A long, long, loooong time ago….well it certainly feels like that, I sort of stumbled along into acting and modelling. That had to be said as I was doing some extra work on a vampire movie out in an area I live not far from now, Kings Seat. Typical film day, we had to be on set at 4-fricken-am, and in make up after signing in. So it’s cold and wet and windy. The location is an abandoned insane asylum. Big luminous floodlights are set up inside and outside of the main empty building. Spitting rain plays invisible/visible as it passes through the light – gusts of dark wind causing frenzied flurries – mesmerising, hypnotising, vampirising – so yeah, it was perfect for filming a horror/vampire movie.
A bunch of us headed up to the gloomy entrance of the building – I was desperate to take a look around and needed to find a partner in crime. Somebody else who liked having the begeezuz scared out of them. Everybody clattered into the front hallway and across to where the lamps could be seen and bizarrely enough, the smell of bacon was coming from. Trestle tables were scattered in some haphazard order, if that’s even possible and there was hustle and bustle going on where breakfast was being prepared. The area was huge, with warped wooden floors – dusty as hell, doors hung off hinges as did cobwebs off every corner and chandelier or light fitting. I wasn’t hungry at 5 am but I could do with coffee and anyway I needed to convince someone to come exploring with me. Someone who didn’t mind if they missed getting picked for some opportune moment in the movie because they were missing…
So I settled in next to someone who looked friendly enough and sipped on my coffee – it sucked, it was not real coffee and I don’t do imitation anything if I can help it – and coffee is a miracle and should be treated as such. Anyway, I’m listening quietly to the discussion I’ve intruded on. I recognise a few faces, the “usuals” and I guess I was one of them too… we swap a few early crinkled grins and raised eyebrows as acknowledgement of each other. Fuck knows what your name is but I usually don’t forget a face.
So it turns out, besides an abandoned insane asylum being creepy enough, it was haunted too. Haunted with psyche nurses who had killed themselves apparently in absolute despair. Now there were two kinds of people sitting around sipping crap coffee listening to the ghost stories. People who get more and more creeped out and just want to cling to the fluffy teddy-bear image they have of life, and then there’s people like me. People like me become more entranced and fascinated with a bad, never done before, you will never make it, you can’t do it, story… and I was sold. When you’re wired like this, you learn to pick out others who see the sick fascination in everything bizarre, unusual and usually incomprehensible. And there they were – two of them who seemed to know each other already. I had never seen them around any of the other jobs I’d been on. So I kept quiet and watched and listened and learned. They were funny and adventurous, curious and tough – I liked them and we all clicked as soon as we started chatting. I introduced myself and as we chatted away and started talking about the creepy old place, a very effeminate, obviously gay man dropped into the conversation and also fitted in perfectly with our twisted fascination of ghosts and things not of sound mind, or body for that matter.
So we slunk off to have a look around at this grey stone, intimidating building. We were in one of many – there was a place where only children were kept. The bunks lined the wall, not two up – but three. The bunks were so close together you would have to be a pretty skinny kid to squeeze your way down to the floor. The so called play ground was a fenced area with one dead, leafless tree or a twisted skeleton was sitting sadly in the middle of a patch of dirt which had become mud now, in the drizzle. The area seemed way too small for all the kids that might have filled all of those bunk beds at one time…even half of them would be a crowd. You could almost see them standing in the rain, clothes dripping, hair clinging to their unloved unwanted skulls. A great sadness hung around this area and it made us all pause and be grateful that we were on the other side, even though Kings Seat was empty – even though it didn’t quite feel like that.
Behind us was the building for the criminally insane. Razor blade wire sat on top of a chain link fence glinting dangerously at us in the flickering lights from afar. I wondered how many desperately crazy people had dreamed of being able to slice their arms on that wire and escape the hell they were in. This place was for those charming individuals who danced around with their mother’s skin draped over them in the moonlight – naturally Ed Gein springs to mind.
We held our mobile phones up to see where we were going and to read or look at things that caught our attention. We moved up to a general patients building. Were they just generally insane? Or did they generally behave under medication? Generally harmless? There was a broken window at the back above a walkway area – possibly made for wheelchair access. We all managed to clamber in after chunking bits of glass off the windows’ edge with a stone. It was incredibly dark and scary. The four of us clung together like shit to a blanket – I didn’t care if I was the blanket or the shit, I just wasn’t letting go come hell or high water.
So there we huddle, like a pack of startled rats. I wanted to make a circle out of us, y’know so we just could shuffle around but our backs were always protected. This started out as a good idea but became obvious very quickly that it was impossible to move through doorways, use stairs or get down hallways with any stealth or logic. We file behind each other and end up in a big open room with huge dormer windows. Bird poop, dust and time had smeared the windows to a level where it wouldn’t have mattered if the sun was shining, nothing was getting through those. The rain against the windows didn’t even manage to make a running pattern against the concreted bird shit and grime. Scattered over the floor were pictures, pictures that had been drawn by the patients who had once lived here. As we wandered through the open room and our eyes became a little more acquainted to the bad light we could see pictures still pinned to the walls. Tendrils of wallpaper hung around the pictures pinned indiscriminately with sometimes only one pin. The paper was yellowed and brittle, the pictures childlike – perhaps used as some sort of therapy. The room looked as if someone had just torn loads of pictures off the walls or out of cupboards and scattered them over the floor, leaving just the odd cluster of those who had time to be pinned. As I looked through some of the pictures I noticed some that were drawn in black, red and purple crayon – angry, hurt drawings. It was weird, standing there, looking into personal demons of strangers. Wondering why there are so many stories of the people who care for the crazy ending up crazy themselves or worse still, dead.
