Loren’s Lunatics

In the late 1930’s, New Orleans was an embattled city. Prohibition and the Great Depression had sent crime to an all-time high. The police were powerless as conditions in the city deteriorated rapidly.

With poverty and violent crime at record levels, the city began to fray at the edges. Many of its residents began to crack and lose control of their own minds. The wave of crime and economic hardship was followed by a second wave, one of mental illness that often turned to murder.

With the lunatics and the mobsters competing for space on the crowded streets, the good citizens desperately needed a hero. It was then that Dr. Erasmus Loren appeared.

Dr. Loren was a strong believer in the then-new science of treating mental patients with electrical shocks. His early test results had proved so promising that he was determined he could change the whole world. However, he wanted to start with a single town and, seeing New Orleans’ dire need, decided to set up shop.

With a city grant and a warehouse on the westbank side of the river, Dr. Loren set up a small insane asylum that specialized in electrical treatments. His promise was the he could cure any patient within three months and the city, with its overcrowded hospitals, was all too eager to lighten their load.

The arrangement was simple, Dr. Loren would take the patients on and be paid for three months up front. If his treatments worked and he released them early, he would quickly both save the city and become a very wealthy man.

Unfortunately, his treatments failed completely.

Instead of healing his patients, he often made them even worse. Taking temporary insanity and burning it into their brains. None of his patients got any better.

At first he tried to treat them past the three month mark, but the asylum grew more crowded and money became very tight. He could not confess his failures, he saw too much potential in his system. Instead, he simply tried to adjust his treatments, experimenting on human minds.

Then, one day, as he was trying a new, aggressive treatment on one of his most troubled patients, the young man died on the operating table. At first, this was a serious blow to the Doctor, causing him to rethink all of his work. But then, something twisted inside of him, “If I can’t cure them,” he thought, “Then no one can and the world is better off without them.”

From that day on, a new policy began at Loren’s asylum. Patients would be admitted for a three-month stay. If they couldn’t be released in three months, they were “treated” one last time. Since the city kept such poor records of its insane, there was almost no way it could be detected.

Dr. Loren even had an ideal way to dispose of the bodies, the asylum kitchen. This helped him save money on food and ensured his entire operation was self-contained.

The operation went unchecked for years. Dr. Loren became a mad man, obsessed with his research. Every dime he earned on better equipment and further studies, living as a pauper in a spare room above the asylum.

It wasn’t until 1942 and the United State’s entrance in the World War 2 that he was eventually caught. As the nation began to ramp up its efforts to start the draft, it began to call upon many of the now-dead patients of Dr. Loren. When they were unable to locate them, local authorities became suspicious and raided the asylum.

In the end, approximately a dozen patients were freed, Dr. Loren’s only known survivors, and hundreds were dead. Though official records only tallied 49 dead in the Asylum, it is widely known that the records were only available for his younger victims, meaning that half or more are unaccounted for.

The Doctor himself was placed in a home for the criminally insane. He too fell off the radar, lost in the shuffle of the second World War. Some say he escaped, others say he died. But there is no record of any Dr. Erasmus Loren having died in a city hospital.

But no matter what, Dr. Loren lives on. The location of his asylum remains tainted ground and the families that call the land around it home live in constant fear. Especially at Halloween, when things seem to get just a little bit more exciting than at other times of the year.