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A Mind That Found Itself by Clifford Whittingham Beers

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they speak the truth, the 1902 Directory will corroborate them. I shall
then have hope that a letter sent to any one of these addresses will
reach relatives--and surely some attention will be paid to it."

The next day, my own good detective went to a local publishing house
where directories of important cities throughout the country could be
consulted. Shortly after he went upon this errand, my conservator
appeared. He found me walking about the lawn. At his suggestion we sat
down. Bold in the assurance that I could kill myself before the crisis
came, I talked with him freely, replying to many of his questions and
asking several. My conservator, who did not know that I doubted his
identity, commented with manifest pleasure on my new-found readiness to
talk. He would have been less pleased, however, had he been able to
read my mind.

Shortly after my conservator's departure, my fellow-patient returned
and informed me that the latest New Haven Directory contained the names
and addresses I had given him. This information, though it did not
prove that my morning caller was no detective, did convince me that my
real brother still lived where he did when I left New Haven, two years
earlier. Now that my delusions were growing weaker, my returning reason
enabled me to construct the ingenious scheme which, I believe, saved my
life; for, had I not largely regained my reason _when I did_, I am
inclined to believe that my distraught mind would have destroyed itself
and me, before it could have been restored by the slow process of
returning health.

A few hours after my own private detective had given me the information
I so much desired, I wrote the first letter I had written in twenty-six
months. As letters go, it is in a class by itself. I dared not ask for
ink, so I wrote with a lead pencil. Another fellow-patient in whom I
had confidence, at my request, addressed the envelope; but he was not
in the secret of its contents. This was an added precaution, for I
thought the Secret Service men might have found out that I had a
detective of my own and would confiscate any letters addressed by him
or me. The next morning, _my_ "detective" mailed the letter. That
letter I still have, and I treasure it as any innocent man condemned to
death would treasure a pardon. It should convince the reader that
sometimes a mentally disordered person, even one suffering from many
delusions, can think and write clearly. An exact copy of this--the most
important letter I ever expect to be called upon to write--is here

AUGUST 29, 1902.


On last Wednesday morning a person who claimed to be George M.
Beers of New Haven, Ct., clerk in the Director's Office of the
Sheffield Scientific School and a brother of mine, called to see

Perhaps what he said was true, but after the events of the last
two years I find myself inclined to doubt the truth of everything
that is told me. He said that he would come and see me again
sometime next week, and I am sending you this letter in order that
you may bring it with you as a passport, provided you are the one
who was here on Wednesday.

If you did not call as stated please say nothing about this letter
to anyone, and when your double arrives, I'll tell him what I
think of him. Would send other messages, but while things seem as
they do at present it is impossible. Have had someone else address
envelope for fear letter might be held up on the way.



Though I felt reasonably confident that this message would reach my
brother, I was by no means certain. I was sure, however, that, should
he receive it, under no circumstances would he turn it over to anyone
hostile to myself. When I wrote the words: "Dear George," my feeling
was much like that of a child who sends a letter to Santa Claus after
his childish faith has been shaken. Like the skeptical child, I felt
there was nothing to lose, but everything to gain. "Yours" fully
expressed such affection for relatives as I was then capable of--for
the belief that I had disgraced, perhaps destroyed, my family prompted
me to forbear to use the family name in the signature.

The thought that I might soon get in touch with my old world did not
excite me. I had not much faith anyway that I was to re-establish
former relations with it, and what little faith I had was all but
destroyed on the morning of August 30th, 1902, when a short message,
written on a slip of paper, reached me by the hand of an attendant. It
informed me that my conservator would call that afternoon. I thought it
a lie. I felt that any brother of mine would have taken the pains to
send a letter in reply to the first I had written him in over two
years. The thought that there had not been time for him to do so and
that this message must have arrived by telephone did not then occur to
me. What I believed was that my own letter had been confiscated. I
asked one of the doctors to swear on his honor that it really was my
own brother who was coming to see me. This he did. But abnormal
suspicion robbed all men in my sight of whatever honor they may have
had, and I was not fully reassured.

In the afternoon, as usual, the patients were taken out of doors, I
among them. I wandered about the lawn and cast frequent and expectant
glances toward the gate, through which I believed my anticipated
visitor would soon pass. In less than an hour he appeared. I first
caught sight of him about three hundred feet away, and, impelled more
by curiosity than hope, I advanced to meet him. "I wonder what the lie
will be this time," was the gist of my thoughts.

The person approaching me was indeed the counterpart of my brother as I
remembered him. Yet he was no more my brother than he had been at any
time during the preceding two years. He was still a detective. Such he
was when I shook his hand. As soon as that ceremony was over, he drew
forth a leather pocketbook. I instantly recognized it as one I myself
had carried for several years prior to the time I was taken ill in
1900. It was from this that he took my recent letter.

"Here's my passport," he said.

"It's a good thing you brought it," I replied, as I glanced at it and
again shook his hand--this time the hand of my own brother.

"Don't you want to read it?" he asked.

"There is no need of that. I am convinced."

After my long journey of exploration in the jungle of a tangled
imagination, a journey which finally ended in my finding the person for
whom I had long searched, my behavior differed very little from that of
a great explorer who, full of doubt after a long and perilous trip
through real jungles, found the man he sought and, grasping his hand,
greeted him with the simple and historic words, "Dr. Livingstone, I

The very instant I caught sight of my letter in the hands of my
brother, all was changed. The thousands of false impressions recorded
during the seven hundred and ninety-eight days of my depression seemed
at once to correct themselves. Untruth became Truth. A large part of
what was once my old world was again mine. To me, at last my mind
seemed to have found itself, for the gigantic web of false beliefs in
which it had been all but hopelessly enmeshed I now immediately
recognized as a snare of delusions. That the Gordian knot of mental
torture should be cut and swept away by the mere glance of a willing
eye is like a miracle. Not a few patients, however, suffering from
certain forms of mental disorder, regain a high degree of insight into
their mental condition in what might be termed a flash of divine
enlightenment. Though insight regained seemingly in an instant is a
most encouraging symptom, power to reason normally on all subjects
cannot, of course, be so promptly recovered. My new power to reason
correctly on some subjects simply marked the transition from
depression, one phase of my disorder, to elation, another phase of it.
Medically speaking, I was as mentally disordered as before--yet I was

My memory during depression may be likened to a photographic film,
seven hundred and ninety-eight days long. Each impression seems to have
been made in a negative way and then, in a fraction of a second,
miraculously developed and made positive. Of hundreds of impressions
made during that depressed period I had not before been conscious, but
from the moment my mind, if not my full reason, found itself, they
stood out vividly. Not only so, but other impressions registered during
earlier years became clearer. Since that August 30th, which I regard as
my second birthday (my first was on the 30th of another month), my mind
has exhibited qualities which, prior to that time, were so latent as to
be scarcely distinguishable. As a result, I find myself able to do
desirable things I never before dreamed of doing--the writing of this
book is one of them.

Yet had I failed to convince myself on August 30th, when my brother
came to see me, that he was no spy, I am almost sure that I should have
compassed my own destruction within the following ten days, for the
next month, I believed, was the fatal one of opening courts. You will
recall that it was death by drowning that impended. I liken my
salvation itself to a prolonged process of drowning. Thousands of
minutes of the seven hundred and ninety-eight days--and there were over
one million of them, during which I had been borne down by intolerably
burdensome delusions--were, I imagine, much like the last minutes of
consciousness experienced by persons who drown. Many who have narrowly
escaped that fate can testify to the vividness with which good and bad
impressions of their entire life rush through their confused minds, and
hold them in a grip of terror until a kind unconsciousness envelops
them. Such had been many of my moments. But the only unconsciousness
which had deadened my sensibilities during these two despondent years
was that of sleep itself. Though I slept fairly well most of the time,
mine was seldom a dreamless sleep. Many of my dreams were, if anything,
harder to bear than my delusions of the day, for what little reason I
had was absolutely suspended in sleep. Almost every night my brain was
at battledore and shuttlecock with weird thoughts. And if not all my
dreams were terrifying, this fact seemed to be only because a perverted
and perverse Reason, in order that its possessor might not lose the
capacity for suffering, knew how to keep Hope alive with visions which
supplied the contrast necessary for keen appreciation.

No man can be born again, but I believe I came as near it as ever a man
did. To leave behind what was in reality a hell, and immediately have
this good green earth revealed in more glory than most men ever see it,
was one of the compensating privileges which make me feel that my
suffering was worth while.

I have already described the peculiar sensation which assailed me when,
in June, 1900, I lost my reason. At that time my brain felt as though
pricked by a million needles at white heat. On this August 30th, 1902,
shortly after largely regaining my reason, I had another most distinct
sensation in the brain. It started under my brow and gradually spread
until the entire surface was affected. The throes of a dying Reason had
been torture. The sensations felt as my dead Reason was reborn were
delightful. It seemed as though the refreshing breath of some kind
Goddess of Wisdom were being gently blown against the surface of my
brain. It was a sensation not unlike that produced by a menthol pencil
rubbed ever so gently over a fevered brow. So delicate, so crisp and
exhilarating was it that words fail me in my attempt to describe it.
Few, if any, experiences can be more delightful. If the exaltation
produced by some drugs is anything like it, I can easily understand how
and why certain pernicious habits enslave those who contract them. For
me, however, this experience was liberation, not enslavement.


After two years of silence I found it no easy matter to carry on with
my brother a sustained conversation. So weak were my vocal cords from
lack of use that every few minutes I must either rest or whisper. And
upon pursing my lips I found myself unable to whistle, notwithstanding
the popular belief, drawn from vague memories of small-boyhood, that
this art is instinctive. Those who all their lives have talked at will
cannot possibly appreciate the enjoyment I found in using my regained
power of speech. Reluctantly I returned to the ward; but not until my
brother had left for home, laden with so much of my conversation that
it took most of his leisure for the next two days to tell the family
what I had said in two hours.

During the first few hours I seemed virtually normal. I had none of the
delusions which had previously oppressed me; nor had I yet developed
any of the expansive ideas, or delusions of grandeur, which soon began
to crowd in upon me. So normal did I appear while talking to my brother
that he thought I should be able to return home in a few weeks; and,
needless to say, I agreed with him. But the pendulum, as it were, had
swung too far. The human brain is too complex a mechanism to admit of
any such complete readjustment in an instant. It is said to be composed
of several million cells; and, that fact granted, it seems safe to say
that every day, perhaps every hour, hundreds of thousands of the cells
of my brain were now being brought into a state of renewed activity.
Comparatively sane and able to recognize the important truths of life,
I was yet insane as to many of its practical details. Judgment being
King of the Realm of Thought, it was not surprising that my judgment
failed often to decide correctly the many questions presented to it by
its abnormally communicative subjects. At first I seemed to live a
second childhood. I did with delight many things which I had first
learned to do as a child--the more so as it had been necessary for me
to learn again to eat and walk, and now to talk. I had much lost time
to make up; and for a while my sole ambition seemed to be to utter as
many thousand words a day as possible. My fellow-patients who for
fourteen months had seen me walk about in silence--a silence so
profound and inexorable that I would seldom heed their friendly
salutations--were naturally surprised to see me in my new mood of
unrestrained loquacity and irrepressible good humor. In short, I had
come into that abnormal condition which is known to psychiatrists as

For several weeks I believe I did not sleep more than two or three
hours a night. Such was my state of elation, however, that all signs of
fatigue were entirely absent and the sustained and abnormal mental and
physical activity in which I then indulged has left on my memory no
other than a series of very pleasant impressions. Though based on
fancy, the delights of some forms of mental disorder are real. Few, if
any, sane persons would care to test the matter at so great a price;
but those familiar with the "Letters of Charles Lamb" must know that
Lamb, himself, underwent treatment for mental disease. In a letter to
Coleridge, dated June 10th, 1796, he says: "At some future time I will
amuse you with an account, as full as my memory will permit, of the
strange turns my frenzy took. I look back upon it at times with a
gloomy kind of envy; for, while it lasted, I had many, many hours of
pure happiness. Dream not, Coleridge, of having tasted all the grandeur
and wildness of Fancy till you have gone mad! All now seems to me
vapid, comparatively so!"

