Closer to “The Edge”

It’s a dolphin, and it looks like it’s smiling. It always looks like that.

Here it is, fans, my response from the MediaWorks Standards Committee about my complaint.  According to law, I had to file a complaint with MediaWorks first and be declined before I could appeal to the Broadcast Standards Authority, New Zealand’s FCC. Stand by for my response! All italicization is mine, for emphasis.

Dear Malcolm,

The MediaWorks Standards Committee wishes to advise you we have completed our inquiry into your formal complaint about the decision to broadcast on The Edge on 3 April 2019, an edited version of your interview with Dom Harvey, Meg Annear and Clint Randell. You complained that this breached Standards 4, 5, 6 ,8, 9 and 11.

We have not identified any breach of the standards set out in the Code of Broadcasting Practice. Our reasoning is outlined in further detail below.

If you are not happy about this decision you have the right in accordance with Section 7(3) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 to refer your complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, (P.O. Box 9213, Wellington or for the purpose of an investigation and review. You have 20 working days after receipt of this email to exercise this right of referral.

The Broadcast

The broadcast on 3 April was the final installment of a storyline which ran over three episodes of the Dom, Meg and Randell show. We have provided copies of all of the audio from these episodes, with this response. However in summary:

On 29 March the hosts first discussed the viral ‘Florida man’ birthday challenge, in which people conduct a Google search with their date of birth and the words “Florida man”, and receive news stories about the behaviour of a ‘Florida man’ on their birthday. ‘Florida man’ is a generic descriptor for a person who commits bizarre or idiotic crimes, popularly associated with—and often reported in—Florida.

Dom had conducted such a search using his birth date 3 February. The first search result was an article about you with the headline “Florida Man who had sex with dolphin says it seduced him”.

Following this discussion, listeners rang in to contribute their own birth dates and “Florida Man” stories.

On 1 April: the hosts discussed how they had recorded an interview with you, and provided some more detail about your story, including that:

  • you had written a book;
  • you had been fired from the aquarium where this occurred (which we are aware is not the case, but do not think is material);
  • you had been interviewed by MediaWorks’ journalist (at the time) David Farrier;
  • you had reviewed the movie “The Shape of Water” in a piece for Huffington Post;
  • the dolphin’s name was Dolly;
  • you had made a documentary about your relationship with Dolly;
  • you didn’t go through the court system and weren’t sent to jail;
  • you claim Dolly was in love with you;
  • you claim Dolly initiated the behaviour and seduced you over time;
  • you claim Dolly was so distraught when you were separated that she took her own life.

Meg made clear her opposition to hearing about bestiality and outlined her counter-view that Dolly was “traumatised because a man had seduced her and she’s a dolphin”. The hosts then sought and received feedback from listeners on whether or not to broadcast the interview.

Dom indicated he would need to clear it with his legal team before broadcasting.

On 3 April the hosts described the “Florida Man” challenge again, played extracts of the previous show and emphasised to listeners not to ‘flip out’ because they had heard the audience feedback and weren’t going to play the full interview.

They talked about Meg’s opposition to this storyline and played the following extract from the interview:

Malcolm: Dolphins’ skin is peeling all the time so they need to have it rubbed. She would roll over on her back and then swim forward until I was rubbing her [bleep].

Meg: This is sick. This is sick. I think you’re sick in the head and this is disgusting. This is a non-consensual situation. A dolphin cannot consensually choose to have sex with a human and you absolutely took advantage of that and I don’t want to be involved with this.

Meg explained she was flustered and furious, and the hosts explained that everyone who got into contact with the show – apart from one listener named Peter – had agreed that the topic was not appropriate for broadcast. Peter was given the opportunity to listen to the entire interview off-air and was then asked for his view of the interview. Peter indicated that he regretted having heard it.

Standard 4 Violence

The Violence Standard states that :

Broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when referencing violence.

We have not identified any content which referenced violence, and no breach of this Standard.

Standard 5 Law and Order

Under the Law and Order Standard:

Broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order, taking into account the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast.

As the commentary on this Standard makes clear, its purpose is to prevent broadcasts that encourage audiences to break the law, or otherwise promote criminal or serious antisocial activity.

