Browse Primary Sources
". . .The fact that she pretended insanity would have been sufficient reason for keeping her for a time under observation. But there is a popular impression that once declared insane, always insane; and once played in an asylum, always to remain in an asylum. . ."
Great Bend Tribune (KS) 1974-05-01
"A committee has been appointed at Larned State Hospital to look into a report of a patient mistreatment, according to Ralph Arnold, information coordinator for the hospital. . ."
Salina Journal (KS) 1974-01-31
"Pawnee County Mental Health Group Says LSH Attacks Unfair" - Pawnee County Mental Health Association - Great Bend Tribune
"We are writing in response to the recent articles on the Larned State Hospital in the Wichita Eagle written by Betty Wells. We realize that Miss Wells thought she was writing an expose but she lacked the experience and training to judge what was taking place around her at the hospital."It is the opinion of this organization that Miss Wells has caused great damage with her articles to the patients in the hospital with an invasion of privacy, and disruption of treatment, discouragement and fear for those seeking treatment, and for the destruction of the image of the mental health program. Several patients have been removed from the hospital against medical advice and are still sick. Their chances of recovery have been hindered because of these articles and the way they were written. This would be a terrible burden to realize that one person had denied sick people the opportunity for recovery and for a normal life for personal gain and to sell newspapers. . . ."
Great Bend Tribune (KS) 1974-02-27
The New York Tribune 1872-09-03
"The report which follows details the experiences of a Tribune reporter in obtaining admission into Bloomingdale Insane Asylum. The test of the law of commitment and the management of the Asylum are so distinct that it was found advisable as well as necessary, in order to give time for the preparation of the articles, to make separate narratives of the adventure in getting into custody and the experiences and observations while incarcerated in the Asylum. . . . The commitment of this reporter to the Asylumb grew out of an invitation by Dr. David T. Brown, Superintendent of the management, who in conversation with the one of writers for The Tribune stated the willingness of the management to submit to a thorough investigation of the whole Asylum . . .
The New York Tribune 1872-08-29
"It is 3:30 a.m. on the darkened, locked wards of Metropolitan State Hospital, the hour that belongs to demons, nightmares, cold sweats and fears. A mockingbird is singing monotonously in a scrawny bush outside Ward 406. And inside, 20-year-old Dudley Stewart is screaming, "I don't want no shots, no drugs . . .."
Los Angeles Times 1979-08-12
The World's major competitor, The New York Sun, interviews Bly on her madhouse expose.
New York Sun 1887-10-14
New York Sun 1887-10-07
"Nelly Marina, who also calls herself Nelly Brown, the pretty crazy girl who was sent from Bellevue to Blackwell's Island a week ago yesterday, and about whom there is believed to be a romance, has not yet been claimed. Her case is diagnosed as melancholia, and Dr. Ingram considers it a very hopeful case."
New York Sun 1887-10-05
"The doctors are not certain that she is insane. She says continually that men are going to kill her, and that she would kill herself if she only knew the making of the poison she wants to take."
New York Sun 1887-09-26
"The Matron said that Nellie came to the Home alone about noon on Friday, and said she was looking for her trunks. She was dressed in a gray flannel dress trimmed with brown, brown silk globes, a black straw sailor's hat trimmed with brown, and wore a thin gray illusion veil."
New York Sun 1887-09-25
"It was only a half-hearted and apologetic denial that THE WORLD could get from the asylum authorities regarding Nellie Bly's terrible accusations, a large amount of "referring" to someone else, a refusal to ring forth the accused person, and a female cry of "It can't be so." The reporter was not permitted to see the female attendants whom Nellie charges with atrocious cruelty towards feeble women and the possible truth of this charge was admitted after a left-handed fashion. The charge that patients were plunged into a cold bath was denied, and concerning the bathing of many women ina single water, Supt. Dent could only say, "A nurse who did this would be discharged. . . . "
New York World 1887-10-17
"Around 3 a.m., hair uncombed, face unshaven, wearing a few layers of shabby jackets and shirts, I get off the subway outside Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn. I walk into the lobby and tell the hospital police that I'm looking for psychiatric help. An officer is amused, thinking I was brought to the hospital by the NYPD. 'They just dropped you off, huh?' she says. She escorts me to the emergency room. . . ."
City Limits 1998-06-01
"A strange holiday, this!" some may be ready to exclaim. And in truth, such it seemed to me after the idea of offering myself had suggested itself. But the locality was attractive, and the novelty of the work had a sort of fascination. So Iwent; and being much interested in what I saw and heard, I have thought others might be interested too in my experience.
The Quiver (Britain) 1878-01-01
The Nashville Tennessean 1974-01-31
Editorial: "Mental Health Deserves Top Assembly Priority" - Sutherland series - Nashville Tennessean
The Nashville Tennessean 1974-01-31
The Nashville Tennessean 1974-01-22
The Nashville Tennessean 1974-03-03
The Nashville Tennessean 1974-02-21
The Nashville Tennessean 1974-02-19
"She has been doing newspaper work in New York for several months and is the metropolitan correspondent of a Pittsburgh newspaper. Her mother is the widow of a Pittsburgh lawyer. She is intelligent, capable and self-reliant, and, except for the matter of changing her name to Nellie Bly, has gone about the business of maintaining herself in journalism in a practical, business-like way."