As for me, the very first night vast but vague humanitarian projects
began joyously to shape themselves in my mind. My garden of thoughts
seemed filled with flowers which might properly be likened to the
quick-blowing night-blooming cereus--that Delusion of Grandeur of all
flowering plants that thinks itself prodigal enough if it but unmask
its beauty to the moon! Few of my bold fancies, however, were of so
fugitive and chaste a splendor.

The religious instinct is found in primitive man. It is not strange,
therefore, that at this time the religious side of my nature was the
first to display compelling activity. Whether or not this was due to my
rescue from a living death, and my immediate appreciation of God's
goodness, both to me and to those faithful relatives who had done all
the praying during the preceding two years--this I cannot say. But the
fact stands out, that, whereas I had, while depressed, attached a
sinister significance to everything done or said in my presence, I now
interpreted the most trifling incidents as messages from God. The day
after this transition I attended church. It was the first service in
over two years which I had not attended against my will. The reading of
a psalm--the 45th--made a lasting impression upon me, and the
interpretation which I placed upon it furnishes the key to my attitude
during the first weeks of elation. It seemed to me a direct message
from Heaven.

The minister began: "My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the
things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a
ready writer."--Whose heart but mine? And the things indited--what were
they but the humanitarian projects which had blossomed in my garden of
thoughts over night? When, a few days later, I found myself writing
very long letters with unwonted facility, I became convinced that my
tongue was to prove itself "the pen of a ready writer." Indeed, to
these prophetic words I trace the inception of an irresistible desire,
of which this book is the first fruit.

"Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy
lips:" was the verse next read (by myself and the congregation), to
which the minister responded, "Therefore God hath blessed thee for
ever."--"Surely, I have been selected as the instrument wherewith great
reforms shall be effected," was my thought. (All is grist that comes to
the mill of a mind in elation--then even divine encomiums seem not

"Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy
majesty"--a command to fight. "And in thy majesty ride prosperously
because of truth and meekness and righteousness;" replied the minister.
"And thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things,"--was another
response. That I could speak the truth, I knew. "Meekness" I could not
associate with myself, except that during the preceding two years I had
suffered many indignities without open resentment. That my right hand
with a pen should teach me terrible things--how to fight for reform--I
firmly believed.

"Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies, whereby the
people fall under thee," quoth the minister. Yes, my tongue could be as
sharp as an arrow, and I should be able to stand up against those who
should stand in the way of reform. Again: "Thou lovest righteousness,
and hatest wickedness. Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with
the oil of gladness above thy fellows." The first sentence I did not
apply to myself; but being then, as I supposed, a man restored to
himself, it was easy to feel that I had been anointed with the oil of
gladness above my fellows. "Oil of gladness" is, in truth, an apt
phrase wherewith to describe elation.

The last two verses of the psalm corroborated the messages found in the
preceding verses: "I will make thy name to be remembered in all
generations:"--thus the minister. "Therefore shall the people praise
thee for ever and ever," was the response I read. That spelled immortal
fame for me, but only on condition that I should carry to a successful
conclusion the mission of reform--an obligation placed upon me by God
when He restored my reason.

When I set out upon a career of reform, I was impelled to do so by
motives in part like those which seem to have possessed Don Quixote
when he set forth, as Cervantes says, with the intention "of righting
every kind of wrong, and exposing himself to peril and danger, from
which in the issue he would obtain eternal renown and fame." In
likening myself to Cervantes' mad hero my purpose is quite other than
to push myself within the charmed circle of the chivalrous. What I wish
to do is to make plain that a man abnormally elated may be swayed
irresistably by his best instincts, and that while under the spell of
an exaltation, idealistic in degree, he may not only be willing, but
eager to assume risks and endure hardships which under normal
conditions he would assume reluctantly, if at all. In justice to
myself, however, I may remark that my plans for reform have never
assumed quixotic, and therefore, impracticable proportions. At no time
have I gone a-tilting at windmills. A pen rather than a lance has been
my weapon of offence and defence; for with its point I have felt sure
that I should one day prick the civic conscience into a compassionate
activity, and thus bring into a neglected field earnest men and women
who should act as champions for those afflicted thousands least able to
fight for themselves.


After being without relatives and friends for over two years I
naturally lost no time in trying again to get in touch with them;
though I did heed my conservator's request that I first give him two or
three days in which to acquaint intimates with the new turn my affairs
had taken.

During the latter part of that first week I wrote many letters, so
many, indeed, that I soon exhausted a liberal supply of stationery.
This had been placed at my disposal at the suggestion of my
conservator, who had wisely arranged that I should have whatever I
wanted, if expedient. It was now at my own suggestion that the
supervisor gave me large sheets of manila wrapping paper. These I
proceeded to cut into strips a foot wide. One such strip, four feet
long, would suffice for a mere _billet-doux_; but a real letter usually
required several such strips pasted together. More than once letters
twenty or thirty feet long were written; and on one occasion the
accumulation of two or three days of excessive productivity, when
spread upon the floor, reached from one end of the corridor to the
other--a distance of about one hundred feet. My hourly output was
something like twelve feet, with an average of one hundred and fifty
words to the foot. Under the pressure of elation one takes pride in
doing everything in record time. Despite my speed my letters were not
incoherent. They were simply digressive, which was to be expected, as
elation befogs one's "goal idea." Though these epistolary monstrosities
were launched, few reached those to whom they were addressed; for my
conservator had wisely ordered that my literary output be sent in bulk
to him. His action was exasperating, but later I realized that he had
done me a great favor when he interposed his judgment between my
red-hot mentality and the cool minds of the workaday world. Yet this
interference with what I deemed my rights proved to be the first step
in the general overruling of them by tactless attendants and, in
particular, by a certain assistant physician.

I had always shown a strong inclination to superintend. In consequence,
in my elated condition it was but natural that I should have an excess
of executive impulses. In order to decrease this executive pressure I
proceeded to assume entire charge of that portion of the hospital in
which I happened at the moment to be confined. What I eventually issued
as imperative orders were often presented at first as polite
suggestions. But, if my suggestions were not accorded a respectful
hearing, and my demands acted upon at once, I invariably supplemented
them with vituperative ultimatums. These were double-edged, and
involved me in trouble quite as often as they gained the ends I sought.

The assistant physician in charge of my case, realizing that he could
not grant all of my requests, unwisely decided to deny most of them.
Had he been tactful, he could have taken the same stand without
arousing my animosity. As it was, he treated me with a contemptuous
sort of indifference which finally developed into spite, and led to
much trouble for us both. During the two wild months that followed, the
superintendent and the steward could induce me to do almost anything by
simply requesting it. If two men out of three could control me easily
during such a period of mental excitement, is it not reasonable to
suppose that the third man, the assistant physician, could likewise
have controlled me had he treated me with consideration? It was his
undisguised superciliousness that gave birth to my contempt for him. In
a letter written during my second week of elation, I expressed the
opinion that he and I should get along well together. But that was
before I had become troublesome enough to try the man's patience.
Nevertheless, it indicates that he could have saved himself hours of
time and subsequent worry, had he met my friendly advances in the
proper spirit, for it is the quality of heart quite as much as the
quantity of mind that cures or makes happy the insane.

The literary impulse took such a hold on me that, when I first sat down
to compose a letter, I bluntly refused to stop writing and go to bed
when the attendant ordered me to do so. For over one year this man had
seen me mute and meek, and the sudden and startling change from passive
obedience to uncompromising independence naturally puzzled him. He
threatened to drag me to my room, but strangely enough decided not to
do so. After half an hour's futile coaxing, during which time an
unwonted supply of blood was drawn to his brain, that surprised organ
proved its gratitude by giving birth to a timely and sensible idea.
With an unaccustomed resourcefulness, by cutting off the supply of
light at the electric switch, he put the entire ward in darkness.
Secretly I admired the stratagem, but my words on that occasion
probably conveyed no idea of the approbation that lurked within me.

I then went to bed, but not to sleep. The ecstasy of elation made each
conscious hour one of rapturous happiness, and my memory knows no day
of brighter sunlight than those nights. The floodgates of thought wide
open. So jealous of each other were the thoughts that they seemed to
stumble over one another in their mad rush to present themselves to my
re-enthroned ego.

I naturally craved companionship, but there were not many patients whom
I cared to talk with. I did, however, greatly desire to engage the
assistant physician in conversation, as he was a man of some education
and familiar with the history of my case. But this man, who had tried
to induce me to speak when delusions had tied my tongue, now, when I
was at last willing talk, would scarcely condescend to listen; and what
seemed to me his studied and ill-disguised avoidance only served to
whet my desire to detain him whenever possible.

It was about the second week that my reformative turn of mind became
acute. The ward in which I was confined was well furnished and as
homelike as such a place could be, though in justice to my own home I
must observe that the resemblance was not great. About the so-called
violent ward I had far less favorable ideas. Though I had not been
subjected to physical abuse during the first fourteen months of my stay
here, I had seen unnecessary and often brutal force used by the
attendants in managing several so-called violent patients, who, upon
their arrival, had been placed in the ward where I was. I had also
heard convincing rumors of rough treatment of irresponsible patients in
the violent ward.

At once I determined to conduct a thorough investigation of the
institution. In order that I might have proof that my intended action
was deliberate, my first move was to tell one or two fellow-patients
that I should soon transgress some rule in such a way as to necessitate
my removal to the violent ward. At first I thought of breaking a few
panes of glass; but my purpose was accomplished in another way--and,
indeed, sooner than I had anticipated. My conservator, in my presence,
had told the assistant physician that the doctors could permit me to
telephone him whenever they should see fit. It was rather with the wish
to test the unfriendly physician than to satisfy any desire to speak
with my conservator that one morning I asked permission to call up the
latter. That very morning I had received a letter from him. This the
doctor knew, for I showed him the letter--but not its contents. It was
on the letter that I based my demand, though in it my brother did not
even intimate that he wished to speak to me. The doctor, however, had
no way of knowing that my statement was not true. To deny my request
was simply one of his ill-advised whims, and his refusal was given with
customary curtness and contempt. I met his refusal in kind, and
presented him with a trenchant critique of his character.

He said, "Unless you stop talking in that way I shall have you
transferred to the Fourth Ward." (This was the violent ward.)

"Put me where you please," was my reply. "I'll put you in the gutter
before I get through with you."

With that the doctor made good his threat, and the attendant escorted
me to the violent ward--a willing, in fact, eager prisoner.

The ward in which I was now placed (September 13th, 1902) was furnished
in the plainest manner. The floors were of hard wood and the walls were
bare. Except when at meals or out of doors taking their accustomed
exercise, the patients usually lounged about in one large room, in
which heavy benches were used, it being thought that in the hands of
violent patients, chairs might become a menace to others. In the dining
room, however, there were chairs of a substantial type, for patients
seldom run amuck at meal time. Nevertheless, one of these dining-room
chairs soon acquired a history.

