Jammed

Researching about my father’s life for my novel Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, I was shocked to discover he had been committed by his aunt to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital.

I drove to Vinita, Oklahoma and found the abandoned mental hospital. With no intention to trespass, I parked near the entrance gate to take photos. Within minutes, a man drove up and told me photos were not allowed. I asked why but got no answer. I explained that my dad had been a patient at the mental hospital. The man suggested I go to the Forensic Center, a small concrete block building near by, to ask if they had any information about my father.

At the Forensic Center, I waited, standing in a cold stark entry hall with no chairs. The receptionist called a clerk, who asked why I was there. She seemed somewhat surprised to meet anyone asking for information. I explained I was looking for records about my father who had been a patient of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital. She wrote down his name, W. Lon Hutchison, when he was at the hospital (1934-1937), and disappeared behind a closed door.

I paced the floor in the grey, cold, empty hall. I was all alone. The receptionist had disappeared. The clerk returned to the lobby telling me she had found something about my father on microfiche. I was very excited and eager to hear whatever she had found. She hesitated and then said the machine had jammed and she couldn’t read the record. She said it might take several days to get the machine fixed. Although frustrated that I had come so close to finding something, there was nothing I could do but thank her and say I would return in a few days.

Now that I was in Vinita, I decided to look around and see if I could find any information related to my father.

On the Road to Madness

 Until that moment in the public library in Lawrence Kansas when a record came up online that my great aunt Jessie Hutchison had my father W. Lon Hutchison committed to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital, I had no idea that he had suffered from mental illness. I had only heard vague mention from my mother of narcotics in my father’s past.

I was shaking, when the records came up on my laptop of my father being committed by his aunt to the state mental hospital. I had never heard of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital nor the town of Vinita, where it is located.  The records were a blast from a past and from a place that were unknown to me. How could I have ever known or even heard about the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital in Vinita?

I don’t think even my mother knew about my father being committed to the state mental hospital by his own family. She once told me that he was bitter about his family but she thought it was because he had been disinherited by his siblings.

My friends in Lawrence, Kansas, where I was staying, had a road atlas. I looked up Vinita. There it was. Almost due south from Lawrence. I rented a car and left for Oklahoma the next day. It was a straight shot down a narrow two-lane road through the Kansas plains to Vinita, Oklahoma. A pleasant drive with very little traffic.

I easily found the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital just outside the town of Vinita. I drove around on the road bordering the brick buildings. The state mental hospital has an extensive, imposing campus, with no trespassing signs and a tall fence to keep people out. It had been shut down several years before.

Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital                       Vinita, Oklahoma

How was I going to find out anything about my father’s time here? Would I find any clues about how he got out? Being committed to a state mental institution is often a life sentence, without parole.

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Your comments are always most welcome. 

Have you had any family members committed to a state mental hospital? 

Note:  I have another blog dedicated to my mother at https://www.bettehutchisonsilver.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Abandoned, Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital

I’d come to the MidWest, USA to research events in my father’s life for the novel I was writing, Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time. I found very disturbing information while searching online at the public library in Lawrence Kansas. In 1934, my great aunt Jessie Hutchison went to court in Tulsa, Oklahoma to have my father, W. Lon Hutchison committed to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital in Vinita.

The documents Aunt Jessie submitted to have him committed included a letter from the warden at the Federal Medical Center for Defective Delinquents in Springfield, Missouri. After being transferred from the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, my father had served the remainder of his prison sentence for narcotics at the Medical Center in Springfield.

Court document Tulsa Oklahoma certifying W. Lon Hutchison as insane

The letter from the warden was as follows: “Lon is suffering from hallucinations, believes he’s been to heaven and back and is ordained to save mankind. It is necessary to feed him with a tube because he thinks all food is unclean and from the devil, except for milk. It will be necessary for him to go to a mental hospital for further treatment until he can be placed on his own. “

I had heard stories from my mother of my father being in prison for narcotics. That didn’t upset me. When I read the warden’s letter about my father’s delusions and the fact that his own aunt had him committed to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital, I broke down completely.

I was struck down by the terrible pain of being rejected by his family and sent to the mental hospital -a place to dump the indigent, the poor, the aged, the neglected, the unwanted. Most people would never get out. I sat in a comfortable chair in the Lawrence Kansas Public Library and cried. I was shaking all over. No one in the library paid any attention.

The visit to the public library in Lawrence, Kansas was the lowest point in my search for information about my father. How could he have survived? How did he manage to get out of the mental hospital? How much did he have to keep hidden in later life from everyone, including his wife, my mother?

Postcard of Eastern Oklahoma State Mental     Hospital, Vinita, Oklahoma

I left the library and walked up and down in the park, trying to pull myself together to drive back to my friends’ house. I wasn’t sure I could remember the way down the country roads, which had no names or signs. I made it back but until the next day, I couldn’t tell my friends what I had found.