New York Sun 1887-10-14
". . .'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?' . . ."
Chicago Daily Times 1935-07-26
"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."
Chicago Daily Times 1935-07-24
"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. . ."
Chicago Daily Times 1935-07-23
". . .'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. . ."
Chicago Daily Times 1935-07-22
"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' . . ."
Chicago Daily Times 1935-07-19
"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. "
Chicago Daily Times 1935-07-18
"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 ..."
Chicago Daily Times 1935-07-17
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.
Chicago Daily Times 1935-07-16
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.
Chicago Daily Times 1935-07-15
Official promises of ward-by-ward investigation of Kings County Hospital psychiatric division and other city mental institutions bring hope not only to former patients and their loved ones but to families now torn by mental illness. Because many of these people face the possibility of having to rely on city institutions to help their families, they look to the committee headed by Dr. Lawrence C. Kolb, director of the New York Psychiatric Institute, to find ways of bettering some of the shocking conditions which now exist. The worst of these at Kings County Hospital is the failure to segregate patients by age or illness.
New York World-Telegram and Sun 1961-03-24
My stay in the locked wards was the direct result of scores of letters this newspaper received from former patients of Kings County. One of those detailed the experiences of a sane woman, who was admitted to "G" Building, suffering from depression brought on by menopause. For 12 days she lived in the center of the vortex: She saw senile women, tied in wheelchairs, who helplessly fouled their gowns all day long. She saw little girls - the youngest 9 - living among sex exhibitionists, drunks, dope addicts and desperately disturbed women of all sorts.
New York World-Telegram and Sun 1961-03-23
Then I was summoned to see my psychiatrist. Our session came about at my request because I wanted to know what the hospital was planning to do with me. This interview just lasted a few moments, in contrast to the first meeting, which was 20 minutes long. The doctor said that three courses of action were open: I might be retained at the hospital for further observation; I might be committed to a state mental hospital; or I might be released. He added that his decision would have to be backed up by the judgement of his immediate superior, whom I might see very soon.
New York World-Telegram and Sun 1961-03-22
I had worked my way from Ward 31 to Ward 33 but I hadn't known what to expect: Ward 33 smelled like the hold of a troop ship. This is the odor of too many unwashed men sleeping too close together. Five beds had been set up in the day room, where men slept under the unrelenting glare of overhead lights all night long. Near the nurses' station lay a man who was tied to his bed by the sleeves of his straitjacket. He was straining against his bonds and staring straight ahead with unseeing eyes.
New York World-Telegram and Sun 1961-03-21
Two men used to tell me at length about the people they thought they had killed. When you listen to this sort of talk all day long, it is like listening to a gall bladder patient tell you about his operation. Boredom became almost insufferable. The temptation, to over-eat was great, because the food, although simple, was excellent. Several men helped out in the ward's little kitchen for whatever extra food they could get.
New York World-Telegram and Sun 1961-03-20
Not all days have 24 hours. To the patients at Kings County a "day" is sometimes only 50 minutes long. A visiting day at the psychiatric division of Kings County Hospital is officially 90 minutes long. But in practice, it is often shorter than that. The periods that come at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
New York World-Telegram and Sun 1961-03-18
When patients are brought into Kings County in a violent state because of liquor, drugs or madness, they are laced into straitjackets, put under heavy sedation and packed off to Ward 51 on the fifth floor for close confinement and supervision. If they calm down, they are unbound and given the run of 51, under the watchful eyes of its muscular and highly trained attendants.
New York World-Telegram and Sun 1961-03-17
Before I could find out what happened, I was called into the psychiatrist's office. The doctor questioned me gently and with great patience and skill.I allowed him to drag from me a story I had prepared very carefully. I told him in considerable detail that emotional difficulties had been aggravated by heavy drinking and had created severe problems. After the session, the doctor said he was going to admit me to the hospital "for a couple of days," and I was taken into a small dressing room while the doctor talked to my wife.
New York World-Telegram and Sun 1961-03-16
Despite the best efforts of its dedicated doctors and nurses, Kings County Hospital disgorges many of its mental patients with their minds scraped raw because its staff and facilities are inadequate for the processing of the mentally ill. Personal inspection of the psychiatric division reveals: Dreadful overcrowding - so bad that patients are forced to sleep in dining areas and hallways. Lack of segregation - frightened children locked in with depraved adults. Improper housing arrangements - slightly depressed patients thrown in with raving lunatics. Inadequate staffing - evidenced by overworked doctors, nurses, attendants and social workers. Unsanitary conditions in the bathrooms of the wards Questionable psychiatric decisions - patients often sent off to state institutions or returned to society after only a few minutes of psychiatric examination. Inadequate physical examination - patients not checked for venereal or other communicable diseases upon entering the hospital.
New York World-Telegram and Sun 1961-03-15