Oddly this is hard to find in a free ebook version (granted, it's short). Gutenberg only has an audio book. You can read the text online here (contains text of madhouse plus 2 other Bly articles), thanks to the Celebration of Women Writers website at UPenn.For some quick background, try this wikipedia page: Nellie Bly Asylum ExposeAnd this excellent website: Nellie Bly Online (Lots of online versions of Bly's writing there, but mainly in doc files or pdfs.)For those who've not heard of this before, this is a book that began as a series of articles in the New York World newspaper in 1887, and was put into book form due to the popularity of the series. The opening paragraph of the book:"On the 22d of September I was asked by the World if I could have myself committed to one of the asylums for the insane in New York, with a view to writing a plain and unvarnished narrative of the treatment of the patients therein and the methods of management, etc. Did I think I had the courage to go through such an ordeal as the mission would demand? Could I assume the characteristics of insanity to such a degree that I could pass the doctors, live for a week among the insane without the authorities there finding out that I was only a "chiel amang 'em takin' notes?" I said I believed I could. I had some faith in my own ability as an actress and thought I could assume insanity long enough to accomplish any mission intrusted to me. Could I pass a week in the insane ward at Blackwell's Island? I said I could and I would. And I did."What's interesting is how little Bly has to do to appear to be insane - that she appeared to be poor and friendless were apparently extremely important in how quickly and easily she could be placed in an asylum. Without anyone to speak for her she was apparently placed into the system with few questions asked. Of course there were also authority figures convinced that she was a lady, and thus she probably was treated a bit better - at first, anyway.It was also apparently very dangerous to be in this situation and not speak English - more than one woman is sent to the asylum because she's not able to make herself understood. Of course, not that most of the women that can speak find anyone to listen to them or be at any way sympathetic.I gave this 3 stars indicating I liked it - but like isn't at all what I feel toward the story. What I liked is that, while the World may have done this as a stunt, it brought a matter to public attention that desperately needed it. As melodramatically as Bly tells the story, she really was brave to attempt this. It actually made me think better of her that, when she learned of how much more horrific the treatment was of the violently insane, she decided not to try and get put in with them as she'd originally planned. After reading about the conditions I think this was definitely a wise choice.Further reading:The Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island and the New York Press - Samantha Boardman; George J. Makari, The American Journal of Psychiatry, VOL. 164, No. 4 Roosevelt Island (wikipedia) - what Blackwell's Island is called today.Random quotes/comments (since I read this online I can't cite page or percentage info):...I know it's not supposed to be funny but the illustration titled "Nellie practices insanity at home" - can't help it, too silly....Because this was written as a news article there's no need to attempt suspense building - Bly can give us the end result:"I left the insane ward with pleasure and regret–pleasure that I was once more able to enjoy the free breath of heaven; regret that I could not have brought with me some of the unfortunate women who lived and suffered with me, and who, I am convinced, are just as sane as I was and am now myself.But here let me say one thing: From the moment I entered the insane ward on the Island, I made no attempt to keep up the assumed role of insanity. I talked and acted just as I do in ordinary life. Yet strange to say, the more sanely I talked and acted the crazier I was thought to be by all except one physician, whose kindness and gentle ways I shall not soon forget."This reminds me that there have been a few attempts to repeat the "sane person enters madhouse" set up, and I believe a psychological study where the psychologists were tested by dealing with "patients" who were acting the part. Something along those lines, and that's such a vague setup that I'm having a hell of a time googling it for more info. [Note to self, get link]...Bly does go on a bit about how she assumes insane people must look and act while preparing for her role. Which sounds like something entirely out of melodrama."As I walked down the avenue I tried to assume the look which maidens wear in pictures entitled "Dreaming." "Far-away" expressions have a crazy air."...At a boarding house Bly convinces one woman there's something wrong by telling her of the people in the room:""They all look crazy," I asserted again, "and I am afraid of them. There are so many crazy people about, and one can never tell what they will do. Then there are so many murders committed, and the police never catch the murderers," and I finished with a sob that would have broken up an audience of blase critics. She gave a sudden and convulsive start, and I knew my first stroke had gone home."