West Virginia, USA
28 January 1903
Colney Hatch Insane Asylum Burned and Fifty Charred Bodies Recovered from Ruins
Patients who Escaped Uninjured are Roaming at Large
London, Jan. 27.
More than half a hundred insane patients were burned to death at Colney Hatch Asylum this morning. The outbreak of fire occurred in the Jewish wing of the institution. The flames spread rapidly, and before they could be checked five wooden buildings, including dormitories and the doctors' apartments were destroyed. The officials' efforts were directed to saving the inmates, but the latter became so wild with excitement that they were not only unable to help themselves but hindered the operations of those trying to save them. Nearly six hundred women were in the annex when the fire was discovered, most of whom were saved. Some who escaped uninjured are at large, rendering it difficult to ascertain the number burned.
Officials admit, however, that fifty bodies have been recovered. The fire began at 5.30 o'clock this morning and lasted until 9.15. All the victims were lunatics. The charred remains presented a horrifying appearance. The asylum is besieged by anxious relatives and friends of patients and pitiable scenes were witnessed as weeping men and women left the premises after learning that loved ones had perished.