The Ridges: evolution of an insane asylum

The Ridges is a former “insane asylum” that sits to the Southwest of Ohio University’s campus. The mental institution – originally named the Athens Lunatic Asylum in 1874 – was one of many in Ohio at the time. The asylum largely treated a large number of Civil War veterans who suffered from PTSD. Patient population was at a manageable level and  treatments were humane until the early 1900s.

In the 1900s, the number of patients increased tenfold (200 to 2000). Teenagers labeled as rebellious and women suffering from hysteria – usually women crazy enough to enjoy sex – were sent to the asylum in addition to people who actually did have mental problems.  A Complex Magazine article, listing America’s craziest insane asylums (The Ridges made number one), claimed that a women named Margaret Shilling was one of these women suffering from “hysteria”.

Shilling attempted to escape the asylum by hiding in the attic. But she never did leave that attic. She died of starvation before she could even reach the Hocking River. A stain on the floor of the asylum has been credited as Shilling’s decomposing corpse’s imprint.

It seems like the stain would be removed if possible
Margaret Shilling’s permanent stain – totallytop10

The growing population become harder to handle. Despite the fact that the patient intake was growing, the number of staff had remained relatively unchanged. Patients thought to be uncontrollable were put through tortuous acts and mutilation. “Water treatment” – being confined to an ice-cold bath or being immobilized by being wrapped in freezing-cold sheets – was common.  Shock therapy was frequently used. Doctors preformed lobotomies on who they termed the most violent and uncontrollable patients. A new type of lobotomy – the trans-orbital lobotomy – was developed by Dr. Walter J. Freeman in the early 1950s. His procedure was used at the Athens Asylum.

“This simpler lobotomy became something of a craze in mental health circles up through the 60s. Dr. Freeman’s method involved knocking the patient unconscious with electric shocks, then rolling an eyelid back and inserting a thin metal icepick-like instrument called a leucotome through a tear duct. A mallet was used to tap the instrument to the proper depth into the brain. Next it was sawed back and forth to sever the neural receptors. Sometimes this was done in both eyes.” – Forgottenohio

Dr. Freeman performs a trans-orbital lobotomy in 1949 - Forgottenohio
Dr. Freeman performs a trans-orbital lobotomy in 1949 – Forgottenohio

In the decades to follow, previous methods of treatment were phased out in favor of anti-psychotic drugs, such as Thorazine. Dosages and the drugs themselves were refined over the years. Medication was obviously a more humane way of controlling patients. During this time and up until the mental health center was given to Ohio University in the 1990s, overall treatment of patients was massively improved. Treatments formally expanded into drug rehabilitation and geriatrics.

But The Ridges’ sorted past has inspired many legends. Many people still claim that the asylum is haunted by its former patients. It is rumored that the most haunted part of the grounds is the cemetery where there are many unnamed graves. Many former patients had neither family nor someone who cared enough to pay for a tombstone. The graves are marked simply by numbers.

The Ridges Cemetery - attribution?
The Ridges Cemetery

The final patients were moved in 1993. Renovations were made to most of the buildings by Ohio University once it gained ownership. Many offices are now at the ridges and the main building, Lin Hall, houses the Kennedy Museum of Art.  Few of these “mental institutions” still stand today. Even fewer are in the condition that The Ridges is in. Its buildings are a haunting reminder of the worst days in America’s effort to “treat” the mentally unstable and patients termed as being “hysterical”.


Fantasy football frenzy

If you’ve ever watched football at a sports bar, you’ve probably encountered rowdy fans that are way too into the game. If you’re with these people, you’re embarrassed. If you’re not, you’re frightened. When you’re sitting at the bar, sipping your beer while you casually watch the game, and some jersey-clad lunatic erupts into a frenzy after a sack or fumble, you can’t help but wonder what is going on inside their head. Why is this person so invested in this game?

The answer to this question is simple: fantasy football.

Fantasy football is deserving of its name. It gives regular Joes everywhere something to cling to and live out their post-high school football fantasies. This kind of delusional make-believe can be intoxicating, even dangerous. Especially when you add money to the equation.

Some fantasy leagues are among friends where no money is at stake, only bragging rights. Some leagues however, can have big buy-ins where the pot can exceed hundreds of dollars. When you consider the financial aspect, you can understand why some people are so prone to outbursts while watching football.

I witnessed them firsthand when I was uptown Sunday night.

