Crazy Violent Americans

Above is the Forensics Unit of Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. Dix Hospital is (was) our state’s primary mental hospital. The Forensics Unit is where we housed people who were considered ‘criminally insane,’ and also where defendants were sent to assess their sanity and competence to stand trial. It’s closed now, but a light or two still burns in an odd window.

The hospital grounds are within walking distance of my home. Buddy, my dog, loves being walked on the grounds. He likes to chase the groundhogs that populate the hospital campus. He nabbed one a few weeks ago and proceeded to kill it. I tried to reason with him about why that might be wrong, but he wasn’t having any of it. He’s an animal. What are you going to do? At least he can do it with a clear conscience. He’s a carnivore, and he’s not killing them for a thrill, or because he’s pissed off at me, or whatever. He’s killing them because it’s instinctual, unlike a human’s desire to kill, which is a chosen action with ethical and moral implications.

Why kill groundhogs? Groundhogs are totally harmless. I grew up with a family of groundhogs that had made a burrow in our New Jersey backyard. My mom was always harassing my father to get rid of them, put poison out etc. What, I asked, are they doing to bother us? They’re just being groundhogs. Give em a break. Eventually, they relented, and we kept ‘our’ groundhogs. They were lucky. Most people just kill em when they find them in proximity.

But back to the point. I was walking Buddy the other day and decided, what the hell, I should see if I can’t get into that building. Probably some really interesting things in there. So I tried all the doors, and the last one I tried – 3 flights up an exterior fire escape – opened right up. Holy Shit. After propping the door open to assure myself re-entry, I took Buddy home, grabbed a camera, and went back to explore.


There were numerous lights on and the plumbing still worked. There were personal effects of patients in various cells. One floor still contained patient records (major HIPA violation). It looked at if the only thing they’d done when they closed the facility down was to remove the patients, where to, I’ve got no clue. I assume they’re now housed at the State Penitentiary, which is within spitting distance of the other side of my house. Yes; I live between the State Mental Hospital and the State Prison, equidistant between the criminally insane and the state’s death chamber. In its defense, it’s a great neighborhood; I’m within easy walking distance of downtown, and everybody wants to live close to downtown these days, so my property values are pretty crazy, which I like. I can put up with being next to the Penitentiary.


A “Self-Esteem Group” for the Criminally Insane. Only in America.


From Charley Bill Raper’s Cell

Wilson Man Charged In Double Murder Had Prior Run-Ins With Law

Posted October 11, 2004

WILSON COUNTY, N.C. — A home, where police found a woman and her son stabbed to death, is now the focus of an arson investigation as well.Investigators are looking to see if a vindictive family member or friend started the fire at a house where Charles Raper drove a truck through on Friday night.

Court records show Bill Raper threatened to kill his wife and burn down their house. Investigators said he succeeded in murdering his estranged wife, Sandra, and his 27-year-old stepson, Ray Batchelor.”We all knew he was capable of something like that because she talked about how mean he was to her, but we never thought he’d actually do it,” Amy Temple, Sandra’s niece.

The couple had a violent past in recent years. On Thursday, Sandra Raper got a protective order against her husband. The next day, detectives say Bill Raper drove his truck, filled with containers of fuel, right into the house.Investigators said Raper hoped the truck would ignite from the fireplace pilot light. They said when it did not, Raper got out and stabbed his wife and stepson with a butcher knife.

Some friends of Bill Raper claim he was the one often beaten by his wife and stepson and have pictures to back their story.”Everybody sees him as the mean person, but he’s more the victim of domestic violence,” said Fay Joyner, Bill Raper’s friend.

“This was not an act of instantaneous violence. This was methodically thought out and carried out,” said Maj. John Farmer, of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.


Hits: 2015

16 thoughts on “Crazy Violent Americans

  1. Lee Rust

    A back-yard adventure! There are so many stories in there. How long has the hospital been closed?

  2. Rob Campbell

    As I may have mentioned before, my cojones do not stretch to the idea of wandering alone through old buildings. If you got in, who knows who/what? else might live inside?

    One thing: for supposedly insane people, they displayed a finer sense of what constitutes the better sort of model shot than many so-called same men in the street might select.

    Why would the electricity still function – is it an example of shocking (no pun etc.) utilities company bookkeeping? Who’s been paying the bills?

    I would have been more inclined to bring the pooch along with me than deposit him back at home.

