Saturday, September 22, 2012

Extraordinary Escapes of a Lunatic

Sunday March 4, 1860 -- "This day, a lunatic, named Wheedon, was caught and taken back to the Northern Ohio lunatic Asylum from which he had escaped. The Cleveland (Ohio) "Herald" gives the following strange account of him and his escapes. it says:--

Among the inmates of the Northern Ohio Lunatic-Asylum is a person named Wheedon, once a highly-respectable citizen in good circumstances, and said to have been a member of the former coal-firm of I.C. Pendleton & Co. He has been in the asylum for some time.

For some time past he has manifested a strong disposition to escape, and the utmost care and vigilance have been exercised to frustrate his designs, but not always with success. Before being places in his sleeping-room at night, he has always been stripped and carefully examined, to prevent the secreting of any instrument, and all his clothes, but his shirt, pantaloons, and stockings, taken away In spite of these precautions, he has succeeded three times within a few days in escaping from his room.

About two weeks since, he took a set of false teeth out of his mouth, and, by constant work, contrived with them to saw a hole through the floor of his chamber, sufficient to admit of his dropping through into another part of the house, and then escaping. He was traced and caught at the house of Mr. Pendleton, on Euclid Street.

A few days since he secreted a pin, and with that exceedingly unlikely instrument managed to pick the lock of his door and escaped into the hall, where he was fortunately arrested. He then stated that a pin was of more value than ten thousand dollars when he wished to escape from a room.

Last Saturday night he was carefully examined, as usual, before being placed in his room, but succeeded in secreting a small brass ring, split at one part, in his hair. On being locked up for the night, he set to work, and, with the ring, he cut through the window-sash and shutter, so as to enable him to remove them from the window. He then took the coverlet of the bed and tore it into strips, with which he made a rope reaching nearly to the ground,--a distance of some twenty-five or thirty feet. Some of the cotton batting with which the coverlet was wadded, he placed in his stockings, to protect his feet, as he had no shoes. Then, dressing himself in shirt trousers , and stockings, he slid down the rope and escaped.

Striking across the country to Eight Mile Lock, he then took a two-path of the canal and walked to University Heights, where he arrived yesterday afternoon. The officers of the asylum on his track came on him yesterday (Sunday) afternoon. he was very quiet when arrested and spoke freely of his escape, and made no resistance to being taken back to the asylum. We question whether this series of extraordinary escapes can be well matched."

I find it interesting that poor Wheedon, a former employee of  I.C. Pendleton & Company, was so desperate to escape from the Northern Ohio Lunatic Asylum. Even more interesting, why did Wheedon escape the asylum and head to Mr Pendleton's house? Was this the owner of his former company? Was Wheedon's ingenuity based in some paranoid or delusional process about Mr. Pendleton? Was he tossed into the asylum to hide some sort of wrong doing and an irate Wheedon kept trying to escape to find justice?

Give a moment of your time to Wheedon and wonder what the nature of his stay at the asylum was all about. While the facts of the story are likely forever lost, the people who lived and died within the walls of America's asylums are important. There voices help us understand who we were, where where were, and where we are going.

For more about the Northern Ohio Lunatic Asylum click here.

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