Morris Plains, NJ State Hospital for the Insane Fire, May 1902

Morris Plains Phychiatric Hosp. 1906 Morris Plains NJ Insane Asylum Morris Plains NJ Insane Asylum


Causes Excitement Among Guests, But All Rescued.

NEW YORK, May 20. -- A fire at the New Jersey state hospital for the insane at Morris Plains cause wild excitement among the 2,500 patients.

The guards were only able to restrain them by the most vigorous efforts.
When the fire was first discovered in the laundry, the patients were hastily brought together in the yard and surrounded by a cordon of guards and attendants, who held them back when they made a dash for freedom.

As soon as the flames were discovered most of the guards and attendants were sent to the various wards to get the patients out. None of the violently insane or criminals was in the threatened building, but the alarm of fire caused even those whose minds were but slightly unbalanced to become frantic with terror. Nearly all the patients were in the dormitories, which made the task of getting them out of the building much easier, as they could be marshaled as at they regular fire drill.

In some of the wards furthest from the fire a few patients who could be trusted were left. The others were marched from the building. Although they were greatly frightened, a few soothing words from the guards pacified them and there was little trouble until all were assembled in the yard. There they again became panic-stricken, and many tried to break through the thin line of guards. The women seemed more frightened than the men and several times they led dashes for freedom.

Had thre[sic] been any concerted movement the whole 2,500 would have escaped. Twenty or thirty would make a sudden run toward the guards and the latter would have hard work getting them back in the crowd with the others. This would work the others up to a frenzy and another group would charge toward another part of the line, only to be driven back.

Men and women used their fists freely and several of the guards were badly bruised by the struggling mob. As far as could be learned, however, none escaped.

When the flames were extinguished the patients were led back to their dormitoris[sic] but for hours they could net be quieted. The financial loss was small.

The Nebraska State Journal Lincoln Nebraska 1902-05-20