I have been absent of late, despite recovering from a Chronic Fatigue relapse, which in itself is triumph enough, feeling healthy, picking up the strands of life I still want, dumping others – it’s a salutary task – highly recommended. So as a reward, the universe delivered my mother’s psychiatric records. Not all of them, but some of them, enough for me to reconstruct my childhood memories.
My mother, Virginia Elizabeth Hooker Nickson, was treated for 17 years by one of more evil psychiatrists the world has produced, and that is saying something. Ewan Cameron, the son of a Scots minister was not only ambitious but aimed his considerable talents at Great Man status. He longed for the Nobel and was head of the American Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the World Psychiatric Association and the World Psychological Association. His brutal techniques which inflicted unimaginable pain on mental patients, were instituted worldwide. He stood astride the world of psychiatry from 1946, when he evaluated whether Rudolf Hess was sane enough to stand trial at the Nuremberg Tribunal. His life ended early, thank God, in 1967 when he died mountain climbing with his son. Who knows what further damage he could have caused.
He was friends with Allan Dulles, founder of the OSS, and the CIA and with Dulles’s support and friendship bent his mind to discovering whether brainwashing was possible. The specter of American POWs coming home spouting Marx and Lenin struck fear deep into the hearts of men who run the world, and they decided to fight back.
Their reach was unlimited. They experimented on orphans, on prisoners, on the developmentally challenged and they experimented on my mother.
She miscarried her first child and was admitted to the Allan Memorial, Canada’s premier mental hospital with anxiety. She was treated through the use of insulin to produce a coma, or what they called “sleep therapy”. She was released after two weeks and had weekly psychotherapy sessions with Ewan Cameron for nine months.
There are no notes on this therapy, nor what they discussed, nor the results. It certainly wasn’t a cure. Eight years later, she was back and this time, he diagnosed her as a paranoid schizophrenic. This was a common tactic at the Allan. Diagnosing women as schizophrenic allowed the hospital staff leeway in the dozens of experimental techniques they were testing. I read her intake interview. Today she would be diagnosed as having a mild schizoaffective disorder, triggered by exhaustion.
They tried to drill holes in her skull and insert wires to manipulate the parts of her brain they felt were faulty. She managed to escape and went home. She was brought back. She tried to escape two more times and was stopped. She was given sodium amytal and speed at the same time (utterly forbidden) and interviewed under massive doses of those drugs. She was given Sparine, a drug so dangerous if you type it into google, they practically come and arrest you. Why? Because it collapses your immune system. Cameron in his notes referred to her as “this girl”, and said on July 17th after her third escape attempt, “this girl is much sicker than we thought. We are going to have to keep her for longer”.
I am going to cut this here because it actually gets worse and I am not ready to look at it. I leave you with these facts. My mother at the age of 37, had delivered three healthy children, had come first in her class in economics at McMaster University, joined the Navy, rose to Lieutenant. During her time in the Navy, she served as secretary to and courier for the Anglo-Canadian-American Atomic Bomb Project – the largest secret project in human history.
This is not a job given to unstable women. The testing was extensive. After the war, she became an editor on Montreal’s Saturday paper. She was an accomplished classical pianist and a competitive amateur golfer.
But never mind all that, “this girl” was a prime hunk of meat for the monsters at the Allan Memorial. May they rot in hell for thousands of years.
I signed onto a class-action lawsuit last week, for the first time in my life, unusual because I am fiercely independent and prefer to just out-live the slings and arrows. Proud too, I guess because there have been many insults if I think about them – which I can’t because my spiritual discipline demands that I not only forgive you, but I forget you ever existed. (This works btw). But this one, this is different, it damaged not only me but my mother, my father, my two brothers, our children, our grandchildren and proved a constantly repeated and terrifying chord, somewhat like the entrance of the villain, during that part of our childhood where you have virtually no defenses to speak of.
MKULTRA was a CIA program created after American Korean War prisoners came home praising Communism. The freaking morons at the CIA decided to create their own brainwashing programs, and lo and behold, they found a willing experimenter up in the wilds of Canada, who actually ran a massive mental hospital in an Italianate villa built to receive Kings and princes, once filled with treasure, and ballrooms and the entire panoply of Asian art, minor Old Masters, and heavy gilt-framed portraits of forgotten great men and their wives. It was a spectacular place in which to destroy minds, lending to the force of the psychiatrist, Ewan Cameron, the trappings of earthly and spiritual power. The Canadian government signed on, happily contributing far more research grant money than the Americans. No one, NOT ONE PATIENT gave consent to being an experimental subject.
This is what they did, short form. They took a patient, like my mother, who suffered from post-partum psychosis, triggered by the death of her first baby, and broke her back to infant status by administering massive amounts of shock treatments. Whereupon, she was fitted with a football helmet into which speakers had been placed, and she was played statements about herself over and over and over again, sometimes 500,000 times, stating how unworthy and useless she was. Often using her own voice taped during therapy sessions, when the psychiatrist would elicit her worst feelings about herself.
Then, they would administer LSD. How splendid would that have been? Completely broken and then LSD!!!! Again the football helmet, strapped down and this time, positive affirmations up to 500,000 times.
How likely would you have been able to manage the rest of your life? Cameron only experimented on mildly ill patients, alcoholics, those with post-partum syndrome, depression. He broke people and then returned them back to their families, whereupon we would attempt to assume care, NOT KNOWING what had happened.
In my family that meant a constant level of support and care and worry of the kind one would administer to a dying pet. If the pet was dying for fifty years. When my father died, I left the world I was working in – Paris, London and New York – and came home to take care of her. My father had told me, in no uncertain terms, that when he died, she would de-compensate unless I stood up and assumed his role.
This suit has international and historical significance because it speaks to the power of government. No government should ever experiment on its citizens. We ARE the boss. The precedent must be set and the lesson must not only be learned but seen to be learned.
If there was a way to personally ruin the people who made those decisions, I would counsel it. Regrettably, they are dead. No government official ever suffers the consequences of his decisions. They slither off into pensioned obscurity. Cameron died a few years after retiring, still grasping shreds of his former glory.
There have been modest pay-outs in the past to patients, but no apology from the University, the hospital, the Canadian government or the U.S. government. No admission of fault, despite the egregious ruination of thousands of innocent lives. No compensation even approaching real recompense. Time to move into the modern age, guys. The new populism means we win. Every single time. Or you lose.