Ten Days In A Madhouse

By Nellie Bly

Format:  Paperback  |  Size:  5.5 x 8.5  |  Page Count:  170  |  ISBN: 978-1-727336-38-2

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Ten Days In A Madhouse

by Nellie Bly

Ten Days in A Mad-House is the true account of investigative journalist Nellie Bly’s confinement inside an insane asylum. In 1887 the young female reporter entered the asylum under the guise of insanity to investigate rumors of brutality and neglect at the infamous Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum in New York City.  The asylum was underfunded, grossly overcrowded, and plagued with scandal. In the 1880s the mentally insane were not treated as patients but as dangerous lunatics that had to be controlled by force, confined to cells, and kept out of the public eye.

Before Bly began her investigation, famed author Charles Dickens, visited the institution and wrote, “…everything had a lounging, listless, madhouse air, which was very painful. The moping idiot, cowering down with long disheveled hair; the gibbering maniac, with his hideous laugh and pointed finger; the vacant eye, the fierce wild face, the gloomy picking of the hands and lips, and munching of the nails: there they were all, without disguise, in naked ugliness and horror.”

Once committed, she found it near impossible to get out. “From the moment I entered the insane ward on the Island,” writes Bly, “I made no attempt to keep up the assumed role of insanity. I talked and acted just as I do in ordinary life. Yet strange to say, the more sanely I talked and acted, the crazier I was thought to be by all….” Now trapped, Bly was tormented with rotted food, cruel attendants, and cramped and diseased conditions. After talking with other patients she became convinced many were just as sane as she was. In fact, the staff of the asylum, some of which were convicts from the nearby prison, was more frightening than the inmates.

She was unable to convince the doctors she was not a lunatic and to let her free. Only with the aid of her editor was she able to escape and write about her harrowing experience trapped inside a mad-house.