Kirkbride Buildings Blog

June 12th, 2008

Lunatic Asylum T-Shirts and Protest

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum T-ShirtI thought the furor over the Weston name change had died down a little, but evidently not. There’s a protest demonstration planned at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum this weekend. Adding fuel to the fire perhaps is a new t-shirt being sold by the Jordans. The shirt (pictured above) says, “I went nuts at…” on the front, and “Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum” on the back. The “I went nuts at…” part is undeniably crass. Depending on your sense of humor and feelings about proper terminology, you might chuckle or you might be incensed. But the list of reasons for admission is the really funny part and adds something to what appears to be a simple-minded joke at first.

Okay, it’s not funny as in I’m laughing myself sick, but it definitely made me smirk and think a little. Some of the reasons are so ridiculous: dissolute habits, bad company, laziness, egotism, political excitement, deranged masturbation… Who hasn’t experienced these things?

Okay, hopefully not that last one. I was just kidding about that. (No, I swear! Really!)

All joking aside, there were a lot of such seemingly absurd reasons for being admitted to an asylum back in the early days. By including them, the shirt provokes you to think about what mental illness is, what it used to be, and maybe what it will be in the future. It shows how much things have changed and pokes fun at the fact that maybe we’re all a little “unbalanced” depending on how the term is defined.

It seems like the Jordans are going to continue walking the line between political correctness and incorrectness (and often lose sight of the line altogether:). Something good that’s coming out of it is bringing to light a topic that many people don’t think about much, if at all. It’s also obviously raising awareness of the Jordan’s efforts to save the Kirkbride building.

« Blog Home Page


  1. John June 12, 2008, 4:32 pm

    I’ll take an XL.

  2. WSH June 13, 2008, 10:05 am

    It’s (the shirt) definitley of questionable taste, but personally I don’t see a huge issue with it. I had seen the sample shirt a few months ago when I met with the Jordans, and I wondered if it would cause any trouble. I still can’t for the life of me understand the controversy with the T.A.L.A name. These protesters are really coming out of the woodwork. Either way all of this is raising quite a lot of interest if the history of mental healthcare, which I think is a good thing. As for the Jordans I still can’t say for sure wheather all this is a smart way to get free publicity or some innocent good ideas that didn’t take into account how many people could possibly be offended by certain language.

  3. Ethan June 13, 2008, 11:17 am

    I don’t know the Jordans very well at all, but from speaking with one of them by email I get the sense that they’re at least a little surprised by this backlash. I think they definitely want publicity and attention, but I don’t believe they’re purposefully looking for controversy and bad press.

  4. Karen June 14, 2008, 4:25 pm

    First of all, high fives to John! Wear that shirt proudly, my good man. Secondly, I don’t understand this need people have to be offended by everything these days. If you have nothing to fill your days but a protest rally it’s time to take a pottery class, or, maybe in this context, basket weaving. It’s time to laugh at ourselves, folks. Now more than ever. Finally, having said all that, kudos to the Jordans for their efforts to save this building. If that isn’t evidence for the reverence they have for the history of this place I don’t know what is.

Leave a comment:

(required, will not be published)