It was late in the third quarter of the Steelers-Rams game. I was sitting at the bar when it happened. Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass, but the Rams defense brought pressure. Ben went down, sacked. Groans erupted around the bar because of the sack, but when Ben didn’t get up right away, that’s when it hit the fan.

As Roethlisberger was helped off the field, I could hear one patron in close proximity begin a meltdown. I approached him cautiously.

“That’s my f—-ng quarterback, man! That’s my f—-ng season right there! I’m f—ed, man,” the fan lamented, referring to the detrimental impact Roethlisberger’s injury would have on his fantasy season.

This triggered a flashback to a similar scenario a few weeks ago.  I was at Buffalo Wild Wings when Tony Romo broke his clavicle just a week after Dez Bryant’s season came into question with a foot injury.  This precipitated much of the same from unlucky fantasy players who thought they hit the jackpot at their draft when they secured either one or both of these star players for their teams.

If you’re just a casual football fan, I strongly advise caution when interacting with these crazies.  Give them a wide berth if you aren’t prepared to risk life and limb when one of their players catches a concussion, a broken bone, or an MCL sprain.

If you’re a fantasy fanatic, I encourage you to rethink your life and consider making some changes for the sake of your sanity and overall health.


In the following days, it would be reported that Roethlisberger would be out 4-6 weeks.

I sure hope he has a good backup.

Settle it in smash: the rise of E-Sports and video games

Video games are a part of many people’s individual lives. Each week, new, groundbreaking titles come into the market and people flock to the stores to pick up the latest title.

While many people play video games just for fun, the competitive video game scene, also known as E-Sports, is on the rise. Different types of games will bring different forms of competition, one of the most popular genres of competitive gaming are fighting games.

Fighting games give people the sense of a real fight and provide intense head-to-head competition, which is why many aspiring competitive gamers choose to pick up games like Super Smash Bros Melee. Melee has been one of the most popular fighting games since its release in 2001, but the competitive scene continues to grow, not only in size, but skill.

I went to one of the Ohio University Smash Team’s weekly meetings to find out more about this game, and if the future of sports is in video games.


Bobcat Blackout ups the ante with giveaways

In September, students from the sports administration graduate school program have been in Baker Center selling this year’s Bobcat Blackout t-shirt for the the all-black-themed Western Michigan v. Ohio football game on Oct. 17.

But what students didn’t expect in purchasing these t-shirts for $20 is that it comes with two giveaways: a free night stay for any date at the Baymont Inn & Suites and a free round of golf at the Ohio University Golf Course.

Some students are getting creative with the use of their free-night stay.

Dalton Yost, a junior studying specialized studies in business, entrepreneurship, and communication, said his entire fraternity of 50 brothers purchased the t-shirts in hopes of simultaneously using their free night stay at the hotel.

“We all bought it because we figured that if we all get the hotel stay whenever we do our date party event, we could get a free hotel stay as well,” Yost said. “We could use that as a date party incentive, which could be pretty cool. It’s a way to get a low-budget date party.”

In addition to the free night stay and free round of golf, those who purchase the shirt can receive a coupon for Kiser’s Barbeque, a chance to win a signed jersey from Columbus Blue Jackets’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, and coupons for the up and coming #14Fest.

The program gave away an autographed picture of Cleveland Browns quarterback, Johnny Manziel, last week.

Kyle Kashuck, a first-year graduate student studying sports administration, said all of these free perks are because of the Bobcat Blackout sponsorship committee and the program’s partnerships with alumni across the state.  

“The further out you go, the more programs know us,” Kashuck said. “This is for graduate school funding. It started in 2012 and was just kind of a way for our program to come up with funds, make money and it’s progressing every year.”

The program ordered 3,500 shirts this year that are fully loaded with a fresh logo and are made of dri-fit material.

“I prefer the dri-fit shirts. It’s definitely a lot better than the normal cotton shirts,” Yost said. “I feel like with the dri-fit, it shows that we actually give a shit. Plus, they put a design on the front that is awesome looking. It seemed like a quality shirt.”

Kashuck said the hotel has been the main sell for students to buy the shirts and that the branding has been taken to a new level this year. Eric Mayer, a graduate student in sports and fitness administration and management designed the logo with a bobcat’s face taking the shape of the state of Ohio.

The football game won’t be the only chance to wear the blackout shirts, Kashuck said. There will be a field hockey game, a soccer game, and a volleyball game dubbed a blackout for attendees that same weekend.  

Yost said he is considering having his parents use the hotel for when they come down so they have a free night stay.

“Normally a hotel stay could be like $80 to $100 a night,” he said. “So that seemed like a good deal to me.”

