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  • Writer's pictureKaren Ruffles

Stephen's file

So, by now you should all know about our dear friend Stephen. If you don't, take five to go explore this site. We'll wait for you.

In this post I want to share the individual stories behind the artefacts in Stephen's file. He has had a long life so the contents are varied and range from yellowed documents to modern urban explorer photographs. There are clues buried within them that give a timeline for those inclined to do a little research of their own. Or you can just enjoy taking a walk with him.

Above is a page from a day book chronicling the lives of patients in residence, including one known only as Stephen. I had a particular period in mind and spent some time researching asylums and patient care from that time. A fantastic resource for anyone with an interest is the Wellcome Library online which includes the entire records from Ticehurst House. 

Some artefacts have a less obvious role in the story, such as these Rorschach cards. I created a set of ten for readers to play with - if you keep seeing spiders, don't blame me. Stephen likes paper things and has quite a collection in the nest he's made for himself. If they go missing, he wanted them back. 

As Stephen's story spans more than one human lifetime, there are many different voices in there. Research letters, newspaper cuttings, each casting a little more light on his evolution and day to day existence. Other people have also added their thoughts and knowledge to the project too, describing him in ways I could not ( credits in the file). 

Even Stephen had a bash, bless him. I won't see that pen again.....

Years of translating Stephen's experience for those on the outside (and occasionally the other way around) means I have a very detailed mental map of his environment - to the point where I have in fact drawn an actual map. I know the colour of the walls, where the draughts are, where he likes to be and the bits he avoids. If you would like a tour, you can have a copy of Stephen's file for yourself.

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