As my banishment had come on short notice, I had failed to provide
myself with many things I now desired. My first request was that I be
supplied with stationery. The attendants, acting no doubt on the
doctor's orders, refused to grant my request; nor would they give me a
lead pencil--which, luckily, I did not need, for I happened to have
one. Despite their refusal I managed to get some scraps of paper, on
which I was soon busily engaged in writing notes to those in authority.
Some of these (as I learned later) were delivered, but no attention was
paid to them. No doctor came near me until evening, when the one who
had banished me made his regular round of inspection. When he appeared,
the interrupted conversation of the morning was resumed--that is, by
me--and in a similar vein. I again asked leave to telephone my
conservator. The doctor again refused, and, of course, again I told him
what I thought of him.

My imprisonment pleased me. I was where I most wished to be, and I
busied myself investigating conditions and making mental notes. As the
assistant physician could grant favors to the attendants, and had
authority to discharge them, they did his bidding and continued to
refuse most of my requests. In spite of their unfriendly attitude,
however, I did manage to persuade the supervisor, a kindly man, well
along in years, to deliver a note to the steward. In it I asked him to
come at once, as I wished to talk with him. The steward, whom I looked
upon as a friend, returned no answer and made no visit. I supposed he,
too, had purposely ignored me. As I learned afterwards, both he and the
superintendent were absent, else perhaps I should have been treated in
a less high-handed manner by the assistant physician, who was not

The next morning, after a renewal of my request and a repeated refusal,
I asked the doctor to send me the "Book of Psalms" which I had left in
my former room. With this request he complied, believing, perhaps, that
some religion would at least do me no harm. I probably read my favorite
psalm, the 45th; but most of my time I spent writing, on the flyleaves,
psalms of my own. And if the value of a psalm is to be measured by the
intensity of feeling portrayed, my compositions of that day rightly
belonged beside the writings of David. My psalms were indited to those
in authority at the hospital, and later in the day the supervisor--who
proved himself a friend on many occasions--took the book to

The assistant physician, who had mistaken my malevolent tongue for a
violent mind, had placed me in an exile which precluded my attending
the service which was held in the chapel that Sunday afternoon. Time
which might better have been spent in church I therefore spent in
perfecting a somewhat ingenious scheme for getting in touch with the
steward. That evening, when the doctor again appeared, I approached him
in a friendly way and politely repeated my request. He again refused to
grant it. With an air of resignation I said, "Well, as it seems useless
to argue the point with you and as the notes sent to others have thus
far been ignored, I should like, with your kind permission, to kick a
hole in your damned old building and to-morrow present myself to the
steward in his office."

"Kick away!" he said with a sneer. He then entered an adjoining ward,
where he remained for about ten minutes.

If you will draw in your mind, or on paper, a letter "L," and let the
vertical part represent a room forty feet in length, and the horizontal
part one of twenty, and if you will then picture me as standing in a
doorway at the intersection of these two lines--the door to the dining
room--and the doctor behind another door at the top of the
perpendicular, forty feet away, you will have represented graphically
the opposing armies just prior to the first real assault in what proved
to be a siege of seven weeks.

The moment the doctor re-entered the ward, as he had to do to return to
the office, I disappeared through my door--into the dining room. I then
walked the length of that room and picked up one of the heavy wooden
chairs, selected for my purpose while the doctor and his tame charges
were at church. Using the chair as a battering-ram, without malice--joy
being in my heart--I deliberately thrust two of its legs through an
upper and a lower pane of a four-paned plate glass window. The only
miscalculation I made was in failing to place myself directly in front
of that window, and at a proper distance, so that I might have broken
every one of the four panes. This was a source of regret to me, for I
was always loath to leave a well-thought-out piece of work unfinished.

The crash of shattered and falling glass startled every one but me.
Especially did it frighten one patient who happened to be in the dining
room at the time. He fled. The doctor and the attendant who were in the
adjoining room could not see me, or know what the trouble was; but they
lost no time in finding out. Like the proverbial cold-blooded murderer
who stands over his victim, weapon in hand, calmly awaiting arrest, I
stood my ground, and, with a fair degree of composure, awaited the
onrush of doctor and attendant. They soon had me in hand. Each taking
an arm, they marched me to my room. This took not more than half a
minute, but the time was not so short as to prevent my delivering
myself of one more thumb-nail characterization of the doctor. My
inability to recall that delineation, verbatim, entails no loss on
literature. But one remark made as the doctor seized hold of me was
apt, though not impromptu. "Well, doctor," I said, "knowing you to be a
truthful man, I just took you at your word."

Senseless as this act appears it was the result of logical thinking.
The steward had entire charge of the building and ordered all necessary
repairs. It was he whom I desired above all others to see, and I
reasoned that the breaking of several dollars' worth of plate glass
(for which later, to my surprise, I had to pay) would compel his
attention on grounds of economy, if not those of the friendly interest
which I now believed he had abandoned. Early the next morning, as I had
hoped, the steward appeared. He approached me in a friendly way (as had
been his wont) and I met him in a like manner. "I wish you would leave
a little bit of the building," he said good-naturedly.

"I will leave it all, and gladly, if you will pay some attention to my
messages," was my rejoinder.

"Had I not been out of town," he replied, "I would have come to see you
sooner." And this honest explanation I accepted.

I made known to the steward the assistant physician's behavior in
balking my desire to telephone my conservator. He agreed to place the
matter before the superintendent, who had that morning returned. As
proof of gratitude, I promised to suspend hostilities until I had had a
talk with the superintendent. I made it quite plain, however, that
should he fail to keep his word, I would further facilitate the
ventilation of the violent ward. My faith in mankind was not yet wholly


A few hours later, without having witnessed anything of particular
significance, except as it befell myself, I was transferred to my old
ward. The superintendent, who had ordered this rehabilitation, soon
appeared, and he and I had a satisfactory talk. He gave me to
understand that he himself would in future look after my case, as he
realized that his assistant lacked the requisite tact and judgment to
cope with one of my temperament--and with that, my desire to telephone
my conservator vanished.

Now no physician would like to have his wings clipped by a patient,
even indirectly, and without doubt the man's pride was piqued as his
incompetence was thus made plain. Thereafter, when he passed through
the ward, he and I had frequent tilts. Not only did I lose no
opportunity to belittle him in the presence of attendants and patients,
but I even created such opportunities; so that before long he tried to
avoid me whenever possible. But it seldom was possible. One of my chief
amusements consisted in what were really one-sided interviews with him.
Occasionally he was so unwise as to stand his ground for several
minutes, and his arguments on such occasions served only to keep my
temper at a vituperative heat. If there were any epithets which I
failed to apply to him during the succeeding weeks of my association
with him, they must have been coined since. The uncanny admixture of
sanity displayed by me, despite my insane condition, was something this
doctor could not comprehend. Remarks of mine, which he should have
discounted or ignored, rankled as the insults of a sane and free man
would have done. And his blunt and indiscriminate refusal of most of my
requests prolonged my period of mental excitement.

After my return to my old ward I remained there for a period of three
weeks. At that time I was a very self-centred individual. My large and
varied assortment of delusions of grandeur made everything seem
possible. There were few problems I hesitated to attack. With
sufficient provocation I even attacked attendants--problems in
themselves; but such fights as I subsequently engaged in were fights
either for my own rights or the rights of others. Though for a while I
got along fairly well with the attendants and as well as could be
expected with the assistant physician, it soon became evident that
these men felt that to know me more was to love me less. Owing to their
lack of capacity for the work required of them, I was able to cause
them endless annoyance. Many times a day I would tell the attendants
what to do and what not to do, and tell them what I should do if my
requests, suggestions, or orders were not immediately complied with.
For over one year they had seen me in a passive, almost speechless
condition, and they were, therefore, unable to understand my unwonted
aggressions. The threat that I would chastise them for any disobedience
of my orders they looked upon as a huge joke. So it was, until one day
I incontinently cracked that joke against the head of one of them.

It began in this wise: Early in October there was placed in the ward a
man whose abnormality for the most part consisted of an inordinate
thirst for liquor. He was over fifty years of age, well educated,
traveled, refined and of an artistic temperament. Congenial companions
were scarce where I was, and he and I were soon drawn together in
friendship. This man had been trapped into the institution by the
subterfuge of relatives. As is common in such cases, many "white" lies
had been resorted to in order to save trouble for all concerned--that
is, all except the patient. To be taken without notice from one's home
and by a deceitful, though under the circumstances perhaps justifiable
strategy, placed in a ward with fifteen other men, all exhibiting
insanity in varying degrees, is as heartbreaking an ordeal as one can
well imagine. Yet such was this man's experience. A free man one day,
he found himself deprived of his liberty the next, and branded with
what he considered an unbearable disgrace.

Mr. Blank (as I shall call him) was completely unnerved. As he was a
stranger in what I well knew was a strange world, I took him under my
protecting and commodious wing. I did all I could to cheer him up, and
tried to secure for him that consideration which to me seemed
indispensable to his well-being. Patients in his condition had never
been forced, when taking their exercise, to walk about the grounds with
the other patients. At no time during the preceding fourteen months had
I seen a newly committed patient forced to exercise against his will.
One who objected was invariably left in the ward, or his refusal was
reported to the doctor before further action was taken. No sane person
need stretch his imagination in order to realize how humiliating it
would be for this man to walk with a crowd which greatly resembled a
"chain gang." Two by two, under guard, these hostages of misfortune get
the only long walks their restricted liberty allows them. After the one
or two occasions when this man did walk with the gang, I was impressed
with the not wholly unreasonable thought that the physical exercise in
no way compensated for the mental distress which the sense of
humiliation and disgrace caused him to suffer. It was delightfully easy
for me to interfere in his behalf; and when he came to my room, wrought
up over the prospect of another such humiliation and weeping bitterly,
I assured him that he should take his exercise that day when I did. My
first move to accomplish the desired result was to approach, in a
friendly way, the attendant in charge, and ask him to permit my new
friend to walk about the grounds with me when next I went. He said he
would do nothing of the kind--that he intended to take this man when he
took the others. I said, "For over a year I have been in this ward and
so have you, and I have never yet seen a man in Mr. Blank's condition
forced to go out of doors."

"It makes no difference whether you have or not," said the attendant,
"he's going."

"Will you ask the doctor whether Mr. Blank can or cannot walk about the
grounds with my special attendant when I go?"

"No, I won't. Furthermore, it's none of your business."

"If you resort to physical force and attempt to take Mr. Blank with the
other patients, you'll wish you hadn't," I said, as I walked away.

At this threat the fellow scornfully laughed. To him it meant nothing.
He believed I could fight only with my tongue, and I confess that I
myself was in doubt as to my power of fighting otherwise.

Returning to my room, where Mr. Blank was in waiting, I supported his
drooping courage and again assured him that he should be spared the
dreaded ordeal. I ordered him to go to a certain room at the farther
end of the hall and there await developments--so that, should there be
a fight, the line of battle might be a long one. He obeyed. In a minute
or two the attendant was headed for that room. I followed closely at
his heels, still threatening to attack him if he dared so much as lay a
finger on my friend. Though I was not then aware of it, I was followed
by another patient, a man who, though a mental case, had his lucid
intervals and always a loyal heart. He seemed to realize that trouble
was brewing and that very likely I should need help. Once in the room,
the war of words was renewed, my sensitive and unnerved friend standing
by and anxiously looking on.

