Retro | Crime

The History Of This Philadelphia Asylum Will Keep You Up At Night

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In the long history of abuses committed against patients in state run mental facilities, Byberry in Philadelphia might be the worst in existence.


The allegations against the staff at Byberry ran the entire gauntlet of atrocities: assault, murder, sexual assault, illegal experimentation and terrible conditions overall.


In 1919, two orderlies killed a patient by strangling him to death. The orderlies claimed to have PTSD after fighting in the war, so not only were they not prosecuted for it, they were both given raises to continue working at the hospital.

Sexual Assault

There was a children's ward at Byberry, but it was severely understaffed. Instead of hiring more support staff, the institution started putting the hospitals "most stable" patients in positions as attendants for the kids. I don't need to spell out what happened to explain how bad of a decision that was. Many of the kids at Byberry were sexually assaulted by these attendants.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania


Thorazine was created by the Smith Kline-French Company. They partnered with Byberry to test the drug on patients there. Many of them died, and few patients had the mental capacity to give consent, nor did they have any family members who would notice this type of action being taken against the patients.  

Philadelphia State Hospital

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