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The Escaped Lunatic Archive

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  • The Escaped Lunatic Archive

    Up until recently, until Forums member Roy Corduroy brought up the issue of James Kelly's escape not being mentioned in the press early in 1888...and in fact, only afterwards 39 years later in a retrospective of his escape and subsequent life....I had never given thought to the apparent contemporaneous condition that existed where no mention was made of the actual escape of a mental patient, lunatic, or insane individual....until the apprehension of said person....and no mention of an at large lunatic either.

    Nina Brown, the Boss, had mentioned to me that she had never heard of a case where escapees were mentioned in her press trawls which have been going on for a decade.

    That the British press.

    Tonight, inspired by a conversation with stalwart member Archaic whose positive ideas encouraged me to use some different search terms in my trawl ( Nina woke up and began hitting the engines on her own...), I came across one or two references in the 1860's to lunatics at large.

    However, the exception proves the rule. Thats about all Nina and I have found in regard to escaped lunatics before apprehension....other than the article in reference to the American George Hutchinson.

    Thanks again to Archaic for her enthusiatic support as always. This is a very unusual development, in my view, and I wonder if others knew about this condition, where...while many people escaped asylums ( Especially in Pennsylvania), it was virtually blacked out from the citizen's view.

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  • #2
    1903 Parliamentary Debate On Escaped Lunatics!

    Nina and How, read this!

    It's from the 1903 Parliamentary Debates.

    They're discussing some strange rule which holds that if an asylum inmate escaped and managed to remain on the lam for 3 months, it was assumed they were behaving well enough in society and thus couldn't just be sent back to the asylum if they were subsequently discovered.

    Obviously patients DID escape from Asylums often enough for this question to merit a serious Parliamentary debate!

    >> Just added this one- it's the 1888 Quebec Law dealing with Escaped Lunatics. It's interesting because it explains when Escapees can be re-apprehended as soon as found and when a warrant is required. See Statute #3321:


    • #3

      Thanks for coming to bat for the Forums members with this important information.....information which might change some people's views on whether it was possible an escaped lunatic was at large in London in the Fall of 1888.

      Certainly, we know of James Kelly's escape...

      This link, kindly provided by Archaic, will give Forums members information on James Kelly, in case they do not have Mr. Tully's book, Prisoner 1167 or Mr. Odell's 2006 book on the WM.

      This is a very encouraging development brought about first by Roy Corduroy's thread on Kelly...and my conversation with Archaic last night on the escaped patient scenario. I think its going to be worth the while to re examine asylum records for the names of inmates at some point, possibly giving out one new name from such an endeavor, who may have been mentioned as being apprehended after 1888.

      We now can say that had there been an escaped patient who made his way to and dwelled in London ( Not that Kelly was definitely in London during the critical period of time ), that the citizenry during this terrible time would be totally and utterly unaware of that fact due to some bizarre decision making at the various asylums.

      One thing that Archaic's work and enthusiastic efforts demonstrate that I think you'll agree with is that along with Neil Bell's recent discovery or provision of the two legal tools ( see the ongoing SRA thread), is that there are still worlds to conquer in this field and unexplored regions to investigate.

      Great work, as per usual, Archaic.
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      • #4
        Thanks very much to Archaic for pointing out very nicely off the boards that my use of the word "ad hoc' does not mean "at large" in Latin. That was nice of you....but thats okay Archy...when I make a mistake, you can lay it on me on a post from now on in. That ought to keep you and the gang busy for a while

        It can mean impromptu...sort of like sperm of the moment...but I didn't use it correctly. I did that last month with the word "sinecure"...and Mr. Begg kindly corrrrrected my misuse of the word.'m tryin !

        Back to the thread...

        Resident Interlecktual
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        • #5
          That's OK, How.
          We got you past the "Me Tarzan, You Jane" stage of speech, and that's what counts.

          I'm a sleepy-head this morning, and if there is a Latin word for "at large" I can't think of it...

          so how about a good old Americanism like "on the lam"?

          Then you'll sound just like Jimmy Cagney.

          For da record: 'Ad hoc' translates as "For this purpose and no other", usually implying an impromptu effort.


          • #6
            1884 The Lancet re: Twice-Escaped Lunatic

            From the 1884 issue of the British Medical Journal 'The Lancet', regarding an Asylum inmate who escaped twice; once from an Asylum in America and then from a British one:


            To the Editor оf THE LANCET.

            As it would appear, from the sensational statements in various newspapers, that the patient who escaped from this asylum on the 10th inst. was not a fit case for detention here, I venture to send you the following facts:

            The patient in question has been insane for many years, and previous to his admission here had been in two asylums in America, from one of which he escaped, and eventually made his way to England. He is a quiet and harmless man, but the subject of well-marked delusions.

            He has been in the habit for some time past of going out with the attendant who posts the mid-day letter, and on the afternoon of the 10th gave the attendant the slip, concealed himself until dark in the woods, and eventually walked to London. He presented himself to the American Consul the next day, asserting that he was perfectly sane and illegally detained here. Mr. Lowell promised to investigate his case, and prevailed upon him to return to the asylum, which he did, after an absence of forty-eight hours. This man's mental condition is well known to the Commissioners in Lunacy, and to the Visiting Justices of the asylum, and they concur in my opinion that he is a fit case for asylum care.

