102: The Borstal


When people witness or undergo traumatic events, it can damage a person’s psyche to such an extent that the wound never quite goes away, cracking and bursting open afresh if it is probed and broken by a triggering incident. It has long been suggested that places, too, can develop scars from disturbing ordeals that may be torn and bleed freely once again with particular triggers – in other words, they become haunted.

The alleged crimes undertaken at the Larchgrove borstal are severe: from the 1950s onwards, boys who had committed criminal acts – and even some who had only been implicated in such – were sent to “remand homes” like that at Larchgrove. From the testimony of those staying at the borstal, the conditions were apparently nightmarish, and routine physical and sexual abuse were inflicted on the boys by staff members and by other inmates. Many purportedly committed more serious crimes inside the borstal’s walls in the hope of being transferred to an adult prison purely to escape the constant threat of violence and violation inside the borstal.

The sheer volume of psychological and emotional trauma delivered at Larchgrove has resulted in a “splinter” of the area’s psychogeography, a kind of recurring insanity that only requires certain triggers to cause unnatural phenomena such as what people think of as “ghosts” to appear, much as a person who had suffered some heinous event such as rape or torture may be shocked into emotional breakdown by a trigger such as certain words, descriptions, people, or similar. Whenever blood is shed at Larchgrove, the building may go mad. Ghosts of past events, skewed and exagerrated by the emotional turmoil of scores of hormonal, adolescent young men, become distorted, degenerated, and warped into horrific monsters of brutality and torture glimpsed in the mirrors, windows and flickering lights of the borstal. Old hallways suffer schizoid breaks and splinter off into new, hellish spatial dimensions occupied by entities measured in pain ladders. New gods of primal fear, fed by the inverted faith of the suffering along the umbilical tension in the air, gestate behind the walls, thrashing in their sleep before birth. Many acolytes of darker purpose supposedly used the borstal as a torture chamber for their enemies after it was closed down, their only tool being the raw, weeping psychosis that the building even now suffers from. With its reopening and repurposing, it has been made more difficult for anyone to use the former borstal in such a way.

Positive gains can be made from even this profoundly negative phenomenon. Much as psychologists use the abnormal psychology of particular people in case studies to illuminate the inner workings of the human mind, so to can the savvy acolyte use the incidents at the former borstal to gain insight into how physical locations “think”, or “live”. Much experimental work has already gone underway in the borstal already: nowadays, the building is used as an employability center with an adjoining nursery, but there’s said to be a certain room, kept locked to all but a core group of acolytes, wherein experiments are performed with a black-handled knife to plumb the building’s deep mind and detail its darkest corners.

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