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Biography.com

10 Famous Residents of McLean Psychiatric Hospital

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Biography.com

Fifty years ago today, Sylvia Plath committed suicide by sticking her head in a gas-filled oven while her children slept a room away. Her first suicide attempt 10 years earlier landed her at McLean psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, which she famously chronicled in The Bell Jar. Plath wasn’t McLean’s only famous resident; at one point, it was the place for the well-to-do poets, artists and musicians to go to have nervous breakdowns while still enjoying horseback riding, rooms with private fireplaces and tea served from a silver service. It’s still ranked the #2 psychiatric hospital in the country.

It wasn’t all like that, of course, which you know if you watched Girl, Interrupted, another piece based on a patient’s stay at McLean. Here’s how Plath and nine other names you’ll know ended up at McLean.

1. Sylvia Plath

In 1953, Plath wedged herself in a crawl space underneath her mother’s house and took 40 sleeping pills. For the next three days, while she existed in what she later called a “whirling blackness that I honestly believed was the eternal oblivion,” police, family, and total strangers searched for her. After she was discovered, having vomited up most of the pills, her mother had her admitted to McLean, most of which she retold in The Bell Jar.

2. Susanna Kaysen

Much like Plath, the author of Girl, Interrupted drew on her 18 months at McLean—where she was sent for depression—in the late ‘60s to write her most famous novel.

3. Anne Sexton

Much to her chagrin, Sexton started her life at McLean as a teacher, not a patient. She told friends she wanted to “enroll” at McLean, in part to have the same experience fellow poets Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell (see #7) did. She taught weekly poetry seminars in 1968, then moved on to become a creative writing lecturer at Boston University in 1969. Sexton finally got her enrollment at McLean in 1973 for a five-day examination period. She committed suicide a year later.

4. James Taylor

Finding himself sleeping for 20-hour periods at a time, James Taylor checked himself into McLean to be treated for depression as a senior in high school. He later wrote a song about his experience: “Knocking ‘Round the Zoo.”

5. Ray Charles

After being busted for pot and heroin possession in 1964, Charles was told he could forego a harsher sentence if he checked into McLean for observation every six months. According to Charles, his visits weren’t too bad. “The nicest part was meeting one of the nurses who I got next to a little later on,” he reported in his autobiography, Brother Ray. He also kept himself—and the whole building—entertained when he found a piano and another piano player “who could really wail.”

6. Robert Lowell

Admitted to McLean in 1958 after a series of stays in other mental hospitals, the Pulitzer Prize winner was the first to write about McLean in a poem called “Waking in the Blue.” He stayed there four times over a span of eight years.

7. Steven Tyler

The Aerosmith frontman found himself doing a couple of stints at McLean’s East House, starting in 1985, when he was trying to get sober.

8. David Foster Wallace

At the age of 27, and with a successful novel already under his belt, Wallace spent four weeks at McLean for depression and substance abuse. It’s not the hospital he describes in Infinite Jest, however. That one—“Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House”—is really a take on Granada House in Brighton, Connecticut, the halfway house Wallace went to immediately following his stay at McLean.

9. John Nash

The brilliant mathematician who was the subject of the film A Beautiful Mind spent a month at McLean in 1959. “I wasn’t there long enough,” he later said. During his short stay there, however, they did diagnose him with paranoid schizophrenia. He was in and out of various psychiatric hospitals until 1970.

10. Marianne Faithfull

Like Steven Tyler, Faithfull spent time in McLean in the mid-80s, following treatment at Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota for addiction.

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As a recurring feature, our team combs the Web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, August 23.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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TopTenRealEstateDeals.com
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This Just In
A Connecticut Farm Purchased by Mark Twain for His Daughter, Jean Clemens, Is Up for Sale
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TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

Mark Twain—whose wit was matched only by his wanderlust—had many homes throughout his life: a small frame house in Hannibal, Missouri; a Victorian mansion in Hartford, Connecticut; and "Stormfield," a country estate in Redding, Connecticut, just to name a few. Now, the Connecticut Post reports that a farm adjacent to Stormfield, purchased in 1909 by Twain for his daughter, Jean Clemens, is up for sale.

“Jean’s Farm,” as Twain nicknamed the home, is priced at $1,850,000. In addition to a storied literary legacy, the refurbished five-bedroom estate has a saltwater swimming pool, a movie theater, and a children’s play area. It sits on nearly 19 acres of land, making the property “well-sized for a gentleman's farm, for horses, or as a hobby farm,” according to its real estate listing. There’s also a fish pond and a 19th-century barn with an extra apartment.

While scenic, Jean’s Farm has a bittersweet backstory: Jean Clemens, who had epilepsy, enjoyed the pastoral property for only a short time before passing away at the age of 29. She lived in a sanitarium before moving to Stormfield in April 1909, where she served as her father's secretary and housekeeper and made daily trips to her farm. On December 24, 1909, Jean died at Stormfield after suffering a seizure in a bathtub. Twain, himself, would die several months later, on April 21, 1910, at the age of 74.

Twain sold Jean’s Farm after his daughter’s death, and used the proceeds to fund a library in Redding, today called the Mark Twain Library. But despite losing a child, Twain’s years at Stormfield—his very last home—weren’t entirely colored by tragedy. “Although Twain only spent two years here [from 1908 to 1910], it was an important time in the writer’s life,” historian Brent Colely told The Wall Street Journal. “Twain was always having guests over, including his close friend Helen Keller, hosting almost 181 people for visits in the first six months alone, according to guestbooks and notations.”

Check out some photos of Jean’s Farm below, courtesy of TopTenRealEstateDeals.com:

Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

 Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

Jean’s Farm, a property in Redding, Connecticut that author Mark Twain purchased for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909.
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

[h/t Connecticut Post]

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