Time Capsule Film From a 1950s Mental Hospital Is Full of Mysteries

Workers in Indianapolis have dug up a surprise time capsule from a 1950s mental hospital. Buried on July 23, 1958, on the grounds of the Bahr Treatment Center—a mental health facility that was part of a state hospital that closed in the early '90s—the capsule was discovered in the course of demolishing the old hospital to make room for a residential and business development. The capsule contained film reels showing images of the hospital grounds, footage from the groundbreaking ceremonies, and a message for the future. 

Skip to about 1:40, and two hospital officials begin to explain the center’s mission and, in certain sections that may be lost forever, to predict how mental health treatment will change. “We have spent much time attempting to foresee the future—the things that are going to be coming up in the way of treatment programs,” one says. “How well do you think we’ve solved the problems of the future?”

And then, frustratingly, the audio cuts out. What kind of vintage medical predictions might they be espousing? For more than a minute, their mouths move, but it’s impossible to tell what they’re saying. Then the audio begins again, and there's a tantalizing moment of future prediction: 

For instance, we may some day—and only the people who open this time capsule will be able to say—we may go back to insulin shock, or the development of some other drug techniques ... and so forth.

That speculation turned out to be way off-base, since the treatment he’s referring to, also called “insulin coma therapy,” is no longer practiced in Western medicine. It was an early, rather dangerous, treatment for schizophrenia that involved inducing comas with large doses of insulin.  

His other predictions for the future of psychiatry, however, may be lost forever. 

[h/t: io9]

Banner image screenshot via YouTube

By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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