"I warn you once more," I said, "if you touch Mr. Blank, I'll punch you
so hard you'll wish you hadn't." The attendant's answer was an
immediate attempt to eject Mr. Blank from the room by force. Nothing
could be more automatic than my action at that time; indeed, to this
day I do not remember performing the act itself. What I remember is the
determination to perform it and the subsequent evidence of its having
been performed. At all events I had already made up my mind to do a
certain thing if the attendant did a certain thing. He did the one and
I did the other. Almost before he had touched Mr. Blank's person, my
right fist struck him with great force in, on, or about the left eye.
It was then that I became the object of the attendant's attention--but
not his undivided attention--for as he was choking me, my unsuspected
ally stepped up and paid the attendant a sincere compliment by likewise
choking him. In the scuffle I was forced to the floor. The attendant
had a grip upon my throat. My wardmate had a double grip upon the
attendant's throat. Thus was formed a chain with a weak, if not a
missing, link in the middle. Picture, if you will, an insane man being
choked by a supposedly sane one, and he in turn being choked by a
temporarily sane insane friend of the assaulted one, and you will have
Nemesis as nearly in a nutshell as any mere rhetorician has yet been
able to put her.

That I was well choked is proved by the fact that my throat bore the
crescent-shaped mark of my assailant's thumb nail. And I am inclined to
believe that my rescuer, who was a very powerful man, made a decided
impression on my assailant's throat. Had not the superintendent
opportunely appeared at that moment, the man might soon have lapsed
into unconsciousness, for I am sure my ally would never have released
him until he had released me. The moment the attendant with his one
good eye caught sight of the superintendent the scrimmage ended. This
was but natural, for it is against the code of honor generally
obtaining among attendants, that one should so far forget himself as to
abuse patients in the presence of sane and competent witnesses.

The choking which I had just received served only to limber my vocal
cords. I told the doctor all about the preliminary verbal skirmish and
the needlessness of the fight. The superintendent had graduated at Yale
over fifty years prior to my own graduation, and because of this common
interest and his consummate tact we got along well together. But his
friendly interest did not keep him from speaking his mind upon
occasion, as his words at this time proved. "You don't know," he said,
"how it grieves me to see you--a Yale man--act so like a rowdy."

"If fighting for the rights of a much older man, unable to protect his
own interests, is the act of a rowdy, I'm quite willing to be thought
one," was my reply.

Need I add that the attendant did not take Mr. Blank for a walk that
morning? Nor, so far as I know, was the latter ever forced again to
take his exercise against his will.


The superintendent now realized that I was altogether too energetic a
humanitarian to remain in a ward with so many other patients. My
actions had a demoralizing effect upon them; so I was forthwith
transferred to a private room, one of two situated in a small one-story
annex. These new quarters were rather attractive, not unlike a bachelor

As there was no one here with whom I could interfere I got along
without making any disturbance--that is, so long as I had a certain
special attendant, a man suited to my temperament. He who was now
placed over me understood human nature. He never resorted to force if
argument failed to move me; and trifling transgressions, which would
have led to a fight had he behaved like a typical attendant, he either
ignored or privately reported to the doctor. For the whole period of my
intense excitement there were certain persons who could control me, and
certain others whose presence threw me into a state bordering on rage,
and frequently into passions which led to distressing results.

Unfortunately for me, my good attendant soon left the institution to
accept a more attractive business offer. He left without even a
good-bye to me. Nothing proves more conclusively how important to me
would have been his retention than this abrupt leave-taking which the
doctor had evidently ordered, thinking perhaps that the prospect of
such a change would excite me. However, I caused no trouble when the
substitution was made, though I did dislike having placed over me a man
with whom I had previously had misunderstandings. He was about my own
age and it was by no means so easy to take orders from him as it had
been to obey his predecessor, who was considerably older than myself.
Then, too, this younger attendant disliked me because of the many
disagreeable things I had said to him while we were together in a
general ward. He weighed about one hundred and ninety pounds to my one
hundred and thirty, and had evidently been selected to attend me
because of his great strength. A choice based on mental rather than
physical considerations would have been wiser. The superintendent,
because of his advanced age and ill health, had been obliged again to
place my case in the hands of the assistant physician, and the latter
gave this new attendant certain orders. What I was to be permitted to
do, and what not, was carefully specified. These orders, many of them
unreasonable, were carried out to the letter. For this I cannot justly
blame the attendant. The doctor had deprived him of the right to
exercise what judgment he had.

At this period I required but little sleep. I usually spent part of the
night drawing; for it was in September, 1902, while I was at the height
of my wave of self-centred confidence, that I decided that I was
destined to become a writer of books--or at least of one book; and now
I thought I might as well be an artist, too, and illustrate my own
works. In school I had never cared for drawing; nor at college either.
But now my awakened artistic impulse was irresistible. My first
self-imposed lesson was a free-hand copy of an illustration on a cover
of _Life_. Considering the circumstances, that first drawing was
creditable, though I cannot now prove the assertion; for inconsiderate
attendants destroyed it, with many more of my drawings and manuscripts.
From the very moment I completed that first drawing, honors were
divided between my literary and artistic impulses; and a letter which,
in due time, I felt impelled to write to the Governor of the State,
incorporated art with literature. I wrote and read several hours a day
and I spent as many more in drawing. But the assistant physician,
instead of making it easy for me to rid myself of an excess of energy
along literary and artistic lines, balked me at every turn, and seemed
to delight in displaying as little interest as possible in my newly
awakened ambitions. When everything should have been done to calm my
abnormally active mind, a studied indifference and failure to protect
my interests kept me in a state of exasperation.

But circumstances now arose which brought about the untimely
stifling--I might better say strangulation--of my artistic impulses.
The doctors were led--unwisely, I believe--to decide that absolute
seclusion was the only thing that would calm my over-active brain. In
consequence, all writing and drawing materials and all books were taken
from me. And from October 18th until the first of the following
January, except for one fortnight, I was confined in one or another
small, barred room, hardly better than a cell in a prison and in some
instances far worse.

A corn cob was the determining factor at this crisis. Seeing in myself
an embryonic Raphael, I had a habit of preserving all kinds of odds and
ends as souvenirs of my development. These, I believed, sanctified by
my Midas-like touch, would one day be of great value. If the public can
tolerate, as it does, thousands of souvenir hunters, surely one with a
sick mind should be indulged in the whim for collecting such souvenirs
as come within his reach. Among the odds and ends that I had gathered
were several corn cobs. These I intended to gild and some day make
useful by attaching to them small thermometers. But on the morning of
October 18th, the young man in charge of me, finding the corn cobs,
forthwith informed me that he would throw them away. I as promptly
informed him that any such action on his part would lead to a fight.
And so it did.

When this fight began, there were two attendants at hand. I fought them
both to a standstill, and told them I should continue to fight until
the assistant physician came to the ward. Thereupon, my special
attendant, realizing that I meant what I said, held me while the other
went for assistance. He soon returned, not with the assistant
physician, but with a third attendant, and the fight was renewed. The
one who had acted as messenger, being of finer fibre than the other
two, stood at a safe distance. It was, of course, against the rules of
the institution for an attendant to strike a patient, and, as I was
sane enough to report with a fair chance of belief any forbidden blows,
each captor had to content himself with holding me by an arm and
attempting to choke me into submission. However, I was able to prevent
them from getting a good grip on my throat, and for almost ten minutes
I continued to fight, telling them all the time that I would not stop
until a doctor should come. An assistant physician, but not the one in
charge of my case, finally appeared. He gave orders that I be placed in
the violent ward, which adjoined the private apartment I was then
occupying, and no time was lost in locking me in a small room in that

Friends have said to me: "Well, what is to be done when a patient runs
amuck?" The best answer I can make is: "Do nothing to make him run
amuck." Psychiatrists have since told me that had I had an attendant
with the wisdom and ability to humor me and permit me to keep my
priceless corn cobs, the fight in question, and the worse events that
followed, would probably not have occurred--not that day, nor ever, had
I at all times been properly treated by those in charge of me.

So again I found myself in the violent ward--but this time not because
of any desire to investigate it. Art and literature being now more
engrossing than my plans for reform, I became, in truth, an unwilling
occupant of a room and a ward devoid of even a suggestion of the
aesthetic. The room itself was clean, and under other circumstances
might have been cheerful. It was twelve feet long, seven feet wide, and
twelve high. A cluster of incandescent lights, enclosed in a
semi-spherical glass globe, was attached to the ceiling. The walls were
bare and plainly wainscotted, and one large window, barred outside,
gave light. At one side of the door was an opening a foot square with a
door of its own which could be unlocked only from without, and through
which food could be passed to a supposedly dangerous patient. Aside
from a single bed, the legs of which were screwed to the floor, the
room had no furniture.

The attendant, before locking me in, searched me and took from me
several lead pencils; but the stub of one escaped his vigilance.
Naturally, to be taken from a handsomely furnished apartment and thrust
into such a bare and unattractive room as this caused my already heated
blood to approach the boiling point. Consequently, my first act was to
send a note to the physician who regularly had charge of my case,
requesting him to visit me as soon as he should arrive, and I have
every reason to believe that the note was delivered. Whether or not
this was so, a report of the morning's fight and my transfer must have
reached him by some one of several witnesses. While waiting for an
answer, I busied myself writing, and as I had no stationery I wrote on
the walls. Beginning as high as I could reach, I wrote in columns, each
about three feet wide. Soon the pencil became dull. But dull pencils
are easily sharpened on the whetstone of wit. Stifling acquired traits,
I permitted myself to revert momentarily to a primitive expedient. I
gnawed the wood quite from the pencil, leaving only the graphite core.
With a bit of graphite a hand guided by the unerring insolence of
elation may artistically damn all men and things. That I am inclined to
believe I did; and I question whether Raphael or Michael Angelo--upon
whom I then looked as mere predecessors--ever put more feeling per
square foot into their mural masterpieces. Every little while, as if to
punctuate my composition, and in an endeavor to get attention, I
viciously kicked the door.

This first fight of the day occurred about 8 A.M. For the three hours
following I was left to thrash about the room and work myself into a
frenzy. I made up my mind to compel attention. A month earlier,
shattered glass had enabled me to accomplish a certain sane purpose.
Again this day it served me. The opalescent half-globe on the ceiling
seemed to be the most vulnerable point for attack. How to reach and
smash it was the next question--and soon answered. Taking off my shoes,
I threw one with great force at my glass target and succeeded in
striking it a destructive blow.

The attendants charged upon my room. Their entrance was momentarily
delayed by the door which stuck fast. I was standing near it, and when
it gave way, its edge struck me on the forehead with force enough to
have fractured my skull had it struck a weaker part. Once in the room,
the two attendants threw me on the bed and one choked me so severely
that I could feel my eyes starting from their sockets. The attendants
then put the room in order; removed the glass--that is, all except one
small and apparently innocent, but as the event proved well-nigh fatal,
piece--took my shoes and again locked me in my room--not forgetting,
however, to curse me well for making them work for their living.

When the assistant physician finally appeared, I met him with a blast
of invective which, in view of the events which quickly followed, must
have blown out whatever spark of kindly feeling toward me he may ever
have had. I demanded that he permit me to send word to my conservator
asking him to come at once and look after my interests, for I was being
unfairly treated. I also demanded that he request the superintendent to
visit me at once, as I intended to have nothing more to do with the
assistant physicians or attendants who were neglecting and abusing me.
He granted neither demand.

