When I first saw this photograph by Christopher Payne, I was smitten like a starry-eyed schoolboy catching a glimpse of a pretty girl. This lobby of Yankton State Hospital was once pristine and beyond beautiful, I imagine. It’s so hard to believe that the old asylums for the mentally ill are dilapidated and condemned buildings now. Oh, it’s true that some of them are still in use, but many have been torn down or left to their doom, rotting away for all eternity, it seems. But back to why I love this photograph: it showed me long-lost beauty. It also provided me with the inspiration for the marble staircase I mentioned so much in Pleasure House. If you read my last installment snippet, you’ll remember that Rose had just been admitted into the lobby of The House, and was stunned by its magnificence.
Of course, I took the liberty of adding statues on the landing, portraits on the wall, and a crowning, sparkling crystal chandelier that hung from the ceiling. When I look down the hall of this particular photograph, I imagine John’s office at the very end on the left. I have no idea what’s beyond the archway, but that’s what makes it all so much fun. I used this photograph to map out a lot of things in my asylum world. I also tried to imagine what I didn’t see, like what did the opposite hallway look like? When I’m writing, I can find all kinds of inspiration for my scenes by looking through photographs and seeing if any elements catch my eye. Many of my scenes in Pleasure House were gained from photographic images of old mental health hospitals. Even through the chipped paint, broken windows, and tattered furniture, you can see an old beauty that refuses to die. I chose to use the elements in my novel and make them come alive once again!