“Cukoo’s Nest” Hospital to be Demolished

Louise Fletcher a Nurse RatchedABC News is reporting that the mental hospital in Salem, Oregon that served as the set for the 1975 film version of Ken Kesey‘s 1962 novel, “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest” will soon be demolished. The film’s depiction of the mistreatment of patients and predatory staff is often cited as a significant part of the public backlash that took hold around that time against electroconvulsive (“shock”) therapy, psychosurgery, and state mental hospitals more broadly. It has also provided a focal point for psychiatrists’ criticism of the public understanding of how they actually treat patients. The film won five Academy Awards: best picture, director, actor, actress, and adapted screenplay. It also won six Golden Globe Awards.

The accuracy of the movie notwithstanding, the Oregon State Hospital at which it was filmed had many real life problems of its own, including, the news report says,

overcrowding, crumbling floors and ceilings, outbreaks of scabies and stomach flu, sexual abuse of children by staff members, and patient-on-patient assaults…. [D]uring a 2004 tour [by legislators] the cremated remains of 3,600 mental patients [were discovered] in corroding copper canisters in a storage room.

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About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.

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