14 Apr 2019
The Park County Poor Asylum sits off a two-lane rural road just outside of Rockville, Indiana, a town known primarily as a major hub of the annual Parke County Covered Bridge Festival. It is one of 47 similar facilities in the state that at least for now, have survived the wrecking ball. At one time there were 92 such facilities. None still stand as poor asylums; that concept of housing the poor and unstable is no longer a part of our culture. Most of the asylums have been repurposed as residential apartments, nursing homes or government offices. Parke County Asylum, like ten others on record, is totally abandoned and have been left to vandals and decay.
The two-story building was constructed in the late 1800s and was no doubt an impressive structure at the time. Even today, as one drives up the long pot-holed driveway, its presence is commanding. Trash, broken furniture and old Christmas decorations are now piled up in the front yard. Almost all of the windows have been broken out. The front door lays on the floor in the entryway covered in plaster and debris. The weather has blistered the colorful paint used all throughout the building.
One of the more interesting aspects of urban exploration is coming across elements from previous times – photographs, tools or equipment used in daily activity, anything that shows the presence of human occupation. At Parke County Asylum we found very little. Most had been destroyed or removed. We did find rooms full of old medical records and one room with the floor covered in used syringes.
For some, the word asylum conjures images of padded rooms and straight jackets. The poor asylums were designed by Indiana counties as means to house the poor, senior citizens and those who struggled to survive with financial, physical and mental difficulties. In some ways, the asylums more resembled today’s homeless shelters and convalescent centers.
Of the half dozen YouTube videos posted by people who have explored Parke County, all of them list the place as being haunted. Whether based on truth or perception, we found no evidence that suggested this. From outside the place does have a traditional haunted look to it, and as one walks the dark corridors one does develop an eerie feel. But nothing on record lists any incidents that would suggest restless spirits afloat. A small building out back of the main structure housed four rusted jail cells: we were unable to verify what they were used for.