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Cuckoo’s Nest To Be Razed


Cuckoo’s Nest Hospital to be Torn Down


(SALEM, Ore.) — So long, Cuckoo’s Nest.

Oregon State Hospital, the mental institution where the 1975 movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was filmed, is making way for a new complex. Most of the dilapidated, 125-year-old main building will be torn down and replaced starting this fall.

Although mean Nurse Ratched was pure fiction, the Oregon State Hospital has struggled with some very real troubles over the years, including overcrowding, crumbling floors and ceilings, outbreaks of scabies and stomach flu, sexual abuse of children by staff members, and patient-on-patient assaults.

Politicians had been talking for years about the need to replace the hospital, but didn’t get serious about it until a group of legislators made a grim discovery during a 2004 tour: the cremated remains of 3,600 mental patients in corroding copper canisters in a storage room. The lawmakers were stunned.

“Nobody said anything to anybody,” said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, who dubbed the chamber “the room of lost souls.”

The remains belonged to patients who died at the hospital from the late 1880s to the mid-1970s, when mental illness was considered so shameful that many patients were all but abandoned by their families in institutions.

Milos Forman, the director, lived for six weeks at the institution and had his actors study real patients, according to a 1975 account in Rolling Stone magazine. Nicholson became depressed because of what he saw, including electroshock being administered to a patient.

The front section of the building, including the cupola, will be preserved as a museum on the history of mental health care.

Other parts of the building were abandoned decades ago and are now a ghostly sight. The paint has been scoured off the bricks by the weather and the passage of time, and the wings are cluttered with old equipment, fallen plaster and piles of pigeon droppings. The third floor is so rotted it is not safe to walk on. The building is also contaminated with lead paint and asbestos.

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Posted on July 29, 2008 by Editor

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