I came across photos of this abandoned leper colony, left to rot on the island of North Brother, just 350 yards from The Bronx. This was a quarantine zone, leper colony, and center for drug addicts, once home to hundreds of patients, now abandoned to nature. As with many abandoned buildings, this is eerie. But the nature of the building makes it perhaps more akin to the photos I’ve posted of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia in some respects.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Weston, West Virginia.
I love wandering and photographing abandoned buildings and cities. So many questions. Why did people leave? What makes hundreds or thousands of people leave a place? What are the stories behind these places?
And the places themselves. The decay of an abandoned building can be alluring, fascinating, even beautiful.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum had this going for it. And more. It was allegedly haunted, the ghosts of tormented inmates still roaming the halls.
Gaining admission to the lunatic asylum nowadays was decidedly easier than yesteryear. Pay a ticket, take a tour. But yesteryear’s admittance was far more interesting. Back then, we e could have been admitted for imaginary female trouble. Or superstition. Or masturbation for 30 years. Or perhaps doubt about mother’s ancestors. Or even bad whiskey.
We took the tour. I took photos since I couldn’t wander most of the 242,000 square feet of the asylum independently. But I did lag. The tour guide was quite relaxed about letting me lag, trusting that I would catch up. And I always did.
A decaying doctor’s residence on the premise of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, with some amazing textures from the peeling paint. Some of the doctors had special wings, where their wife and children would stay. Can you imagine being a kid, living and growing up at an insane asylum?
Now, this is a photography blog, after all, so we can get to a little bit of the equipment used. I would love to have wandered with a lightweight tripod, but we were on the go, and as it was, I was frequently running to catch up with the group. So this is all used with a Nikon D90 and my trusty Nikkor 18-200mm VR all-purpose lens, what I call my “walkabout” lens. It may not be the greatest lens, certainly not the fastest, but for sheer versatility, it’s hard to beat. This was before I purchased my 50mm f/1.4 prime, a wonderful lens, although not as versatile, forcing you to move your feet much more. I was so enamored with the natural lighting that I rarely if ever used my SB-600 speedlight (which was purchased with money that I received to photograph a wedding later on this same trip to West Virginia!).
The haunted lunatic asylum operated from 1864 until 1994, and was abandoned for years until Joe Jordan purchased it in 2007 for $3 million, opening it up for tours to raise money for restoration. The rooms smelled, as decaying rooms left to neglect always do. While I wouldn’t want to conduct tours here, spending a couple of hours here was so fascinating that it didn’t matter. Still, I appreciated the fresh air after the tour was over.