My special guest tonight is author William Bechheit who's here to discuss South Carolina's Lunatic Asylum founded in 1821.
Nearly two decades after it closed, the South Carolina State Hospital continues to hold a palpable mystique in Columbia and throughout the state. Founded in 1821 as the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, it housed, fed, and treated thousands of patients incapable of surviving on their own. The patient population in 1961 eclipsed 6,600, well above its listed capacity of 4,823, despite an operating budget that ranked 45th out of the 48 states with such large public hospitals. By the mid-1990s, the patient population had fallen under 700, and the hospital had become a symbol of captivity, horror, and chaos. Author William Buchheit details this history through the words and interviews of those who worked on the iconic campus.
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For more than two decades now, William Buchheit has worked as a journalist in Upstate, SC. He's won dozens of South Carolina Press Association awards and received the 2005 Print Journalism Award from the South Carolina Medical Association. in 2011, he was named Reporter of the Year by SC'S chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In recent years, he has become a part-time college English professor and acclaimed wildlife photographer, whose photos of the great white shark have been published by National Geographic, Fox News, and the Smithsonian Institute. He lives in Greer, SC.