This broadcast did not promote criminal or serious antisocial activity; rather the inverse is the case. The hosts criticised behaviour which is unlawful in New Zealand under section 143 of the Crimes Act 1961. We consider that this was appropriate,and there is no breach of this Standard.

Standard 6 Discrimination and denigration

Under the Discrimination and Denigration Standard:

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

Although elements of the Broadcast – particularly Meg’s comments – were dismissive and even condemnatory of your behaviour, the Commentary on this Standard is clear:

“This standard does not apply to individuals…
The standard applies only to recognised ‘sections of the community’ which is consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993.”

We do not accept that people who have sex with dolphins, or even at the broadest level, zoophiles (i.e. people with a persistent sexual interest in animals) comprise a “section of the community” within the scope of this Standard. Although the Human Rights Act does prohibit discrimination on the grounds of “sexual orientation”, it defines this as “heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation” only (see section 21(1)(m)), and not an orentation towards animals.

This is consistent with the fact that bestiality is illegal in New Zealand. Zoophiles are not protected from discrimination in the Human Rights Act and we do not accept that the Standard applies here, or that the Standard was breached by this Broadcast.

Standard 8 Balance

Under the Balance Standard:

When controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

As summarised in Guideline 8a, for the standard to apply, the subject matter must be an issue ‘of public importance’, it must be ‘controversial’ and it must be ‘discussed’ in a news, current affairs or factual programme.

The Standard does not apply in this case, because at least two of these requirements are not made out:

  • While clearly important to you, this issue is not relevant to the wider New Zealand public and is not ‘of public importance’. Bestiality, and the capacity for animals to consent to intercourse with a human are fringe issues, without any widespread or mainstream importance.
  • The Dom, Meg and Randell show is not a news, current affairs or factual programme. The show is promoted as a place for “the latest entertainment news, celebrity gossip, scandal, competitions and all the funniest gags to spark up your morning”. Listeners expect light-hearted chat and laughs, but do not reasonably expect it to be “authoritative or truthful”, which is the defining characteristic of a factual programme according to the commentary on the Standards.

Standard 9 Accuracy

Under the Accuracy Standard:

Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:
• is accurate in relation to all material points of fact
• does not mislead.

The purpose of this standard is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed. However the Standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programming, which this was not (see para 16b above) . Therefore there cannot be a breach of this Standard.

Standard 11 Fairness

Under the Fairness Standard:

Broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in any broadcast.

There are serious issues with how Dom, Meg and Randell dealt with you and your contribution during the Broadcast. In particular the Committee is concerned about the way the interview was edited and broadcast on 3 April, and the information which Dom Harvey provided to you after your interview, which was misleading and incomplete. We have raised these concerns with the show’s producers and presenters and have reminded them of their obligations under this Standard. We have also reviewed our processes to take into account the slightly unusual situation here, where a storyline was modified in response to clear listener feedback.

However overall we are satisfied that the storyline or the 3 April broadcast were not unfair to you, and fairly reflects your position in relation to your interactions with Dolly.

The BSA’s Commentary on this Standard states:

Generally, a consideration of what is fair will take into account the following:

  • whether the audience would have been left with an unduly negative impression of an individual or organisation
  • whether an individual or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme was adequately informed of the nature of their participation
  • whether informed consent was required and/or obtained (guidance on what constitutes ‘informed consent’ is found in Guidance: Privacy at the back of this Codebook)
  • whether the individual or organisation was given a reasonable opportunity to comment, and whether their comments were adequately presented in the programme
  • the nature of the individual, for example, a public figure or organisation familiar with dealing with the media, as opposed to an ordinary person with little or no media experience
  • whether any critical comments were aimed at the participant in their business or professional life, or their personal life
  • the public significance of the broadcast and its value in terms of free speech

The Committee has considered the context around the broadcast:

We accept that the show’s audience would have been left with a negative impression of you based on your behaviour with Dolly. However we do not accept that this impression was caused by the Broadcast. In the Committee’s view, any negative impression was a result of pre-existing perceptions of bestiality and those who engage in it. The Committee is satisfied that there is already widespread distaste for the behaviour you engaged in. The feedback from listeners of the programme supports this view, and again we note that the New Zealand legislature has seen fit to prohibit bestiality with a serious criminal sanction of up to seven years’ imprisonment.

