The King is Dead

The King is Dead - Kings Park Psychiatric Center

The late 1930's found a monolith slowly stretching skyward from the center of a psychiatric center's campus. Construction was ongoing for some time, as floor upon floor of red brick and barred windows were stacked atop one another. What stood at the Kings Park Psychiatric Center after work completed in 1939 was a towering facility of 13 stories, for use as an infirmary for the hospital center's elderly and those with chronic physical illnesses. Like most mental health centers of this era, it operated as a separate entity from the town and county in which it existed. A city unto itself - separated from the greater world physically, and even more-so by the shameful mentality of the times.

Population peaked here in 1954. With the number of patients exceeding 9,000 the facility was not just overcrowded, but severely under-funded. As is always the case; it was the patients who suffered the most. These same people who depended upon others for their very lives, now found themselves without so much as a bed to sleep on. Eventually the creeping wave of national deinstitutionalization washed across this facility, as it did most other large psychiatric centers in the 1970's. From that point on the hospital slowly began to downsize its populous. Patients deemed suitable were released, some of the more elderly were relocated to nursing homes, and still others made their way over to the nearby Pilgrim State Hospital. This tower with its countless rooms and halls now sits vacant, as it has since it was closed down in 1996.

Its size made it famous when it was first constructed, and even today it impresses as it towers above the rest of the landscape. Its massive form, combined with the dead silence from within its walls creates an aura unique to this place alone. Approaching it on foot the mind is simply amazed that something so very big can also be so very empty. It seems terribly unnatural to behold, and dwelling upon it makes one all the more uncomfortable. Adding further to the unnerving nature of this cyclopean structure is the way in which the metal caged windows along the bottom floor are sealed. From a distance they all seem to normal metal barred windows, not unlike many other hospitals have. Upon closer examination however, you come to realize that there are hundreds of metal lawnmower blades welded over top of old metal bars. Mounted in a random fashion, many crisscrossing over one another, they are a foreboding thing to be greeted by.

Upon entering this tower of a wards, we were greeted by a fantastic mural unlike most anything we had ever seen in any building, let alone an abandoned hospital. It depicted in wonderful (and skewed) detail the hospital patients as they spent their time in the recreation room. The very same room which this beautiful mural now adorns. Some speculate that the artist behind this work was a once well-known cartoonist by the name of Percy Crosby. A man most famous for his cartoon strip “Skippy” which ran in Life magazine from the 1920's until 1945. Unlike a lot of rumors however, this story has some footing in facts. A few years after the Skippy strip ended Percy Crosby lost a lengthy battle with depression and attempted to take his own life. Failing in the deed he was committed to this very hospital, the place where he was to spend the remainder of his life. He died on his birthday; December 8th 1964. During his years as a patient he continued to produce artwork, often depicting his fellow residents. Even in his quick sketches the subjects seem to all share the same lifeless gaze. In the end it may not be of great importance who it was that painted these walls, but simply that they were painted at all. It granted us an intimate look into the daily lives of the patients who once stood in the very spot we now found ourselves some decades later. The past and present co-existed in this room thanks to the intense efforts of a nameless artist.

As we climb skyward through this enormous building the emptiness becomes more and more apparent. Every noise travels exponentially further than expected, and reverberates back off the filthy walls and floors with a distorted murmur. Each passing floor and landing is identical to the previous in nearly every way, making the stairwell seem like an endless spiral into nothing. It is not until you get to the roof that you realize just how high you have traveled. It was from here that one could have viewed the entirety of the campus when it was operational, as it sprawled across hundreds of acres. Now there is little left save for a few buildings lost among a landscape of trees and fields.

To say that the building looms over the surrounding landscape would be an understatement.

The overly-saturated pallet of the basement murals were surreal against the dark decay of the building.

The paintings depicted patient life, as it were in this very room when the hospital was operational.

How many coats of paint can one door have?

A chair sunken under the stagnant waters of a flooded rooftop.

View from the top.


Sketches by Percy Crosby, of fellow patients.

This is an older video of ours. When watching, you may notice that it has a different "feel" to it than our current-day films. This is because the style of our cinematography has progressed over time, and our equipment has changed and improved throughout the years. We have chosen to leave our older videos available for viewing online to illustrate the evolution of our work.