Right by where I grew up there's a 300-acre derelict lunatic asylum. When we were young everyone would break in to smash the windows and get high. Obviously we’d all say it was haunted by victims of dark experimental treatments that killed all the inmates, but in actuality it’s just haunted by violent junkies. Last month my friend Sky found a torso there (he says he’s got a photo, but I haven’t seen it) and we started thinking about it again. So we went back.
This huge symmetrical site was built in 1910 and is now decaying. The perimeter is cloaked in barbed wire so our initial idea was to climb under a fence on a Saturday afternoon. But because of security guards and police patrols we had to go at 4 AM on Sunday morning.
We were pretty freaked out. Even if the stories of rapey experiments, electroconvulsive therapy, and casual lobotomies are bullshit, the torso was real. Plus, bits of the ceiling kept falling off, making us scream.
Some psychotic painter-decorators had covered the walls with this kind of peppy message.
If you exchange a question mark for an exclamation mark it makes any sentence seem demented and threatening. Do you see what I mean!
Finding unsettling bits of porcelain furniture lying about the place was kind of horrible. These things look like ergonomic torture machines designed to be wipe-clean.
The site is like a small ghost town. It took us four hours to walk all the way around the outside. It's filled with different neo–Georgian blocks still full of old equipment like crank baths and strapped headrests.
The place is falling apart. You can't get up to the old padded rooms because the stairs are collapsing.
Somewhere around 3,000 patients used to live here. It was the biggest lunatic asylum in Essex. After being bombed in WWII and after countless arson attacks by patients, it slowly started to close off areas and knock wings down. The only building left completely undamaged is the chapel.
In the west of the grounds, there is a water tower you can climb. It gives you a view over the majority of the asylum.
This is a horrible place. Every shattered window seems to have eyes inside it. It eventually closed in the 1990s and now Severalls is to be demolished and turned into housing. I wouldn't want to move in.
(photos Suzette Styler)