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The Dixmont State Hospital:
A Historical Documentary

Project Description:

In November of 1862, The Dixmont Hospital for the Insane officially opened its doors at a time when those suffering from mental illness were often times treated as mere animals by unsympathetic caretakers; caged, beaten, isolated from others and left to rot in their own filth. Dixmont served as a house of refuge; a safe haven where the insane could receive proper care and treatment, with a focus on returning them to family and friends as fully recovered.

But the reality of mental illness was that it was difficult to treat, and often times, impossible to cure. Through the years, the population of Dixmont grew to include the violent and criminally insane, chronic patients, and those who were completely incurable, causing constant disruption to the wards. In later years, electroshock and insulin shock therapies, hydrotherapy and even lobotomies provided patients with some relief from their insanity. However, until the introduction of psychotherapetuic drugs in the 1950’s, it was extremely difficult to manage and treat the over 1,200 patients that resided within Dixmont’s wards.

Through a vivid collection of over 500 historical photos, excerpts from the Annual Reports of the Managers, written and oral accounts from former employees and an examination of the factors that resulted in the State of Pennsylvania’s decision to close the institution in 1984, this narrated, 94 minute documentary will explore what is fact, what is fiction, and how these accounts have intertwined to become the legacy of The Dixmont Hospital for the Insane.

Narrated by:
Bill Chappo

Written/Directed/Edited by:
Kate Guerriero

Approximate Length:
94 minutes

Sponsored by:
The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center The Ben Avon Area Historical Association

To view some outstanding pictures of Dixmont both past and present and to see other links related to the Hospital, please visit This is a tremendous website that can help satisfy the appetite of any Dixmont enthusiast!
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