You could almost see a body hanging in a doorway, someone scratching on a wall, another rocking back and forth in some vortex unknown. We took our leave and headed back out through the window and out into the dank dark morning. As we crunched our way around the weed riddled gravel roads we came across a pen type building. There were hoses attached and metal bars that looked like they would pin a human against the wall. We all agreed that this felt like a place where people had been forced to be cleaned or washed. It felt desolate and wet, cold and unforgiving. As we moved through the property we found ourselves in a very oppressive place. We walked through a heavy metal door, we didn’t want to touch it and all of us managed to squeeze through it’s unwilling opening. I stood in the dusty darkness, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was in a narrow low corridor, about ten rooms ran opposite each other with steel doors on each. The rooms themselves were all made of cement – the floor flowed into a cement bed, up into a cement wall and a grater type covering sat over a small oblong window. You wouldn’t be able to put your face up to it or look out onto anything. The whole room was cement, nothing movable. I could feel so much pressure on my body it was weird. As we walked down looking into the rooms we found sad memento’s of those forgotten. A filthy comb on a cement bed, a piece of hopeful rope, a blood smattering, or smear in just about every room. These dungeons stank of pain, sadness and death – death of spirit…
It was so oppressive we all became desperate to get out, panicky – overwhelming stuffiness and cloying glue air. Clambering and squeezing through the impossibly heavy door we fell out of the corridor into an open room and looked at each other, exclaiming how awful that was. We had all been frightened by this creepy old building and the grounds. We had all felt the sadness and suffocating oppressiveness but for some reason it was overwhelming in that close, dark corridor of cement rooms. We made a hurried journey back to the main building, strangely quiet in the slowly iron grey morning. Once we got there amongst the lights and bustle we kind of relaxed a little. The thought of anyone being locked up in those cells made of cement, like a tomb, it was incomprehensible. So with a hot drink in our clutches we tried to warm up a little. Some of the people who had been chatting to my new found friends came over to our huddle and asked us where we had escaped to. After telling them in great detail about our scary travels around Kings Seat we were all called to set and had to stand around for a while in silence most of the time – very tiresome. Anyway at morning tea it seemed that a little tour guide gathering had decided we were going to take them to the creepy tomb-like cells where the insane must have thrown themselves against the walls, clawed at the grater windows till they bled, banged their heads against those concrete walls and some would have killed themselves in there too, no doubt.
We arrived at the huge concrete and steel door into the corridor to the cells. We couldn’t move the door either open more or closed so those who were able and willing, slipped through the gap and into the squashing atmosphere of the tomb. There were lots of ooOOoo’s and aaahhh’s – a shriek and giggling. Slowly people dripped back out of the tombs’ corridor and into where I was standing, unable to go back in after the way I had felt there. No one seemed to be too fussed, I think there were too many of us to feel or allow anything to feel.
We returned to the main building – the adventure had been creepy and mysterious to all of the others but they had not felt what we had felt. The four of us had made surreptitious eye contact, realising that no one else had experienced that suffocating horror, or silent desperateness to get out. None of us had spoken while we had been in that corridor, looking into the cells – it was almost out of some religious or spiritual reason or respect that we were unable to do anything initially and then just want to escape a split second later, with absolute needy desperation…it was strange.
We continued filming after the morning break and lunchtime rolled around. One of the research guys from the crew invited me to sit and have lunch with him. We had met before and he always knew what was going on and when. So I told him what we had been up to and that I thought the place where the psychiatric nurse would have committed suicide would be in that tomb room that the four of us had felt strange in. He looked at me with a slightly confused look on his face.
“Which psyche nurse was this?” he asks
“Well, I think there was more than one who committed suicide because of the patients…” I said, trailing off. He was shaking his head. “Uh uh…that’s not what happened there. You have the wrong story.”
So I ask him to tell me the real deal. Apparently that cement cell block held the most dangerous patients – and was generally full at any one time. The ratio for patient and nurse was one on one due to the nature of the beast. Somehow one of the patients overwhelmed his nurse, a male psyche nurse and suffocated him. He then stealthily crept to the next cell and helped the next patient kill his nurse and so on and so forth until all ten severely violent and disturbed psyche patients were free. As the gathering group moved down the cell block the killing became more and more frenzied as they realised there was nothing that the nurses could do when there was seven of them and only 3 nurses left. Some patients threw bodies against walls and smashed the victims heads open, dangled brains over themselves and ran around screaming.
No one would go in there. The staff believed they would calm down when it came around to meal time and the nightmare could be dealt with then. Well the patients managed to hole up in there for 5 days, eating the bodies of the dead nurses. Then they turned on themselves. That is why there is no Kings Seat Asylum for the Mentally Insane any more – they ate the staff and the clients – real bad for business….
© Kait King, 2015