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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

Thu., June 13, 2013, midnight

From our archives, 100 years ago

Spokane residents were shocked at the revelations coming out of a state investigation of the Medical Lake Insane Asylum, as the mental hospital was known in 1913.

The most appalling testimony came from construction workers who had been working on a new building on the asylum grounds. They said they had seen patients “kicked and jumped on, and even left senseless, perhaps dead.”

Others said they saw patients tied up outside in freezing weather, jerked about by the hair and beaten with broomsticks and even a baseball bat.

One of the most shocking aspects of the testimony was that none of the witnesses ever “raised a hand to defend” the victims, nor did they report the incidents at the time.

Those weren’t the only other charges aired that day. One witness said patients were fed rotten eggs. Sometimes the superintendent’s dog would kill a chicken and the chicken would be later served to patients.

Dr. Semple, the superintendent of the asylum, denied all of this. He said these stories were “made up of lies.”

“When I show you the system I have, you will see how impossible it is for such things as these to happen,” he told investigators.

The hearing was scheduled to continue several more days.

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