Bob and Lain Shaffer's Website

Saint Elizabeth Hospital,
Anacostia, Maryland

This hospital, in Anacostia, Maryland (just outside of Washington DC) is important to Bob and Lain, because this is where they spent their honeymoon. Well, not IN St. Elizabeths, but literally a stone's throw away.

This U.S. National Historic Landmark opened in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane and the name was changed in 1916 to St. Elizabeths.

Today the building shown in the photographs is abandoned and rundown. However, the Homeland Security agency is considering renovating it as its new headquarters.

In its day, in the hospital, you could find over 1,400 brains stored in formaldehyde, plus over 5,000 photographs of brains, and over 100,000 slides of brain tissue. It housed over 8,000 patients and employed over 4,000 people.

Some important medical studies took place there:

  1. Carl Jung's study of African-American patients to examine the concept of race in mental health.
  2. During American involvement in World War II the OSS used facilities and staff at St. Elizabeths hospital to test "truth serums".
  3. The Rosenhan experiment was a famous experiment into the validity of psychiatric diagnosis conducted by psychologist David Rosenhan in 1973. It was published in the journal Science under the title "On being sane in insane places". The study is considered an important and influential criticism of psychiatric diagnosis. The study concluded, "It is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals".

But, to us, the recollections of events as they intersected our lives, are these:

We spent the first two months of our married life next door to St. Elizabeths. So, yes, we learned how to be crazy.