One of the larger buildings on the grounds of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center on Long Island, New York. (Mary Majerus-Collins/YJI)
KINGS PARK, New York, U.S.A. – Beyond an unsettling destination for curious Long Island teenagers, the abandoned Kings Park Psychiatric Center is a great family getaway.
We all know the drill with family activities. Everyone gathers together, shares chit chat and snacks. It’s not unpleasant, but none of it is the least bit memorable.
Life simply becomes more vibrant when you break from the routine.
So why do we let the time we spend with our families fall victim to monotonization?
We put a stick in the cog of habituation when we explored a twisted insane asylum with none other than our family.
The Kings Park Psychiatric Center lies at the north end of an ordinary Long Island town. Many multi-story buildings – all empty – make up the sprawling complex.
It would be possible to spend days exploring the entire place, but we focused on a large red brick building constructed about 75 years ago. It’s at least a dozen stories tall and has been vacant a long time.
Through a window, it was possible to see old beds and other furniture likely used by patients years ago. (Mary Majerus-Collins/YJI)
On approaching this abandoned shell of a once-operational mental institution, you could feel the goose flesh replacing your once calm suit of skin.
The structure clearly once had charm and style – it looked like it could have been a five-star hotel – but that’s gone now.
The many windows are long and barred, and quite a few of them are broken. Glass shards litter the grounds.
On the day of our escapade, we walked carefully in the drizzle around the isolated building where the state kept mentally ill patients years ago. We knew that some people endured terrible things there.
Of course, we desperately wanted to go inside.
We found an opening in the fence, and started walking around the building. On the way, we spotted a few empty beer bottles on the ground and laughed about how teenagers must come there to party.
But the more we saw, the more the laughter died down, and the silence grew. Not even a bird’s song broke the eerie silence.
As we made our way through the broken glass that had fallen on the meandering path that led to the entrance, we noticed a long, thick white strap on the ground. It looked like it could have been used to restrain the mental patients all those years ago.
Graffiti is everywhere at the abandoned hospital. (Mary Majerus-Collins/YJI)
Seeing the strap made all of the stories we’d heard about the place come to life, shocking and saddening us all at once.
That’s the thing about a historical site. Whether it has a dark history or not, there is a sensation just from knowing you are standing in the same
place where important events, whether good or bad, happened.
Although this place is covered in graffiti and the windows are broken, the building is still intact, and there are still remnants of the past left inside.
It’s haunting to see the beds that patients used, now rusted and scattered.
The building may be collapsing in some areas, but the structure appears to be as intact as the heartbreaking past contained by the barred windows.
Our family will remember this day not only because we discovered a new place, but also because we shared a memory that connected us with thousands of others – not only those who lived here, but also explorers like us.
Talking is not the only way to bond with your family. Sometimes, it’s moments like today when we share silence together that bring us closer.
Grace Middleton and Matt Middleton are Reporters for Youth Journalism International. Mary Majerus-Collins, who took the photographs for this story, is a Senior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.
Click below to see a slideshow of all of Mary Majerus-Collins’ photos from the Kings Park Psychiatric Center:
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