Yost said he plans on attending the Bobcat Blackout football game as well and might even consider giving away the free round of golf to someone more keen to the sport.

“We’re just encouraging everyone to blackout by everybody wearing black shirts,” Kashuck said. “Our shirt is just kind of a way to promote that. It’s a way to get everybody to the events and show that school spirit.”


Check out what’s in store for OU’s 2015 Homecoming

Athens residents and students stand on Court Street to watch the 2014 Homecoming Parade.
Athens residents and students stand on Court Street to watch the 2014 Homecoming Parade.

Luke Furman | Court Street Stories

With the semester well underway, Homecoming is right around the corner. Here are a few ways you can spend those glorious 24 hours on Oct. 10.

For starters, the 3-1 Ohio Bobcats are squaring off against their gridiron rivals, the Miami of Ohio RedHawks. The game starts at 2 p.m. at Peden Stadium. Although the forecast is unknown at this point, there will be a 100 percent chance of MACtion.

And if you’re a morning person, your day can start even earlier if you attend the annual Homecoming parade which starts at 10 a.m. The parade will begin on Union Street, proceed to Court Street, and end at Park Place. This year’s theme is “Same Bricks, Different Stories,” according to the university’s website.

Also, as a note, most of the bars in Athens open in the morning and dish out alcohol and grub, depending on where you go, until closing time.

Some groups on campus are using the occasion to help the less fortunate through events like can food drives and collecting pop tabs.

“I’m very excited for the Homecoming year,” said Jake Wade, a sophomore studying pre-med. “Since I’m involved in greek life, I am planning on doing my best for the events we have planned for the week.”

And aside from all the formal events, Homecoming should be a fun time for current students and a nostalgic experience for alumni.

Alumni can register here:



Student Org Screens ‘Obvious Child’

United Campus Ministries located on College Street is showing a free screening of the film, Obvious Child on Saturday at 4 PM. Youth Against Misogyny and Sexism is hosting the event. On their Facebook page, they describe themselves as “a group of young people dedicated to fighting to end misogyny and sexism that plague our society.”

United Campus Ministries: Center for Spiritual Growth and Social Justice is a nonprofit organization that focuses on interfaith and socially progressive values. It is located at 18 N. College Street right across from the Athens Police Department.

With the topic of abortion being a huge debate for people of all faiths and political ideologies in the US,  this film sheds light on what is a very controversial issue that affects us all.

The film stars Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, David Cross, and Gaby Hoffman. Donna (Jenny Slate) is the main character that has a drunken one night stand and finds out she is pregnant. This is an unexpected romantic comedy/drama that focuses on real experiences that happen to women everyday.

Check out the trailer below:

Obvious Child was listed as a New York Times Critic’s Pick and gave a review that said, “’s both funny and serious without trying too hard to be either, and by trying above all to be honest.”

The Washington Post movie critic, Ann Hornaday, weighed in stating “The result is a movie that feels risky and forgiving and, despite its traditional rom-com contours, refreshingly new.”

You can find out more about this event on the Facebook page.

The film will be showing at 4 PM at UCM and remember, it’s FREE!


Authentic menus no longer a secret

Athens may be the smallest town you’ve ever visited, but when it comes to food diversity and authentic menus, it is not a place to overlook.

If you are a frequent eater at the various non-American restaurants uptown, you may have noticed the exotic-looking dishes that many foreign students had on their tables. They might have seemed somewhat exclusive in the past. Some people like to say that there are “secret menus” out there, but now all you have to do is ask for those menus. All of the Chinese restaurants on Court Street have updated their menus to both English and Chinese, and only the seasonal dishes that correspond to certain holidays in China will not be translated to English.

“Normally when we have seasonal dishes, we would promote them on the whiteboard outside, but we wouldn’t add them to the menu because they are not permanent dishes. It would cost a lot of money to update our menu every season,” said Kenny, owner of China King.

One of the reasons that most restaurants like China King don’t feel the need to make a separate menu for the seasonal dishes is because the only people who buy seasonal dishes are those who are already familiar with the food and grew up eating it. Only in a case like this would the menu not be translated to English.

Peking on North Court Street has just updated its full menu to both English and Chinese. It has a menu entirely in English with traditional “American-Chinese” meals and an authentic menu that has both Chinese and English on it, which used to be only in Chinese.

