High on the hill above Hokitika sits the remains of the Seaview Asylum. Sixty years ago Hokitika was the capital of New Zealand for a brief two years. At this time, the Seaview Asylum was in full swing, housing 600 residents. This was back in the days if a woman was premenstrual or………. history shit.
One cloudy and formidable day last July, Nushaw and I went exploring. Hoping to get inside the old asylum, much like a caver hoping to splunk a historic cave, we were excited and geared up for a scaaaaaary day!
We began our tour in the graveyard, conveniently right next to the asylum on top of the hill. We both love the graveyards in New Zealand. Being a relatively new country (I’ve heard the it’s the youngest country in the world,) New Zealand sure has graves that look older than those in America. Large, broken slabs of concrete try to cover graves. Lots of graves are surrounded by midevil looking fences and topped with tombstones that are almost too eroded to read. Some graves look like their occupant violently pushed their way out so they could return to the land of the living.
Nice and creeped out, Nushaw and I then found our way over to the asylum. We were surprised to find that the first building has been turned into a hostel. That’s right. For $40nzd/ night you can say in a patients bed and wander the halls of the damned.
Formerly housing over 600 patients, there are many, many buildings to explore. Unable to get inside, Nushaw and I peaked in windows through broken glass, imagining the destruction that must lay inside.
In a particularly chipper mood myself, I couldn’t help but break out into dance.
Nushaw was particularly sensitive to the spirits that were heavy around us.
I returned to the Asylum again in the Summer. We had a poet from Detroit helping us out at Drifting Sands. He had a gift for verse and captured the spirit of locations we’d gone to beautifully. I thought he would love the asylum.
This time, the doors in the very same hall I had danced in the Winter were kicked in. Ben and I climbed inside and a maze of history opened up to us. There was a lot of graffiti along side remains of history. Chairs missing legs, books strewn about in disregard and clocks on the wall that were frozen in time.
My favorite part of the maze was some cheeky kid had graffitied names on the doors of individual rooms in one of the patient quarters.
I could have stayed exploring for hours, imagining Steve and why he was there and how he was treated and what his life was like on this hill overlooking the Tasman Sea. Unfortunately for me, Ben being the poet that he is, was hyper sensitive to the STRONG energy in the asylum and we left to go back to town.
I personally didn’t find the energy in the Asylum negative or full of malice. But it was permeable, as if the spirits were still walking the halls long after the Asylum closed in 2002 and the patients released.