We consider that prior to the broadcast you were adequately informed of the intended nature of your participation. At that time the hosts did plan to broadcast your interview in full or use it for a podcast. It was only after they received overwhelming listener feedback and appreciated that there was no audience appetite for this story, that the hosts and production team reconsidered their approach. We would have expected them to communicate their decision to you. In any event is clear to us that you are experienced in dealing with the media and have told your story before, and we are certain that you would have expected and would have been prepared for opposition or condemnation of your behaviour.

The Committee does not approve of the way your interview was edited, and we understand why you might feel you had not been given a reasonable opportunity to comment. However we agree with producers that in light of the audience’s clear expectations it was not appropriate to play the entire interview. A better decision would have been not to play any part of your interview, rather than playing only the portions of the interview in which Meg reacted to your behaviour. Despite this we are satisfied that your position was adequately presented across the series of broadcasts, and the 3 April Broadcast on its own. In particular your claims that Dolly initiated and consented to this behaviour were presented, as were your claims that Dolly was forlorn by your separation and died of a broken heart, and the fact bestiality was not illegal in Florida at that time or until 2011. We do not accept that listeners were unaware of your position.


In summary there is no basis to uphold your complaint.

Kind regards,
The MediaWorks Standards Committee

Stay tuned for more exciting news!



Communications from “The Edge”

March 28, 2019

Hey Malcolm,
I do New Zealand’s #1 music radio show on a station called The Edge
(  We would love to chat to you on our show about your
life and story.
Please let me know if this is something you would consider.
Thanks heaps mate

*Dominic Harvey   **Announcer*
*The Edge*   MEDIAWORKS    *MOBILE* +6421451835

Dear Dom, yes I’d be delighted, particularly if you will let me explain that dolphins are telepathic. Several other people besides me have discovered this. It isn’t in the film “Dolphin Lover” ( because the filmmakers ran out of time and money. You should watch the film anyhow to familiarize yourself with my experience.
I’ll be tuning in to your show (so to speak, I’m old school) to see how you do what you do. Be warned!

Yours, Malcolm J. Brenner (the J is important, as there are at least three other Malcolm Brenners running around).

(Addendum) By the way, did I mention there’s a Kiwi angle to this? Look up author Frank Robson’s books, “Thinking Dolphins, Talking Whales” and “Pictures in the Dolphin Mind.” Finding his books meant I wasn’t crazy, or alone. Here’s an article he wrote for a trainer’s journal, and an audio clip from another trainer, “The Cove’s” Ric O’Barry.

Thanks Malcolm.  I’ll look it up.

I just watched your movie.  It was a fascinating watch….I just wish it
was longer.


If it was any longer, it would be boring. – Malcolm

March 31

Hey Malcolm,

When would you like us to call you?  It is now Monday morning here in NZ.
We could call you in an hour if you wanted?


Dom, thanks for writing. Yes, I am available for interview by phone or Skype in an hour. (415) ***-**** or malcolm.brenner1 Shall I expect your call?
BTW, I thought your piece about the friend who committed suicide was quite touching. You really can’t know what it’s like until it happens to you.
Yeah, give me a call. — Malcolm

(PS — please remember when you introduce me to use the middle initial “J.” in my name, as in Malcolm J. Brenner, as I am trying to distinguish myself from Malcolm K. Brenner, an MD who does very wonderful work with pediatric leukemia patients at a hospital in Texas, and I’m sure he is too. Thanks.)

(Addendum) Hey, did you get my earlier message? Are we go for this? Standing by with phone and Skype on for your call. (415) ***-****. — Malcolm

(Addendum) Oh one other thing, Dom, would you please let me know when the segment will air, and where it will be archived? I want to share the information with readers of my blog, Thanks.


in which Meg, about one minute into the interview calls me “sick in the head,” my behavior “disgusting” (without letting me finish the story I was telling about Dolly’s behavior), states that “a dolphin cannot consensually decide to have sex with a human,” (like she knows?) and says that I “absolutely took advantage of that,” then rather than stay around and have herself corrected on air by me, walks out of the studio, leaving Dom and Ryan to interview me. Which they did, rather well, I thought at the time, for about 20 minutes.

Thanks very much for your time Malcolm.

