In 1913, humanitarian Charles Labrie began building The Sanctuary. This was to be one of many institutions for the socially discarded and alienated mentally ill. Born in Paris, France on Oct. 14, 1873 and part of a direct descendent of the Bonaparte dynasty, Charles was exposed to the greatest minds Europe had to offer. He excelled in all facets of scholastics, music and athletics. Upon finding an old Thirteenth Century Bible which belonged to his mother, he seemed to have an obsession with the Old Testament and developed a special affinity for theology throughout the years.
By his 30th birthday he had visited over 20 countries including Israel, Africa and the United States being exposed to many different religions and cultures while accompanied by his childhood mentor and caretaker. Since his youth, Charles had been plagued with the guilt and burden of his younger sister’s affliction. She was born with severe schizophrenia. Although misdiagnosed as “childhood madness” and then throughout her adolescent years the diagnosis progressed into other terms such as “lunacy”, “insanity”, “dementia” and “derangement”.
As the maddening worsened he would observe more and more violent behavior as well as her erratic hallucinations. Charles watched as his sister spiraled into a darkness which he could not comprehend. She was constantly probed and prodded while being shackled and restrained. In his early 20’s she was taken away and institutionalized. During his travels he observed many asylums for the insane and visited thousands suffering from the same disease and vowed that he would make it his life’s mission to help anyone who had been afflicted with mental illness.
His plans were to build the best institution in the world. He travelled once again to the United States as the US was growing rapidly and had reached a population of 100 million. Charles visited the first US institution established in Williamsburg, Virginia and made notes of how he could improve treatment and move toward a more humane and moral therapy. He purchased a plot of land and broke ground in 1913 and began building. After 4 years and the threat of a World War In 1917, The Sanctuary had finally opened its doors and began filling with hundreds of afflicted.
Word spread fast throughout the country that Charles Labrie, noble and affluent humanitarian had opened the most advanced institution in the country. He employed the most acclaimed doctors and psychologists in the field. Of his own accord he funded the entire operation. The Sanctuary was considered to be on the cutting edge of neurological treatment. Many surgeons and students of neurology flocked to visit The Sanctuary traveling as far as Asia. For 25 years the institution was praised and heralded as the premiere facility for humane and progressive treatment.
As experimental surgeries and medicine continued to progress throughout the world Charles had discovered a surgeon from Germany named Dr. Ryan Hammond who had been making incredible strides with electrical brain stimulation and performing highly unorthodox, but successful neurological surgeries. Somehow he had found a method of melding technology and flesh with astonishing results. Patients who were mute could now speak, the violent now passive, idiocy turned intelligence and the comatose to energetic. He developed his own neurological implants and tools.
Eventually he had been banned throughout Europe for his forward and innovative practices as his patients were considered abominations. Charles sought out Dr. Hammond and invited him to The Sanctuary to practice his advanced techniques in the hopes of further curing his now overpopulated and understaffed facility. They were now in the midst of a second world war in which doctors and surgeons were a valuable commodity and forced to leave the facility. The diseases and disorders were continuing to advance and Charles needed a solution and Dr. Ryan Hammond seemed to be the answer.
It was not until 1946 that the good German doctor finally set foot on US soil and entered into The Sanctuary to join humanitarian and theologist Charles Labrie. Hammond was frail, ultra wrinkled and walked with a slight limp. About that time Labrie had finished erecting a chapel just outside of The Sanctuary for doctors, orderlies and even patients that were well enough to visit. Occasionally Charles would stand behind the podium and read from his childhood 13th Century Bible. He felt that it gave the attendees a peace and calm that the daily routines of The Sanctuary could not always achieve.
Charles built a home just outside of the institution for his chief surgeon. As Dr. Hammond settled in he began requesting more obscure and unconventional equipment and substances. In the beginning of the doctor’s tenure he made amazing progress with several patients, but progress began to stagnate and Dr. Hammond became more and more reclusive. Charles could see his health deteriorating right before his eyes. Unbeknownst to him the doctor was secretly experimenting on patients during routine therapy sessions and had formed a camaraderie with several orderlies.
As patients regressed, orderlies more sedentary and Dr. Hammond became more solitary; Charles visited his home and confronted him. He observed a massive amount of used surgical tools strewn about the home. Dr. Hammond had been experimenting on himself since his arrival with the hopes of finding a cure for his own ailments. He suffered from a very rare form of tissue degeneration. His body was literally devouring itself bit by bit, cell by cell. Several orderlies were present during Charles’ visit and they proceeded to restrain him.
He was placed into a solitary padded cell in The Sanctuary and was treated as any other patient. For years Dr. Hammond performed extraordinary experiments on patients, orderlies and himself all with the hopes of finding a cure to his fatal illness. He began transplanting mechanical armatures onto patients, implanting large battery pack powered devices into their brains and began a complete hostile takeover of The Sanctuary. His crusade included mind control, brainwashing, lobotomies, electroshock, brain transplantation and biomechanical experimentation all in the hopes for a cure.
As days became weeks and months became years Charles Labrie was held in solitary confinement and given enough sustenance to barely stay alive, but the incessant droning of Dr. Hammond’s “education” being fed through the facilities loudspeakers day in and day out was too much for anyone’s psyche. With only his 13th Century Bible to keep him company he sat in his cell and continued to recite passages. It has been over 100 years since the inception of The Sanctuary which has been abandoned for decades.
Purchased in May of 2010 by museum curator Arthur Burnes, The Sanctuary is now open to the public for tours. Some say you can still hear the echo of Dr. Hammond’s monotonous droning, the agonizing screams of the unfortunate victims of experimentation and the preaching of Charles Labrie. Nobody knows what transpired once the brutal seizure of The Sanctuary took place. There have been many accounts of family members releasing all rights to their ailing loved ones to The Sanctuary never to be seen or heard from again. Your tour awaits at The Sanctuary.