Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Margaret Schilling's Stain

Many years ago, mental institutions were considered peculiar places indeed. The Athens Mental Health Center was an infamous facility that was used to house the criminally insane. Various stories exist of atrocities that occurred within its walls. Beatings, tortures, and other cruel forms of punishment were apparently the norm for its day and there have even been many reports of deaths and murders occurring within the facility's walls.

The institution was closed in the 1980’s during the time when the Reagan administration closed many of the state’s hospitals in order to realize budget savings. Many of the inmates were simply released on the streets and now account for much of Athens’s relatively large homeless population.

Shortly before the institution closed, an inmate by the name Margaret Schilling, mysteriously disappeared from the campus. The January 12, 1979 issue of the Athens Post ran a story on the incident and calmly asked the public for any assistance they could provide. A search party was assembled by the authorities, but no trace of Marge could be found. The center then subsequently closed and the episode was then quietly forgotten. A few weeks later, a maintenance man named Clarence Allison was working in Ward N.20 when he made a shocking discovery in the attic of the facility. Marge’s body, which had been decaying for 5 weeks, was found sprawled on the floor. The authorities surmised that Marge had hidden herself in the attic of the building. Demented and unable to care for herself, Marge had simply died of starvation in the very spot she chose to hide.

After removing the body, the officials were surprised to find a perfectly shaped, dark outline of her body superimposed on the floor. The outline revealed many details – the folds and wrinkles of her clothes and even the style of hair she wore at death, were clearly visible. The stain was cleaned by maintenance workers but mysteriously reappeared after a day or two. After many more attempted cleanings it was soon apparent that the stain was not going to go away. Scientists that have examined the mysterious stain, have reasoned that the stain was caused by the decomposition of her body, an occurrence not entirely unheard of. Today, the stain on the marble floor is still unmistakably visible and is a peripheral point of the campus tours.

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