Bilingual menu at Peking
Bilingual menu at Peking
English menu at Peking for Americans
English menu at Peking for Americans

“Our buffet is popular for American people because that’s what Chinese food is to them. But, obviously it’s different for the Chinese students here. They want the real taste of home,” said Yu, co-owner of Peking. “We import some of our ingredients directly from China, some from China towns in New York and Chicago to ensure the original flavors. Sometimes people complain that the entrees are too expensive, but that’s because the ingredients and spices are hard to come by.”

While food options are becoming more open to all, the Chinese restaurants are keeping some of their services exclusive to those who order from the authentic menu. I noticed a very small delivery sign in Chinese at Peking that reads “Delicious home-style food from Peking is only a phone call away, varieties and flavors of your choice!”

This sign reads “Delicious home-style food from Peking is only a phone call away, varieties and flavors of your choice!”
This sign reads “Delicious home-style food from Peking is only a phone call away, varieties and flavors of your choice!”

According to Yu, the co-owner, he decided to make the delivery sign only in Chinese because he didn’t want delivery to be a regular service.

“The thing with our food, once it leaves the restaurant, it loses its freshness. And it’s the same with most Chinese food. So we don’t think it’s a good idea for people who order from the authentic menu to take it to go. That’s why our delivery starts at 30 dollars. And since very few Americans order, they only do the buffet; we decided not to translate it to English,” said Yu.

You could go on to Peking’s Facebook page for more details.

Like the Chinese restaurants, Star of India on West Union Street also provides both a buffet and a menu to order from. The only difference is, the food there has not been Americanized.

“We don’t do American style,” said Amar Jit, the owner. “Everything we have here is authentic Indian cuisine, including the buffet.”

Authentic imported Indian spices from Star of India
Authentic imported Indian spices from Star of India

Amar said that all of the spices they use at the restaurant come from Toronto, Canada, where a very large Indian population resides. They import naan, spices, tea, and other traditional Indian food essentials directly from India.


Bricks on Bricks: An Athens Tradition

Brick, brick, brick, brick.  -The mantra of one walking through Ohio University’s campus

Ohio University, with its brick-laden pathways and buildings, has a rich brick history. Athens is just one of hundreds of brick-faced college towns in the U.S., reflecting a bygone industry. Ohio University’s bricks have preserved this tradition.

According to Athens Ohio, The Village Years, a book written by Robert L. Daniel and found in the Athens Historical Society library, brick-building didn’t become a major industry in southeastern Ohio until the mid-1800s.

Before that time, brick-building served as a local business resource, where bricks were produced on site; it wasn’t considered a commercially viable product until the later part of the century.

That all changed when Robert Arscott built his own brickyard in the 1870s. Roughly 700,000 bricks were manufactured locally in 1850, but by 1893 that number had skyrocketed to 292 million bricks a year. These bricks were being shipped all around the world, according to a 1998 report issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) called The Paving Brick Industry in Ohio by Steven D. Blankenbeker.

“We don’t have seashells here in Ohio,” James Robinson, owner of Athens Block, was quoted as saying in a June 3, 2010, article from The Post. “This is almost like southeast Ohio’s version of a seashell because each brick is different.”

Southeastern Ohio became a prime location for the brick industry, based on the clay particles found underneath the hill-topped soils. In fact, the same earthen materials utilized by the coal industry – another significant trade found in Appalachia – were quite beneficial for brick production.  

Thousands of bricks were used to construct Cutler Hall, once known as College Edifice, while an estimated 8 million bricks were used to build the Ridges, home to the historic Athens Lunatic Asylum, during the 1860s-1870s.

Athens Brick Company once resided where the Athens post office sits today, on Stimson Avenue. The company churned out over 50,000 bricks a day at the height of the brick-building industry, and become a major economic force in Athens.

The first paving bricks in the state were actually produced in Malvern, Ohio, at the Canton & Malvern Fire Clay Paving Brick Company in Carroll County in 1855. These original “blocks” (short-hand for paving brick) measured only 2.5-by-4-by-8.5 inches; standard paving bricks were 9-by-4-by-4 inches, and weighed close to 10 pounds.

Unlike the 19th-century boom for bricks, brick-building isn’t considered a profitable industry in the modern era. It typically costs five-to-10 times more to pave a brick road than one with tar, according to an article published Sept. 11, 2012, in The Post.  Faced with a financial depression and the advent of asphalt roads in the late 1890s, regional brick-building facilities collapsed in the early 1900s.

Nonetheless, the brick industry remains a prominent part of southeastern Ohio history, especially in Athens County.

