Experts described Topeka State Hospital as the one of the most horrific and barbaric asylums ever established in America. The hospital gained its reputation owing to its terrible past.
Due to overcrowding, the city of Topeka in Kansas established another asylum in 1872. The place was intended to treat hardened convicts and mentally insane. However, the hospital’s procedure permitted people to be admitted even without mental problems. Doctors neglected to assess new patients’ illnesses and crudely dumped them with the rest of the patients. Much worse, several patients could not be accurately identified because of misplaced legal papers.
Hospital staff subjected the patients to brutalities intended as treatment for their illness. Reports held that attendants raped and battered the hospital’s residents. If not abused, staff neglected patients while being strapped in leather belts. Stories said some patients grew their skin around the straps.
In 1913, Kansas law approved the first sterilization law for “habitual criminals, idiots, epileptics, imbeciles, and insane.” Castration took place for patients with learning disabilities and deformities; as cure for masturbation and high libidos; and punishment. Until 1920, 54 cases of castrations took place. It was amended in 1961.
A controversy added to asylum’s record when a stabbing incident resulted to death in 1992. Topeka State Hospital admitted patient Kenneth D. Waddell in 1987. The hospital placed Waddell in Adult Forensic Ward, secluded special unit for high risk patients. Nevertheless, Waddell was moved to general population when the unit was closed.
On February 23, 1992, activity therapist Stephanie Uhlrig took Waddell and other patients out of the hospital. Uhlrig lead them into the grounds to see a film. After the movie, Waddell asked to use the men’s room. When Uhlrig went to check on him, he attacked and strangled the therapist then raped her dead body.
In 1995, the Supreme Court sentenced Waddell to life imprisonment plus three to ten years for sexual battery.
Topeka State Hospital lost its accreditation to receive federal Medicare and Medicaid payments in 1988. The hospital closed in 1997 due to years of abuse and overcrowding. Many of its abandoned buildings remain, as well as a cemetery with an estimated 1,157 unmarked graves.