We like to post anything that's spooky, haunted, abandoned or fun.

Monday, July 07, 2008

SESSIONS 9 Filmed at Danvers State Hospital

An asbestos abatement crew wins the bid for an abandoned insane asylum. What should be a straightforward, if rather rushed, job, is complicated by the personal histories of the crew. In particular, Hank is dating Phil's old girlfriend, and Gordon's new baby seems to be unnerving him more than should be expected. Things get more complicated as would-be lawyer Mike plays the tapes from a former patient with multiple personalities, including the mysterious Simon who does not appear until Session 9, and as Hank disappears after finding some old coins.

Sessions 9 was filmed at Danvers State Hospital - 450 Maple Street, Danvers, Massachusetts, USA












This was one of the first feature films shot using Sony's 24P HD video, which shoots at 24 frames per second, like film, as opposed to the 30 frames per second of conventional NTSC video. Using this technology, Brad Anderson and director of photography Uta Briesewitz were able to produce the uniquely effective, deep-focus images using mostly natural light.

Actor David Caruso reports in the official Production Notes that he saw "something pass my window" when shooting inside the Bonner Medical Building of Danvers State Hospital. "I didn't want to tell anybody, because people would start looking at me strangely..."

Brad Anderson was inspired to use the Danvers Mental Hospital as he drove past it every day.

The film unit only ever used a very small percentage of the building as most of it was off limits as it was unsafe.

SPOILER: A subplot was filmed involving a homeless woman who lives in the asylum. In the original ending, she witnesses all the murders and then kills Gordon. According to the DVD commentary, this subplot was removed because test audiences became confused, thinking she was actually Mary (the voice on the tape).

SPOILER: The shot in which you see Mike (Stephen Gevedon) walking through the gym from the balcony before his demise, was originally a long shot from the point of view from the homeless woman that was in the original subplot of the film that was cut. The full version of the scene is featured on the DVD's deleted scenes.

SPOILER: The only CG in the film is the lobotomy tool which is pulled out of Josh Lucas's eye. Lucas raised his head to signify the tool being extracted from his skull.


Most of the buildings on campus were connected by a labyrinth of underground tunnels. There was a tunnel that ran from a steam/power generating plant (which still exists to provide service to the Hogan Regional Center) located at the bottom of the hill running up to the hospital, along with tunnels that connected the Male and Female Nurses Homes, "Gray Gables", Bonner Medical Building, Machine Shops, Pump House, and a few others. A system of tunnels also branched off like spokes from a central hub behind the Kirbride building (in the vicinity of the old gymnasium) leading to different wards of the hospital. They emerged up into the basement in different areas. This hub was also an underground maintenance area of sorts- some urban explorers nicknamed it "The Wagon Wheel".

Danvers State Hospital was almost located in Winthrop, Massachusetts under the name "Massachusetts State Hospital", however it was decided that the Danvers location was better suited for the needs of the state.

The glacial drumlin the asylum sat on once was the site of the home of John Hathorne, one of the judges in the Salem witch trials. (Danvers was known as Salem Village at the time, and it was the site of the trials.) Today the part of Danvers where the hospital was located is called Hathorne.

Apparently much of the witch trial incidents occurred in vicinity of the hill. It is widely believed that ergot poisoning caused by fungus contaminated bread may have caused hallucinations that led to the witch phenomena, and it is quite possible that said contaminated crops were grown around this hill as well.

Danvers is not the only Massachusetts state mental hospital to be struck by fire. The Taunton State Hospital also caught fire on March 19, 2006, damaging many of the long-vacant buildings. Worcester State Hospital, a Kirkbride Plan asylum in Worcester, MA, suffered a catastrophic fire in 1991 that obliterated significant portions of the historic main building.


1 comment:

Kirkbride said...

Great write up. I just watched Session 9 for what must've been the 100th time the other day. It's a great film, although the setting and the cinematography are what really makes it for me.

One thing I don't like about it is the semi-fictionalized information about when and why DSH was shut down. I know it's just a movie/story, but a lot of people who see it take all that stuff as 100% truth.

But that's just a small quibble. It's still a pretty fantastic immortalization of the architecture there. It's sickening that most of it was torn down.

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