Ypsilanti State Hospital was a facility for those with mental health problems just outside Saline, Michigan, USA. It has now been demolished after lying abandoned for a number of years and falling into a dangerous state of disrepair.
Construction of the hospital began on 16 June 1930 and it took a year to complete. The rural location was 4 miles (6.5 km) west of Saline and 5 miles (8 km) north of Milan. It was named Ypsilanti State Hospital because it fell within the Ypsilanti telephone exchange area. It was designed by Albert Kahn who was known as the “architect of Detroit”. He was famed for creating building throughout Michigan including the Packard Automotive Plant which was revolutionary for using concrete instead of wood for internal walls and The Dearborn Inn, the world’s first airport hotel. He designed many of the finest buildings in Detroit and at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The Ypsilanti State Hospital opened in 1931 and 922 patients were admitted in the first year of operation. The first expansion was in 1936 with additional accommodation and the Occupational Therapy Center. Experimental therapies such as needle showers, ultraviolet radiations and electric shock therapies were introduced. Prefrontal lobotomies were also performed at the hospital. In 1941, The U.S. Army Epidemiological Board’s Commission on Influenza tested 200 patients in Ypsilanti with an experimental flu vaccine.
Further expansions of the hospital occurred after World War II to bring the population up to 4000, however the facility was grossly overstretched and reports of overcrowding were rampant throughout the time the hospital was open.
In 1991, the Governor of Michigan cut funding for state hospitals and Ypsilanti State Hospital soon closed. A forensic centre on the site remained open until 2001. Many patients were turned out on the streets with nowhere to go and there was uproar throughout the state of Michigan and beyond. Toyota eventually bought the site to develop a technical facility and the hospital was torn down in 2006 after remaining abandoned for 16 years. Nothing remains.
One of the most interesting stories to come from the hospital is that of the Three Christs of Ypsilanti, in which three schizophrenic patients believed they were Jesus Christ. In a case study by Milton Rokeach and later published as a book, he put the three in contact with each other to determine whether it would affect their affirmations of being Jesus although there was little change, in fact they argued over which of them was the saviour and even came to blows on occasion. He had hoped to provoke a lessening of the patients’ delusions but this was not the case. Clyde Benson, Joseph Cassel and Leon Gabor were the three patients involved in the study. They eventually each explained away the other two as being patients with a mental disability in a hospital, or dead and being operated by machines. The Three Christs of Ypsilanti was first published in 1964 with Rokeach being accused of being manipulative and unethical in the study. He issued an apology in an edition of the book published in 1984. A film based on the book called Three Christs was released in September 2017 staring Peter Dinklage, Richard Gere, Walton Goggins and Bradley Whitford.