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Share Your Story of        Central State Hospital   

What is Voices from Central State?

Were you or a loved one a patient at Central State Hospital in Indianapolis? Did you work there or live nearby? Do you have memories or experiences of the hospital that you'd like to share? ...or questions you'd like to find answers to?

We'd love to hear from you!

Central State Hospital closed in 1994, but its history is important, as are the people who experienced that history in various ways. It's important to preserve and share the stories and diverse experiences of people with many links to and relationships with the hospital and to the former hospital grounds- people who sought treatment and healing there or their loved ones who did; people who worked there as doctors, nurses, custodians, cooks, therapists, groundskeepers, volunteers, etc.; people who lived in the neighborhoods that grew up around the hospital...

If you would like to help us preserve your story and your perspective or if you'd just like to know more about the Voices project, we'd love to hear from you. Please call us at 317-635-7329 or email


5/5/2022 "Project to collect histories from Central State Hospital" by Tyler Fenwick, Indianapolis Recorder

4/26/2022 WFYI's Taylor Bennett talks with IMHM Executive Director Sarah Halter about the Voices project. "Do you have a story to share about Central State Hospital?"


Personal Stories

Anna Agnew

At the time she was admitted to what was then Indiana Hospital for the Insane in 1878, Anna Agnew was the 42 year-old wife of a railroad worker and mother of three.

Anna suffered episodes of mania and depression and made several attempts to end her own life. Her suffering grew worse. Believing that her mental illness was hereditary and fearing that her children's fates would be the same as her own, she attempted to poison her youngest child to save him from a life of insanity. 

"I am branded upon the hospital records with a name worse than that of murderess! It is shameful and cruel in the extreme that I am recorded "homicidal."

Suicidal I was, in thought and intention...On the contrary, it was an effort to save my child from the fearful heritage of my insanity!...That was my horror then! But I do not fear that fate for them now."

During her hospitalization, Anna saw various incidents of abuse and neglect, and she recognized many of the hospital's problems. But she also recognized the goodness of many of the people she met there and saw great improvement in her own symptoms. After being discharged, she published a memoir titled From Under the Cloud: Or Personal Reminiscences of Insanity in 1886. The Indiana Medical History Museum has several copies of this book in the Historic Library Collection, but you can read a digitized copy from the University of Michigan on Google Books at the link below.

Read Anna's Memoir


Riah Cox

Long Riah Cox's death, her granddaughter, artist Nanette Vonnegut, found a copy of a short memoir she wrote among her papers.

Riah had been hospitalized at Central State Hospital briefly in the 1940s and again in the 1940s.

"One night several years ago I quite suddenly and completely lost my mind."

"I Remember Jones," written some time after her first hospitalization, is an account of her time at the hospital and in particular about one especially harsh nurse that she referred to only as "Jones." Over time, Riah came to see Jones as a blessing in disguise. She came to see that Jones' harshness was what most gave her the strength and drive to get well and return home. 

"At first I thought that Jones belonged in the category of memories well lost, and regretted that was not a part of my life dimmed by amnesia...but her harshness, her tough efficiency and thorny humor touched off some secret source of strength in me..."

You can read "I Remember Jones" here, posted on the IMHM website with permission from Nanette Vonnegut.

Read Riah's Memoir


Vickie Cole

Vickie Cole began volunteering at Central State Hospital in 1963, when she was in 8th grade. Her work was part of a Teen Volunteer Service program. She found her work rewarding and valued many of the friendships she developed there with both staff and patients. She decided to make working with these patients her career, and remained in various capacities until 1995, after the hospital closed. 

In 2011, Vickie wrote a memoir of her career, experiences at Central State Hospital, and the relationships she formed there titled "Echos from the Rabbit Hole."

"My recollections are a punctuation of those unforgettable lives of people who exhibit a special kind of tenacious courage, joyful strength and bold laughter. My memory in some cases serves as an accounting for life's absurdities, its painful and rueful failures so intense that I sometimes had to laugh when I could no longer cry."

You can read Vickie's memoir here, posted on the IMHM website with her permission.

Read Vickie's Memoir

Memoirs are wonderful to have, but they are not the only important records of people's experiences at Central State Hospital. We want to hear your stories and memories! 

I want to share my story.



(Coming Soon)

How different were treatment procedures from today?


(Coming Soon)

What were the buildings and grounds like?


(Coming Soon)

People who changed the way we look at mental illness today.

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