Apologies about Meg.  But I suppose the polarizing nature of your story is
part of the reason we thought you’d make a good guest.  Randell and myself
both appreciated your candidness.

The interview will likely play out in the next couple of days.  We will
just have to get the audio cleared by our legal team here in Auckland, NZ
before doing so.

I’ll be in touch. Thanks again, Dom

Thanks for responding, Dominic. Why is it necessary to clear the audio through your station’s legal team? I didn’t do anything illegal, at the time, so this puzzles me. Can you clarify? Thanks, Malcolm

Our legal team just like to listen to anything we may play that could be
considered offensive/indecent/questionable by listeners.

It is basically just covering our arses in case a complaint is made to the
BSA (thats the NZ equal of the FCC in the US).

Dominic, ok, thanks, that sets my mind more at ease. — Malcolm

April 2


  My section begins at about 42:40.

NOTEZ BIEN: My show has already aired!

April 4

Hi Dominic, Being a former investigative reporter and of a suspicious bent, I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t a Spaniard in the works, as John Lennon so aptly put it?
Was my interview too hot to handle? Was Meg’s abrupt departure staged for my benefit? Her hostility didn’t seem appropriate to the provocation, and I think she misheard me. I said that after Dolly had maneuvered herself so that I was rubbing her genital slit, I broke off, went back to her head, and she did the same thing again.
In other words, I was trying to be modest, but Dolly had other ideas. So who is Meg really mad at, me, or the dolphin? For being a dolphin?
I haven’t heard anything from you yet, so of course I’m beginning to wonder if the interview is going to air and if so, whole or edited?
Please fill me in. If you’re going to shelve it, it was nice talking to you. — Malcolm

Hi Malcolm,

My apologies for the delay.  This is the edit of the interview.
Our sensitive (possibly over sensitive) legal team (big corporation bullshit) made us remove some of the more graphic stuff. 

(No signature, no sign-off? Dom knows the show has already aired, and what he’s sending me is a BULLSHIT FILE! He must think I’m stupid, because he hasn’t told me the air date yet, and you know I’m going to look in the archives, don’t you? I mean, wouldn’t you?)

Wow, that was quick. Thanks, I’ll listen to it. — Malcolm

Dom, the audio interview is quite OK, such as it is. Would you please send me Meg’s email address at the station, as I should like to write to her personally. Perhaps I can smooth some ruffled feathers. — Malcolm

Sure mate! That’s unnecessary but if you wish to write it is

(He knows it’s “unnecessary” because the show’s already aired and moved on to something else now, having chewed me up and spat me out like a chunk of gristle.)

CenturyLink Webmail: You, me, and dolphins

April 5, 2019

Dear Meg,
I want to reach out to you personally because I think your performance last week was un-called for, and I’d like to know, for once, what motivated it?

What makes you hate me so much that you stormed out of the studio, leaving the interview to Dominic and Randell? I was for almost a decade a reporter for two daily newspapers covering the Navajo Nation, and I can only remember a couple of cases where I did that. In both cases I was provoked far beyond what you were; in fact, I question whether you were “provoked” at all by what I was saying. Your rage had a pre-digested, packaged quality that suggests it was actually manufactured long before you heard what were only the beginnings of my story about Dolly.

Furthermore, I think you misheard me when I described the dolphin’s behavior . Yes, I was a zoophile. But that was a quirk of my adolescence; it embarrassed me, and I wanted nothing more than a normal relationship with a woman.

Unfortunately, Dolly didn’t care about what I wanted, at least at first. What I was attempting to describe, when you exploded and fled, was Dolly’s attempt to take advantage of me. She positioned herself so I was rubbing her vulva, twice, and at that point I realized it was deliberate and broke off. I wanted to talk to the damn dolphin, I had no ambitions to have sex with her!

It was, as she explained later, what she did to all the adult humans at the park: try to solicit some sex from them. Sort of like a game. ( That was only one of several things she had to explain telepathically. Before you conclude I’m totally nuts, consider that 4 other trainers – Ric O’Barry of The Cove, Michael Greenwood of Peter Fisher’s Odyssey, David Holroyd, who wrote The Perfect Pair trilogy, and even your own Frank Robson, a fisherman from Taranaki who discovered that dolphins responded to pictures in his head and wrote two books about it, Thinking Dolphins, Talking Whales and Pictures in the Dolphin Mind – have spoken about the telepathic bond they shared with dolphins.)

