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The Forgotten Souls of Salem, Oregon

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Photo By Derek Bratton, Oregon State Hospital, 2020

The Oregon State Hospital, formally known as the Oregon State Insane Asylum, is best known for the place where the 1975 film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," starring Jack Nicholson, was recorded. A few aspects of the location are of interest to paranormal enthusiasts, including the hospital's dark, torturous past, subsurface tunnels used to transport the dead, and a particular room called "The Room of Forgotten Souls."

The Oregon State Hospital has a museum dedicated to mental health history with relics that many would associate with torture chambers of the past. Many would now consider the practices used on the patients as inhuman. The museum houses relics such as lobotomizing picks and tools used for electroshock therapy. Additionally, the museum displays the television from the film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" scene titled "Ball Game."

The Oregon State hospital was (and still is) a dumping ground for cultures unwanted people. Many of the patients have been abandoned and forgotten about by their families and society. In 2004, Peter Courtney, a Senator for Oregon, was given a tour of the facility, which included a room in the hospital's basement. To his discovery, the chamber, now called the "Room of forgotten souls," contained about 3,500 urns of the patents that were tortured, neglected, and abused. In 2004, Courtney launched an effort to get emergency funds to revamp the hospital, but it took an inspection of the U.S. Department of Justice to get the project started.

696 Missing slots where claimed urns use to rest.

Photo By Derek Bratton, "Honoring the Past" Memorial

In 2008 the U.S. Department of Justice sent the Oregon Governor (Ted Kulongoski) a report, reporting the DOJ's findings of the facilities' inadequate living conditions and patient neglect. The report cited several concerns of violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. Which states, "Residents of state-operated facilities have the right to live in reasonable safety and to receive adequate health care, along with rehabilitation, to ensure their safety and freedom from unreasonable restraint, prevent regression, and facilitate their ability to exercise their liberty interests." as required by Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307. The report states explicitly the shortcomings of the Oregon State Hospital, which includes "(1) Fails to ensure the reasonable safety of its patients; (2) fails to provide adequate mental health treatment; (3) engages in the inappropriate use of seclusion and restraints; (5) fails to provide adequate nursing care; and (5) fails to provide adequate discharge planning."

Photo By Derek Bratton, "Honoring the Past" Memorial, 2020

In 2014, the renovations were complete, which included sealing up the underground tunnels, demolishing and rebuilding the hospital's living & recreation spaces, and completing the memorial called "Honoring the Past." The hospital encourages family members of the deceased to claim their relatives' remains, which a list of the dead can be found at the Oregon States website called "Honoring the Past." As of September of 2020, 696 of the 3,500 urns have been claimed by the hospital's lost souls' family members.

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