Stories from a mental hospital


I have a friend who was doing an internship in the psychiatric ward. They had one patient who seemed to be quite pleasant and polite to everybody until one day he demanded to see his lawyer. The lawyer was notified and arrived the next day. Meanwhile the whole medical staff and my friend were worriedly reassessing what they’d done wrong to offend this person, thinking they were up for a lawsuit. After consulting the patient, the lawyer left the ward to see the supervisor, who nervously asked what the problem was. With a straight face, the lawyer told him “My client informs me that he won’t take any action for now, but from now on he wishes to be addressed by his proper title which is “Leo the Magnificent” “.


My friend V worked as a bartender at a restaurant across the street from a mental hospital. At bars, it’s not unusual for people to behave oddly. Sometimes they had to judge if a customer had overindulged before they got there, or if they should call the hospital and ask if they were missing someone.
One lady came in, acting completely normal, had a nice little polite chat with V while sipping at a Coke. After about 15 minutes she stood up, removed every article of clothing, sat back down, ordered a mixed drink and carried on the conversation as normal.
V gave her some tonic water, knowing alcohol can be dangerous with some meds, and placed a quick call across the street. A nurse and orderly were there in a minute, they managed to convince her to cover up with a hospital gown and started directing her out the door. She was only distraught to leave without her drink, so V poured the tonic water in a plastic cup and the lady went along calm as could be.


The nurses kept losing me because I was so quiet, not just not talking but when I walked around. It was funny watching them panic every 15 minutes during checks. “Where’s Ingrid? Have you seen Ingrid?” And because I kept finding new hiding places, they never knew where to look. I liked behind the couch though, on the floor. There was a window where I could see the sky and watch the clouds go past. It was really peaceful, probably ‘cause the ward was really quiet – the only other person there was this anorexic girl who barely ever left her room, and even she left. She came back pretty soon though, and wouldn’t touch her food at all after that.


I had a floridly psychotic client tell me I was pregnant.
He first asked if I was married. I said, “I don’t answer personal questions.” He said, “Ok. But I hope you are because you’re pregnant.” I laughed because I was on contraceptives with no immediate plans to get pregnant. But then he said a few other things that were really strange. He said I was going to see a skull and crossbones later but not to be alarmed. That night, as I looked into the sky, I saw clouds in the form of a skull and crossbones. So the next morning, I bought a pregnancy test and it was positive. Turns out, I was two weeks’ pregnant. Freaky, but true.


The honor roll

In February of 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama bestowed the Medal of Freedom to Hall of Fame baseball player Stan Musial. Such honors are commonplace in American government, at both the state and federal levels. In general, they’re a nice way to honor those who have served their nation. In Musial’s case, he was honored for his work after his baseball career as much as he was for his 475 homers and 3,630 career hits. But those are details — details that are often glossed over. When these resolutions are passed by legislative branches, the minutia aren’t always very important to the voting representatives. One case from the early 1970s made that clear.

On April 1, 1971, Tom Moore, Jr. of the Texas House of Representatives brought a resolution to honor a man named Albert DeSalvo (pictured), born forty years earlier in Chelsea, Massachusetts. DeSalvo, Moore posited, was a leader in his community back home and deserved recognition even though he had tenuous at best ties to Texas. (In fact, there’s no evidence DeSalvo had ever stepped foot in the Lone Star state.) The proposed resolution read, in part:
This compassionate gentleman’s dedication and devotion to his work has enabled the weak and the lonely throughout the nation to achieve and maintain a new degree of concern for their future. He has been officially recognized by the state of Massachusetts for his noted activities and unconventional techniques involving population control and applied psychology.
By unanimous acclamation, the 150 members of the Texas House approved the resolution, officially adding DeSalvo to the roll of those to be honored by the state. Had the state’s Senate also agreed, DeSalvo would have gotten a nice little certificate or something.

But that never happened. DeSalvo wasn’t worthy of Texas’ honor — or, for that matter, the honor of any of the 50 states. DeSalvo’s fame was, actually, infamy. He was better known as the Boston Strangler, a serial killer believed to be responsible for the murder of 13 women in the early-to-mid 1960s. (Later DNA evidence demonstrated that DeSalvo was responsible for at least one of the murders, but not all of them. Nevertheless, he confessed to all thirteen in the 1960s.) Moore’s goal, according to Texas Monthly, was simply to pull an April Fool’s Day joke (check the date of the stunt), but at least one other legislator used the joke as evidence that representatives didn’t pay attention to what they were voting on. Others attribute that goal to Moore (and his co-sponsor, Lane Denton), himself.

The Strangler, of course, was never honored by Texas. Not because the state Senate caught wind of the joke, though. Moore pulled the legislation before it reached that points, admitting that it was all a ruse.

Bonus Fact: Moore’s decision to embarrass his colleagues (even if it were just an idle prank) runs counter to an informal policy in many states, including for example New York, where state legislators keep quiet instead of cause each other bad press. As a New York magazine article in 2007 recounted, that state’s legislature had something called the Bear Mountain Compact — and agreement among lawmakers to keep scandals quiet. The Compact has crumbled in recent years.