The Southeast Ohio History Center hosted five walking tours of the Historic Asylum in Athens during the month of October, allowing guests to learn many of the stories, rumors and legends that unfold are produced throughout the life of the asylum.
The October tours were led by tour guide George Eberts, who is an asylum advocate in Athens and a longtime employee of Appalachian Behavioral Health.
The visits lasted approximately two hours and covered the perimeter of the asylum at The Ridges, 118 Ridges Circle. The tours also allowed guests to get up close to different chalets and even a cemetery on the grounds of the asylum.
Tom O’Grady, director of development and outreach at the Southeast Ohio History Center, has organized numerous asylum visits in the past and even once lived in the asylum as a volunteer resident.
“It was great. I’ve never lived in such a cool place,” O’Grady said. “When I lived there, the agreement was that if you put in 15 hours a week, volunteer. with clients or patients… then you have free accommodation and board. ”
O’Grady likes to focus on the architecture of the building with the various architects who have already worked on the complex.
When Eberts gives visits, he focuses more on the evolution of mental health treatment, sharing stories from patients who have previously resided in the asylum.
“After working for 40 years in mental illness and mental health, he can tell some of the stories about it,” O’Grady said. “He’s done a lot of research on the evolution of treatment in mental health.
The Southeast Ohio History Center is asking guests to pre-register for tours due to high demand. Tickets cost $ 15 for history center members and $ 18 for non-members. However, Ohio University students can purchase tickets for just $ 10. Children under 12 enter for free.
Tours start right outside the Kennedy Museum of Art, 100 Ridges Circle, and then circle the entire perimeter of the asylum. Along the route, there were plenty of photo opportunities available, as the tour allowed everyone to get up close and personal with the historic asylum and the cottages and structures that surrounded it.
During the October tours, Eberts shared stories from his time working at the asylum and explained how mental health treatment has evolved significantly since the asylum opened.
He also shared stories of former patients and incidents, including the famous story of Margret Schilling.
“She disappeared one night. She didn’t come to dinner, ”Eberts said on the Oct. 30 tour. “They looked around her, and they couldn’t find her. So they went to dinner and after dinner they organized what I call a “whole nine yards”, a police grid search. “
Eberts went on to share that after intensive research, Schilling’s disappearance was all but undone, even though she remained missing for more than two months.
When Schilling was finally found on the fourth floor of the East Wing, her corpse had created a stain on the floor that remains there to this day.
In addition to Schilling’s chilling tale, Eberts showed many fascinating things on tour, including anonymous gravestones in asylum cemeteries and secret places where patients hid and “hang out.”
“I think the most interesting part of the whole tour was when we went behind one of the cottages, where the secret hideout was,” said Kortney White, guest on the October 30th tour. “It kind of shows that they’re kind of like normal people, and that you just want to have fun.”
While the October tours have passed, the Southeast Ohio History Center will be offering a final tour for the year in November, the date of which is yet to be determined. You can find more information here.