The History

The contents of the chest chronicle the history of a mental asylum known as Reardon Institute.

Reardon Institute opened August 13th, 1899, the brainchild of Dr. Stuart Reardon, a prominent figure in psychiatric care.

Not a lot is known about the asylum. There are no public records, no newspaper articles, no information on the internet and no living persons with first hand knowledge.

If not for the wood chest acquired by my father the history of the asylum would be lost, although some may argue that would not be a bad thing.

According to the documents contained in the chest, the facility was located less than two miles north of the town of Reed City, Michigan

Dr. Stuart Reardon owned 640 acres of land which housed the asylum as well as a 200 acre farm that supplied all the food. 

Reardon Institute was a monster of a building. The asylum was over five stories tall and capable of holding over 2,000 patients plus a working staff of over 500.

Reardon Institute was a self contained society. 

In addition to patient rooms and staff quarters, Reardon Institute had its own power plant, water treatment system, farm and greenhouses. The asylum eliminated the need for all outside contact.

Patients and staff were forbidden to venture off the grounds, instead they were encouraged to enjoy the amenities offered at the Institute.

Reardon boasted gourmet chefs, extensive libraries, theaters, swimming pools, art gallery, bowling alley and pristine gardens.

Elaborate parties were held for the staff and certain patients as well as concerts, plays and even fireworks.

Life at Reardon Institute could be very good, but life at Reardon Institute could also be a living hell, it just depended which side of the fence you were on.

Several years after opening, Reardon Institute became known as Arsenic Asylum among staff due to the high patient death rate. 

Reardon Institute operated for 46 years with no outside intervention. Residents of the small town of Reed City were vaguely aware of the monstrous facility that loomed just two short miles to the north.

Records show that the asylum was destroyed on August 6th, 1945 by a massive fire.

Over the last six months I have pieced together the details of Reardon Institute and transcribed Dr. Arthur Corman’s journal which sheds much light on a very dark place.

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