            Yours faithfully,

            Jas. E. Babton

            >>How & Nina: As this letter refers to "sensational newspaper reports", maybe you can back-track a little & find out if the newspapers ever reported this man's escape? I'm a bit surprised he was allowed to enter England and was then confined, but not deported, if he was known to be an escaped American sylum patient.


            • #7

              Excellent find and one that mirrors one Nina found last night in almost an identical fashion....not quite as stunning as yours though.

              This line I find truly remarkable since it appears the press was downplaying the man's escape. You know how hard it is just to find reports even mentioning escapes before the characters are apprehended....and here it appears that the press attempted to smooth over the escape in this case.

              As it would appear, new from the sensational statements in various newspapers, that the patient who escaped from this asylum on the 10th inst. was not a fit case for detention here,

              The article Nina found expressed similar sentiments towards the man in question within that story....where it was mentioned that perhaps the escapee didn't belong there in the first place.

              Thanks again sweets...this is very good work on your part.
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              • #8
                A Somewhat Different Interpretation

                How, the way I read this letter is that the writer, Babton, was part of the Administration of Brookwood Asylum; possibly a doctor., as he is writing to The Lancet.

                I don't think he is complaining about "sensational newspaper reports" regarding the actual escape, but rather he's complaining that the newspapers were loudly insisting that the Escapee should NOT have been in an asylum in the first place, and thus ought NOT to be returned to confinement now that he has been found. The press seems to hold the position that the man "wasn't crazy enough" to be locked up.

                Babton repudiates their view and says that the man ought to be confined in the Asylum.

                I read it several times... see what you think.

                I thought it would be interesting to back-track this story a bit and find out if whether the newspapers reported the man's asylum escape at the time it actually occurred.
                He's an American, and it was Brookwood Asylum in 1884; shouldn't be too hard to track down the date of his actual escape and see if it was reported in the papers.

                Also, this man was a non-violent patient; I would expect the escape of violent patient, a "Criminal Lunatic", to receive much more coverage in newspapers and journals. If they didn't, it's pretty strange.


                • #9
                  There was an extremely violent man on the lam from an American asylum during 1888 and the preceding 3 or 4 years if I remember correctly - named George Hutchinson!


                  • #10

                    Here's a link to the story...


                    • #11

                      Thats one story that Nina located in a search engine last night and is on Casebook..... Whats funny is that there is another story of a Hutchinson ( A "Billy" Hutchinson ) who is probably the same man in the Kankakee story who escaped and was kookoo for cocoa puffs as well..
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                      • #12
                        Little insight into how these stories unfold:

                        This is an example of the reporting done on contemporaneous escapees.
                        1. In March 1882, a man named Christopher Logan murdered a man in Ct. He is sent to Middletown Asylum.
                        2. In August 1882, Logan is deemed sane..and thats all the excerpt in the papers say.
                        3. However, before being sent to a regular prison in Ct.,... Logan escapes.
                        4. In August 1886, he is recaptured...after several years on the lam....
                        During the period of time between August 1882 and his recapture 4 years later...not one word of the actual escape can be found except a very small comment on page umpteen in a local paper. That follows below....
                        5. In January 1887, he escapes once more and this time, its reported. Again, he escapes from a mental asylum.
                        For some reason, he was deemed sane in 1882.,....but never placed in that regular prison.

                        The point here being that he escaped and for 4 years....the only word about the actual escape was an 1884 excerpt which stated that a family that the escapee had been talking in violent terms about from within the asylum was aware of his escape and on the lookout and loaded with weapons should the escapee try to make good of his threats to kill them..they being the relatives of the man he killed in 1882. The reference to his actual escape the first time is almost presented as an "oh,by the way" remark and gives the reader the sense that it was placed in the paper with tongue in cheek.

                        I cannot find out what happened to Christopher Logan after his second escape in 1887. He simply vanishes off the screen as far I am able to tell. Thats not to say that he might never turn up in any research....but its typical in a couple of ways in how these escapes were treated and reported.
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                        • #13

                          Nothing materialized when I looked up the Brookwood Asylum escapee in 1884...and I'm certainly not surprised.

                          Again, as you pointed out earlier...if these people made it to sanctuary and laid low for a while...unless they killed some politician or someone with some money to get into the asylum in the first place....the chances are that if they killed a working class person or prole to get there isn't going to appear in the press.
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                          • #14

                            In regard to your post:

                            Babton repudiates their view and says that the man ought to be confined in the Asylum.

                            Thats precisely what I mean, dear. That the press are not only not reporting escapes at the time they occur, but are passing judgment as to whether inmates, such as the man in question, should be there in the first place !!!!!!!!!!

                            Its astounding. I never heard of this sort of thing before...and we all owe Roy Corduroy a big hand for bringing up James Kelly's escape elsewhere.
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                            • #15
                              How, I just sent you a long Lancet article from August 11, 1888 in which they discuss the Broadmoor Asylum.

                              They are arguing such issues as whether deciding questions of sanity or insanity requires a panel of medical professionals or just "Common Sense", and whether lunatics can be held responsible & punished for their crimes.

                              > >How, I just read your response to the Babton article below; our posts crossed.
                              I'm not sure the Press is to blame for not reporting Asylum Escapes; doesn't it seem like the kind of scary reading that would sell papers? I'm wondering if instead the authorities deliberately suppressed news of any escape so as not to look bad and alarm the populace.