Old Main: Historical Society Weighs In

By Don Dudley

Published 08/26 2014 06:37PM

Updated 08/26 2014 06:51PM

While some might have been surprised at the huge crowd that turned out last night to tour the old insane asylum, others were not surprised at all.


There are secrets behind the old limestone’s walls and not all of them are pretty.


Eyewitness news got together with Brian Howard of the Oneida County historical society to talk about the institution and what happened behind the walls and the windows barred with steel.


“This type of facility came about.  The mentally ill were not necessarily even treated as humans,” said Howard.


Some of the people who were here last night they believed in the paranormal, they thought that they could hear literally sounds of ghosts of the past, ghosts who were chained in the basement. People, who were kept in tiny cells, people who were kept in the Utica crib, which was nothing short of being a cage.  There were horrors that happened here, where there not?


“There were, and also you have to remember that we're putting the treatment of the mentally ill in the context of the nineteenth century,” said Howard,” while the lunatic asylum was an improvement it was still by today's standards, in many ways barbaric.”


This isn’t something that as humanity we can be particularly proud of in this particular part of our history knowing what we know now.


“Knowing what we know now. That’s the key phrase, because we didn’t know back then,” said Howard.


And lobotomies, removing portions of a person’s brain happened right here.


“And again, another practice which has been deemed to be relatively ineffective in modern times and that has really fallen out of vogue since the nineteen sixties, nineteen seventies,” said Howard.


What would be in store for someone in 1843 if they were brought to this facility?

“Long incarceration, quite possibly against your will. Treatments that were viewed to be cutting edge in the eighteen forties,” said Howard.

Some that we now consider inhumane?

“Correct,” said Howard.

If not torturous?

“In some cases yes,” said Howard.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.