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To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

Colorno: the sad story of suffering in the abandoned asylum.

4 min read

Colorno, the italian abandoned psychiatric hospital near Parma, still seems to make its walls speak. Inside now there is nothing, only crowded blankets, clothes, old weelchairs and scattered documents, but the souls of so many suffering still remains.

It was closed in 1979 with the Basaglia law, which also takes on the modernization of the clinical setting of psychiatric assistance, establishing renewed human relationships with staff and society, fully recognizing the rights and necessity of a quality patient life, followed and cured even in territorial structures.

Now the inner courtyard is impracticable completely overgrown with shrubs and weeds, and in this large complex inside it is easy to get lost. The labyrinth of corridors are dark and very little light passes through the windows, and lot are walled.
A great sense of disquiet is felt when one enters this place of madness: lot of stories have passed between these walls, stories of pain and despair, in fact it seems that usually those who were hospitalized here no longer returned to their normal life.
Usually the hospitalized people were forgotten by everyone and so it was as if they disappeared, and psychiatrists working at this institution were free to experiment new treatments like some practices as electroshock or frontal lobotomy. In this way the doctors felt like innovators and experimenters while patients were no longer considered people.

Today in these rooms nothing remains of the past. At most it’s possible find some walking or wheelchair, and the files that contained the patient records are disappeared, or many cards are abandoned on the floors.
This asylum went into operation in 1873 after the cholera epidemic. This ancient ducal palace was immediately used as a hospital for the sick, but this structure was not born as a hospital, but as a convent. It had to be a temporary thing and instead became a permanent home.

Inside there were more than a thousand patients and actually the asylum welcomed not only psychotic patients, but also abandoned people, marginalized and “dangerous” for the society like prostitutes, alcoholics, vagabonds and also sometimes small children. The corridors were all the same and the spaces were organized into watertight compartments, so patients were very confused as they walked between the different floors and the tiny cells immediately led to suffering from claustrophobia.
They had to stay there all day with no where else to go.
Some doors still bear the marks made by the patients and the scratches lead to think of the desperation of those forced to stay there. Some rooms had a security door and a single glass slot: those were the cells for the so-called “serious patients”.

The asylum is back to talk about when Herbert Baglione, a famous Brazilian street artist, decided, in 2013, to paint the walls. Here he has created his project “1000 Shadows” and on the walls he painted black shadows and sinister specters to represent the once trapped souls. Other artists have also brought their art to the asylum. No one would like to explore an asylum, but there are some people who do it. Lovers of abandoned places or simply people which love not to leave these stories in oblivion.

Some inhabitants of Colorno sometimes speaks about strong noises, thuds, sounds of waters and slamming doors during silent nights, and there is also somebody saying that the doors mysteriously open during the most agitated nights. Many people, moreover, are sure to have seen people walking in the corridors, people badly dressed, with clothes, gown in tatters and barefoot, and there are those one who swear to have seen, in a rainy night, a young doctor coming out from a side-door, that was crying for the desolation of the place and he jumped in the pond of the Park! But these are, maybe, just another horror stories!

All Images are by Anya Photos. Used with permission.
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