The bit of glass which the attendants had overlooked was about the size
of my thumb nail. If I remember rightly, it was not a part of the
broken globe. It was a piece that had probably been hidden by a former
occupant, in a corner of the square opening at the side of the door. At
all events, if the pen is the tongue of a ready writer, so may a piece
of glass be, under given conditions. As the thought I had in mind
seemed an immortal one I decided to etch, rather than write with
fugitive graphite. On the topmost panel of the door, which a few
minutes before had dealt me so vicious a blow, I scratched a seven-word
sentiment--sincere, if not classic: "God bless our Home, which is

The violent exercise of the morning had given me a good appetite and I
ate my dinner with relish, though with some difficulty, for the choking
had lamed my throat. On serving this dinner, the attendants again left
me to my own devices. The early part of the afternoon I spent in vain
endeavors to summon them and induce them to take notes to the
superintendent and his assistant. They continued to ignore me. By
sundown the furious excitement of the morning had given place to what
might be called a deliberative excitement, which, if anything, was more
effective. It was but a few days earlier that I had discussed my case
with the assistant physician and told him all about the suicidal
impulse which had been so strong during my entire period of depression.
I now reasoned that a seeming attempt at suicide, a "fake" suicide,
would frighten the attendants into calling this doctor whose presence I
now desired--and desired the more because of his studied indifference.
No man that ever lived, loved life more than I did on that day, and the
mock tragedy which I successfully staged about dusk was, I believe, as
good a farce as was ever perpetrated. If I had any one ambition it was
to live long enough to regain my freedom and put behind prison bars
this doctor and his burly henchmen. To compel attention that was my

At that season the sun set by half-past five and supper was usually
served about that time. So dark was my room then that objects in it
could scarcely be discerned. About a quarter of an hour before the
attendant was due to appear with my evening meal I made my
preparations. That the stage setting might be in keeping with the plot,
I tore up such papers as I had with me, and also destroyed other
articles in the room--as one might in a frenzy; and to complete the
illusion of desperation, deliberately broke my watch. I then took off
my suspenders, and tying one end to the head of the bedstead, made a
noose of the other. This I adjusted comfortably about my throat. At the
crucial moment I placed my pillow on the floor beside the head of the
bed and sat on it--for this was to be an easy death. I then bore just
enough weight on the improvised noose to give all a plausible look. And
a last lifelike (or rather deathlike) touch I added by gurgling as in
infancy's happy days.

No schoolboy ever enjoyed a prank more than I enjoyed this one. Soon I
heard the step of the attendant, bringing my supper. When he opened the
door, he had no idea that anything unusual was happening within. Coming
as he did from a well-lighted room into one that was dark, it took him
several seconds to grasp the situation--and then he failed really to
take it in, for he at once supposed me to be in a semi-unconscious
condition from strangulation. In a state of great excitement this brute
of the morning called to his brute partner and I was soon released from
what was nothing more than an amusing position, though they believed it
one of torture or death. The vile curses with which they had addressed
me in the morning were now silenced. They spoke kindly and expressed
regret that I should have seen fit to resort to such an act. Their
sympathy was as genuine as such men can feel, but a poor kind at best,
for it was undoubtedly excited by the thought of what might be the
consequences to them of their own neglect. While this unwonted stress
of emotion threatened their peace of mind, I continued to play my part,
pretending to be all but unconscious.

Shortly after my rescue from a very living death, the attendants picked
me up and carried my limp body and laughing soul to an adjoining room,
where I was tenderly placed upon a bed. I seemed gradually to revive.

"What did you do it for?" asked one.

"What's the use of living in a place like this, to be abused as I've
been to-day?" I asked. "You and the doctor ignore me and all my
requests. Even a cup of water between meals is denied me, and other
requests which you have no right to refuse. Had I killed myself, both
of you would have been discharged. And if my relatives and friends had
ever found out how you had abused and neglected me, it is likely you
would have been arrested and prosecuted."

Word had already been sent to the physician. He hurried to the ward,
his almost breathless condition showing how my farce had been mistaken
for a real tragedy. The moment he entered I abandoned the part I had
been playing.

"Now that I have you three brutes where I want you, I'll tell you a few
things you don't know," I said. "You probably think I've just tried to
kill myself. It was simply a ruse to make you give me some attention.
When I make threats and tell you that my one object in life is to live
long enough to regain my freedom and lay bare the abuses which abound
in places like this, you simply laugh at me, don't you? But the fact
is, that's my ambition, and if you knew anything at all, you'd know
that abuse won't drive me to suicide. You can continue to abuse me and
deprive me of my rights, and keep me in exile from relatives and
friends, but the time will come when I'll make you sweat for all this.
I'll put you in prison where you belong. Or if I fail to do that, I can
at least bring about your discharge from this institution. What's more,
I will."

The doctor and attendants took my threats with characteristic
nonchalance. Such threats, often enough heard in such places, make
little or no impression, for they are seldom made good. When I made
these threats, I really wished to put these men in prison. To-day I
have no such desire, for were they not victims of the same vicious
system of treatment to which I was subjected? In every institution
where the discredited principles of "Restraint" are used or tolerated,
the very atmosphere is brutalizing. Place a bludgeon in the hand of any
man, with instructions to use it when necessary, and the gentler and
more humane methods of persuasion will naturally be forgotten or
deliberately abandoned.

Throughout my period of elation, especially the first months of it when
I was doing the work of several normal men, I required an increased
amount of fuel to generate the abnormal energy my activity demanded. I
had a voracious appetite, and I insisted that the attendant give me the
supper he was about to serve when he discovered me in the simulated
throes of death. At first he refused, but finally relented and brought
me a cup of tea and some buttered bread. Because of the severe choking
administered earlier in the day it was with difficulty that I swallowed
any food. I _had_ to eat slowly. The attendant, however, ordered me to
hurry, and threatened otherwise to take what little supper I had. I
told him that I thought he would not--that I was entitled to my supper
and intended to eat it with as much comfort as possible. This nettled
him, and by a sudden and unexpected move he managed to take from me all
but a crust of bread. Even that he tried to snatch. I resisted and the
third fight of the day was soon on--and that within five minutes of the
time the doctor had left the ward. I was seated on the bed. The
attendant, true to his vicious instincts, grasped my throat and choked
me with the full power of a hand accustomed to that unmanly work. His
partner, in the meantime, had rendered me helpless by holding me flat
on my back while the attacking party choked me into breathless
submission. The first fight of the day was caused by a corn cob; this
of the evening by a crust of bread.

Were I to close the record of events of that October day with an
account of the assault just described, few, if any, would imagine that
I had failed to mention all the abuse to which I was that day
subjected. The fact is that not the half has been told. As the handling
of me within the twenty-four hours typifies the worst, but,
nevertheless, the not unusual treatment of many patients in a like
condition, I feel constrained to describe minutely the torture which
was my portion that night.

There are several methods of restraint in use to this day in various
institutions, chief among them "mechanical restraint" and so-called
"chemical restraint." The former consists in the use of instruments of
restraint, namely, strait-jackets or camisoles, muffs, straps, mittens,
restraint or strong sheets, etc.--all of them, except on the rarest of
occasions, instruments of neglect and torture. Chemical restraint
(sometimes called medical restraint) consists in the use of temporarily
paralyzing drugs--hyoscine being the popular "dose." By the use of such
drugs a troublesome patient may be rendered unconscious and kept so for
hours at a time. Indeed, very troublesome patients (especially when
attendants are scarce) are not infrequently kept in a stupefied
condition for days, or even for weeks--but only in institutions where
the welfare of the patients is lightly regarded.

After the supper fight I was left alone in my room for about an hour.
Then the assistant physician entered with three attendants, including
the two who had figured in my farce. One carried a canvas contrivance
known as a camisole. A camisole is a type of straitjacket; and a very
convenient type it is for those who resort to such methods of
restraint, for it enables them to deny the use of strait-jackets at
all. A strait-jacket, indeed, is not a camisole, just as electrocution
is not hanging.

A camisole, or, as I prefer to stigmatize it, a straitjacket, is really
a tight-fitting coat of heavy canvas, reaching from neck to waist,
constructed, however, on no ordinary pattern. There is not a button on
it. The sleeves are closed at the ends, and the jacket, having no
opening in front, is adjusted and tightly laced behind. To the end of
each blind sleeve is attached a strong cord. The cord on the right
sleeve is carried to the left of the body, and the cord on the left
sleeve is carried to the right of the body. Both are then drawn tightly
behind, thus bringing the arms of the victim into a folded position
across his chest. These cords are then securely tied.

When I planned my ruse of the afternoon, I knew perfectly that I should
soon find myself in a strait-jacket. The thought rather took my fancy,
for I was resolved to know the inner workings of the violent ward.

The piece of glass with which I had that morning written the motto
already quoted, I had appropriated for a purpose. Knowing that I should
soon be put in the uncomfortable, but not necessarily intolerable
embrace of a strait-jacket, my thought was that I might during the
night, in some way or other, use this piece of glass to
advantage--perhaps cut my way to a limited freedom. To make sure that I
should retain possession of it, I placed it in my mouth and held it
snugly against my cheek. Its presence there did not interfere with my
speech; nor did it invite visual detection. But had I known as much
about strait-jackets and their adjustment as I learned later, I should
have resorted to no such futile expedient.

After many nights of torture, this jacket, at my urgent and repeated
request, was finally adjusted in such manner that, had it been so
adjusted at first, I need not have suffered any _torture_ at all. This
I knew at the time, for I had not failed to discuss the matter with a
patient who on several occasions had been restrained in this same

On this occasion the element of personal spite entered into the
assistant physician's treatment of me. The man's personality was
apparently dual. His "Jekyll" personality was the one most in evidence,
but it was the "Hyde" personality that seemed to control his actions
when a crisis arose. It was "Doctor Jekyll" who approached my room that
night, accompanied by the attendants. The moment he entered my room he
became "Mr. Hyde." He was, indeed, no longer a doctor, or the semblance
of one. His first move was to take the straitjacket in his own hands
and order me to stand. Knowing that those in authority really believed
I had that day attempted to kill myself, I found no fault with their
wish to put me in restraint; but I did object to having this done by
Jekyll-Hyde. Though a straitjacket should always be adjusted by the
physician in charge, I knew that as a matter of fact the disagreeable
duty was invariably assigned to the attendants. Consequently
Jekyll-Hyde's eagerness to assume an obligation he usually shirked gave
me the feeling that his motives were spiteful. For that reason I
preferred to entrust myself to the uncertain mercies of a regular
attendant; and I said so, but in vain. "If you will keep your mouth
shut, I'll be able to do this job quicker," said Jekyll-Hyde.

"I'll shut my mouth as soon as you get out of this room and not
before," I remarked. Nor did I. My abusive language was, of course,
interlarded with the inevitable epithets. The more I talked, the more
vindictive he became. He said nothing, but, unhappily for me, he
expressed his pent-up feelings in something more effectual than words.
After he had laced the jacket, and drawn my arms across my chest so
snugly that I could not move them a fraction of an inch, I asked him to
loosen the strait-jacket enough to enable me at least to take a full
breath. I also requested him to give me a chance to adjust my fingers,
which had been caught in an unnatural and uncomfortable position.

"If you will keep still a minute, I will," said Jekyll-Hyde. I obeyed,
and willingly too, for I did not care to suffer more than was
necessary. Instead of loosening the appliance as agreed, this doctor,
now livid with rage, drew the cords in such a way that I found myself
more securely and cruelly held than before. This breach of faith threw
me into a frenzy. Though it was because his continued presence served
to increase my excitement that Jekyll-Hyde at last withdrew, it will be
observed that he did not do so until he had satisfied an unmanly desire
which an apparently lurking hatred had engendered. The attendants soon
withdrew and locked me up for the night.

No incidents of my life have ever impressed themselves more indelibly
on my memory than those of my first night in a strait-jacket. Within
one hour of the time I was placed in it I was suffering pain as intense
as any I ever endured, and before the night had passed it had become
almost unbearable. My right hand was so held that the tip of one of my
fingers was all but cut by the nail of another, and soon knifelike
pains began to shoot through my right arm as far as the shoulder. After
four or five hours the excess of pain rendered me partially insensible
to it. But for fifteen consecutive hours I remained in that instrument
of torture; and not until the twelfth hour, about breakfast time the
next morning, did an attendant so much as loosen a cord.

During the first seven or eight hours, excruciating pains racked not
only my arms, but half of my body. Though I cried and moaned, in fact,
screamed so loudly that the attendants must have heard me, little
attention was paid to me--possibly because of orders from Mr. Hyde
after he had again assumed the role of Doctor Jekyll. I even begged the
attendants to loosen the jacket enough to ease me a little. This they
refused to do, and they even seemed to enjoy being in a position to add
their considerable mite to my torture.

Before midnight I really believed that I should be unable to endure the
torture and retain my reason. A peculiar pricking sensation which I now
felt in my brain, a sensation exactly like that of June, 1900, led me
to believe that I might again be thrown out of touch with the world I
had so lately regained. Realizing the awfulness of that fate, I
redoubled my efforts to effect my rescue. Shortly after midnight I did
succeed in gaining the attention of the night watch. Upon entering my
room he found me flat on the floor. I had fallen from the bed and
perforce remained absolutely helpless where I lay. I could not so much
as lift my head. This, however, was not the fault of the straitjacket.
It was because I could not control the muscles of my neck which that
day had been so mauled. I could scarcely swallow the water the night
watch was good enough to give me. He was not a bad sort; yet even he
refused to let out the cords of the strait-jacket. As he seemed
sympathetic, I can attribute his refusal to nothing but strict orders
issued by the doctor.

It will be recalled that I placed a piece of glass in my mouth before
the strait-jacket was adjusted. At midnight the glass was still there.
After the refusal of the night watch, I said to him: "Then I want you
to go to Doctor Jekyll" (I, of course, called him by his right name;
but to do so now would be to prove myself as brutal as Mr. Hyde
himself). "Tell him to come here at once and loosen this jacket. I
can't endure the torture much longer. After fighting two years to
regain my reason, I believe I'll lose it again. You have always treated
me kindly. For God's sake, get the doctor!"

"I can't leave the main building at this time," the night watch said.
(Jekyll-Hyde lived in a house about one-eighth of a mile distant, but
within the hospital grounds.)

"Then will you take a message to the assistant physician who stays
here?" (A colleague of Jekyll-Hyde had apartments in the main

"I'll do that," he replied.

"Tell him how I'm suffering. Ask him to please come here at once and
ease this strait-jacket. If he doesn't, I'll be as crazy by morning as
I ever was. Also tell him I'll kill myself unless he comes, and I can
do it, too. I have a piece of glass in this room and I know just what
I'll do with it."

The night watch was as good as his word. He afterwards told me that he
had delivered my message. The doctor ignored it. He did not come near
me that night, nor the next day, nor did Jekyll-Hyde appear until his
usual round of inspection about eleven o'clock the next morning.

"I understand that you have a piece of glass which you threatened to
use for a suicidal purpose last night," he said, when he appeared.

"Yes, I have, and it's not your fault or the other doctor's that I am
not dead. Had I gone mad, in my frenzy I might have swallowed that

"Where is it?" asked the doctor, incredulously.

As my strait-jacket rendered me armless, I presented the glass to
Jekyll-Hyde on the tip of a tongue he had often heard, but never before


After fifteen interminable hours the strait-jacket was removed. Whereas
just prior to its putting on I had been in a vigorous enough condition
to offer stout resistance when wantonly assaulted, now, on coming out
of it, I was helpless. When my arms were released from their
constricted position, the pain was intense. Every joint had been
racked. I had no control over the fingers of either hand, and could not
have dressed myself had I been promised my freedom for doing so.

For more than the following week I suffered as already described,
though of course with gradually decreasing intensity as my racked body
became accustomed to the unnatural positions it was forced to take.
This first experience occurred on the night of October 18th, 1902. I
was subjected to the same unfair, unnecessary, and unscientific ordeal
for twenty-one consecutive nights and parts of each of the
corresponding twenty-one days. On more than one occasion, indeed, the
attendant placed me in the strait-jacket during the day for refusing to
obey some trivial command. This, too, without an explicit order from
the doctor in charge, though perhaps he acted under a general order.

During most of this time I was held also in seclusion in a padded cell.
A padded cell is a vile hole. The side walls are padded as high as a
man can reach, as is also the inside of the door. One of the worst
features of such cells is the lack of ventilation, which deficiency of
course aggravates their general unsanitary condition. The cell which I
was forced to occupy was practically without heat, and as winter was
coming on, I suffered intensely from the cold. Frequently it was so
cold I could see my breath. Though my canvas jacket served to protect
part of that body which it was at the same time racking, I was seldom
comfortably warm; for, once uncovered, my arms being pinioned, I had no
way of rearranging the blankets. What little sleep I managed to get I
took lying on a hard mattress placed on the bare floor. The condition
of the mattress I found in the cell was such that I objected to its
further use, and the fact that another was supplied, at a time when few
of my requests were being granted, proves its disgusting condition.

For this period of three weeks--from October 18th until November 8th,
1902, when I left this institution and was transferred to a state
hospital--I was continuously either under lock and key (in the padded
cell or some other room) or under the eye of an attendant. Over half
the time I was in the snug, but cruel embrace of a strait-jacket--about
three hundred hours in all.

While being subjected to this terrific abuse I was held in exile. I was
cut off from all direct and all _honest_ indirect communication with my
legally appointed conservator--my own brother--and also with all other
relatives and friends. I was even cut off from satisfactory
communication with the superintendent. I saw him but twice, and then
for so short a time that I was unable to give him any convincing idea
of my plight. These interviews occurred on two Sundays that fell within
my period of exile, for it was on Sunday that the superintendent
usually made his weekly round of inspection.

What chance had I of successfully pleading my case, while my pulpit was
a padded cell, and the congregation--with the exception of the
superintendent--the very ones who had been abusing me? At such times my
pent-up indignation poured itself forth in such a disconnected way that
my protests were robbed of their right ring of truth. I was not
incoherent in speech. I was simply voluble and digressive--a natural
incident of elation. Such notes as I managed to write on scraps of
paper were presumably confiscated by Jekyll-Hyde. At all events, it was
not until some months later that the superintendent was informed of my
treatment, when, at my request (though I was then elsewhere), the
Governor of the State discussed the subject with him. How I brought
about that discussion while still virtually a prisoner in another place
will be narrated in due time. And not until several days after I had
left this institution and had been placed in another, when for the
first time in six weeks I saw my conservator, did _he_ learn of the
treatment to which I had been subjected. From his office in New Haven
he had telephoned several times to the assistant physician and inquired
about my condition. Though Jekyll-Hyde did tell him that I was highly
excited and difficult to control, he did not even hint that I was being
subjected to any unusual restraint. Doctor Jekyll deceived everyone,
and--as things turned out--deceived himself; for had he realized then
that I should one day be able to do what I have since done, his
brutality would surely have been held in check by his discretion.

How helpless, how at the mercy of his keepers, a patient may be is
further illustrated by the conduct of this same man. Once, during the
third week of my nights in a strait-jacket, I refused to take certain
medicine which an attendant offered me. For some time I had been
regularly taking this innocuous concoction without protest; but I now
decided that, as the attendant refused most of my requests, I should no
longer comply with all of his. He did not argue the point with me. He
simply reported my refusal to Doctor Jekyll. A few minutes later Doctor
Jekyll--or rather Mr. Hyde--accompanied by three attendants, entered
the padded cell. I was robed for the night--in a strait-jacket. Mr.
Hyde held in his hand a rubber tube. An attendant stood near with the
medicine. For over two years, the common threat had been made that the
"tube" would be resorted to if I refused medicine or food. I had begun
to look upon it as a myth; but its presence in the hands of an
oppressor now convinced me of its reality. I saw that the doctor and
his bravos meant business; and as I had already endured torture enough,
I determined to make every concession this time and escape what seemed
to be in store for me.

"What are you going to do with that?" I asked, eyeing the tube.

"The attendant says you refuse to take your medicine. We are going to
make you take it."

"I'll take your old medicine," was my reply.

"You have had your chance."

"All right," I said. "Put that medicine into me any way you think best.
But the time will come when you'll wish you hadn't. When that time does
come it won't be easy to prove that you had the right to force a
patient to take medicine he had offered to take. I know something about
the ethics of your profession. You have no right to do anything to a
patient except what's good for him. You know that. All you are trying
to do is to punish me, and I give you fair warning I'm going to camp on
your trail till you are not only discharged from this institution, but
expelled from the State Medical Society as well. You are a disgrace to
your profession, and that society will attend to your case fast enough
when certain members of it, who are friends of mine, hear about this.
Furthermore, I shall report your conduct to the Governor of the State.
He can take some action even if this is _not_ a state institution. Now,
damn you, do your worst!"

Coming from one in my condition, this was rather straight talk. The
doctor was visibly disconcerted. Had he not feared to lose caste with
the attendants who stood by, I think he would have given me another
chance. But he had too much pride and too little manhood to recede from
a false position already taken. I no longer resisted, even verbally,
for I no longer wanted the doctor to desist. Though I did not
anticipate the operation with pleasure, I was eager to take the man's
measure. He and the attendants knew that I usually kept a trick or two
even up the sleeve of a strait-jacket, so they took added precautions.
I was flat on my back, with simply a mattress between me and the floor.
One attendant held me. Another stood by with the medicine and with a
funnel through which, as soon as Mr. Hyde should insert the tube in one
of my nostrils, the dose was to be poured. The third attendant stood
near as a reserve force. Though the insertion of the tube, when
skilfully done, need not cause suffering, the operation as conducted by
Mr. Hyde was painful. Try as he would, he was unable to insert the tube
properly, though in no way did I attempt to balk him. His embarrassment
seemed to rob his hand of whatever cunning it may have possessed. After
what seemed ten minutes of bungling, though it was probably not half
that, he gave up the attempt, but not until my nose had begun to bleed.
He was plainly chagrined when he and his bravos retired. Intuitively I
felt that they would soon return. That they did, armed with a new
implement of war. This time the doctor inserted between my teeth a
large wooden peg--to keep open a mouth which he usually wanted shut. He
then forced down my throat a rubber tube, the attendant adjusted the
funnel, and the medicine, or rather liquid--for its medicinal
properties were without effect upon me--was poured in.

As the scant reports sent to my conservator during these three weeks
indicated that I was not improving as he had hoped, he made a special
trip to the institution, to investigate in person. On his arrival he
was met by none other than Doctor Jekyll, who told him that I was in a
highly excited condition, which, he intimated, would be aggravated by a
personal interview. Now for a man to see his brother in such a plight
as mine would be a distressing ordeal, and, though my conservator came
within a few hundred feet of my prison cell, it naturally took but a
suggestion to dissuade him from coming nearer. Doctor Jekyll did tell
him that it had been found necessary to place me in "restraint" and
"seclusion" (the professional euphemisms for "strait-jacket," "padded
cell," etc.), but no hint was given that I had been roughly handled.
Doctor Jekyll's politic dissuasion was no doubt inspired by the
knowledge that if ever I got within speaking distance of my
conservator, nothing could prevent my giving him a circumstantial
account of my sufferings--which account would have been corroborated by
the blackened eye I happened to have at the time. Indeed, in dealing
with my conservator the assistant physician showed a degree of tact
which, had it been directed toward myself, would have sufficed to keep
me tolerably comfortable.

My conservator, though temporarily stayed, was not convinced. He felt
that I was not improving where I was, and he wisely decided that the
best course would be to have me transferred to a public
institution--the State Hospital. A few days later the judge who had
originally committed me ordered my transfer. Nothing was said to me
about the proposed change until the moment of departure, and then I
could scarcely believe my ears. In fact I did not believe my informant;
for three weeks of abuse, together with my continued inability to get
in touch with my conservator, had so shaken my reason that there was a
partial recurrence of old delusions. I imagined myself on the way to
the State Prison, a few miles distant; and not until the train had
passed the prison station did I believe that I was really on my way to
the State Hospital.


The State Hospital in which I now found myself, the third institution
to which I had been committed, though in many respects above the
average of such institutions, was typical. It commanded a wide view of
a beautiful river and valley. This view I was permitted to enjoy--at
first. Those in charge of the institution which I had just left did not
give my new custodians any detailed account of my case. Their reticence
was, I believe, occasioned by chagrin rather than charity. Tamers of
wild men have as much pride as tamers of wild animals (but
unfortunately less skill) and to admit defeat is a thing not to be
thought of. Though private institutions are prone to shift their
troublesome cases to state institutions, there is too often a
deplorable lack of sympathy and co-operation between them, which, in
this instance, however, proved fortunate for me.

From October 18th until the early afternoon of November 8th, at the
private institution, I had been classed as a raving maniac. The _name_
I had brought upon myself by experimental conduct; the _condition_ had
been aggravated and perpetuated by the stupidity of those in authority
over me. And it was the same experimental conduct on my part, and
stupidity on the part of my new custodians, which gave rise, two weeks
later, to a similar situation. On Friday, November 7th, I was in a
strait-jacket. On November 9th and 10th I was apparently as tractable
as any of the twenty-three hundred patients in the State
Hospital--conventionally clothed, mild mannered, and, seemingly, right
minded. On the 9th, the day after my arrival, I attended a church
service held at the hospital. My behavior was not other than that of
the most pious worshipper in the land. The next evening, with most
exemplary deportment, I attended one of the dances which are held every
fortnight during the winter. Had I been a raving maniac, such
activities would have led to a disturbance; for maniacs, of necessity,
disregard the conventions of both pious and polite society. Yet, on
either of these days, had I been in the private institution which I had
recently left, I should have occupied a cell and worn a strait-jacket.

The assistant superintendent, who received me upon my arrival, judged
me by my behavior. He assigned me to one of two connecting wards--the
best in the hospital--where about seventy patients led a fairly
agreeable life. Though no official account of my case had accompanied
my transfer, the attendant who had acted as escort and guard had
already given an attendant at the State Hospital a brief account of my
recent experiences. Yet when this report finally reached the ears of
those in authority, they wisely decided not to transfer me to another
ward so long as I caused no trouble where I was. Finding myself at last
among friends, I lost no time in asking for writing and drawing
materials, which had so rudely been taken from me three weeks earlier.
My request was promptly granted. The doctors and attendants treated me
kindly and I again began to enjoy life. My desire to write and draw had
not abated. However, I did not devote my entire time to those pursuits,
for there were plenty of congenial companions about. I found pleasure
in talking--more pleasure by far than others did in listening. In fact
I talked incessantly, and soon made known, in a general way, my scheme
for reforming institutions, not only in my native State, but, of
course, throughout the world, for my grandiose perspective made the
earth look small. The attendants had to bear the brunt of my loquacity,
and they soon grew weary. One of them, wishing to induce silence,
ventured to remark that I was so "crazy" I could not possibly keep my
mouth shut for even one minute. It was a challenge which aroused my
fighting spirit.

"I'll show you that I can stop talking for a whole day," I said. He
laughed, knowing that of all difficult tasks this which I had imposed
upon myself was, for one in my condition, least likely of
accomplishment. But I was as good as my boast. Until the same hour the
next day I refused to speak to anyone. I did not even reply to civil
questions; and, though my silence was deliberate and good-natured, the
assistant physician seemed to consider it of a contumacious variety,
for he threatened to transfer me to a less desirable ward unless I
should again begin to talk.

That day of self-imposed silence was about the longest I have ever
lived, for I was under a word pressure sufficient to have filled a
book. Any psychiatrist will admit that my performance was remarkable,
and he will further agree that it was, at least, an indication of a
high degree of self-control. Though I have no desire to prove that at
this period I was not in an abnormal condition, I do wish to show that
I had a degree of self-control that probably would have enabled me to
remain in the best ward at this institution had I not been intent
--abnormally intent, of course, and yet with a high degree of
deliberation--upon a reformative investigation. The crest of my wave of
elation had been reached early in October. It was now (November) that
the curve representing my return to normality should have been
continuous and diminishing. Instead, it was kept violently
fluctuating--or at least its fluctuations were aggravated--by the
impositions of those in charge of me, induced sometimes, I freely
admit, by deliberate and purposeful transgressions of my own. My
condition during my three weeks of exile just ended, had been, if
anything, one of milder excitement than that which had obtained
previously during the first seven weeks of my period of elation. And my
condition during the two weeks I now remained in the best ward in the
State Hospital was not different from my condition during the preceding
three weeks of torture, or the succeeding three weeks of abuse and
privation, except in so far as a difference was occasioned by the
torture and privation themselves.

Though I had long intended to effect reforms in existing methods of
treatment, my reckless desire to investigate violent wards did not
possess me until I myself had experienced the torture of continued
confinement in one such ward before coming to this state institution.
It was simple to deduce that if one could suffer such abuses as I had
while a patient in a private institution--nay, in two private
institutions--brutality must exist in a state hospital also. Thus it
was that I entered the State Hospital with a firm resolve to inspect
personally every type of ward, good and bad.

But I was in no hurry to begin. My recent experience had exhausted me,
and I wished to regain strength before subjecting myself to another
such ordeal. This desire to recuperate controlled my conduct for a
while, but its influence gradually diminished as life became more and
more monotonous. I soon found the good ward entirely too polite. I
craved excitement--action. And I determined to get it regardless of
consequences; though I am free to confess I should not have had the
courage to proceed with my plan had I known what was in store for me.

About this time my conservator called to see me. Of course, I told him
all about my cruel experiences at the private institution. My account
surprised and distressed him. I also told him that I knew for a fact
that similar conditions existed at the State Hospital, as I had heard
convincing rumors to that effect. He urged me to behave myself and
remain in the ward where I was, which ward, as I admitted, was all that
one could desire--provided one had schooled himself to desire that sort
of thing.

The fact that I was under lock and key and behind what were virtually
prison bars in no way gave me a sense of helplessness. I firmly
believed that I should find it easy to effect my escape and reach home
for the Thanksgiving Day celebration. And, furthermore, I knew that,
should I reach home, I should not be denied my portion of the good
things to eat before being returned to the hospital. Being under the
spell of an intense desire to investigate the violent ward, I concluded
that the time for action had come. I reasoned, too, that it would be
easier and safer to escape from that ward--which was on a level with
the ground--than from a ward three stories above it. The next thing I
did was to inform the attendants (not to mention several of the
patients) that within a day or two I should do something to cause my
removal to it. They of course did not believe that I had any idea of
deliberately inviting such a transfer. My very frankness disarmed them.

On the evening of November 21st, I went from room to room collecting
all sorts of odds and ends belonging to other patients. These I
secreted in my room. I also collected a small library of books,
magazines and newspapers. After securing all the booty I dared, I
mingled with the other patients until the time came for going to bed.
The attendants soon locked me in my junk shop and I spent the rest of
the night setting it in disorder. My original plan had been to
barricade the door during the night, and thus hold the doctors and
attendants at bay until those in authority had accepted my ultimatum,
which was to include a Thanksgiving visit at home. But before morning I
had slightly altered my plan. My sleepless night of activity had made
me ravenously hungry, and I decided that it would be wiser not only to
fill my stomach, but to lay by other supplies of food before submitting
to a siege. Accordingly I set things to rights and went about my
business the next morning as usual. At breakfast I ate enough for two
men, and put in my pockets bread enough to last for twenty-four hours
at least. Then I returned to my room and at once barricaded the door.
My barricade consisted of a wardrobe, several drawers which I had
removed from the bureau, and a number of books--among them "Paradise
Lost" and the Bible. These, with conscious satisfaction, I placed in
position as a keystone. Thus the floor space between the door and the
opposite wall of the room was completely filled. My roommate, a young
fellow in the speechless condition in which I had been during my period
of depression, was in the room with me. This was accidental. It was no
part of my plan to hold him as a hostage, though I might finally have
used him as a pawn in the negotiations, had my barricade resisted the
impending attack longer than it did.

It was not long before the attendants realized that something was
wrong. They came to my door and asked me to open it. I refused, and
told them that to argue the point would be a waste of time. They tried
to force an entrance. Failing in that, they reported to the assistant
physician, who soon appeared. At first he parleyed with me. I
good-naturedly, but emphatically, told him that I could not be talked
out of the position I had taken; nor could I be taken out of it until I
was ready to surrender, for my barricade was one that would surely
hold. I also announced that I had carefully planned my line of action
and knew what I was about. I complimented him on his hitherto tactful
treatment of me, and grandiloquently--yet sincerely--thanked him for
his many courtesies. I also expressed entire satisfaction with the past
conduct of the attendants. In fact, on part of the institution I put
the stamp of my approval. "But," I said, "I know there are wards in
this hospital where helpless patients are brutally treated; and I
intend to put a stop to these abuses at once. Not until the Governor of
the State, the judge who committed me, and my conservator come to this
door will I open it. When they arrive, we'll see whether or not
patients are to be robbed of their rights and abused."

My speech was made through a screen transom over the door. For a few
minutes the doctor continued his persuasive methods, but that he should
even imagine that I would basely recede from my high and mighty
position only irritated me the more.

"You can stand outside that door all day if you choose," I said. "I
won't open it until the three men I have named appear. I have prepared
for a siege; and I have enough food in this room to keep me going for a
day anyway."

Realizing at last that no argument would move me, he set about forcing
an entrance. First he tried to remove the transom by striking it with a
stout stick. I gave blow for blow and the transom remained in place. A
carpenter was then sent for, but before he could go about his work one
of the attendants managed to open the door enough to thrust in his arm
and shove aside my barricade. I did not realize what was being done
until it was too late to interfere. The door once open, in rushed the
doctor and four attendants. Without ceremony I was thrown upon the bed,
with two or three of the attacking force on top of me. Again I was
choked, this time by the doctor. The operation was a matter of only a
moment. But before it was over I had the good fortune to deal the
doctor a stinging blow on the jaw, for which (as he was about my own
age and the odds were five to one) I have never felt called upon to

Once I was subdued, each of the four attendants attached himself to a
leg or an arm and, under the direction and leadership of the doctor, I
was carried bodily through two corridors, down two flights of stairs,
and to the violent ward. My dramatic exit startled my fellow-patients,
for so much action in so short a time is seldom seen in a quiet ward.
And few patients placed in the violent ward are introduced with so
impressive an array of camp-followers as I had that day.

All this to me was a huge joke, with a good purpose behind it. Though
excited I was good-natured and, on the way to my new quarters, I said
to the doctor: "Whether you believe it or not, it's a fact that I'm
going to reform these institutions before I'm done. I raised this
rumpus to make you transfer me to the violent ward. What I want you to
do now is to show me the worst you've got."

"You needn't worry," the doctor said. "You'll get it."

He spoke the truth.


