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He wasn’t the first person to scale the garden wall of Buckingham Palace. The year before, three German tourists had done it. While there had been others who’d breached Palace security, Michael Fagan was to become one of the most infamous. It was 7:15 a.m. on July 9, 1982. Michael Fagan, 31, had been up […]

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  In 1888, stunt journalist Nellie Bly (see other entries in “Categories – Nellie Bly” in right sidebar) convinced her boss, the editor of the New York World, to send her on a trip around the world alone. She bet him that she could do it in eighty days or less. Where had she gotten […]

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Regarding some of my recent posts on insane asylums (see sidebar, “Categories: The Insane Asylum”), my neighbor and friend, Karen O’Quin, wrote: I really liked your blog – thanks for sending!!  I see a theme there.  My experience with Austin State Hospital is that when I first started working at Travis State School in 1967, […]

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In Nellie Bly’s book, Ten Days in a Mad-House (see category, “Nellie Bly,” for related posts), Nellie Bly described various women she met in the Blackwell Island Women’s Lunatic Asylum. She was confined to Hall 6 with 45 of the least dangerous women in the institution. While some of them were certifiably “crazy,” (her words), many, […]

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I’d fully intended to move away from the subject of insane asylums and talk about a cowgirl from Oklahoma by the name of Lucille Mulhall. But I cannot in good conscience leave the subject without telling what I’ve learned about the barbaric brain surgeon responsible for Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy, the operation that permanently incapacitated her […]

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I’ve been thinking about the very different lives of reporter Nellie Bly and Rosemary Kennedy. Although over fifty years separated these women, both found themselves at the age of 23 at the mercy of mental health “professionals.” Nellie Bly placed herself in a dangerous lunatic asylum as an investigative journalist because she was desperate to […]

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Nellie Bly could have won an Academy Award for her impersonation of a lunatic. On the morning of Saturday, September 24, 1887, within twenty-four hours of checking into the Temporary Home for Females at No. 84 Second Avenue, the police were called to escort “Nellie Brown” to the Essex police station. The assistant matron of […]

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In 1937, Frida Kahlo took a new lover. He was Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary. When Frida met Trotsky, he was a man without a country. He had come to Mexico as a political refugee. He had been expelled from the Soviet Union by his archrival Josef Stalin. For nine years, Trotsky and his wife Natalia had lived in […]

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The man who killed John Wilkes Booth was as mad as a hatter. His name was Boston Corbett. Actually, his name was not originally Boston Corbett, but Thomas T. Corbett. He became a reborn evangelical Christian while in Boston which he took as his new name. He began to wear his hair long like Jesus. […]

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ellie Bly was put on the island boat and sent to Blackwell’s Island. For ten days, she experienced firsthand the horrors of being locked up in cruel and inhumane conditions.  Upon her arrival, she was fed a disgusting meal of pink watery tea, prunes, and bread that was dirty and black and mostly dried dough. She found a […]

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Nellie Bly accepted the assignment. The task was frightening – to get herself committed to an asylum, to live among the lunatics for a week or so, then to write an expose on the conditions there – and she was nervous. But not about her skills as a writer. Her knack for including the telling […]

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