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A Mind That Found Itself by Clifford Whittingham Beers

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_An Autobiography_


_First edition, March, 1908
Second edition, with additions, June, 1910
Reprinted, November, 1912
Third edition revised, March, 1913
Reprinted, September, 1913
Reprinted, July, 1914
Fourth edition revised, March, 1917
Reprinted, February, 1920
Fifth edition revised, October, 1921_


A Mind That Found Itself


This story is derived from as human a document as ever existed; and,
because of its uncommon nature, perhaps no one thing contributes so
much to its value as its authenticity. It is an autobiography, and
more: in part it is a biography; for, in telling the story of my life,
I must relate the history of another self--a self which was dominant
from my twenty-fourth to my twenty-sixth year. During that period I was
unlike what I had been, or what I have been since. The biographical
part of my autobiography might be called the history of a mental civil
war, which I fought single-handed on a battlefield that lay within the
compass of my skull. An Army of Unreason, composed of the cunning and
treacherous thoughts of an unfair foe, attacked my bewildered
consciousness with cruel persistency, and would have destroyed me, had
not a triumphant Reason finally interposed a superior strategy that
saved me from my unnatural self.

I am not telling the story of my life just to write a book. I tell it
because it seems my plain duty to do so. A narrow escape from death and
a seemingly miraculous return to health after an apparently fatal
illness are enough to make a man ask himself: For what purpose was my
life spared? That question I have asked myself, and this book is, in
part, an answer.

I was born shortly after sunset about thirty years ago. My ancestors,
natives of England, settled in this country not long after the
_Mayflower_ first sailed into Plymouth Harbor. And the blood of these
ancestors, by time and the happy union of a Northern man and a Southern
woman--my parents--has perforce been blended into blood truly American.

The first years of my life were, in most ways, not unlike those of
other American boys, except as a tendency to worry made them so. Though
the fact is now difficult for me to believe, I was painfully shy. When
first I put on short trousers, I felt that the eyes of the world were
on me; and to escape them I hid behind convenient pieces of furniture
while in the house and, so I am told, even sidled close to fences when
I walked along the street. With my shyness there was a degree of
self-consciousness which put me at a disadvantage in any family or
social gathering. I talked little and was ill at ease when others spoke
to me.

Like many other sensitive and somewhat introspective children, I passed
through a brief period of morbid righteousness. In a game of
"one-old-cat," the side on which I played was defeated. On a piece of
scantling which lay in the lot where the contest took place, I
scratched the score. Afterwards it occurred to me that my inscription
was perhaps misleading and would make my side appear to be the winner.
I went back and corrected the ambiguity. On finding in an old tool
chest at home a coin or medal, on which there appeared the text, "Put
away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light," my sense of
religious propriety was offended. It seemed a sacrilege to use in this
way such a high sentiment, so I destroyed the coin.

I early took upon myself, mentally at least, many of the cares and
worries of those about me. Whether in this I was different from other
youngsters who develop a ludicrous, though pathetic, sense of
responsibility for the universe, I do not know. But in my case the most
extreme instance occurred during a business depression, when the family
resources were endangered. I began to fear that my father (than whom a
more hopeful man never lived) might commit suicide.

After all, I am not sure that the other side of my nature--the natural,
healthy, boyish side--did not develop equally with these timid and
morbid tendencies, which are not so very uncommon in childhood.
Certainly the natural, boyish side was more in evidence on the surface.
I was as good a sport as any of my playfellows in such games as
appealed to me, and I went a-fishing when the chance offered. None of
my associates thought of me as being shy or morose. But this was
because I masked my troubles, though quite unconsciously, under a
camouflage of sarcasm and sallies of wit, or, at least, what seemed to
pass for wit among my immature acquaintances. With grown-ups, I was at
times inclined to be pert, my degree of impudence depending no doubt
upon how ill at ease I was and how perfectly at ease I wished to
appear. Because of the constant need for appearing happier than I
really was, I developed a knack for saying things in an amusing,
sometimes an epigrammatic, way. I recall one remark made long before I
could possibly have heard of Malthus or have understood his theory
regarding birth rate and food supply. Ours being a large family of
limited means and, among the five boys of the family, unlimited
appetites, we often used the cheaper, though equally nutritious, cuts
of meat. On one occasion when the steak was tougher than usual, I
epitomized the Malthusian theory by remarking: "I believe in fewer
children and better beefsteak!"

One more incident of my boyhood days may assist the reader to make my
acquaintance. In my early teens I was, for one year, a member of a boy
choir. Barring my voice, I was a good chorister, and, like all good
choir-boys, I was distinguished by that seraphic passiveness from which
a reaction of some kind is to be expected immediately after a service
or rehearsal. On one occasion this reaction in me manifested itself in
a fist fight with a fellow choir-boy. Though I cannot recall the time
when I have not relished verbal encounters, physical encounters had
never been to my taste, and I did not seek this fight. My assailant
really goaded me into it. If the honors were not mine, at least I must
have acquitted myself creditably, for an interested passer-by made a
remark which I have never forgotten. "That boy is all right after he
gets started," he said. About twelve years later I did get started, and
could that passer-by have seen me on any one of several occasions, he
would have had the satisfaction of knowing that his was a prophetic

At the usual age, I entered a public grammar school in New Haven,
Connecticut, where I graduated in 1891. In the fall of that year I
entered the High School of the same city. My school courses were
completed with as little trouble as scholastic distinction. I always
managed to gain promotion, however, when it was due; and, though few of
my teachers credited me with real ability, they were always able to
detect a certain latent capacity, which they evidently believed would
one day develop sufficiently to prevent me from disgracing them.

Upon entering the High School I had such ambitions as any schoolboy is
apt to have. I wished to secure an election to a given secret society;
that gained, I wished to become business manager of a monthly magazine
published by that society. In these ambitions I succeeded. For one of
my age I had more than an average love of business. Indeed, I
deliberately set about learning to play the guitar well enough to
become eligible for membership in the Banjo Club--and this for no more
aesthetic purpose than to place myself in line for the position of
manager, to which I was later elected.

In athletics there was but one game, tennis, in which I was actively
interested. Its quick give-and-take suited my temperament, and so fond
was I of it that during one summer I played not fewer than four
thousand games. As I had an aptitude for tennis and devoted more time
to it than did any of my schoolmates, it was not surprising that I
acquired skill enough to win the school championship during my senior
year. But that success was not due entirely to my superiority as a
player. It was due in part to what I considered unfair treatment; and
the fact well illustrates a certain trait of character which has often
stood me in good stead. Among the spectators at the final match of the
tournament were several girls. These schoolmates, who lived in my
neighborhood, had mistaken for snobbishness a certain boyish diffidence
for which few people gave me credit. When we passed each other, almost
daily, this group of girls and I, our mutual sign of recognition was a
look in an opposite direction. Now my opponent was well liked by these
same girls and was entitled to their support. Accordingly they
applauded his good plays, which was fair. They did not applaud my good
plays, which was also fair. But what was not fair was that they should
applaud my bad plays. Their doing so roiled my blood, and thanks to
those who would have had me lose, I won.

In June, 1894, I received a high school diploma. Shortly afterwards I
took my examinations for Yale, and the following September entered the
Sheffield Scientific School, in a non-technical course.

The last week of June, 1894, was an important one in my life. An event
then occurred which undoubtedly changed my career completely. It was
the direct cause of my mental collapse six years later, and of the
distressing and, in some instances, strange and delightful experiences
on which this book is based. The event was the illness of an older
brother, who, late in June, 1894, was stricken with what was thought to
be epilepsy. Few diseases can so disorganize a household and distress
its members. My brother had enjoyed perfect health up to the time he
was stricken; and, as there had never been a suggestion of epilepsy, or
any like disease, in either branch of the family, the affliction came
as a bolt from a clear sky. Everything possible was done to effect a
cure, but without avail. On July 4th, 1900, he died, after a six years'
illness, two years of which were spent at home, one year in a trip
around the world in a sailing vessel, and most of the remainder on a
farm near Hartford. The doctors finally decided that a tumor at the
base of the brain had caused his malady and his death.

As I was in college when my brother was first stricken, I had more time
at my disposal than the other members of the family, and for that
reason spent much of it with him. Though his attacks during the first
year occurred only at night, the fear that they might occur during the
day, in public, affected my nerves from the beginning.

Now, if a brother who had enjoyed perfect health all his life could be
stricken with epilepsy, what was to prevent my being similarly
afflicted? This was the thought that soon got possession of my mind.
The more I considered it and him, the more nervous I became; and the
more nervous, the more convinced that my own breakdown was only a
matter of time. Doomed to what I then considered a living death, I
thought of epilepsy, I dreamed epilepsy, until thousands of times
during the six years that this disquieting idea persisted, my
over-wrought imagination seemed to drag me to the very verge of an
attack. Yet at no time during my life have these early fears been

For the fourteen months succeeding the time my brother was first
stricken, I was greatly harassed with fear; but not until later did my
nerves really conquer me. I remember distinctly when the break came. It
happened in November, 1895, during a recitation in German. That hour in
the class room was one of the most disagreeable I ever experienced. It
seemed as if my nerves had snapped, like so many minute bands of rubber
stretched beyond their elastic limit. Had I had the courage to leave
the room, I should have done so; but I sat as if paralyzed until the
class was dismissed.

That term I did not again attend recitations. Continuing my studies at
home, I passed satisfactory examinations, which enabled me to resume my
place in the class room the following January. During the remainder of
my college years I seldom entered a recitation room with any other
feeling than that of dread, though the absolute assurance that I should
not be called upon to recite did somewhat relieve my anxiety in some
classes. The professors, whom I had told about my state of health and
the cause of it, invariably treated me with consideration; but, though
I believe they never doubted the genuineness of my excuse, it was easy
matter to keep them convinced for almost two-thirds of my college
course. My inability to recite was not due usually to any lack of
preparation. However well prepared I might be, the moment I was called
upon, a mingling of a thousand disconcerting sensations, and the
distinct thought that at last the dread attack was at hand, would
suddenly intervene and deprive me of all but the power to say, "Not
prepared." Weeks would pass without any other record being placed
opposite my name than a zero, or a blank indicating that I had not been
called upon at all. Occasionally, however, a professor, in justice to
himself and to the other students, would insist that I recite, and at
such times I managed to make enough of a recitation to hold my place in
the class.

When I entered Yale, I had four definite ambitions: first, to secure an
election to a coveted secret society; second, to become one of the
editors of the _Yale Record_, an illustrated humorous bi-weekly; third
(granting that I should succeed in this latter ambition), to convince
my associates that I should have the position of business manager--an
office which I sought, not for the honor, but because I believed it
would enable me to earn an amount of money at least equal to the cost
of tuition for my years at Yale; fourth (and this was my chief
ambition), to win my diploma within the prescribed time. These four
ambitions I fortunately achieved.

