Monday, April 22, 2013

The Ghosts from Bedlam

Everyone today uses the word “Bedlam” to mean something that is out of control, chaotic, loud and noisy. The word Bedlam originated from London’s first insane asylum. The Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem was established in London in 1247 as a hospice. By the time this institution moved to its first new location in 1337, it became known as Bethlem Hospital, or “Bedlam” for short.

By the 1400s Bedlam started to admit patients that had mental distress, they were known at the time as “lunatics”.  One report of the condition these patients endured stated, “manacles, locked chains, and stocks were used as restraints.” One inspection revealed that violent patients were chained to the wall, whipped and dunked in water when they became agitated.

“ In 1598, the house was reported so loathsome and so fifthly kept, as not to be fit to be entered; and the inmates were termed prisoners.”

“Some patients were allowed out of the hospital during the day, licensed to beg on the streets of London.”

After the Great Fire in London this hospital was moved just down the road to Moorfields in 1676. This building was the first constructed to specifically accommodate the insane. 

From the outside this building looked everything modern and artistic. There was even two imposing gargoyles statues that stood at its entrance representing the two kinds of madness, “rave” and “melancholic”. Despite appearances, conditions and the treatment of patients still remained deplorable. One disturbing practice during this time was the public for the price of an admission could “view the lunatics”.

“The practice of showing the patients, like wild beasts, was abolished in 1770, but the abolition was unaccompanied by any other improvement in their treatment.”

After reports surfaced about the ill treatment of its patients the hospital was moved for a third time. Today the Imperial War Museum is housed in what was this third hospital’s admission building. The rest of the wards and buildings have been demolished. The fourth and final location for the hospital is used for the Bethem Royal Hospital. This facility is a modern psychiatric center.

The Liverpool Street Underground Station was opened in February of 1874 on the site of the original Bedlem Hospital. Former patients haunt this busy section of the London Underground. 

One compelling sighting happened in the summer of 2000. A Line Controller spotted something strange on the CCTV camera that he was monitoring that showed the Liverpool Station. It was 2:00 am in the morning and the station was closed for the night. This witness saw a figure wearing white overalls in an eastbound tunnel. He became concerned since he knew no contractors worked the station this late at night. He called his Station Supervisor to report what he was seeing on the screen.

The Supervisor went to investigate. The Line Controller watched as his Supervisor stood nearby the mysterious figure. So he was confused when his Supervisor called to say he had not seen any figure. The Line Controller told his boss that the figure had stood so close to him that he could have reached out and touched it. Hearing this the Supervisor continued to search for the figure.

Again the Line Controller saw the figure walk right passed his boss on his screen, but again his boss did not see the figure. The Supervisor finally giving up went to leave the station but as he did so he spotted white overalls placed on a bench that he had passed before. He stated that they could not have been placed there without him seeing who did it.

Even before the Liverpool Station was built the area where the hospital stood was considered haunted. Between 1750 and 1812 many witnesses reported hearing a female voice crying and screaming. It is believed that this is a former patient from Bedlam. 

Rebecca Griffins was buried in the area. While alive she always frantically clutched a coin in her hand. Witnesses state they hear her asking where her ha' penny is.

No comments: