about that here). People were allowed on the grounds during the day, so I just wanted to wander around and peer in some windows. By chance, we ended up going a little bit further than that, so I never told anyone, nor have I ever shared the very few pictures we took (I only had a handful of shots left on my roll of film. I’m really sorry about that now).

 

 

Eventually, we made our way to what seemed like an out-of-the-way corner of the campus—it was a roundabout flocked with residential duplexes, and it boasted a sign that read “Washington Square.” We wondered who had lived there (later I would learn one of my dear friends actually knew someone who did live there, and that they were homes for some of the doctors).

There was an open window, so we went inside. It was my first experience being anywhere abandoned close up, and it was terrifying, thrilling, and sad. The kitchen cabinet shelves, crammed with rusting cans of beans of soup, were sagging. There was an exploded can of Comet under the cracked sink. There were dishes on the counter, and upstairs, in the bathroom, there was a bar of soap; these vignettes gave the impression that everyone had just run out of there as fast as possible. In the storage room off the kitchen, there was a broken bicycle, and warped records, books, and magazines littered the floor. I was flipping through a pile of papers someone had left in what probably would have been the dining room—they turned out to belong to a patient’s file and even contained some shiver-inducing children’s drawings (yes, really)—when a smoke detector from somewhere on the second floor beeped its “my battery’s dying” sound. It seemed twice as loud because of the barren walls and vacant rooms. Meanwhile, out on Washington Square, a car came by. Freaked out we were going to get caught, I flattened myself against the front door—the only place without a window. I held my breath, because I was afraid if someone got out of the car they would hear my breathing echo.

It was really cool, but I learned I really don’t have the balls to be a full-on urban explorer. I’d rather just look at more intrepid souls’ photos.

 

Today, Fairfield Hills is home to some municipal offices, recreational areas like ball fields, and an ambulance corps—you can learn more about that, and the town’s ongoing plan for redevelopment, here. The grounds are still open to the public during the day, so yes, you may go visit and take pictures from a distance, but for security reasons the town is very strict and the police won’t let anyone near or into the abandoned structures that are left (many of them are being razed). The town will rarely even grant a permit, especially for things like ghost hunting (see this article on Roadtrippers here).

You’ll find that there’s not a whole lot out there in terms of pictures of the inside of the place; the town wants to downplay Fairfield’s past and urban legends. If you’d like to tour the grounds, this video is a pretty good exterior walking tour. It also has a shot of the house that I went into, the one with the large tree to the left. Watch that in Marisol Velasco’s 2013 YouTube video Connecticut Haunts-Fairfield Hills-Newtown, CT here.

Infraredrobert has a few shots of doctors’ houses here, and if you’d like to see more of the interior of the house we explored, 45degree has that here.

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About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, served as a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, has judged both writing and grant competitions and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com

Posted on February 2, 2018, in Dark Discussions - Film Talk, Horror Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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