A man's college days, collectively, are usually his happiest. Most of
mine were not happy. Yet I look back upon them with great satisfaction,
for I feel that I was fortunate enough to absorb some of that
intangible, but very real, element known as the "Yale spirit." This has
helped to keep Hope alive within me during my most discouraged moments,
and has ever since made the accomplishment of my purposes seem easy and


On the thirtieth day of June, 1897, I graduated at Yale. Had I then
realized that I was a sick man, I could and would have taken a rest.
But, in a way, I had become accustomed to the ups and downs of a
nervous existence, and, as I could not really afford a rest, six days
after my graduation I entered upon the duties of a clerk in the office
of the Collector of Taxes in the city of New Haven. I was fortunate in
securing such a position at that time, for the hours were comparatively
short and the work as congenial as any could have been under the
circumstances. I entered the Tax Office with the intention of staying
only until such time as I might secure a position in New York. About a
year later I secured the desired position. After remaining in it for
eight months I left it, in order to take a position which seemed to
offer a field of endeavor more to my taste. From May, 1899, till the
middle of June, 1900, I was a clerk in one of the smaller
life-insurance companies, whose home office was within a stone's throw
of what some men consider the center of the universe. To be in the very
heart of the financial district of New York appealed strongly to my
imagination. As a result of the contagious ideals of Wall Street, the
making of money was then a passion with me. I wished to taste the
bitter-sweet of power based on wealth.

For the first eighteen months of my life in New York my health seemed
no worse than it had been during the preceding three years. But the old
dread still possessed me. I continued to have my more and less nervous
days, weeks, and months. In March, 1900, however, there came a change
for the worse. At that time I had a severe attack of grippe which
incapacitated me for two weeks. As was to be expected in my case, this
illness seriously depleted my vitality, and left me in a frightfully
depressed condition--a depression which continued to grow upon me until
the final crash came, on June 23rd, 1900. The events of that day,
seemingly disastrous as then viewed, but evidently all for the best as
the issue proved, forced me along paths traveled by thousands, but
comprehended by few.

I had continued to perform my clerical duties until June 15th. On that
day I was compelled to stop, and that at once. I had reached a point
where my will had to capitulate to Unreason--that unscrupulous usurper.
My previous five years as a neurasthenic had led me to believe that I
had experienced all the disagreeable sensations an overworked and
unstrung nervous system could suffer. But on this day several new and
terrifying sensations seized me and rendered me all but helpless. My
condition, however, was not apparent even to those who worked with me
at the same desk. I remember trying to speak and at times finding
myself unable to give utterance to my thoughts. Though I was able to
answer questions, that fact hardly diminished my feeling of
apprehension, for a single failure in an attempt to speak will stagger
any man, no matter what his state of health. I tried to copy certain
records in the day's work, but my hand was too unsteady, and I found it
difficult to read the words and figures presented to my tired vision in
blurred confusion.

That afternoon, conscious that some terrible calamity was impending,
but not knowing what would be its nature, I performed a very curious
act. Certain early literary efforts which had failed of publication in
the college paper, but which I had jealously cherished for several
years, I utterly destroyed. Then, after a hurried arrangement of my
affairs, I took an early afternoon train, and was soon in New Haven.
Home life did not make me better, and, except for three or four short
walks, I did not go out of the house at all until June 23d, when I went
in a most unusual way. To relatives I said little about my state of
health, beyond the general statement that I had never felt worse--a
statement which, when made by a neurasthenic, means much, but proves
little. For five years I had had my ups and downs, and both my
relatives and myself had begun to look upon these as things which would
probably be corrected in and by time.

The day after my home-coming I made up my mind, or that part of it
which was still within my control, that the time had come to quit
business entirely and take a rest of months. I even arranged with a
younger brother to set out at once for some quiet place in the White
Mountains, where I hoped to steady my shattered nerves. At this time I
felt as though in a tremor from head to foot, and the thought that I
was about to have an epileptic attack constantly recurred. On more than
one occasion I said to friends that I would rather die than live an
epileptic; yet, if I rightly remember, I never declared the actual fear
that I was doomed to bear such an affliction. Though I held the mad
belief that I should suffer epilepsy, I held the sane hope, amounting
to belief, that I should escape it. This fact may account, in a
measure, for my six years of endurance.

On the 18th of June I felt so much worse that I went to my bed and
stayed there until the 23d. During the night of the 18th my persistent
dread became a false belief--a delusion. What I had long expected I now
became convinced had at last occurred. I believed myself to be a
confirmed epileptic, and that conviction was stronger than any ever
held by a sound intellect. The half-resolve, made before my mind was
actually impaired, namely, that I would kill myself rather than live
the life I dreaded, now divided my attention with the belief that the
stroke had fallen. From that time my one thought was to hasten the end,
for I felt that I should lose the chance to die should relatives find
me in an attack of epilepsy.

Considering the state of my mind and my inability at that time to
appreciate the enormity of such an end as I half contemplated, my
suicidal purpose was not entirely selfish. That I had never seriously
contemplated suicide is proved by the fact that I had not provided
myself with the means of accomplishing it, despite my habit, has long
been remarked by my friends, of preparing even for unlikely
contingencies. So far as I had the control of my faculties, it must be
admitted that I deliberated; but, strictly speaking, the rash act which
followed cannot correctly be called an attempt at suicide--for how can
a man who is not himself kill himself?

Soon my disordered brain was busy with schemes for death. I distinctly
remember one which included a row on Lake Whitney, near New Haven. This
I intended to take in the most unstable boat obtainable. Such a craft
could be easily upset, and I should so bequeath to relatives and
friends a sufficient number of reasonable doubts to rob my death of the
usual stigma. I also remember searching for some deadly drug which I
hoped to find about the house. But the quantity and quality of what I
found were not such as I dared to trust. I then thought of severing my
jugular vein, even going so far as to test against my throat the edge
of a razor which, after the deadly impulse first asserted itself, I had
secreted in a convenient place. I really wished to die, but so
uncertain and ghastly a method did not appeal to me. Nevertheless, had
I felt sure that in my tremulous frenzy I could accomplish the act with
skilful dispatch, I should at once have ended my troubles.

My imaginary attacks were now recurring with distracting frequency, and
I was in constant fear of discovery. During these three or four days I
slept scarcely at all--even the medicine given to induce sleep having
little effect. Though inwardly frenzied, I gave no outward sign of my
condition. Most of the time I remained quietly in bed. I spoke but
seldom. I had practically, though not entirely, lost the power of
speech; but my almost unbroken silence aroused no suspicions as to the
seriousness of my condition.

By a process of elimination, all suicidal methods but one had at last
been put aside. On that one my mind now centred. My room was on the
fourth floor of the house--one of a block of five--in which my parents
lived. The house stood several feet back from the street. The sills of
my windows were a little more than thirty feet above the ground. Under
one was a flag pavement, extending from the house to the front gate.
Under the other was a rectangular coal-hole covered with an iron
grating. This was surrounded by flagging over a foot in width; and
connecting it and the pavement proper was another flag. So that all
along the front of the house, stone or iron filled a space at no point
less than two feet in width. It required little calculation to
determine how slight the chance of surviving a fall from either of
those windows.

About dawn I arose. Stealthily I approached a window, pushed open the
blinds, and looked out--and down. Then I closed the blinds as
noiselessly as possible and crept back to bed: I had not yet become so
irresponsible that I dared to take the leap. Scarcely had I pulled up
the covering when a watchful relative entered my room, drawn thither
perhaps by that protecting prescience which love inspires. I thought
her words revealed a suspicion that she had heard me at the window, but
speechless as I was I had enough speech to deceive her. For of what
account are Truth and Love when Life itself has ceased to seem

The dawn soon hid itself in the brilliancy of a perfect June day. Never
had I seen a brighter--to look at; never a darker--to live through--or
a better to die upon. Its very perfection and the songs of the robins,
which at that season were plentiful in the neighborhood, served but to
increase my despair and make me the more willing to die. As the day
wore on, my anguish became more intense, but I managed to mislead those
about me by uttering a word now and then, and feigning to read a
newspaper, which to me, however, appeared an unintelligible jumble of
type. My brain was in a ferment. It felt as if pricked by a million
needles at white heat. My whole body felt as though it would be torn
apart by the terrific nervous strain under which I labored.

Shortly after noon, dinner having been served, my mother entered the
room and asked me if she should bring me some dessert. I assented. It
was not that I cared for the dessert; I had no appetite. I wished to
get her out of the room, for I believed myself to be on the verge of
another attack. She left at once. I knew that in two or three minutes
she would return. The crisis seemed at hand. It was now or never for
liberation. She had probably descended one of three flights of stairs
when, with the mad desire to dash my brains out on the pavement below,
I rushed to that window which was directly over the flag walk.
Providence must have guided my movements, for in some otherwise
unaccountable way, on the very point of hurling myself out bodily, I
chose to drop feet foremost instead. With my fingers I clung for a
moment to the sill. Then I let go. In falling my body turned so as to
bring my right side toward the building. I struck the ground a little
more than two feet from the foundation of the house, and at least three
to the left of the point from which I started. Missing the stone
pavement by not more than three or four inches, I struck on
comparatively soft earth. My position must have been almost upright,
for both heels struck the ground squarely. The concussion slightly
crushed one heel bone and broke most of the small bones in the arch of
each foot, but there was no mutilation of the flesh. As my feet struck
the ground my right hand struck hard against the front of the house,
and it is probable that these three points of contact, dividing the
force of the shock, prevented my back from being broken. As it was, it
narrowly escaped a fracture and, for several weeks afterward, it felt
as if powdered glass had been substituted for cartilage between the

I did not lose consciousness even for a second, and the demoniacal
dread, which had possessed me from June, 1894, until this fall to earth
just six years later, was dispelled the instant I struck the ground. At
no time since have I experienced one of my imaginary attacks; nor has
my mind even for a moment entertained such an idea. The little demon
which had tortured me relentlessly for so many years evidently lacked
the stamina which I must have had to survive the shock of my suddenly
arrested flight through space. That the very delusion which drove me to
a death-loving desperation should so suddenly vanish would seem to
indicate that many a suicide might be averted if the person
contemplating it could find the proper assistance when such a crisis


It was squarely in front of the dining-room window that I fell, and
those at dinner were, of course, startled. It took them a second or two
to realize what had happened. Then my younger brother rushed out, and
with others carried me into the house. Naturally that dinner was
permanently interrupted. A mattress was placed on the floor of the
dining room and I on that, suffering intensely. I said little, but what
I said was significant. "I thought I had epilepsy!" was my first
remark; and several times I said, "I wish it was over!" For I believed
that my death was only a question of hours. To the doctors, who soon
arrived, I said, "My back is broken!"--raising myself slightly,
however, as I said so.

An ambulance was summoned and I was placed in it. Because of the nature
of my injuries it had to proceed slowly. The trip of a mile and a half
seemed interminable, but finally I arrived at Grace Hospital and was
placed in a room which soon became a chamber of torture. It was on the
second floor; and the first object to engage my attention and stir my
imagination was a man who appeared outside my window and placed in
position several heavy iron bars. These were, it seems, thought
necessary for my protection, but at that time no such idea occurred to
me. My mind was in a delusional state, ready and eager to seize upon
any external stimulus as a pretext for its wild inventions, and that
barred window started a terrible train of delusions which persisted for
seven hundred and ninety-eight days. During that period my mind
imprisoned both mind and body in a dungeon than which none was ever
more secure.

Knowing that those who attempt suicide are usually placed under arrest,
I believed myself under legal restraint. I imagined that at any moment
I might be taken to court to face some charge lodged against me by the
local police. Every act of those about me seemed to be a part of what,
in police parlance, is commonly called the "Third Degree." The hot
poultices placed upon my feet and ankles threw me into a profuse
perspiration, and my very active association of mad ideas convinced me
that I was being "sweated"--another police term which I had often seen
in the newspapers. I inferred that this third-degree sweating process
was being inflicted in order to extort some kind of a confession,
though what my captors wished me to confess I could not for my life
imagine. As I was really in a state of delirium, with high fever, I had
an insatiable thirst. The only liquids given me were hot saline
solutions. Though there was good reason for administering these, I
believed they were designed for no other purpose than to increase my
sufferings, as part of the same inquisitorial process. But had a
confession been due, I could hardly have made it, for that part of my
brain which controls the power of speech was seriously affected, and
was soon to be further disabled by my ungovernable thoughts. Only an
occasional word did I utter.

Certain hallucinations of hearing, or "false voices," added to my
torture. Within my range of hearing, but beyond the reach of my
understanding, there was a hellish vocal hum. Now and then I would
recognize the subdued voice of a friend; now and then I would hear the
voices of some I believed were not friends. All these referred to me
and uttered what I could not clearly distinguish, but knew must be
imprecations. Ghostly rappings on the walls and ceiling of my room
punctuated unintelligible mumblings of invisible persecutors.

I remember distinctly my delusion of the following day--Sunday. I
seemed to be no longer in the hospital. In some mysterious way I had
been spirited aboard a huge ocean liner. I first discovered this when
the ship was in mid-ocean. The day was clear, the sea apparently calm,
but for all that the ship was slowly sinking. And it was I, of course,
who had created the situation which must turn out fatally for all,
unless the coast of Europe could be reached before the water in the
hold should extinguish the fires. How had this peril overtaken us?
Simply enough: During the night I had in some way--a way still unknown
to me--opened a porthole below the water-line; and those in charge of
the vessel seemed powerless to close it. Every now and then I could
hear parts of the ship give way under the strain. I could hear the air
hiss and whistle spitefully under the resistless impact of the invading
waters; I could hear the crashing of timbers as partitions were
wrecked; and as the water rushed in at one place I could see, at
another, scores of helpless passengers swept overboard into the sea--my
unintended victims. I believed that I, too, might at any moment be
swept away. That I was not thrown into the sea by vengeful
fellow-passengers was, I thought, due to their desire to keep me alive
until, if possible, land should be reached, when a more painful death
could be inflicted upon me.

While aboard my phantom ship I managed in some way to establish an
electric railway system; and the trolley cars which passed the hospital
were soon running along the deck of my ocean liner, carrying passengers
from the places of peril to what seemed places of comparative safety at
the bow. Every time I heard a car pass the hospital, one of mine went
clanging along the ship's deck.

My feverish imaginings were no less remarkable than the external
stimuli which excited them. As I have since ascertained, there were
just outside my room an elevator and near it a speaking-tube. Whenever
the speaking-tube was used from another part of the building, the
summoning whistle conveyed to my mind the idea of the exhaustion of air
in a ship-compartment, and the opening and shutting of the elevator
door completed the illusion of a ship fast going to pieces. But the
ship my mind was on never reached any shore, nor did she sink. Like a
mirage she vanished, and again I found myself safe in my bed at the
hospital. "Safe," did I say? Scarcely that--for deliverance from one
impending disaster simply meant immediate precipitation into another.

My delirium gradually subsided, and four or five days after the 23d the
doctors were able to set my broken bones. The operation suggested new
delusions. Shortly before the adjustment of the plaster casts, my legs,
for obvious reasons, were shaved from shin to calf. This unusual
tonsorial operation I read for a sign of degradation--associating it
with what I had heard of the treatment of murderers and with similar
customs in barbarous countries. It was about this time also that strips
of court-plaster, in the form of a cross, were placed on my forehead,
which had been slightly scratched in my fall, and this, of course, I
interpreted as a brand of infamy.

Had my health been good, I should at this time have been participating
in the Triennial of my class at Yale. Indeed, I was a member of the
Triennial Committee and though, when I left New York on June 15th, I
had been feeling terribly ill, I had then hoped to take part in the
celebration. The class reunions were held on Tuesday, June 26th--three
days after my collapse. Those familiar with Yale customs know that the
Harvard baseball game is one of the chief events of the commencement
season. Headed by brass bands, all the classes whose reunions fall in
the same year march to the Yale Athletic Field to see the game and
renew their youth--using up as much vigor in one delirious day as would
insure a ripe old age if less prodigally expended. These classes, with
their bands and cheering, accompanied by thousands of other
vociferating enthusiasts, march through West Chapel Street--the most
direct route from the Campus to the Field. It is upon this line of
march that Grace Hospital is situated, and I knew that on the day of
the game the Yale thousands would pass the scene of my incarceration.

I have endured so many days of the most exquisite torture that I
hesitate to distinguish among them by degrees; each deserves its own
unique place, even as a Saint's Day in the calendar of an olden Spanish
inquisitor. But, if the palm is to be awarded to any, June 26th, 1900,
perhaps has the first claim.

My state of mind at that time might be pictured thus: The criminal
charge of attempted suicide stood against me on June 23rd. By the 26th
many other and worse charges had accumulated. The public believed me
the most despicable member of my race. The papers were filled with
accounts of my misdeeds. The thousands of collegians gathered in the
city, many of whom I knew personally, loathed the very thought that a
Yale man should so disgrace his Alma Mater. And when they approached
the hospital on their way to the Athletic Field, I concluded that it
was their intention to take me from my bed, drag me to the lawn, and
there tear me limb from limb. Few incidents during my unhappiest years
are more vividly or circumstantially impressed upon my memory. The
fear, to be sure, was absurd, but in the lurid lexicon of Unreason
there is no such word as "absurd." Believing, as I did, that I had
dishonored Yale and forfeited the privilege of being numbered among her
sons, it was not surprising that the college cheers which filled the
air that afternoon, and in which only a few days earlier I had hoped to
join, struck terror to my heart.


NATURALLY I was suspicious of all about me, and became more so each
day. But not until about a month later did I refuse to recognize my
relatives. While I was at Grace Hospital, my father and eldest brother
called almost every day to see me, and, though I said little, I still
accepted them in their proper characters. I remember well a
conversation one morning with my father. The words I uttered were few,
but full of meaning. Shortly before this time my death had been
momentarily expected. I still believed that I was surely about to die
as a result of my injuries, and I wished in some way to let my father
know that, despite my apparently ignominious end, I appreciated all
that he had done for me during my life. Few men, I believe, ever had a
more painful time in expressing their feelings than I had on that
occasion. I had but little control over my mind, and my power of speech
was impaired. My father sat beside my bed. Looking up at him, I said,
"You have been a good father to me."

"I have always tried to be," was his characteristic reply.

After the broken bones had been set, and the full effects of the severe
shock I had sustained had worn off, I began to gain strength. About the
third week I was able to sit up and was occasionally taken out of doors
But each day, and especially during the hours of the night, my
delusions increased in force and variety. The world was fast becoming
to me a stage on which every human being within the range of my senses
seemed to be playing a part, and that a part which would lead not only
to my destruction (for which I cared little), but also to the ruin of
all with whom I had ever come in contact. In the month of July several
thunder-storms occurred. To me the thunder was "stage" thunder, the
lightning man-made, and the accompanying rain due to some clever
contrivance of my persecutors. There was a chapel connected with the
hospital--or at least a room where religious services were held every
Sunday. To me the hymns were funeral dirges; and the mumbled prayers,
faintly audible, were in behalf of every sufferer in the world but one.

It was my eldest brother who looked after my care and interests during
my entire illness. Toward the end of July, he informed me that I was to
be taken home again. I must have given him an incredulous look, for he
said, "Don't you think we can take you home? Well, we can and will."
Believing myself in the hands of the police, I did not see how that was
possible. Nor did I have any desire to return. That a man who had
disgraced his family should again enter his old home and expect his
relatives to treat him as though nothing were changed, was a thought
against which my soul rebelled; and, when the day came for my return, I
fought my brother and the doctor feebly as they lifted me from the bed.
But I soon submitted, was placed in a carriage, and driven to the house
I had left a month earlier.

For a few hours my mind was calmer than it had been. But my new-found
ease was soon dispelled by the appearance of a nurse--one of several
who had attended me at the hospital. Though at home and surrounded by
relatives, I jumped to the conclusion that I was still under police
surveillance. At my request my brother had promised not to engage any
nurse who had been in attendance at the hospital. The difficulty of
procuring any other led him to disregard my request, which at the time
he held simply as a whim. But he did not disregard it entirely, for the
nurse selected had merely acted as a substitute on one occasion, and
then only for about an hour. That was long enough, though, for my
memory to record her image.

Finding myself still under surveillance, I soon jumped to a second
conclusion, namely, that this was no brother of mine at all. He
instantly appeared in the light of a sinister double, acting as a
detective. After that I refused absolutely to speak to him again, and
this repudiation I extended to all other relatives, friends and
acquaintances. If the man I had accepted as my brother was spurious, so
was everybody--that was my deduction. For more than two years I was
without relatives or friends, in fact, without a world, except that one
created by my own mind from the chaos that reigned within it.

While I was at Grace Hospital, it was my sense of hearing which was the
most disturbed. But soon after I was placed in my room at home, _all_
of my senses became perverted. I still heard the "false voices"--which
were doubly false, for Truth no longer existed. The tricks played upon
me by my senses of taste, touch, smell, and sight were the source of
great mental anguish. None of my food had its usual flavor. This soon
led to that common delusion that some of it contained poison--not
deadly poison, for I knew that my enemies hated me too much to allow me
the boon of death, but poison sufficient to aggravate my discomfort. At
breakfast I had cantaloupe, liberally sprinkled with salt. The salt
seemed to pucker my mouth, and I believed it to be powdered alum.
Usually, with my supper, sliced peaches were served. Though there was
sugar on the peaches, salt would have done as well. Salt, sugar, and
powdered alum had become the same to me.

Familiar materials had acquired a different "feel." In the dark, the
bed sheets at times seemed like silk. As I had not been born with a
golden spoon in my mouth, or other accessories of a useless luxury, I
believed the detectives had provided these silken sheets for some
hostile purpose of their own. What that purpose was I could not divine,
and my very inability to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion stimulated
my brain to the assembling of disturbing thoughts in an almost endless

Imaginary breezes struck my face, gentle, but not welcome, most of them
from parts of the room where currents of air could not possibly
originate. They seemed to come from cracks in the walls and ceiling and
annoyed me exceedingly. I thought them in some way related to that
ancient method of torture by which water is allowed to strike the
victim's forehead, a drop at a time, until death releases him. For a
while my sense of smell added to my troubles. The odor of burning human
flesh and other pestilential fumes seemed to assail me.

My sense of sight was subjected to many weird and uncanny effects.
Phantasmagoric visions made their visitations throughout the night, for
a time with such regularity that I used to await their coming with a
certain restrained curiosity. I was not entirely unaware that something
was ailing with my mind. Yet these illusions of sight I took for the
work of detectives, who sat up nights racking their brains in order to
rack and utterly wreck my own with a cruel and unfair Third Degree.

Handwriting on the wall has ever struck terror to the hearts of even
sane men. I remember as one of my most unpleasant experiences that I
began to see handwriting on the sheets of my bed staring me in the
face, and not me alone, but also the spurious relatives who often stood
or sat near me. On each fresh sheet placed over me I would soon begin
to see words, sentences, and signatures, all in my own handwriting. Yet
I could not decipher any of the words, and this fact dismayed me, for I
firmly believed that those who stood about could read them all and
found them to be incriminating evidence.

I imagined that these visionlike effects, with few exceptions, were
produced by a magic lantern controlled by some of my myriad
persecutors. The lantern was rather a cinematographic contrivance.
Moving pictures, often brilliantly colored, were thrown on the ceiling
of my room and sometimes on the sheets of my bed. Human bodies,
dismembered and gory, were one of the most common of these. All this
may have been due to the fact that, as a boy, I had fed my imagination
on the sensational news of the day as presented in the public press.
Despite the heavy penalty which I now paid for thus loading my mind, I
believe this unwise indulgence gave a breadth and variety to my
peculiar psychological experience which it otherwise would have lacked.
For with an insane ingenuity I managed to connect myself with almost
every crime of importance of which I had ever read.

Dismembered human bodies were not alone my bedfellows at this time. I
remember one vision of vivid beauty. Swarms of butterflies and large
and gorgeous moths appeared on the sheets. I wished that the usually
unkind operator would continue to show these pretty creatures. Another
pleasing vision appeared about twilight several days in succession. I
can trace it directly to impressions gained in early childhood. The
quaint pictures by Kate Greenaway--little children in attractive dress,
playing in old-fashioned gardens--would float through space just
outside my windows. The pictures were always accompanied by the gleeful
shouts of real children in the neighborhood, who, before being sent to
bed by watchful parents, devoted the last hour of the day to play. It
doubtless was their shouts that stirred my memories of childhood and
brought forth these pictures.

In my chamber of intermittent horrors and momentary delights, uncanny
occurrences were frequent. I believed there was some one who at fall of
night secreted himself under my bed. That in itself was not peculiar,
as sane persons at one time or another are troubled by that same
notion. But _my_ bed-fellow--under the bed--was a detective; and he
spent most of his time during the night pressing pieces of ice against
my injured heels, to precipitate, as I thought, my overdue confession.

The piece of ice in the pitcher of water which usually stood on the
table sometimes clinked against the pitcher's side as its center of
gravity shifted through melting. It was many days before I reasoned out
the cause of this sound; and until I did I supposed it was produced by
some mechanical device resorted to by the detectives for a purpose.
Thus the most trifling occurrence assumed for me vast significance.


After remaining at home for about a month, during which time I showed
no improvement mentally, though I did gain physically, I was taken to a
private sanatorium. My destination was frankly disclosed to me. But my
habit of disbelief had now become fixed, and I thought myself on the
way to a trial in New York City, for some one of the many crimes with
which I stood charged.

My emotions on leaving New Haven were, I imagine, much the same as
those of a condemned but penitent criminal who looks upon the world for
the last time. The day was hot, and, as we drove to the railway
station, the blinds on most of the houses in the streets through which
we passed were seen to be closed. The reason for this was not then
apparent to me. I thought I saw an unbroken line of deserted houses,
and I imagined that their desertion had been deliberately planned as a
sign of displeasure on the part of their former occupants. As citizens
of New Haven, I supposed them bitterly ashamed of such a despicable
townsman as myself. Because of the early hour, the streets were
practically deserted. This fact, too, I interpreted to my own
disadvantage. As the carriage crossed the main business thoroughfare, I
took what I believed to be my last look at that part of my native city.

From the carriage I was carried to the train and placed in the smoking
car in the last seat on the right-hand side. The back of the seat next
in front was reversed so that my legs might be placed in a comfortable
position, and one of the boards used by card-playing travelers was
placed beneath them as a support. With a consistent degree of suspicion
I paid particular attention to a blue mark on the face of the railroad
ticket held by my custodian. I took it to be a means of identification
for use in court.

That one's memory may perform its function in the grip of Unreason
itself is proved by the fact that my memory retains an impression, and
an accurate one, of virtually everything that befell me, except when
under the influence of an anaesthetic or in the unconscious hours of
undisturbed sleep. Important events, trifling conversations, and more
trifling thoughts of my own are now recalled with ease and accuracy;
whereas, prior to my illness and until a strange experience to be
recorded later, mine was an ordinary memory when it was not noticeably
poor. At school and in college I stood lowest in those studies in which
success depended largely upon this faculty. Psychiatrists inform me
that it is not unusual for those suffering as I did to retain accurate
impressions of their experiences while ill. To laymen this may seem
almost miraculous, yet it is not so; nor is it even remarkable.
Assuming that an insane person's memory is capable of recording
impressions at all, remembrance for one in the torturing grip of
delusions of persecution should be doubly easy. This deduction is in
accord with the accepted psychological law that the retention of an
impression in the memory depends largely upon the intensity of the
impression itself, and the frequency of its repetition. Fear to speak,
lest I should incriminate myself and others, gave to my impressions the
requisite intensity, and the daily recurrence of the same general line
of thought served to fix all impressions in my then supersensitive

Shortly before seven in the morning, on the way to the sanatorium, the
train passed through a manufacturing center. Many workmen were lounging
in front of a factory, most of them reading newspapers. I believed
these papers contained an account of me and my crimes, and I thought
everyone along the route knew who I was and what I was, and that I was
on that train. Few seemed to pay any attention to me, yet this very
fact looked to be a part of some well-laid plan of the detectives.

The sanatorium to which I was going was in the country. When a certain
station was reached, I was carried from the train to a carriage. At
that moment I caught sight of a former college acquaintance, whose
appearance I thought was designed to let me know that Yale, which I
believed I had disgraced, was one of the powers behind my throne of

Soon after I reached my room in the sanatorium, the supervisor entered.
Drawing a table close to the bed, he placed upon it a slip of paper
which he asked me to sign. I looked upon this as a trick of the
detectives to get a specimen of my handwriting. I now know that the
signing of the slip is a legal requirement, with which every patient is
supposed to comply upon entering such an institution--private in
character--unless he has been committed by some court. The exact
wording of this "voluntary commitment" I do not now recall; but, it
was, in substance, an agreement to abide by the rules of the
institution--whatever _they_ were--and to submit to such restraint as
might be deemed necessary. Had I not felt the weight of the world on my
shoulders, I believe my sense of humor would have caused me to laugh
outright; for the signing of such an agreement by one so situated was,
even to my mind, a farce. After much coaxing I was induced to go so far
as to take the pen in my hand. There I again hesitated. The supervisor
apparently thought I might write with more ease if the paper were
placed on a book. And so I might, had he selected a book of a different
title. One more likely to arouse suspicions in my mind could not have
been found in a search of the Congressional Library. I had left New
York on June 15th, and it was in the direction of that city that my
present trip had taken me. I considered this but the first step of my
return under the auspices of its Police Department. "Called Back" was
the title of the book that stared me in the face. After refusing for a
long time I finally weakened and signed the slip; but I did not place
it on the book. To have done that would, in my mind, have been
tantamount to giving consent to extradition; and I was in no mood to
assist the detectives in their mean work. At what cost had I signed
that commitment slip? To me it was the act of signing my own


During the entire time that my delusions of persecution, as they are
called, persisted, I could not but respect the mind that had laid out
so comprehensive and devilishly ingenious and, at times, artistic a
Third Degree as I was called upon to bear. And an innate modesty (more
or less fugitive since these peculiar experiences) does not forbid my
mentioning the fact that I still respect that mind.

Suffering such as I endured during the month of August in my own home
continued with gradually diminishing force during the eight months I
remained in this sanatorium. Nevertheless my sufferings during the
first four of these eight months was intense. All my senses were still
perverted. My sense of sight was the first to right itself--nearly
enough, at least, to rob the detectives of their moving pictures. But
before the last fitful film had run through my mind, I beheld one which
I shall now describe. I can trace it directly to an impression made on
my memory about two years earlier, before my breakdown.

Shortly after going to New York to live, I had explored the Eden Musee.
One of the most gruesome of the spectacles which I had seen in its
famed Chamber of Horrors was a representation of a gorilla, holding in
its arms the gory body of a woman. It was that impression which now
revived in my mind. But by a process strictly in accordance with
Darwin's theory, the Eden Musee gorilla had become a man--in appearance
not unlike the beast that had inspired my distorted thought. This man
held a bloody dagger which he repeatedly plunged into the woman's
breast. The apparition did not terrify me at all. In fact I found it
interesting, for I looked upon it as a contrivance of the detectives.
Its purpose I could not divine, but this fact did not trouble me, as I
reasoned that no additional criminal charges could make my situation
worse than it already was.

For a month or two, "false voices" continued to annoy me. And if there
is a hell conducted on the principles of my temporary hell, gossippers
will one day wish they had attended strictly to their own business.
This is not a confession. I am no gossipper, though I cannot deny that
I have occasionally gossipped--a little. And this was my punishment:
persons in an adjoining room seemed to be repeating the very same
things which I had said of others on these communicative occasions. I
supposed that those whom I had talked about had in some way found me
out, and intended now to take their revenge.

My sense of smell, too, became normal; but my sense of taste was slow
in recovering. At each meal, poison was still the _piece de
resistance_, and it was not surprising that I sometimes dallied one,
two, or three hours over a meal, and often ended by not eating it at

There was, however, another reason for my frequent refusal to take
food, in my belief that the detectives had resorted to a more subtle
method of detection. They now intended by each article of food to
suggest a certain idea, and I was expected to recognize the idea thus
suggested. Conviction or acquittal depended upon my correct
interpretation of their symbols, and my interpretation was to be
signified by my eating, or not eating, the several kinds of food placed
before me. To have eaten a burnt crust of bread would have been a
confession of arson. Why? Simply because the charred crust suggested
fire; and, as bread is the staff of life, would it not be an inevitable
deduction that life had been destroyed--destroyed by fire--and that I
was the destroyer? On one day to eat a given article of food meant
confession. The next day, or the next meal, a refusal to eat it meant
confession. This complication of logic made it doubly difficult for me
to keep from incriminating myself and others.

It can easily be seen that I was between several devils and the deep
sea. To eat or not to eat perplexed me more than the problem conveyed
by a few shorter words perplexed a certain prince, who, had he lived a
few centuries later (out of a book), might have been forced to enter a
kingdom where kings and princes are made and unmade on short notice.
Indeed, he might have lost his principality entirely--or, at least, his
subjects; for, as I later had occasion to observe, the frequency with
which a dethroned reason mounts a throne and rules a world is such that
self-crowned royalty receives but scant homage from the less elated
members of the court.

For several weeks I ate but little. Though the desire for food was not
wanting, my mind (that dog-in-the-manger) refused to let me satisfy my
hunger. Coaxing by the attendants was of little avail; force was
usually of less. But the threat that liquid nourishment would be
administered through my nostrils sometimes prevailed for the attribute
of shrewdness was not so utterly lost that I could not choose the less
of two evils.

What I looked upon as a gastronomic ruse of the detectives sometimes
overcame my fear of eating. Every Sunday ice cream was served with
dinner. At the beginning of the meal a large pyramid of it would be
placed before me in a saucer several sizes too small. I believed that
it was never to be mine unless I first partook of the more substantial
fare. As I dallied over the meal, that delicious pyramid would
gradually melt, slowly filling the small saucer, which I knew could not
long continue to hold all of its original contents. As the melting of
the ice cream progressed, I became more indifferent to my eventual
fate; and, invariably, before a drop of that precious reward had
dripped from the saucer, I had eaten enough of the dinner to prove my
title to the seductive dessert. Moreover, during its enjoyment, I no
longer cared a whit for charges or convictions of all the crimes in the
calendar. This fact is less trifling than it seems; for it proves the
value of strategy as opposed to brute and sometimes brutal force, of
which I shall presently give some illuminating examples.


Choice of a sanatorium by people of limited means is, unfortunately,
very restricted. Though my relatives believed the one in which I was
placed was at least fairly well conducted, events proved otherwise.
From a modest beginning made not many years previously, it had enjoyed
a mushroom growth. About two hundred and fifty patients were harbored
in a dozen or more small frame buildings, suggestive of a mill
settlement. Outside the limits of a city and in a state where there was
lax official supervision, owing in part to faulty laws, the owner of
this little settlement of woe had erected a nest of veritable
fire-traps in which helpless sick people were forced to risk their
lives. This was a necessary procedure if the owner was to grind out an
exorbitant income on his investment.

The same spirit of economy and commercialism pervaded the entire
institution. Its worst manifestation was in the employment of the
meanest type of attendant--men willing to work for the paltry wage of
eighteen dollars a month. Very seldom did competent attendants consent
to work there, and then usually because of a scarcity of profitable
employment elsewhere. Providentially for me, such an attendant came
upon the scene. This young man, so long as he remained in the good
graces of the owner-superintendent, was admittedly one of the best
attendants he had ever had. Yet aside from a five-dollar bill which a
relative had sent me at Christmas and which I had refused to accept
because of my belief that it, like my relatives, was counterfeit--aside
from that bill, which was turned over to the attendant by my brother,
he received no additional pecuniary rewards. His chief reward lay in
his consciousness of the fact that he was protecting me against
injustices which surely would have been visited upon me had he quitted
his position and left me to the mercies of the owner and his ignorant
assistants. To-day, with deep appreciation, I contrast the treatment I
received at his hands with that which I suffered during the three weeks
preceding his appearance on the scene. During that period, no fewer
than seven attendants contributed to my misery. Though some of them
were perhaps decent enough fellows outside a sickroom, not one had the
right to minister to a patient in my condition.

The two who were first put in charge of me did not strike me with their
fists or even threaten to do so; but their unconscious lack of
consideration for my comfort and peace of mind was torture. They were
typical eighteen-dollar-a-month attendants. Another of the same sort,
on one occasion, cursed me with a degree of brutality which I prefer
not to recall, much less record. And a few days later the climax was
appropriately capped when still another attendant perpetrated an
outrage which a sane man would have resented to the point of homicide.
He was a man of the coarsest type. His hands would have done credit to
a longshoreman--fingers knotted and nearly twice the normal size.
Because I refused to obey a peremptory command, and this at a time when
I habitually refused even on pain of imagined torture to obey or to
speak, this brute not only cursed me with abandon, he deliberately spat
upon me. I was a mental incompetent, but like many others in a similar
position I was both by antecedents and by training a gentleman. Vitriol
could not have seared my flesh more deeply than the venom of this human
viper stung my soul! Yet, as I was rendered speechless by delusions, I
could offer not so much as a word of protest. I trust that it is not
now too late, however, to protest in behalf of the thousands of
outraged patients in private and state hospitals whose mute submission
to such indignities has never been recorded.

Of the readiness of an unscrupulous owner to employ inferior
attendants, I shall offer a striking illustration. The capable
attendant who acted as my protector at this sanatorium has given me an
affidavit embodying certain facts which, of course, I could not have
known at the time of their occurrence. The gist of this sworn statement
is as follows: One day a man--seemingly a tramp--approached the main
building of the sanatorium and inquired for the owner. He soon found
him, talked with him a few minutes, and an hour or so later he was
sitting at the bedside of an old and infirm man. This aged patient had
recently been committed to the institution by relatives who had labored
under the common delusion that the payment of a considerable sum of
money each week would insure kindly treatment. When this
tramp-attendant first appeared, all his visible worldly possessions
were contained in a small bundle which he carried under his arm. So
filthy were his person and his clothes that he received a compulsory
bath and another suit before being assigned to duty. He then began to
earn his four dollars and fifty cents a week by sitting several hours a
day in the room with the aged man, sick unto death. My informant soon
engaged him in conversation. What did he learn? First, that the uncouth
stranger had never before so much as crossed the threshold of a
hospital. His last job had been as a member of a section-gang on a
railroad. From the roadbed of a railway to the bedside of a man about
to die was indeed a change which might have taxed the adaptability of a
more versatile being. But coarse as he was, this unkempt novice did not
abuse his charge--except in so far as his inability to interpret or
anticipate wants contributed to the sick man's distress. My own
attendant, realizing that the patient was suffering for the want of
skilled attention, spent a part of his time in this unhappy room, which
was but across the hall from my own. The end soon came.

My attendant, who had had training as a nurse, detected the
unmistakable signs of impending death. He forthwith informed the owner
of the sanatorium that the patient was in a dying condition, and urged
him (a doctor) to go at once to the bedside. The doctor refused to
comply with the request on the plea that he was at the time "too busy."
When at last he did visit the room, the patient was dead. Then came the
supervisor, who took charge of the body. As it was being carried from
the room the supervisor, the "handy man" of the owner, said: "There
goes the best paying patient the institution had; the doctor" (meaning
the owner) "was getting eighty-five dollars a week out of him." Of this
sum not more than twenty dollars at most, at the time this happened,
could be considered as "cost of maintenance." The remaining sixty-five
dollars went into the pocket of the owner. Had the man lived for one
year, the owner might have pocketed (so far as this one case was
concerned) the neat but wicked profit of thirty-three hundred and
eighty dollars. And what would the patient have received? The same
privilege of living in neglect and dying neglected.


For the first few weeks after my arrival at the sanatorium, I was cared
for by two attendants, one by day and one by night. I was still
helpless, being unable to put my feet out of bed, much less upon the
floor, and it was necessary that I be continually watched lest an
impulse to walk should seize me. After a month or six weeks, however, I
grew stronger, and from that time only one person was assigned to care
for me. He was with me all day, and slept at night in the same room.

The earliest possible dismissal of one of my two attendants was
expedient for the family purse; but such are the deficiencies in the
prevailing treatment of the insane that relief in one direction often
occasions evil in another. No sooner was the expense thus reduced than
I was subjected to a detestable form of restraint which amounted to
torture. To guard me at night while the remaining attendant slept, my
hands were imprisoned in what is known as a "muff." A muff, innocent
enough to the eyes of those who have never worn one, is in reality a
relic of the Inquisition. It is an instrument of restraint which has
been in use for centuries and even in many of our public and private
institutions is still in use. The muff I wore was made of canvas, and
differed in construction from a muff designed for the hands of fashion
only in the inner partition, also of canvas, which separated my hands,
but allowed them to overlap. At either end was a strap which buckled
tightly around the wrist and was locked.

The assistant physician, when he announced to me that I was to be
subjected at night to this restraint, broke the news gently--so gently
that I did not then know, nor did I guess for several months, why this
thing was done to me. And thus it was that I drew deductions of my own
which added not a little to my torture.

The gas jet in my room was situated at a distance, and stronger light
was needed to find the keyholes and lock the muff when adjusted. Hence,
an attendant was standing by with a lighted candle. Seating himself on
the side of the bed, the physician said: "You won't try again to do
what you did in New Haven, will you?" Now one may have done many things
in a city where he has lived for a score of years, and it is not
surprising that I failed to catch the meaning of the doctor's question.
It was only after months of secret puzzling that I at last did discover
his reference to my attempted suicide. But now the burning candle in
the hands of the attendant, and a certain similarity between the
doctor's name and the name of a man whose trial for arson I once
attended out of idle curiosity, led me to imagine that in some way I
had been connected with that crime. For months I firmly believed I
stood charged as an accomplice.

The putting on of the muff was the most humiliating incident of my
life. The shaving of my legs and the wearing of the court-plaster brand
of infamy had been humiliating, but those experiences had not
overwhelmed my very heart as did this bitter ordeal. I resisted weakly,
and, after the muff was adjusted and locked, for the first time since
my mental collapse I wept. And I remember distinctly why I wept. The
key that locked the muff unlocked in imagination the door of the home
in New Haven which I believed I had disgraced--and seemed for a time to
unlock my heart. Anguish beat my mind into a momentary sanity, and with
a wholly sane emotion I keenly felt my imagined disgrace. My thoughts
centred on my mother. Her (and other members of the family) I could
plainly see at home in a state of dejection and despair over her
imprisoned and heartless son. I wore the muff each night for several
weeks, and for the first few nights the unhappy glimpses of a ruined
home recurred and increased my sufferings.

It was not always as an instrument of restraint that the muff was
employed. Frequently it was used as a means of discipline on account of
supposed stubborn disobedience. Many times was I roughly overpowered by
two attendants who locked my hands and coerced me to do whatever I had
refused to do. My arms and hands were my only weapons of defence. My
feet were still in plaster casts, and my back had been so severely
injured as to necessitate my lying flat upon it most of the time. It
was thus that these unequal fights were fought. And I had not even the
satisfaction of tongue-lashing my oppressors, for I was practically

My attendants, like most others in such institutions, were incapable of
understanding the operations of my mind, and what they could not
understand they would seldom tolerate. Yet they were not entirely to
blame. They were simply carrying out to the letter orders received from
the doctors.

To ask a patient in my condition to take a little medicated sugar
seemed reasonable. But from my point of view my refusal was
justifiable. That innocuous sugar disc to me seemed saturated with the
blood of loved ones; and so much as to touch it was to shed their
blood--perhaps on the very scaffold on which I was destined to die. For
myself I cared little. I was anxious to die, and eagerly would I have
taken the sugar disc had I had any reason to believe that it was deadly
poison. The sooner I could die and be forgotten, the better for all
with whom I had ever come in contact. To continue to live was simply to
be the treacherous tool of unscrupulous detectives, eager to
exterminate my innocent relatives and friends, if so their fame could
be made secure in the annals of their craft.

But the thoughts associated with the taking of the medicine were seldom
twice alike. If before taking it something happened to remind me of
mother, father, some other relative, or a friend, I imagined that
compliance would compromise, if not eventually destroy, that particular
person. Who would not resist when meek acceptance would be a confession
which would doom his own mother or father to prison, or ignominy, or
death? It was for this that I was reviled, for this, subjected to cruel

They thought I was stubborn. In the strict sense of the word there is
no such thing as a stubborn insane person. The truly stubborn men and
women in the world are sane; and the fortunate prevalence of sanity may
be approximately estimated by the preponderance of stubbornness in
society at large. When one possessed of the power of recognizing his
own errors continues to hold an unreasonable belief--that is
stubbornness. But for a man bereft of reason to adhere to an idea which
to him seems absolutely correct and true because he has been deprived
of the means of detecting his error--that is not stubbornness. It is a
symptom of his disease, and merits the indulgence of forbearance, if
not genuine sympathy. Certainly the afflicted one deserves no
punishment. As well punish with a blow the cheek that is disfigured by
the mumps.

The attendant who was with me most of the time while I remained at the
sanatorium was the kindly one already mentioned. Him I regarded,
however, as a detective, or, rather, as two detectives, one of whom
watched me by day, and the other--a perfect double--by night. He was an
enemy, and his professed sympathy--which I now know was genuine--only
made me hate him the more. As he was ignorant of the methods of
treatment in vogue in hospitals for the insane, it was several weeks
before he dared put in jeopardy his position by presuming to shield me
against unwise orders of the doctors. But when at last he awoke to the
situation, he repeatedly intervened in my behalf. More than once the
doctor who was both owner and superintendent threatened to discharge
him for alleged officiousness. But better judgment usually held the
doctor's wrath in check, for he realized that not one attendant in a
hundred was so competent.

Not only did the friendly attendant frequently exhibit more wisdom than
the superintendent, but he also obeyed the dictates of a better
conscience than that of his nominal superior, the assistant physician.
On three occasions this man treated me with a signal lack of
consideration, and in at least one instance he was vicious. When this
latter incident occurred, I was both physically and mentally helpless.
My feet were swollen and still in plaster bandages. I was all but mute,
uttering only an occasional expletive when forced to perform acts
against my will.

One morning Doctor No-name (he represents a type) entered my room.

"Good morning! How are you feeling?" he asked.

No answer.

"Aren't you feeling well?"

No answer.

"Why don't you talk?" he asked with irritation.

Still no answer, except perhaps a contemptuous look such as is so often
the essence of eloquence. Suddenly, and without the slightest warning,
as a petulant child locked in a room for disobedience might treat a
pillow, he seized me by an arm and jerked me from the bed. It was
fortunate that the bones of my ankles and feet, not yet thoroughly
knitted, were not again injured. And this was the performance of the
very man who had locked my hands in the muff, that I might not injure

"Why don't you talk?" he again asked.

Though rather slow in replying, I will take pleasure in doing so by
sending that doctor a copy of this book--my answer--if he will but send
me his address.

It is not a pleasant duty to brand any physician for cruelty and
incompetence, for the worst that ever lived has undoubtedly done many
good deeds. But here is the type of man that has wrought havoc among
the helpless insane. And the owner represented a type that has too long
profited through the misfortunes of others. "Pay the price or put your
relative in a public institution!" is the burden of his discordant song
before commitment. "Pay or get out!" is his jarring refrain when
satisfied that the family's resources are exhausted. I later learned
that this grasping owner had bragged of making a profit of $98,000 in a
single year. About twenty years later he left an estate of
approximately $1,500,000. Some of the money, however, wrung from
patients and their relatives in the past may yet benefit similar
sufferers in the future, for, under the will of the owner, several
hundred thousand dollars will eventually be available as an endowment
for the institution.


It was at the sanatorium that my ankles were finally restored to a
semblance of their former utility. They were there subjected to a
course of heroic treatment; but as to-day they permit me to walk, run,
dance, and play tennis and golf, as do those who have never been
crippled, my hours of torture endured under my first attempts to walk
are almost pleasant to recall. About five months from the date of my
injury I was allowed, or rather compelled, to place my feet on the
floor and attempt to walk. My ankles were still swollen, absolutely
without action, and acutely sensitive to the slightest pressure. From
the time they were hurt until I again began to talk--two years later--I
asked not one question as to the probability of my ever regaining the
use of them. The fact was, I never expected to walk naturally again.
The desire of the doctors to have me walk I believed to be inspired by
the detectives, of whom, indeed, I supposed the doctor himself to be
one. Had there been any confession to make, I am sure it would have
been yielded under the stress of this ultimate torture. The million
needle points which, just prior to my mental collapse, seemed to goad
my brain, now centred their unwelcome attention on the soles of my
feet. Had the floor been studded with minute stilettos my sufferings
could hardly have been more intense. For several weeks assistance was
necessary with each attempt to walk, and each attempt was an ordeal.
Sweat stood in beads on either foot, wrung from my blood by agony.
Believing that it would be only a question of time when I should be
tried, condemned, and executed for some one of my countless felonies, I
thought that the attempt to prevent my continuing a cripple for the
brief remainder of my days was prompted by anything but benevolence.

The superintendent would have proved himself more humane had he not
peremptorily ordered my attendant to discontinue the use of a support
which, until the plaster bandages were removed, had enabled me to keep
my legs in a horizontal position when I sat up. His order was that I
should put my legs down and keep them down, whether it hurt or not. The
pain was of course intense when the blood again began to circulate
freely through tissues long unused to its full pressure, and so evident
was my distress that the attendant ignored the doctor's command and
secretly favored me. He would remove the forbidden support for only a
few minutes at a time, gradually lengthening the intervals until at
last I was able to do without the support entirely. Before long and
each day for several weeks I was forced at first to stagger and finally
to walk across the room and back to the bed. The distance was increased
as the pain diminished, until I was able to walk without more
discomfort than a comparatively pleasant sensation of lameness. For at
least two months after my feet first touched the floor I had to be
carried up and downstairs, and for several months longer I went

Delusions of persecution--which include "delusions of
self-reference"--though a source of annoyance while I was in an
inactive state, annoyed and distressed me even more when I began to
move about and was obliged to associate with other patients. To my
mind, not only were the doctors and attendants detectives; each patient
was a detective and the whole institution was a part of the Third
Degree. Scarcely any remark was made in my presence that I could not
twist into a cleverly veiled reference to myself. In each person I
could see a resemblance to persons I had known, or to the principals or
victims of the crimes with which I imagined myself charged. I refused
to read; for to read veiled charges and fail to assert my innocence was
to incriminate both myself and others. But I looked with longing
glances upon all printed matter and, as my curiosity was continually
piqued, this enforced abstinence grew to be well-nigh intolerable.

It became again necessary to the family purse that every possible
saving be made. Accordingly, I was transferred from the main building,
where I had a private room and a special attendant, to a ward where I
was to mingle, under an aggregate sort of supervision, with fifteen or
twenty other patients. Here I had no special attendant by day, though
one slept in my room at night.

Of this ward I had heard alarming reports--and these from the lips of
several attendants. I was, therefore, greatly disturbed at the proposed
change. But, the transfer once accomplished, after a few days I really
liked my new quarters better than the old. During the entire time I
remained at the sanatorium I was more alert mentally than I gave
evidence of being. But not until after my removal to this ward, where I
was left alone for hours every day, did I dare to show my alertness.
Here I even went so far on one occasion as to joke with the attendant
in charge. He had been trying to persuade me to take a bath. I refused,
mainly because I did not like the looks of the bath room, which, with
its cement floor and central drain, resembled the room in which
vehicles are washed in a modern stable. After all else had failed, the
attendant tried the role of sympathizer.

"Now I know just how you feel," he said, "I can put myself in your

"Well, if you can, do it and take the bath yourself," was my retort.

The remark is brilliant by contrast with the dismal source from which
it escaped. "Escaped" is the word; for the fear that I should hasten my
trial by exhibiting too great a gain in health, mental or physical, was
already upon me; and it controlled much of my conduct during the
succeeding months of depression.

Having now no special attendant, I spent many hours in my room, alone,
but not absolutely alone, for somewhere the eye of a detective was
evermore upon me. Comparative solitude, however, gave me courage; and
soon I began to read, regardless of consequences. During the entire
period of my depression, every publication seemed to have been written
and printed for me, and me alone. Books, magazines, and newspapers
seemed to be special editions. The fact that I well knew how inordinate
would be the cost of such a procedure in no way shook my belief in it.
Indeed, that I was costing my persecutors fabulous amounts of money was
a source of secret satisfaction. My belief in special editions of
newspapers was strengthened by items which seemed too trivial to
warrant publication in any except editions issued for a special
purpose. I recall a seemingly absurd advertisement, in which the
phrase, "Green Bluefish," appeared. At the time I did not know that
"green" was a term used to denote "fresh" or "unsalted."

During the earliest stages of my illness I had lost count of time, and
the calendar did not right itself until the day when I largely regained
my reason. Meanwhile, the date on each newspaper was, according to my
reckoning, two weeks out of the way. This confirmed my belief in the
special editions as a part of the Third Degree.

Most sane people think that no insane person can reason logically. But
this is not so. Upon unreasonable premises I made most reasonable
deductions, and that at the time when my mind was in its most disturbed
condition. Had the newspapers which I read on the day which I supposed
to be February 1st borne a January date, I might not then, for so long
a time, have believed in special editions. Probably I should have
inferred that the regular editions had been held back. But the
newspapers I had were dated about two weeks _ahead_. Now if a sane
person on February 1st receives a newspaper dated February 14th, be
will be fully justified in thinking something wrong, either with the
publication or with himself. But the shifted calendar which had planted
itself in my mind meant as much to me as the true calendar does to any
sane business man. During the seven hundred and ninety-eight days of
depression I drew countless incorrect deductions. But, such as they
were, they were deductions, and essentially the mental process was not
other than that which takes place in a well-ordered mind.

My gradually increasing vitality, although it increased my fear of
trial, impelled me to take new risks. I began to read not only
newspapers, but also such books as were placed within my reach. Yet had
they not been placed there, I should have gone without them, for I
would never ask even for what I greatly desired and knew I could have
for the asking.

Whatever love of literature I now have dates from this time, when I was
a mental incompetent and confined in an institution. Lying on a shelf
in my room was a book by George Eliot. For several days I cast longing
glances at it and finally plucked up the courage to take little nibbles
now and then. These were so good that I grew bold and at last began
openly to read the book. Its contents at the time made but little
impression on my mind, but I enjoyed it. I read also some of Addison's
essays; and had I been fortunate enough to have made myself familiar
with these earlier in life, I might have been spared the delusion that
I could detect, in many passages, the altering hand of my persecutors.

The friendly attendant, from whom I was now separated, tried to send
his favors after me into my new quarters. At first he came in person to
see me, but the superintendent soon forbade that, and also ordered him
not to communicate with me in any way. It was this disagreement, and
others naturally arising between such a doctor and such an attendant,
that soon brought about the discharge of the latter. But "discharge" is
hardly the word, for he had become disgusted with the institution, and
had remained so long only because of his interest in me. Upon leaving,
he informed the owner that he would soon cause my removal from the
institution. This he did. I left the sanatorium in March, 1901, and
remained for three months in the home of this kindly fellow, who lived
with a grandmother and an aunt in Wallingford, a town not far from New

It is not to be inferred that I entertained any affection for my
friendly keeper. I continued to regard him as an enemy; and my life at
his home became a monotonous round of displeasure. I took my three
meals a day. I would sit listlessly for hours at a time in the house.
Daily I went out--accompanied, of course--for short walks about the
town. These were not enjoyable. I believed everybody was familiar with
my black record and expected me to be put to death. Indeed, I wondered
why passers-by did not revile or even stone me. Once I was sure I heard
a little girl call me "Traitor!" That, I believe, was my last "false
voice," but it made such an impression that I can even now recall
vividly the appearance of that dreadful child. It was not surprising
that a piece of rope, old and frayed, which someone had carelessly
thrown on a hedge by a cemetery that I sometimes passed, had for me
great significance.

During these three months I again refused to read books, though within
my reach, but I sometimes read newspapers. Still I would not speak,
except under some unusual stress of emotion. The only time I took the
initiative in this regard while living in the home of my attendant was
on a bitterly cold and snowy day when I had the temerity to tell him
that the wind had blown the blanket from a horse that had been standing
for a long time in front of the house. The owner had come inside to
transact some business with my attendant's relatives. In appearance he
reminded me of the uncle to whom this book is dedicated. I imagined the
mysterious caller was impersonating him and, by one of my curious
mental processes, I deduced that it was incumbent on me to do for the
dumb beast outside what I knew my uncle would have done had he been
aware of its plight. My reputation for decency of feeling I believed to
be gone forever; but I could not bear, in this situation, to be
unworthy of my uncle, who, among those who knew him, was famous for his
kindliness and humanity.

My attendant and his relatives were very kind and very patient, for I
was still intractable. But their efforts to make me comfortable, so far
as they had any effect, made keener my desire to kill myself. I shrank
from death; but I preferred to die by my own hand and take the blame
for it, rather than to be executed and bring lasting disgrace on my
family, friends, and, I may add with truth, on Yale. For I reasoned
that parents throughout the country would withhold their sons from a
university which numbered among its graduates such a despicable being.
But from any tragic act I was providentially restrained by the very
delusion which gave birth to the desire--in a way which signally
appeared on a later and, to me, a memorable day.


I am in a position not unlike that of a man whose obituary notice has
appeared prematurely. Few have ever had a better opportunity than I to
test the affection of their relatives and friends. That mine did their
duty and did it willingly is naturally a constant source of
satisfaction to me. Indeed, I believe that this unbroken record of
devotion is one of the factors which eventually made it possible for me
to take up again my duties in the social and business world, with a
comfortable feeling of continuity. I can, indeed, now view my past in
as matter-of-fact a way as do those whose lives have been uniformly

As I have seen scores of patients neglected by their relatives--a
neglect which they resent and often brood upon--my sense of gratitude
is the livelier, and especially so because of the difficulty with which
friendly intercourse with me was maintained during two of the three
years I was ill. Relatives and friends frequently called to see me.
True, these calls were trying for all concerned. I spoke to none, not
even to my mother and father. For, though they all appeared about as
they used to do, I was able to detect some slight difference in look or
gesture or intonation of voice, and this was enough to confirm my
belief that they were impersonators, engaged in a conspiracy, not
merely to entrap me, but to incriminate those whom they impersonated.
It is not strange, then, that I refused to say anything to them, or to
permit them to come near me. To have kissed the woman who was my
mother, but whom I believed to be a federal conspirator, would have
been an act of betrayal. These interviews were much harder for my
relatives and friends than for me. But even for me they were ordeals;
and though I suffered less at these moments than my callers, my sum of
suffering was greater, for I was constantly anticipating these
unwelcome, but eventually beneficial, visitations.

Suppose my relatives and friends had held aloof during this apparently
hopeless period, what to-day would be my feelings toward them? Let
others answer. For over two years I considered all letters forgeries.
Yet the day came when I convinced myself of their genuineness and the
genuineness of the love of those who sent them. Perhaps persons who
have relatives among the more than a quarter of a million patients in
institutions in this country to-day will find some comfort in this
fact. To be on the safe and humane side, let every relative and friend
of persons so afflicted remember the Golden Rule, which has never been
suspended with respect to the insane. Go to see them, treat them
sanely, write to them, keep them informed about the home circle; let
not your devotion flag, nor accept any repulse.

The consensus now was that my condition was unlikely ever to improve,
and the question of my commitment to some institution where incurable
cases could be cared for came up for decision. While it was being
considered, my attendant kept assuring me that it would be unnecessary
to commit me to an institution if I would but show some improvement. So
he repeatedly suggested that I go to New Haven and spend a day at home.
At this time, it will be recalled, I was all but mute, so, being unable
to beguile me into speech, the attendant one morning laid out for my
use a more fashionable shirt than I usually wore, telling me to put it
on if I wished to make the visit. That day it took me an unusually long
time to dress, but in the end I put on the designated garment. Thus did
one part of my brain outwit another.

I simply chose the less of two evils. The greater was to find myself
again committed to an institution. Nothing else would have induced me
to go to New Haven. I did not wish to go. To my best knowledge and
belief, I had no home there, nor did I have any relatives or friends
who would greet me upon my return. How could they, if still free, even
approach me while I was surrounded by detectives? Then, too, I had a
lurking suspicion that my attendant's offer was made in the belief that
I would not dare accept it. By taking him at his word, I knew that I
should at least have an opportunity to test the truth of many of his
statements regarding my old home. Life had become insupportable; and
back of my consent to make this experimental visit was a willingness to
beard the detectives in their own den, regardless of consequences. With
these and many other reflections I started for the train. The events of
the journey which followed are of no moment. We soon reached the New
Haven station; and, as I had expected, no relative or friend was there
to greet us. This apparent indifference seemed to support my suspicion
that my attendant had not told me the truth; but I found little
satisfaction in uncovering his deceit, for the more of a liar I proved
him to be, the worse would be my plight. We walked to the front of the
station and stood there for almost half an hour. The unfortunate, but
perfectly natural, wording of a question caused the delay.

"Well, shall we go home?" my attendant said.

How could I say, "Yes"? I had no home. I feel sure I should finally
have said, "No", had he continued to put the question in that form.
Consciously or unconsciously, however, he altered it. "Shall we go to
30 Trumbull Street?" That was what I had been waiting for. Certainly I
would go to the house designated by that number. I had come to New
Haven to see that house; and I had just a faint hope that its
appearance and the appearance of its occupants might prove convincing.

At home my visit came as a complete surprise. I could not believe that
my relatives--if they were relatives--had not been informed of my
presence in the city, and their words and actions upon my arrival
confirmed my suspicion and extinguished the faint hope I had briefly
cherished. My hosts were simply the same old persecutors with whom I
had already had too much to do. Soon after my arrival, dinner was
served. I sat at my old place at the table, and secretly admired the
skill with which he who asked the blessing imitated the language and
the well-remembered intonation of my father's voice. But alas for the
family!--I imagined my relatives banished and languishing in prison,
and the old home confiscated by the government!


Though my few hours at home failed to prove that I did not belong in an
institution, it served one good purpose. Certain relatives who had
objected to my commitment now agreed that there was no alternative,
and, accordingly, my eldest brother caused himself to be appointed my
conservator. He had long favored taking such action, but other
relatives had counseled delay. They had been deterred by that inbred
dread of seeing a member of the family branded by law as a mental
incompetent, and, to a degree, stigmatized by the prevailing
unwarranted attitude of the public toward mental illness and the
institutions in which mental cases are treated. The very thought was
repellent; and a mistaken sense of duty--and perhaps a suggestion of
pride--led them to wish me out of such an institution as long as

Though at the time I dreaded commitment, it was the best possible thing
that could befall me. To be, as I was, in the world but not of it, was
exasperating. The constant friction that is inevitable under such
conditions--conditions such as existed for me in the home of my
attendant--can only aggravate the mental disturbance. Especially is
this true of those laboring under delusions of persecution. Such
delusions multiply with the complexity of the life led. It is the
even-going routine of institutional life which affords the
indispensable quieting effect--provided that routine is well ordered,
and not defeated by annoyances imposed by ignorant or indifferent
doctors and attendants.

My commitment occurred on June 11th, 1901. The institution to which I
was committed was a chartered, private institution, but not run for
personal profit. It was considered one of the best of its kind in the
country and was pleasantly situated. Though the view was a restricted
one, a vast expanse of lawn, surrounded by groups of trees, like
patches of primeval forest, gave the place an atmosphere which was not
without its remedial effect. My quarters were comfortable, and after a
little time I adjusted myself to my new environment.

Breakfast was served about half-past seven, though the hour varied
somewhat according to the season--earlier in summer and later in
winter. In the spring, summer, and autumn, when the weather was
favorable, those able to go out of doors were taken after breakfast for
walks within the grounds, or were allowed to roam about the lawn and
sit under the trees, where they remained for an hour or two at a time.
Dinner was usually served shortly after noon, and then the active
patients were again taken out of doors, where they remained an hour or
two doing much as they pleased, but under watchful eyes. About
half-past three they returned to their respective wards, there to
remain until the next day--except those who cared to attend the
religious service which was held almost every afternoon in an endowed

In all institutions those confined in different kinds of wards go to
bed at different hours. The patients in the best wards retire at nine
or ten o'clock. Those in the wards where more troublesome cases are
treated go to bed usually at seven or eight o'clock. I, while
undergoing treatment, have retired at all hours, so that I am in the
better position to describe the mysteries of what is, in a way, one of
the greatest secret societies in the world. I soon became accustomed to
the rather agreeable routine, and had I not been burdened with the
delusions which held me a prisoner of the police, and kept me a
stranger to my old world, I should have been able to enjoy a
comparatively happy existence in spite of all.

This new feeling of comparative contentment had not been brought about
by any marked improvement in health. It was due directly and entirely
to an environment more nearly in tune with my ill-tuned mind. While
surrounded by sane people my mental inferiority had been painfully
apparent to me, as well as to others. Here a feeling of superiority
easily asserted itself, for many of my associates were, to my mind,
vastly inferior to myself. But this stimulus did not affect me at once.
For several weeks I believed the institution to be peopled by
detectives, feigning insanity. The government was still operating the
Third Degree, only on a grander scale. Nevertheless, I did soon come to
the conclusion that the institution was what it purported to be--still
cherishing the idea, however, that certain patients and attaches were

For a while after my arrival I again abandoned my new-found reading
habit. But as I became accustomed to my surroundings I grew bolder and
resumed the reading of newspapers and such books as were at hand. There
was a bookcase in the ward, filled with old numbers of standard English
periodicals; among them: _Westminster Review, Edinburgh Review, London
Quarterly_, and _Blackwood's_. There were also copies of _Harper's_ and
_The Atlantic Monthly_, dated a generation or more before my first
reading days. Indeed, some of the reviews were over fifty years old.
But I had to read their heavy contents or go without reading, for I
would not yet ask even for a thing I ardently desired. In the room of
one of the patients were thirty or forty books belonging to him. Time
and again I walked by his door and cast longing glances at those books,
which at first I had not the courage to ask for or to take. But during
the summer, about the time I was getting desperate, I finally managed
to summon enough courage to take them surreptitiously. It was usually
while the owner of these books was attending the daily service in the
chapel that his library became a circulating one.

The contents of the books I read made perhaps a deeper impression on my
memory than most books make on the minds of normal readers. To assure
myself of the fact, I have since reread "The Scarlet Letter," and I
recognize it as an old friend. The first part of the story, however,
wherein Hawthorne describes his work as a Custom House official and
portrays his literary personality, seems to have made scarcely any
impression. This I attribute to my utter lack of interest at that time
in writers and their methods. I then had no desire to write a book, nor
any thought of ever doing so.

Letters I looked upon with suspicion. I never read them at the time
they were received. I would not even open them; but generally, after a
week or sometimes a month, I would secretly open and read
them--forgeries of the detectives.

I still refused to speak, and exhibited physical activity only when the
patients were taken out of doors. For hours I would sit reading books
or newspapers, or apparently doing nothing. But my mind was in an
active state and very sensitive. As the event proved, almost everything
done or said within the range of my senses was making indelible
impressions, though these at the time were frequently of such a
character that I experienced great difficulty in trying to recall
incidents which I thought I might find useful at the time of my
appearance in court.

My ankles had not regained anything like their former strength. It hurt
to walk. For months I continued to go flat-footed. I could not sustain
my weight with heels lifted from the floor. In going downstairs I had
to place my insteps on the edge of each step, or go one step at a time,
like a child. Believing that the detectives were pampering me into
prime condition, as a butcher fattens a beast for slaughter, I
deliberately made myself out much weaker than I really was; and not a
little of my inactivity was due to a desire to prolong my fairly
comfortable existence, by deferring as long as possible the day of
trial and conspicuous disgrace.

But each day still had its distressing incidents. Whenever the
attendants were wanted at the office, an electric bell was rung. During
the fourteen months that I remained in this hospital in a depressed
condition, the bell in my ward rang several hundred times. Never did it
fail to send through me a mild shock of terror, for I imagined that at
last the hour had struck for my transportation to the scene of trial.
Relatives and friends would be brought to the ward--heralded, of
course, by a warning bell--and short interviews would be held in my
room, during which the visitors had to do all the talking. My eldest
brother, whom I shall refer to hereafter as my conservator, called
often. He seldom failed to use one phrase which worried me.

"You are looking better and getting stronger," he would say. "We shall
straighten you out yet."

To be "straightened out" was an ambiguous phrase which might refer to
the end of the hangman's rope or to a fatal electric shock.

I preferred to be let alone, and the assistant physician in charge of
my case, after several ineffectual attempts to engage me in
conversation, humored my persistent taciturnity. For more than a year
his only remarks to me were occasional conventional salutations.
Subsequent events have led me to doubt the wisdom of his policy.

For one year no further attention was paid to me than to see that I had
three meals a day, the requisite number of baths, and a sufficient
amount of exercise. I was, however, occasionally urged by an attendant
to write a letter to some relative, but that, of course, I refused to
do. As I shall have many hard things to say about attendants in
general, I take pleasure in testifying that, so long as I remained in a
passive condition, those at this institution were kind, and at times
even thoughtful. But there came a time when diplomatic relations with
doctors and attendants became so strained that war promptly ensued.

It was no doubt upon the gradual, but sure improvement in my physical
condition that the doctors were relying for my eventual return to
normality. They were not without some warrant for this. In a way I had
become less suspicious, but my increased confidence was due as much to
an increasing indifference to my fate as to an improvement in health.
And there were other signs of improved mental vigor. I was still
watchful, however, for a chance to end my life, and, but for a series
of fortunate circumstances, I do not doubt that my choice of evils
would have found tragic expression in an overt act.

Having convinced myself that most of my associates were really insane,
and therefore (as I believed) disqualified as competent witnesses in a
court of law, I would occasionally engage in conversation with a few
whose evident incompetency seemed to make them safe confidants. One, a
man who during his life had more than once been committed to an
institution, took a very evident interest in me and persisted in
talking to me, often much against my will. His persistent
inquisitiveness seemed to support his own statement that he had
formerly been a successful life-insurance agent. He finally gained my
confidence to such a degree that months before I finally began to talk
to others I permitted myself to converse frequently with him--but only
when we were so situated as to escape observation. I would talk to him
on almost any subject, but would not speak about myself. At length,
however, his admirable persistence overcame my reticence. During a
conversation held in June, 1902, he abruptly said, "Why you are kept
here I cannot understand. Apparently you are as sane as anyone. You
have never made any but sensible remarks to me." Now for weeks I had
been waiting for a chance to tell this man my very thoughts. I had come
to believe him a true friend who would not betray me.

"If I should tell you things which you apparently don't know, you would
understand why I am held here," I said.

"Well, tell me," he urged.

"Will you promise not to repeat my statements to any one else?"

"I promise not to say a word."

"Well," I remarked, "you have seen certain persons who have come here,
professing to be relatives of mine."

"Yes, and they are your relatives, aren't they?"

"They look like my relatives, but they're not," was my reply.

My inquisitive friend burst into laughter and said, "Well, if you mean
_that_, I shall have to take back what I just said. You are really the
craziest person I have ever met, and I have met several."

"You will think differently some day," I replied; for I believed that
when my trial should occur, he would appreciate the significance of my
remark. I did not tell him that I believed these callers to be
detectives; nor did I hint that I thought myself in the hands of the

Meanwhile, during July and August, 1902, I redoubled my activity in
devising suicidal schemes; for I now thought my physical condition
satisfactory to my enemies, and was sure that my trial could not be
postponed beyond the next opening of the courts in September. I even
went so far as to talk to one of the attendants, a medical student, who
during the summer worked as an attendant at the hospital. I approached
him artfully. First I asked him to procure from the library for me "The
Scarlet Letter," "The House of the Seven Gables," and other books; then
I talked medicine and finally asked him to lend me a textbook on
anatomy which I knew he had in his possession. This he did, cautioning
me not to let anyone know that he had done so. The book once secured, I
lost no time in examining that part which described the heart, its
functions, and especially its exact position in the body. I had
scarcely begun to read when the young man returned and took the book
from me, giving as his reason that an attendant had no right to let a
patient read a medical work. Maybe his change of heart was

As is usual in these institutions, all knives, forks, and other
articles that might be used by a patient for a dangerous purpose were
counted by the attendants after each meal. This I knew, and the
knowledge had a deterrent effect. I dared not take one. Though I might
at any time during the night have hanged myself, that method did not
appeal to me, and I kept it in mind only as a last resort. To get
possession of some sharp dagger-like instrument which I could plunge
into my heart at a moment's notice--this was my consuming desire. With
such a weapon I felt that I could, when the crisis came, rob the
detectives of their victory. During the summer months an employe spent
his entire time mowing the lawn with a large horse-drawn machine. This,
when not in use, was often left outdoors. Upon it was a square wooden
box, containing certain necessary tools, among them a sharp, spike-like
instrument, used to clean the oil-holes when they became clogged. This
bit of steel was five or six inches long, and was shaped like a pencil.
For at least three months, I seldom went out of doors that I did not go
with the intention of purloining that steel spike. I intended then to
keep it in my room against the day of my anticipated transfer to jail.

It was now that my delusions protected me from the very fate they had
induced me to court. For had I not believed that the eye of a detective
was on me every moment, I could have taken that spike a score of times.
Often, when it was not in use, I walked to the lawnmower and even laid
my hand upon the tool-box. But I dared not open it. My feelings were
much like those of Pandora about a certain other box. In my case,
however, the box upon which I looked with longing had Hope without, and
not within. Instinctively, perhaps, I realized this, for I did not lift
the lid.

One day, as the patients were returning to their wards, I saw, lying
directly in my path (I could even now point out the spot), the coveted
weapon. Never have I seen anything that I wanted more. To have stooped
and picked it up without detection would have been easy; and had I
known, as I know now, that it had been carelessly dropped there,
nothing could have prevented me from doing so and perhaps using it with
fatal effect. But I believed it had been placed there deliberately and
as a test, by those who had divined my suicidal purpose. The eye of the
imagined detective, which, I am inclined to believe, and like to
believe, was the eye of the real God, was upon me; and though I stepped
directly over it, I did not pick up that thing of death.


When I had decided that my chance for securing the little stiletto spike
was very uncertain, I at once busied myself with plans which were designed
to bring about my death by drowning. There was in the ward a large bath
tub. Access to it could be had at any time, except from the hour of
nine (when the patients were locked in their rooms for the night) until
the following morning. How to reach it during the night was the problem
which confronted me. The attendant in charge was supposed to see that
each patient was in his room before his door was locked. As it rarely
happened that the patients were not in their rooms at the appointed
time, the attendants naturally grew careless, and often locked a door
without looking in. "Good night"--a salutation usually devoid of
sentiment--might, or might not, elicit a response, and the absence of a
response would not tend to arouse suspicion--especially in a case like
mine, for I would sometimes say "good night," but more often not.

My simple and easy plan was to hide behind a piece of furniture in the
corridor and there remain until the attendant had locked the doors of
the rooms and gone to bed. I had even advanced so far in my plan as to
select a convenient nook within twenty feet of my own room. Should the
attendant, when about to lock the door, discover my absence, I should,
of course, immediately reveal my hiding-place by leaving it; and it
would have been an easy matter to convince him that I had done the
thing as a test of his own vigilance. On the other hand, if I escaped
discovery, I should then have nine hours at my disposal with little
fear of interruption. True, the night watch passed through the ward
once every hour. But death by drowning requires a time no longer than
that necessary to boil an egg. I had even calculated how long it would
take to fill the tub with water. To make sure of a fatal result, I had
secreted a piece of wire which I intended so to use that my head, once
under water, could by no possibility be raised above the surface in the
inevitable death struggle.

I have said that I did not desire death; nor did I. Had the supposed
detectives been able to convince me that they would keep their word, I
would willingly have signed an agreement stipulating on my side that I
must live the rest of my life in confinement, and on theirs that I
should never undergo a trial for crime.

Fortunately, during these dismal preparations, I had not lost interest
in other schemes which probably saved my life. In these the
fellow-patient who had won my confidence played the role of my own
private detective. That he and I could defeat the combined forces
arrayed against me hardly seemed probable, but the seeming
impossibility of so doing only lent zest to the undertaking. My friend,
who, of course, did not realize that he was engaged in combat with the
Secret Service, was allowed to go where he pleased within the limits of
the city where the hospital was situated. Accordingly I determined to
enlist his services. It was during July that, at my suggestion, he
tried to procure copies of certain New Haven newspapers, of the date of
my attempted suicide and the several dates immediately following. My
purpose was to learn what motive had been ascribed to my suicidal act.
I felt sure that the papers would contain at least hints as to the
nature of the criminal charges against me. But my purpose I did not
disclose to my friend. In due time he reported that no copies for the
given dates were to be had. So _that_ quest proved fruitless, and I
attributed the failure to the superior strategy of the enemy.

Meanwhile, my friend had not stopped trying to convince me that my
apparent relatives were not spurious; so one day I said to him: "If my
relatives still live in New Haven, their addresses must be in the
latest New Haven Directory. Here is a list containing the names and
former addresses of my father, brother, and uncle. These were their
addresses in 1900. To-morrow, when you go out, please see whether they
appear in the New Haven Directory for 1902. These persons who present
themselves to me as relatives pretend to live at these addresses. If

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