Here’s two pictures of what happened when I brought my prospective girlfriend down to the dophin’s pen: (see below)

The dolphin recognized her as competition and threw her out of the pool!

The dolphin, in other words, had a serious jones for me. I thought I could control her, but I couldn’t; the idea that any human being, even a US Navy SEAL team (or the equivalent) can, is a ridiculous fantasy. The Navy SEALS I’ve talked to admit they’re helpless before the dolphin, which can outswim them every time. There’s no way that I, alone and naked, could “take advantage” of a 180 kg dolphin!

And in fact (to draw this to a close), Dolly actually defended me against an attack by the last male dolphin in the pool with her, and then, entirely on her own, figured out how to wriggle through a very narrow space where the male dolphin could not or would not follow, so we could have some privacy!

So where did I “take advantage” of her? Please explain.

Let me tell you a little bit about her. She was kept in a sea-level pen, rather than a pool, so she could perform in open water , swimming alongside a riverboat in the Intracoastal Waterway (Lemon Bay, to be exact) and jumping for fish from her trainer’s hand, about 3.2 meters above the water. Sometimes she met wild dolphins and swam off with them, but she always came back! Wondering why was really the start of our relationship. The answer I got was that she was studying us.

I will leave you with the ramifications of that statement.

But enough about me and the dolphin, back to you. You couldn’t even listen to my story! What did you think a guy who has written a novel called Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover was going to talk about, Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Come on, Meg, that’s why I believe your anger was manufactured on the spot.

You were all primed and ready to explode with self-righteous rage at me because I was an “animal abuser,” when in fact I’ve been married twice, once for 12 years, once for 9, and I have a grown daughter by my first wife who loves my writing and designs the covers for my books. She works for a San Francisco ad agency, and she makes a hell of a lot more than you do. What does this mean? I have about 1000x the experience making love to women as I do females of other species.

And you know what? I abuse as much as I want, which (as Penn Teller pointed out) is ZERO. You didn’t react to me, you reacted to a paper cut-out in your mind, a convenient target for your rage. I think I deserve an explanation. I hope you learn some professionalism and tolerance in your career. – Malcolm J. Brenner

April 9

Dominic, it’s no wonder you never let me know when the interview was going to air – it never did! Instead you put on this disgusting excuse for journalism, in which I am denounced by Megan as an animal rapist (I am right about that, Meg?) but never given the chance to rebut any of her statements. My interview lasted a good 20 minutes, which you cut down to 10 on suggestion of the lawyers, but I guess that still wasn’t enough for station management or the advertising department. I’ve been through this before. How disappointing.

Furthermore, by calling me “an animal abuser” Megan has utterly defamed me. I have never been convicted of any such crime, and I never will be, because I do not abuse animals, people, or other living creatures! How a naked human could possibly abuse a 180 kg in the water is a question for physicists. It can’t happen, because the dolphin can do whatever it wants with the human, even the toughest military divers will tell you that. What a laughable accusation!

I demand that Megan retract her statement on the air, allow me equal time to address your audience on the facts regarding my relationship with the dolphin, OR that you put the full interview on your web site so your audience can judge for themselves what happened.

I expect an answer in 24 hours or I will take the appropriate actions, and those lard-ass lawyers of yours will start earning their salaries.
Sincerely yours, Malcolm J. Brenner

Dear Malcolm
I am the lawyer for *The Edge*.
You may not be aware, but New Zealand’s law of defamation does not cover legitimate expressions of opinion.  There is no basis for us to take any further action on this issue, and we do not intend to. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this further.
Kind regards

…and so begins my case with the Broadcast Standards Authority of New Zealand. Stay tuned for more exciting details!

NEWS FLASH: Scientists prove female dolphins enjoy sex!


(Above: a wild dolphin in Charlotte Harbor displaying the swollen breasts of a lactating female. © 2010  Malcolm J. Brenner/Eyes Open Media.)

At last, somebody (two somebodies, in fact, with PhD.s) has done the science on a delicate, touchy subject: the dolphin clitoris.  And I am thankful for it.

