"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

Chicago Daily Times article titled, "Reporter's Experience at Kankakee." Written by Frank Smith as part of his series, "Seven Days in the Madhouse!"

Media History

The reporting was intended for these media types: Newspaper

I-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

Reporter's Experience at Kankakee


He shook my hand, told me to behave myself and suddenly the door was closed. Eddie was gone. I was shut off from the world. My coat and vest were removed. My pockets and bag were emptied. I was led into a combination bath room and barber shop. Orders were given to take off my clothes. I was to have a bath and be put to bed. Feigns Violence with Success Mentally I reviewed what I had heard of the "hydro" department. That's where they take care of violent patients. That was what I had to see to make my investigation thorough. It seemed I'd have to be more violent than just obstinate to get into the "hydro." I became more violent. 

II-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

Reporter Takes Kankakee 'Water Cure'


Fifteen hours in a tub of dirty flowing river water. Fifteen hours soaking in the turbid, unfiltered, unsterilized mud wash of the Kankakee river, while pleas for antiseptic to protect open wounds on my hands and arms, sustained in my struggle with attendants, went unheeded. Fifteen hours watching violent patients wander about the hydrotherapy ward, until, captured, they were wrapped mummy-fashion in wet sheets and blankets, or tied in tubs like myself. Worst of all, a stomach-retching spectacle of sadistic brutality.   

III-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

Reporter's Night of Terror at Kankakee POOR SCAN - REDO


"Finally we stopped near the end of the corridor. I was motioned to an empty bed in a four-bed room. Alcove would be a more descriptive name, for it was walled only on three sides, open to the corridor. I toppled over. The sheets were soiled but I was past caring ..." 

IV-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

'Death Cup' Perils Kankakee Inmates


"Common drinking cups - repugnant source of infections and disease - outlawed for a quarter of a century by the Illinois criminal code - shared with four drooling-mouth cancer patients and a "four plus" syphilitic. This was one of the nauseous conditions I had to endure during my seven days in the madhouse. It was distasteful, but it was a necessary evil. I had a job to do. Sane, I had to share the fate of the insane. I realized all that, and was prepared to go through with my investigation of reported unsanitary conditions. "

V-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times Seven Days in the Madhouse!

Railroaded to Kankakee as Insane


"According to Oscar's story, he was illegally committed through the machinations of his wife. Family difficulties, constant bickering, had paved the way he related. By subterfuge, he said, he was induced to visit a psychiatrist at the University of Chicago. He was subjected to observation with the result that a month later he was ordered into court for a sanitary hearing. He said: 'I didn't think anything of it. I had to go. BUT what could the judge do except find me sane? I had never had any trouble in my life. For years I had been a clerk in the registry division of the main post office in Chicago. They ought to know if I was crazy. My wife swore I was trying to kill her and the children. All I wanted was to be left alone to study and read in the library I had fitted up in my home on the south side. The social service workers aided my wife in getting me put away' . . ."

VI-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

Haunted by Kankakee Fire Hazards


". . .'What,' I asked Max Savoy, one of A-1's attendants, 'what in heaven's name would you do in case of a fire?' 'We'd do our damndest, Ford,' he replied. "We'd have to depend on some of you half-sane guys to help us out with these other nuts. One of the first duties impressed on new attendants, he told me, is the necessity for speed in opening doors and herding out their charges in an emergency. . ."

VII-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

Crazy Rhythm Dance at Kankakee


"Johnny N----, the clothesroom man, was fast becoming a friendly source of institutional information. Possessed of a ground parole, he was my one contact with the outside world. He bought my cigarettes, took my clothes to a quick-service laundry, slipped in a savory hamburger sandwich when the "house" meals became unbearable. Johnny should be able to tell me how to get a view of the dance. I asked him. "Ford," he replied, "don't miss the dances while you're here if you possibly can make them. They're a riot. And there are some honeys amongst the nurses. Ask Denny, he might fix it up for you. . ."

VIII-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

Attempted Suicide at Kankakee Hospital


"Somebody shoved Mr. M---- into the room and he at once captured my interest. His temples were scarred and his neck all across the back was scored with slashes, freshly painted with mercurochrome. Louie L-----, the "tub" room trust, greeted me from the door, and explained about Mr. M----. "He's nuts," said Louie. "He's got bad blood, and he tried to kill himself with a piece of window pane. Don't pay no attention to him. Say I've got some swell socks, brand new. I'll sell 'em cheap to you, cause you're my pal." I wasn't interested in socks at the time. Not with Mr. M---- willing to tell me about his suicide attempt."

IX-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

Water Perils Inmates at Kankakee


"The water used for cooking and drinking at the madhouse is obtained from two deep wells. It is good water, at the start, when it is discharged from the wells. But after that it is subject to contamination from a number of sources. The well water is collected in an open concrete reservoir of two million gallons capacity at the well site. This reservoir, looking like an ideal swimming pool, is close to the Kankakee river. A wire fence surrounds the pool to exclude inquisitive inmates. It fails in its purpose. It offers no protection against animals dust or dirt."

X-"Seven Days in the Madhouse!" - Frank Smith - Chicago Daily Times

Freedom! Reporter Leaves Kankakee


". . .'Johnny Ford, there's a visitor to see you.' Attendant 'Denny' Dennison's voice awakened me from my melancholy reveries. I hurried to the visitor's room and found Willis O'Rourke, Daily Times reporter, my quondam brother 'Edward C. Ford,' awaiting me in the doorway. 'Hello, Johnny,' he greeted me. Then after we were alone he looked at my sagging waistline and whistled. 'What the hell are you doing, dieting?' (I lost eight pounds during my week in the madhouse.) 'Yes,' I answered. 'I'm saving up for the juiciest steak I can order, chargeable to the expense account. How about getting me out of this joint?' . . ."