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Terrifying 19th and 20th Century Asylum Equipment

Credit: Science Museum, London.

The asylum industry of the 18th through 20th century is a subject I’m fascinated by. It shows the best and worst of humanity, our drive to help one another inextricably intertwined with our disgust with one another. When I came across these photos of asylum equipment from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, my first thought was to imagine them in use. I imagined myself strapped into the straight jacket, with the leather thongs immobilizing my head. At least they gave them an O-ring to breathe through. The restraint collar, in particular, looks like something out of a horror film – which makes sense, since psychiatric treatment has inspired so many horror films. Many of these look like torture devices, and in a way they were – in that they were meant to torture the demons from your body. These give the sense that an asylum was merely a prison by another name. Check out our gallery of early asylum gear below.

All images © Wellcome Library, London

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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