Time Capsule Film From a 1950s Mental Hospital Is Full of Mysteries


Workers in Indianapolis have dug up a surprise time capsule from a 1950s mental hospital. Buried on July 23, 1958, on the grounds of the Bahr Treatment Center—a mental health facility that was part of a state hospital that closed in the early '90s—the capsule was discovered in the course of demolishing the old hospital to make room for a residential and business development. The capsule contained film reels showing images of the hospital grounds, footage from the groundbreaking ceremonies, and a message for the future. 

Skip to about 1:40, and two hospital officials begin to explain the center’s mission and, in certain sections that may be lost forever, to predict how mental health treatment will change. “We have spent much time attempting to foresee the future—the things that are going to be coming up in the way of treatment programs,” one says. “How well do you think we’ve solved the problems of the future?”

And then, frustratingly, the audio cuts out. What kind of vintage medical predictions might they be espousing? For more than a minute, their mouths move, but it’s impossible to tell what they’re saying. Then the audio begins again, and there's a tantalizing moment of future prediction:

For instance, we may some day—and only the people who open this time capsule will be able to say—we may go back to insulin shock, or the development of some other drug techniques ... and so forth.

That speculation turned out to be way off-base, since the treatment he’s referring to, also called “insulin coma therapy,” is no longer practiced in Western medicine. It was an early, rather dangerous, treatment for schizophrenia that involved inducing comas with large doses of insulin.  

His other predictions for the future of psychiatry, however, may be lost forever. 

[h/t: io9]

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