“Some of the patients … they come back.”
Session 9 is a remarkable horror film. It tells the story of five construction workers hired to remove asbestos from an abandoned insane asylum. As they try to complete the job over the next week, the building begins to affect them.
Soon one of the men discovers audiotapes of patient sessions and listens to them, becoming fascinated with a female patient who was affected with multiple personality disorder. Her story starts to parallel the madness overtaking one of the construction workers. One man starts hearing voices, another man goes missing, and the mystery slowly unfolds to reveal an unexpected ending.
The most incredible fact about this movie is that it was filmed on location at a real mental institution. In fact, the writer of the film penned the script with the location in mind. Danvers State Hospital was built in 1874 and closed permanently in 1985. This asylum was where the frontal lobotomy was developed, back in 1948. By the time the film was made in 2001, the building had been abandoned for about 15 years. Therefore, more than any other fictional film I’ve seen, this one oozes with authenticity. Every scene is imbued with the sad and creepy feeling of dread that one can imagine permeates a building with this history. And in addition to being a clever and truly affecting movie, Session 9 is a valuable piece of celluloid that captures a dark piece of the past that has now been erased.
Surely the grounds of the hospital must be cursed. The hill on which Danvers was built happens to be the same site where the infamous Salem Witch Trial judge John Hathorne condemned many people to death. In addition, the building withstood several freak arsons over the years. Renovations on the hospital began right after Session 9 was made, and the original building has now been mostly torn down. What resides there now, in its place? Condos.
For a great story on a writer who put out an online request to be invited to watch Session 9 inside one of the Danvers condos, click here.
All photography by Jeremy Barnard, taken during the building’s abandonment.