Even for a violent ward my entrance was spectacular--if not dramatic.
The three attendants regularly in charge naturally jumped to the
conclusion that, in me, a troublesome patient had been foisted upon
them. They noted my arrival with an unpleasant curiosity, which in turn
aroused _my_ curiosity, for it took but a glance to convince me that my
burly keepers were typical attendants of the brute-force type. Acting
on the order of the doctor in charge, one of them stripped me of my
outer garments; and, clad in nothing but underclothes, I was thrust
into a cell.

Few, if any, prisons in this country contain worse holes than this cell
proved to be. It was one of five, situated in a short corridor
adjoining the main ward. It was about six feet wide by ten long and of
a good height. A heavily screened and barred window admitted light and
a negligible quantity of air, for the ventilation scarcely deserved the
name. The walls and floor were bare, and there was no furniture. A
patient confined here must lie on the floor with no substitute for a
bed but one or two felt druggets. Sleeping under such conditions
becomes tolerable after a time, but not until one has become accustomed
to lying on a surface nearly as hard as a stone. Here (as well, indeed,
as in other parts of the ward) for a period of three weeks I was again
forced to breathe and rebreathe air so vitiated that even when I
occupied a larger room in the same ward, doctors and attendants seldom
entered without remarking its quality.

My first meal increased my distaste for my semi-sociological
experiment. For over a month I was kept in a half-starved condition. At
each meal, to be sure, I was given as much food as was served to other
patients, but an average portion was not adequate to the needs of a
patient as active as I was at this time.

Worst of all, winter was approaching and these, my first quarters, were
without heat. As my olfactory nerves soon became uncommunicative, the
breathing of foul air was not a hardship. On the other hand, to be
famished the greater part of the time was a very conscious hardship.
But to be half-frozen, day in and day out for a long period, was
exquisite torture. Of all the suffering I endured, that occasioned by
confinement in cold cells seems to have made the most lasting
impression. Hunger is a local disturbance, but when one is cold, every
nerve in the body registers its call for help. Long before reading a
certain passage of De Quincey's I had decided that cold could cause
greater suffering than hunger; consequently, it was with great
satisfaction that I read the following sentences from his
"Confessions": "O ancient women, daughters of toil and suffering, among
all the hardships and bitter inheritances of flesh that ye are called
upon to face, not one--not even hunger--seems in my eyes comparable to
that of nightly cold.... A more killing curse there does not exist for
man or woman than the bitter combat between the weariness that prompts
sleep and the keen, searching cold that forces you from that first
access of sleep to start up horror-stricken, and to seek warmth vainly
in renewed exercise, though long since fainting under fatigue."

The hardness of the bed and the coldness of the room were not all that
interfered with sleep. The short corridor in which I was placed was
known as the "Bull Pen"--a phrase eschewed by the doctors. It was
usually in an uproar, especially during the dark hours of the early
morning. Patients in a state of excitement may sleep during the first
hours of the night, but seldom all night; and even should one have the
capacity to do so, his companions in durance would wake him with a
shout or a song or a curse or the kicking of a door. A noisy and
chaotic medley frequently continued without interruption for hours at a
time. Noise, unearthly noise, was the poetic license allowed the
occupants of these cells. I spent several days and nights in one or
another of them, and I question whether I averaged more than two or
three hours' sleep a night during that time. Seldom did the regular
attendants pay any attention to the noise, though even they must at
times have been disturbed by it. In fact the only person likely to
attempt to stop it was the night watch, who, when he did enter a cell
for that purpose, almost invariably kicked or choked the noisy patient
into a state of temporary quiet. I noted this and scented trouble.

Drawing and writing materials having been again taken from me, I cast
about for some new occupation. I found one in the problem of warmth.
Though I gave repeated expression to the benumbed messages of my
tortured nerves, the doctor refused to return my clothes. For a
semblance of warmth I was forced to depend upon ordinary undergarments
and an extraordinary imagination. The heavy felt druggets were about as
plastic as blotting paper and I derived little comfort from them until
I hit upon the idea of rending them into strips. These strips I would
weave into a crude Rip Van Winkle kind of suit; and so intricate was
the warp and woof that on several occasions an attendant had to cut me
out of these sartorial improvisations. At first, until I acquired the
destructive knack, the tearing of one drugget into strips was a task of
four or five hours. But in time I became so proficient that I could
completely destroy more than one of these six-by-eight-foot druggets in
a single night. During the following weeks of my close confinement I
destroyed at least twenty of them, each worth, as I found out later,
about four dollars; and I confess I found a peculiar satisfaction in
the destruction of property belonging to a State which had deprived me
of all my effects except underclothes. But my destructiveness was due
to a variety of causes. It was occasioned primarily by a "pressure of
activity," for which the tearing of druggets served as a vent. I was in
a state of mind aptly described in a letter written during my first
month of elation, in which I said, "I'm as busy as a nest of ants."

Though the habit of tearing druggets was the outgrowth of an abnormal
impulse, the habit itself lasted longer than it could have done had I
not, for so long a time, been deprived of suitable clothes and been
held a prisoner in cold cells. But another motive soon asserted itself.
Being deprived of all the luxuries of life and most of the necessities,
my mother wit, always conspiring with a wild imagination for something
to occupy my tune, led me at last to invade the field of invention.
With appropriate contrariety, an unfamiliar and hitherto almost
detested line of investigation now attracted me. Abstruse mathematical
problems which had defied solution for centuries began to appear easy.
To defy the State and its puny representatives had become mere child's
play. So I forthwith decided to overcome no less a force than gravity

My conquering imagination soon tricked me into believing that I could
lift myself by my boot-straps--or rather that I could do so when my
laboratory should contain footgear that lent itself to the experiment.
But what of the strips of felt torn from the druggets? Why, these I
used as the straps of my missing boots; and having no boots to stand
in, I used my bed as boots. I reasoned that for my scientific purpose a
man in bed was as favorably situated as a man in boots. Therefore,
attaching a sufficient number of my felt strips to the head and foot of
the bed (which happened not to be screwed to the floor), and, in turn,
attaching the free ends to the transom and the window guard, I found
the problem very simple. For I next joined these cloth cables in such
manner that by pulling downward I effected a readjustment of stress and
strain, and my bed, _with me in it_, was soon dangling in space. My
sensations at this momentous instant must have been much like those
which thrilled Newton when he solved one of the riddles of the
universe. Indeed, they must have been more intense, for Newton,
knowing, had his doubts; I, not knowing, had no doubts at all. So
epoch-making did this discovery appear to me that I noted the exact
position of the bed so that a wondering posterity might ever afterward
view and revere the exact spot on the earth's surface whence one of
man's greatest thoughts had winged its way to immortality.

For weeks I believed I had uncovered a mechanical principle which would
enable man to defy gravity. And I talked freely and confidently about
it. That is, I proclaimed the impending results. The intermediate steps
in the solution of my problem I ignored, for good reasons. A blind man
may harness a horse. So long as the horse is harnessed, one need not
know the office of each strap and buckle. Gravity was harnessed--that
was all. Meanwhile I felt sure that another sublime moment of
inspiration would intervene and clear the atmosphere, thus rendering
flight of the body as easy as a flight of imagination.


While my inventive operations were in progress, I was chafing under the
unjust and certainly unscientific treatment to which I was being
subjected. In spite of my close confinement in vile cells, for a period
of over three weeks I was denied a bath. I do not regret this
deprivation, for the attendants, who at the beginning were unfriendly,
might have forced me to bathe in water which had first served for
several other patients. Though such an unsanitary and disgusting
practice was contrary to rules, it was often indulged in by the lazy
brutes who controlled the ward.

I continued to object to the inadequate portions of food served me. On
Thanksgiving Day (for I had not succeeded in escaping and joining in
the celebration at home) an attendant, in the unaccustomed role of a
ministering angel, brought me the usual turkey and cranberry dinner
which, on two days a year, is provided by an intermittently generous
State. Turkey being the _rara avis_ the imprisoned, it was but natural
that I should desire to gratify a palate long insulted. I wished not
only to satisfy my appetite, but to impress indelibly a memory which
for months had not responded to so agreeable a stimulus. While
lingering over the delights of this experience I forgot all about the
ministering angel. But not for long. He soon returned. Observing that I
had scarcely touched my feast, he said, "If you don't eat that dinner
in a hurry, I'll take it from you."

"I don't see what difference it makes to you whether I eat it in a
hurry or take my time about it," I said. "It's the best I've had in
many a day, and I have a right to get as much pleasure out of it as I

"We'll see about that," he replied, and, snatching it away, he stalked
out of the room, leaving me to satisfy my hunger on the memory of
vanished luxuries. Thus did a feast become a fast.

Under this treatment I soon learned to be more noisy than my neighbors.
I was never without a certain humor in contemplating not only my
surroundings, but myself; and the demonstrations in which I began to
indulge were partly in fun and partly by way of protest. In these
outbursts I was assisted, and at times inspired, by a young man in the
room next mine. He was about my own age and was enjoying the same phase
of exuberance as myself. We talked and sang at all hours of the night.
At the time we believed that the other patients enjoyed the spice which
we added to the restricted variety of their lives, but later I learned
that a majority of them looked upon us as the worst of nuisances.

We gave the doctors and attendants no rest--at least not intentionally.
Whenever the assistant physician appeared, we upbraided him for the
neglect which was then our portion. At one time or another we were
banished to the Bull Pen for these indiscretions. And had there been a
viler place of confinement still, our performances in the Bull Pen
undoubtedly would have brought us to it. At last the doctor hit upon
the expedient of transferring me to a room more remote from my
inspiring, and, I may say, conspiring, companion. Talking to each other
ceased to be the easy pastime it had been; so we gradually lapsed into
a comparative silence which must have proved a boon to our ward-mates.
The megaphonic Bull Pen, however, continued with irregularity, but
annoying certainty to furnish its quota of noise.

On several occasions I concocted plans to escape, and not only that,
but also to liberate others. That I did not make the attempt was the
fault--or merit, perhaps--of a certain night watch, whose timidity,
rather than sagacity, impelled him to refuse to unlock my door early
one morning, although I gave him a plausible reason for the request.
This night watch, I learned later, admitted that he feared to encounter
me single-handed. And on this particular occasion well might he, for,
during the night, I had woven a spider-web net in which I intended to
enmesh him. Had I succeeded, there would have been a lively hour for
him in the violent ward--had I failed, there would have been a lively
hour for me. There were several comparatively sane patients (especially
my elated neighbor) whose willing assistance I could have secured. Then
the regular attendants could have been held prisoners in their own
room, if, indeed, we had not in turn overpowered them and transferred
them to the Bull Pen, where the several victims of their abuse might
have given them a deserved dose of their own medicine. This scheme of
mine was a prank rather than a plot. I had an inordinate desire to
prove that one _could_ escape if he had a mind to do so. Later I
boasted to the assistant physician of my unsuccessful attempt. This
boast he evidently tucked away in his memory.

My punishment for harmless antics of this sort was prompt in coming.
The attendants seemed to think their whole duty to their closely
confined charges consisted in delivering three meals a day. Between
meals he was a rash patient who interfered with their leisure. Now one
of my greatest crosses was their continued refusal to give me a drink
when I asked for it. Except at meal time, or on those rare occasions
when I was permitted to go to the wash room, I had to get along as best
I might with no water to drink, and that too at a time when I was in a
fever of excitement. My polite requests were ignored; impolite demands
were answered with threats and curses. And this war of requests,
demands, threats, and curses continued until the night of the fourth
day of my banishment. Then the attendants made good their threats of

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