  3. Keith Laban

    “As I may have mentioned before, my cojones do not stretch to the idea of wandering alone through old buildings. If you got in, who knows who/what? else might live inside?”

    And as no doubt I’ve mentioned before this for me is the draw: the unknown, the unseen. Nothing quite like the thrill of another broken door or window, giving access to scenes that haven’t been witnessed in years, a time capsule in waiting.

    Sure, the dangers are ever present, pests, vermin, cats, dogs, sheep, goats, cattle, even occasionally people, all alive or dead – OK, the people are usually alive and as such pose more of a threat. But the greatest danger comes from the buildings themselves, many I’ve photographed in the past are now but a pile of rubble, which is yet another draw, to photograph a way of life before it’s gone forever.

    1. Rob Campbell

      Indeed, I’ve seen much work from you in that genre and it’s very effective at making one think about how folks used to live, and wondering what drove them away. So many broken lives and lines of continuity. But from pain, sometimes beauty.

      There’s the old abandoned factory up in Pollensa that I pass every time I park the car to lunch at my nervous Frenchman’s restaurant; now it’s tightly closed off, but for a time it was not too hard to enter, witness the gang slogans everywhere – but I never did.

      I think my fear was, and still is about falling through into some covered tank or pit used during the manufacturing process when the place was still alive. Down in a concrete hole, my cellphone would be useless, as any shouts for help: who’s to hear? It wouldn’t be so bad if there was somebody close to inform about my intentions of going to such a location, but without that, it’s too risky. The abandoned nightclub on the outskirts of Alcudia is another place you’d love; however, it is/was a crime scene: some squatters, two men and a woman ended up as one man and a woman. The police discovered murder.

      I’ve seen some video stuff from Detroit of urban explorers doing their thing in abandoned factories; with all those guns around, even more dangerous!


      1. Keith Laban

        Rob, thanks for the link.

        The problem I have with such buildings – and I’ve been in many – is graffiti apart, there is often little or no evidence of humanity, which is why I have a preference for the residential rather than the commercial.

        Of course, as always, there are exceptions.

        1. Rob Campbell

          You pick up on a point that struck me while looking at the pix of the Alcudia nightclub ruin: nothing left to show people enjoyed it. Barrren.

          During a period of her illness, Ann was in a hospital about a klick or little less away from the ruin in the photos. (Driving to see her every day was how I came across the place.) I took a pair of binoculars in one day to study what I could see from the angle of her room. There were large sheets of something black flappping in the breeze, perhaps waterproofing sheets from the roof – and the whole place looked decidedly evil. That was perhaps fourteen years ago. Today, even that seems gone. It’s as if anything that could be salvaged and reused has been taken; I bet there are no light switches or serviceable bits of plumbing left.

          On the one hand, it indicates that all is not left to waste away, but it is also a monument to greed: there is a similarly named showplace in Palma, and I get the impression that the ruined one was built as a means of cleaning up the tourist pesta on both ends of the island. A position of relative isolation on the outskirts of town, for the ruin, meant that it was difficult for many people to reach by foot, and so taxis and coaches would have to be brought into the picture, all increasing the cost to the punter. I reckon the maths just didn’t work out.

          But yes, there is no humanity to add a touch of creature interest; graffiti does the opposite: it becomes key, the rest just the support. And how much scribble do you want, even if done with some nod to design ability? Indeed, your point is very strong.

    2. Leicaphila Post author

      Keith: your photographs of walls etc – the color abstractions – are really well done.

  4. Rob Campbell

    Just a point I think I’ve made before: I really do enjoy Tim’s sense of tonality. I have long believed that having a full range of tones in every photo is a poor rule of thumb; perhaps de rigueur for passing some photographic exams, but far from the requirements of art.


    1. Leicaphila Post author

      I don’t think you can do justice to the scene inside an abandoned building by using a full range of tones. The atmosphere is gloomy and partially lit.

      1. Keith Laban

        Sadly these broad-brush statements are lifeblood to the interweb.

        But there again you could be right, perhaps you cannot do justice to the scene inside an abandoned building by using a full range of tones. Others possibly can.

        1. Leicaphila Post author

          Just speaking for myself. Others are welcome to use kleeg lights if that’s their preference.

        2. Rob Campbell

          But why sadly, Keith? Without opinion there would be no communication online, and that’s one of the two reasons that make it all worthwhile my paying the Telefonica line-rental charges every month.

          I find enough stony silence chez moi to satisfy a monk. I’m resisting that call-up temptation very strongly. 🙂

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