Glore Psychiatric Museum – St. Joseph, Missouri Dioramas span the history of treatment for mental illness — witch burnings and devil stompings; the "Bath of Surprise," a gallows-like platform that dumped a patient into icy water; and a working model of O’Halloran’s Swing, in which strapped-in patients spun at up to 100 RPMs. The museum was identified as one of the 50 most unusual museums in America.
The story begins in 1872 when Missouri’s State Legislature approved $200,000 for the building of a Lunatic Asylum and St. Joseph citizens convinced the legislature to locate it just east of their city. Opening its doors on November 9, 1874, the hospital was called the State Hospital for the Insane No.2, or more familiarly named the Lunatic Asylum #2. Beginning with 25 patients, the first hospital superintendent described the institution as "the noble work of reviving hope in the human heart and dispelling the portentous clouds that penetrate the intellects of minds diseased.” And so it was for the next 127 years.
By the early 1950s, the facility had grown to nearly 3,000 beds and housed some of the most criminally insane individuals in the state, as well as those that could be rehabilitated, and others who were merely depressed. According to the museum, a few of these patients were just mildly depressed individuals who were dumped there by annoyed relatives.
This history of how the mentally ill were treated in the past is displayed in this museum. The list above shows some of the horrific actions taken to treat the disease at the time.
The museum formerally inhabited a ward of St. Joseph State Hospital — called the State Lunatic Asylum #2 until 1899 — a fortress-like mental health complex. Modern medication has returned nearly all the patients to society, making way for the state to turn the facility into a prison.
The museum sits right outside the prison fence, in a complex of brick buildings. The original museum was started in 1967, by George Glore, a lifetime employee of the Missouri mental health system.
You will be able to see the medical wards, Occupational Therapy
projects, old farming equipment (the asylum was self-sufficient for many years, needing to purchase only sugar and salt from the outside environment), cooking facilities, historic photos, car-customization youth project, documentation and architectural artifacts.
The collection now fills four floors of the newer facility. Displayes include those listed above. In addition before retiring, George (Glore, founder of the museum) completed the giant patient treadmill — a locked mega-gerbil-wheel monstrosity — where frisky residents could walk off their excess energy.
Patients could spend up to six months in the "Tranquilizer Chair." It was invented by Benjamin Rush, "The Father of American Psychiatry," a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a big believer in leeches and bleeding. The museum has a reproduction of Rush’s bleeding knife that was distributed to promote a drug manufacturer; they were recalled after a patient grabbed one off his psychiatrist’s desk and stabbed him to death.
Many of the devices are shown in use on an assortment of female glamour mannequins donated by a department store. Three mannequins are chained to the wall of his Bedlam Asylum scene. "Bedlam used to charge admission — people would visit as recreation," Glore would say, shaking his head, as he led tourists through his museum.
The mid-20th Century exhibits include items used during the early days of Glore’s own tenure: hydrotherapy and the wet sheet pack (patients rolled in wet sheets), lobotomy instruments, Fulton, MO’s hospital cage, electroconvulsive treatments, and a fever-cabinet used for heating syphilis victims.
Artistic legacies of certain patients are on display, too. There is an imaginative arrangement of 1,446 items swallowed by a patient and removed from her intestines and stomach. She died during surgery from bleeding caused by 453 nails, 42 screws, safety pins, spoon tops, and salt and pepper shaker tops.
One fellow stuffed 525 disjointed notes into a working television set in a ward. Found by a repairman in 1971, many of the scraps appeared to be answers to questions the patient had been asked by psychiatrist over the years to determine his mental state.
"Another patient swallowed a Timex," said Glore. "When she passed it, it was still ticking. " Another patient collected 100,000 cigarette packs under the delusion that the cigarette companies would redeem them for a new wheelchair for his ward.
The Glore Museum’s new management continues to collect artifacts and add to the exhibits. One gallery showcases contemporary patient art; in the basement, you can examine cars customized by teams of patients, or glimpse a functioning morgue.
Location: 3406 Frederick Ave., St. Joseph, MO
Directions: I-29 exit 47 (Frederick Ave.) Head west about a mile. After 36th St. you’ll see the Glore sign and building on the left.
Hours: M-Sa 10-5, Su 1-5