Ralph Bolls, known in neighboring Nelsonville as “the brick man,” takes his brick history seriously. In addition to buying, selling and trading locally manufactured bricks, Bolls is also the proprietor of the annual Nelsonville Brick Festival.

“The brick festival is largely about trading bricks and getting together with people who are interested in bricks and seeing them as not only history but a collective item,” Boll was quoted as saying in an article from, available at the Athens Historical Society.

The Nelsonville Brick Festival typically runs the last weekend of July, and this year was hosted on July 24 and July 25 in Nelsonville, Ohio.

Chelsea’s Real Food Truck: The Veggie Sandwich

Love hearty, wholesome food that is free from any artificial preservatives or additives? Chelsea’s Real Food Truck can satisfy such cravings.

Chelsea Hindenach conceptualized her business two years ago and has been serving delicacies, free of both dairy and gluten, to locals at the Athens Farmers Market every Saturday since. This week, Backdrop magazine featured her staple menu item, The Veggie, in their “Dish of the Week” column. Check out what Backdrop has to say about this earthy favorite.

Bluetique Athens offers a positive experience to shoppers and employees

What once was an independently-owned photography shop on West State St. in Athens, is now a trendy and student-friendly boutique where fashion meets fun. Known as Bluetique, the shop opened this August and is a sight for sore eyes when it comes to the shopping market in small town Athens, Ohio.

Exposed brick and antiqued display tables mimic a New York stationed Urban Outfitters, but the Ohio University bobcat green still holds a place on the floor. After the loss of Kismet, a beloved local fashion boutique to last year’s Union St. fire, Bluetique offers Athens fashion enthusiasts a breath of fresh air with a variety of styles to explore.

Bluetique's chic atmosphere is unlike any other Athens fashion boutique.
Bluetique’s chic atmosphere is unlike any other Athens fashion boutique.

After having opened multiple other locations in college towns like Oxford, Ohio and Bowling Green, Kentucky, the owners decided it was time for Athens to become a part of the Bluetique family. “They thought Athens was a neat little town, they really liked it and they wanted to put a business here,” said Athens Bluetique Store Manager Marissa Whaley. According to Whaley, the couple of owners scoped out the perfect location in Athens for a few years before deciding to land the new store next to O’Betty’s Red Hot on West State St.

In the short time that it has been open, Athens Bluetique set itself apart from other shops around town. “It’s the perfect mix, you see every one of all ages come in,” said Jodie Gipson, Bluetique employee and OU student.  While working, Gipson has witnessed middle-aged women shopping for sweaters, and has also helped a 5-year-old pick out jewelry. Other Athens fashion boutiques are smaller in size, which tend to limit their ability to offer a variety of options. “I think we offer more of a selection,” said Gipson. “We have everything from preppy business clothes to fringy boho jackets.” Bluetique can also personalize just about anything with monogramed initials or a bobcat paw print, which is another element that makes the store unique.

Each Bluetique location is set up and run a little differently. According to Manager Whaley, based on her knowledge of the other stores, Athens Bluetique is different from the others in that it is more accessible to students. “You have to drive,” said Whaley, referring to the Lexington, Kentucky store.

It’s safe to say that all of Whaley’s employees are college students, some of whom are pursuing degrees in Retail Merchandising and Fashion Product Development. Both Whaley and Gipson agreed that working for Bluetique will help student employees in their future careers. Gipson is a fashion student herself, and made it clear that the workers aren’t there to solely fold clothes and operate cash registers. They are asked to collaborate with all branches of management for Bluetique as a whole. Authority figures from multiple locations within the company visit Athens on a regular basis to check on the store’s progress and talk with the Bluetique girls. “It gives them an aspect of what we do,” said Whaley.

As someone who has worked for many different retail companies including Express and Justice, Gipson made it clear that Bluetique is a great company to work for. “Everyone’s so connected,” said the OU senior, referring to the owners and their relationship with each individual Bluetique location.

Bluetique keeps up with the college students by interacting with them via social media. The company is well established on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and also has created separate Instagram and Twitter accounts for its different locations. The accounts keep followers informed of sales and provide fashion inspiration, all in hopes to shape some avid Bluetique shoppers.

Every customer who stops into Bluetique has the chance to leave appearing more glamorous than before visiting. A free pair of pearls is offered to every customer who stops by, along with free customized bottles of water to keep a serious shopper hydrated, and impressively sized candy jars for the occasional sweet tooth while snatching up a sale. Without a doubt, Athens Bluetique has something enjoyable for everyone.


*All photographs used in this article are property of Court Street Stories.