I’ve come to tell Nelson good-bye, but it’s hard getting around to it. We’re walking around the enclosed perimeter of the courtyard of Unit Five at the Austin State Hospital. It is five o’clock on an August day, a time I’d never willingly be strolling outdoors in the syrupy air dense with cigarette smoke, but it’s the only outdoors Nelson is allowed and the only place where the patients can smoke.
At the center of the hospital grounds is the original building, obviously haunted. You only have to look at it from the street to know that. Even if you didn’t know it was built in the 1850s as a lunatic asylum—that’s what they called them then—you’d see that it is movie-set haunted. I had the willies the morning I first drove through the gates.