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Man steals brains from Indiana mental hospital museum

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An Indianapolis man has been arrested for a macabre crime. According to a January 1st online article from The INDY STAR, police report that 21 year old David Charles has committed several break ins at the building housing the artifacts of the Indiana Medical History Museum. Charles stole brains and other specimens from autopsies performed between the 1890s and the 1940s on mental patients housed at the historic Central States Hospital.

Charles arranged for a middleman to list the brains for sale on Ebay. A buyer form San Diego became suspicious when observing the markings on the brain containers. The buyer then called Indianpolis police. An investigation followed by a sting operation led to the arrest of Charles on charges of theft, marijuana possession and paraphernalia possession.

The INDY STAR report quoted the executive director of the Indiana Medical History Museum, Mary Ellen Hennessey Nottage. "It’s horrid anytime a museum collection is robbed,” she said. “A museum’s mission is to hold these materials as cultural and scientific objects in the public interest. To have that disturbed — to have that broken — is extraordinarily disturbing to those of us in the museum field.”

The Indiana Hospital for the Insane opened in 1848 and was the site of the primary mental hospital in Indiana for nearly 100 years. The facility was called the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane starting in 1889, and changed to Central States Hospital in 1926. The Indiana Medical History Museum is housed in the original hospital and medical teaching facility building on the grounds. During the late 1890s research doctors began to perform autopsies on deceased mental patients to study the effects of mental illness on the human brain.

Over the years the patient population and the number and size of the facility buildings grew. In 1950 the patient population was over 2300. The facility was finally closed in 1994 after funding problems as well as allegations of patient abuse. YEars of stories about patient abuse, reports of strange occurrences, haunting and other paranormal activities have made the Central States Hospital grounds a very intriguing site in Indianapolis.

The story of the theft of mental patients brains will add to the lore of this unique site.

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