Friday, July 25, 2014


Opening its doors in 1911, Letchworth Village located in Rockland County New York was an institution providing care for the most physically and mentally challenged. Although initially a success, the 2,362 acre facility soon began to harbor secrets unimaginable to the outside world. Taking place behind closed doors in any one of the 130 buildings were instances of rape, torture, neglect, and murder.

Not only were the patients abused, but relations between staff deteriorated so far that reconstructed power dynamics began to arise. Over its 85 years in operation, there were multiple cases of staff members being raped.

Funding dried up while the institution’s population expanded in the 1970s. The staff on hand was not able to care for the patients at the level they required. Many times children were found roaming the buildings naked and covered in feces. Come meal time, those who could not feed themselves relied on the nurses. There are many cases where patients choked to death at the hands of the staff member forcing food down their throats. During most of this time there were only two or three nurses for every 80+ patients.

Early Polio vaccines were tested on children at Letchworth Village. When the first little boy didn’t die after being injected with Hilary Koprowski’s live-virus vaccine, they administered the concoction to 19 other children.

When patients died at the facility, their brains were extracted from their skulls and kept on display in the laboratory. Their bodies were then reduced to a serial number and buried a mile from the facility, nameless.

The institution closed its doors for good in 1996. Many rooms look as though their occupants went home from work early, leaving paperwork and paychecks on their desk. There is a thick layer of dust covering every surface- a thinly veiled attempt to mask the atrocities that took place at Letchworth Village.