...Staying awake all night (part of her plan to seem crazy), watching vermin in the boarding house: "...leaving me to pass the long minutes by giving my attention to cockroaches, whose size and agility were something of a surprise to me." - Yep, that would keep me awake....And amazingly she really didn't have to do anything much to appear insane....In the courtroom - this makes it seem a little too much like a story versus factual:" "Well, tell us all you know of the case.""When I was going into the home yesterday I noticed her coming down the avenue. She was all alone. I had just got into the house when the bell rang and she came in. When I talked with her she wanted to know if she could stay all night, and I said she could. After awhile she said all the people in the house looked crazy, and she was afraid of them. Then she would not go to bed, but sat up all the night.""Had she any money?""Yes," I replied, answering for her, "I paid her for everything, and the eating was the worst I ever tried."There was a general smile at this, and some murmurs of "She's not so crazy on the food question.""Poor child," said Judge Duffy, "she is well dressed, and a lady. Her English is perfect, and I would stake everything on her being a good girl. I am positive she is somebody's darling."At this announcement everybody laughed, and I put my handkerchief over my face and endeavored to choke the laughter that threatened to spoil my plans, in despite of my resolutions."I mean she is some woman's darling," hastily amended the judge. "I am sure some one is searching for her. Poor girl, I will be good to her, for she looks like my sister, who is dead."There was a hush for a moment after this announcement, and the officers glanced at me more kindly, while I silently blessed the kind-hearted judge, and hoped that any poor creatures who might be afflicted as I pretended to be should have as kindly a man to deal with as Judge Duffy."But then this is similar to other writing of Bly's, and she is after all in it to tell a good story....I was wondering when someone would accuse her of being a prostitute:" "Tell me, are you a woman of the town?""I do not understand you," I replied, heartily disgusted with him."I mean have you allowed the men to provide for you and keep you?"I felt like slapping him in the face, but I had to maintain my composure, so I simply said:"I do not know what you are talking about. I always lived at home."After many more questions, fully as useless and senseless, he left me and began to talk with the nurse. "Positively demented," he said. "I consider it a hopeless case. She needs to be put where some one will take care of her."And so I passed my second medical expert."...More than one sane woman is on the island with Bly, in particular a German woman who doesn't speak any English:"...If the confinement was but for a few days one might question the necessity. But here was a woman taken without her own consent from the free world to an asylum and there given no chance to prove her sanity. Confined most probably for life behind asylum bars, without even being told in her language the why and wherefore. Compare this with a criminal, who is given every chance to prove his innocence. Who would not rather be a murderer and take the chance for life than be declared insane, without hope of escape? Mrs. Schanz begged in German to know where she was, and pleaded for liberty. Her voice broken by sobs, she was led unheard out to us."What makes it worse is that it appears that Mrs. Schanz's son dropped her off and allowed her to be taken there. (Or so we're left to believe after an earlier scene with him and his mother.)...Compared to what Bly earlier thought was insane behavior, and the truly insane:"...A long cable rope fastened to wide leather belts, and these belts locked around the waists of fifty-two women. At the end of the rope was a heavy iron cart, and in it two women–one nursing a sore foot, another screaming at some nurse, saying: "You beat me and I shall not forget it. You want to kill me," and then she would sob and cry. The women "on the rope," as the patients call it, were each busy on their individual freaks. Some were yelling all the while. One who had blue eyes saw me look at her, and she turned as far as she could, talking and smiling, with that terrible, horrifying look of absolute insanity stamped on her. The doctors might safely judge on her case. The horror of that sight to one who had never been near an insane person before, was something unspeakable.Some of the treatment that would make anyone ill:"...I was never so tired as I grew sitting on those benches. Several of the patients would sit on one foot or sideways to make a change, but they were always reproved and told to sit up straight. If they talked they were scolded and told to shut up; if they wanted to walk around in order to take the stiffness out of them, they were told to sit down and be still. What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment? Here is a class of women sent to be cured. I would like the expert physicians who are condemning me for my action, which has proven their ability, to take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 A. M. until 8 P. M. on straight-back benches, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading and let her know nothing of the world or its doings, give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane. Two months would make her a mental and physical wreck....Because Bly doesn't embellish the stories of the beatings and writes about them in such plain language, they seem all the more horrible....Bly goes with a grand jury to see the asylum and many things are changed, and she's only able to locate a few of the women she felt were sane."I hardly expected the grand jury to sustain me, after they saw everything different from what it had been while I was there. Yet they did, and their report to the court advises all the changes made that I had proposed.I have one consolation for my work–on the strength of my story the committee of appropriation provides $1,000,000 more than was ever before given, for the benefit of the insane."