Pennsylvania Hospital's 250-year tradition of caring for people
from all walks of life has led to the treatment and internment
of some very interesting people. Over the years, many stories
have been published, what follows are two of the most famous.
A lunatic hermit
A case that attracted much attention in the Hospital and in the city, was that
of "a remarkably neat and tidy Sailor," who was admitted as an
insane patient in March, 1765. For a brief period he lived in the cells,
where he proved very troublesome, quarreling with the Keeper and with the
The patient eventually escaped from the basement and ran through
the house, reaching the cupola of the east wing, from which he
successfully resisted all efforts by the staff and physicians
to dislodge him. The attempts were eventually abandoned and bedding
was placed in the cupola. He died there seven years later, in
It is recorded that: "He never left these cramped quarters
for any purpose; he was also noted for his long nails, matted
beard and hair and for insensibility to cold, since
he never, in the coldest weather of nine winters, came near a fire."
The lunatic wife
On December 31, 1790, hospital records state that a "lunatic," the
wife of prominent banker and philanthropist, was admitted to Pennsylvania Hospital
as a paying patient in the amount of 25 shillings per week. Shortly after admission,
she gave birth to a daughter who died 5 months later.
In January 1791, the sitting Managers reported to the Board
they felt the patient was ready for release. The Board accordingly
requested her husband to remove her to his own home. At his earnest
request, the woman was retained in the Hospital until her death
in 1815, living at the hospital for 25 years.
Back to Stories from Pennsylvania