Thursday, February 20, 2014

Visitor to Lunatic Asylum Mistaken for Patient

Jeremy Clay, The Burglar Caught By a Skeleton and Other Singular Tales from the Victorian Press (London: Icon Books, 2013), pp. 88-9.

Strange Adventure

A correspondent writes to a contemporary: ‘An Oxfordshire woman met with an experience a few days back which should act as a warning to intending visitors to lunatic asylums.

‘The person in question journeyed to Littlemore, a village four miles distant from Oxford where there is an asylum, with the intention of visiting a female patient. The porter, having admitted her, is said to have duly passed her on to one of the matrons with the words ‘to visit a female patient;’ but the nurse appears to have caught only the last words of the sentence, and a mistake resulted which cost the visitor a good deal of unpleasantness, to say the least of it.

‘The stranger was taken to the top of the building, under the belief that she was going to see her friend, and then she was suddenly shut into an empty room. Shortly afterwards a nurse entered, and, to the consternation of the visitor, at once proceeded to undress her. Protestations and remonstrances were alike unavailing, and firmly, though not unkindly, the poor woman was stripped and placed in a bath, after which she was forcibly put to bed.

‘By this time the mistaken lunatic was of course in a frantic state of alarm, which only favoured the belief that she was really a mad woman. Where the gruesome farce might have ended it is not pleasant to contemplate; but by a lucky accident the mistake was discovered later in the day, and the unfortunate woman was set at liberty with profuse apologies.

‘It is satisfactory to hear, under the circumstances, that no complaint has been made as to undue severity on the part of the nurses.’ – The Western Daily Press, Bristol, November 15, 1884