12 October 1773

America’s first insane asylum opens in Virginia.

On October 12, 1773, Eastern State Hospital was established, the first insane asylum in what is now the United States. Built in colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, this was a time in history when mentally ill people were seen as something to make fun of and were used as entertainment. The famous English insane asylum, Bethlehem Royal Hospital more commonly known as “Bedlam,” and yes, that is the source of that word was a popular tourist attraction!

Digging Deeper
Eastern State Hospital did a thriving business as it seems there was no shortage of patients. The poor state of mental health treatment back then meant people with “issues” were locked away instead of being given proper mental health care. Of course, psychotropic medicines did not exist then, either. As the hospital became more crowded, individual care declined even more to the point where patients were mere inmates to be housed. In 1885 an electrical fire in a new wing burned the place down.

Eastern State Hospital was rebuilt and by 1935 had 2000 inmates/patients. Increasing demand for capacity outgrew available space for expansion, so the patient load was gradually moved to other facilities between 1937 and 1968, with the hospital function of the facility finally shut down in 1968, the work of mental health treatment having been totally moved to a new location outside of Williamsburg . The old building was reconstructed and opened as a museum in 1985, and today it remains a museum of mental health at the Colonial Williamsburg attraction.

The establishment of mental institutions grew from the late 18th Century through the 1950’s, until in the United States nearly 600,000 people were residents in mental hospitals! This trend reversed with improved treatment and the use of drugs, and by 1977 the mental patient population had shrunk in the United States to 160,000. Unfortunately, the Reagan years saw shrinking mental health budgets from government sources and many people went untreated, becoming homeless and straining society. Today only around 35,000 mental patients are in hospitals, while a tremendous amount of our world’s largest prison population is actually mentally ill people that did not get treatment. Something like 100,000+ prison inmates at least 16% of prison populations are believed to be mentally ill persons.

12 October 1979

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is published.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the first of five books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction “trilogy” by Douglas Adams. The novel is an adaptation of the first four parts of Adams’ radio series of the same name. The novel was first published in London on 12 October 1979. It sold 250,000 copies in the first three months.

The namesake of the novel is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a fictional guide book for hitchhikers written in the form of an encyclopedia.The book begins with council workmen arriving at Arthur Dent’s house. They wish to demolish his house in order to build a bypass.

Arthur’s best friend, Ford Prefect, arrives, warning him of the end of the world. Ford is revealed to be an alien who had come to Earth to research it for the titular Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, an enormous work providing information about every planet and place in the universe. The two head to a pub, where the locals question Ford’s knowledge of the Apocalypse.

An alien race, known as Vogons, show up to demolish Earth in order to build a bypass for an intergalactic highway. Arthur and Ford manage to get onto the Vogon ship just before Earth is demolished, where they are forced to listen to horrible Vogon poetry as a form of torture. Arthur and Ford are ordered to say how much they like the poetry in order to avoid being thrown out of the airlock, and while Ford finds listening to be painful, Arthur believes it to be genuinely good, since human poetry is apparently even worse.

12 October 2002

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The Bali Bombings bombs are detonated in the Sari Club in Kuta, Bali.

Two bombs ripped through the Kuta area of the Indonesian tourist island of Bali on 12 October 2002, leaving 202 people dead. The Bali bombing plot were probably sown in a hotel room in southern Thailand. It was believed to have ordered a new strategy of hitting soft targets, such as nightclubs and bars rather than high-profile sites like foreign embassies. The final death toll was 202, mainly comprising Western tourists and holiday-makers in their 20s and 30s who were in or near Paddy’s Pub or the Sari Club, but also including many Balinese Indonesians working or living nearby, or simply passing by. Hundreds more people suffered horrific burns and other injuries. The largest group among those killed were holidayers from Australia with 88 fatalities. On 14 October, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1438 condemning the attack as a threat to international peace and security.

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