Friday, March 12, 2010
Highland Hospital Haunts, Pt. I
A 15-acre complex stands on the northern end of Asheville's historic Montford district. A complex once known as Highland Hospital and run by the nationally-known psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Carroll. Highland Hospital functioned as a psychiatric facility for over 70 years. Here, the rich and famous came to be treated for a variety of nervous and mental disorders. Zelda Fitgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, was a long-time patient.
Among Dr. Carroll's questionable practices of electroshock and insulin therapy was his hiring of former, "cured", patients. On March 10, 1948, Night Supervisor Willie Mae Hall -- one of these former patients -- systematically gave a double sedative to those patients she did not like, locking their bedroom doors in the Central Hall dormitory. She then set a fire in the kitchen. Quickly spreading to the building's dumbwaiter shaft, the fire reached all three floors in record speed.
There were bars on the patents' windows. The fire escape was wooden. Willie Mae Hall had cut the telephone lines. By the time the fire department was contacted and arrived over 30 minutes later, the place was ablaze. One thousand citizens watched helplessly. A nurse later said, "All we could do was watch, hear the screams and smell the flesh burning."
Nine women died in the fire, including Zelda Fitzgerald. She was first identified by her charred slipper found underneath her body.
Next up: An incredible tour photo captured at the fire's site.