This provides me with validation for the experience in Wet Goddess (which some have disputed) when I described how I gave Dolly (the dolphin in question) an orgasm by letting her masturbate on my toe, and, later, while making love with her, even though I wasn’t able to penetrate her fully.

What made Dolly different from a dog who humps your leg, as I point out, is:

  1. A dog who humps you, or another dog, probably isn’t looking for sex, he or she is asserting dominance. I used to own a delightful little fixed Husky, Pugsley, and every night after dinner Pugsley would hump my housemate’s pit bull mix, Keiko. Keiko, an intact male, never paid the slightest attention to her, but would let Pugsley do her thing without interference. It seemed to matter a lot to Pugsley.
  2. Even if we don’t assign motives to the dog’s behavior, humping you is all it can do, and it does it rather blindly. We’ve all seen (or watched videos of – c’mon, admit it!) a sex-crazed male dog trying to hump a bitch’s head, and he isn’t looking for a toothy blowjob. In his excitement he’s acting instinctually. A dolphin can switch programs. If one strategy doesn’t work, it will try another. If something it’s familiar with isn’t working, it will try something new, or even, heavens forbid, peep into your mind to see if it can fathom what you’re thinking. I’ve had them do that to me, and suddenly change behavior. It’s weird, and I wasn’t even aware of what was happening at the time, but it happens, as four trainers will attest (the late Frank Robson, Ric O’Barry, Michael Greenwood and David Holroyd, stage name Capello).

Drs. Patricia Brennan and Dara Orbach, my hat is off to you, ladies! I am deeply grateful to you for doing the hard and difficult research this subject entails, if you know what I mean. 


Interviewer denounces author as “dolphin abuser,” walks out.

Well folks, I went on the Dom, Meg and Randell podcast this morning (in New Zealand, it was late afternoon the day before in Punta Gorda) and about 4 minutes into the interview, as I was describing Dolly’s first advances, rolling on her back and swimming forward until I was rubbing her genital slit, then, when I moved back to her head, doing it again, Meg (the female member of the interview trio, as you may have adroitly guessed) exploded into rage completely unrelated to what I was talking about.

Without giving me a chance to answer her accusations, she said I was a “dolphin abuser” who “took advantage” of that poor dolphin! Then she stormed out of the studio, all too eager to leave before she could learn the truth: dolphins are sexual creatures.

Very sexual.

The two male interviewers, Dom (who recently had a good friend commit suicide) and Randell, continued the interview without her, and it went rather well from my point of view. I got to say everything I wanted to say, got to promote human-dolphin telepathy, got to answer all the interviewers’ questions about the event and got to plug my book and ebook at the end. Listen to it all here, friends. (As soon as it’s published, it was pre-recorded.)

UPDATE: They recorded it, then sent me a version that was half long but still all right, and then, without telling me, they ran this shit. I’ve been treated badly by shock jocks before (Bubba the Love Sponge and Howard Stern come to mind), but I’ve never been set up like this! I feel like a bowling pin, and the station is going to get a letter from me denouncing this.  It’s right here, and they start talking about me at 42:30.

I am New Zealand!

black clouds dark dawn
Photo by meo on

I stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand, who are proud, free, and largely spared the insanity that infects the rest of the “Western World” — until now.

I stand in sorrow that this has visited them, and so unjustly.

Be strong, and know that the rest of the world shares your sorrow, and your determination to end this kind of murderous hate, this insanity called racism, by whatever means necessary.



Breaking the Silence: Secrets of the Reichian Cult


Marjorie Bayes, Ph.D.

(Marjorie Bayes is a psychologist who has investigated the abuse suffered by victims of Dr. Duvall. Her article follows.)


In the 1930s and 40s, Austrian psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich claimed to have discovered an invisible, omnipresent, biophysical energy called orgone, named after the sexual orgasm. Blockage of the flow of this energy, he believed, caused physical and emotional illnesses. He developed a therapeutic method of treating illness which included applying physical pressure to patients’ bodies to release blocked orgone and to get rid of “body armor.” It was to be used on infants and children as well as adults.

He was expelled from the International Psychoanalytic Association. Reich escaped from Nazi Germany to Scandinavia, but because his work was regarded as “utter scientific nonsense” in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, he was denied visa renewal. He emigrated to the United States.

In New York, he was greeted with interest by the lay public, especially by avant-garde intellectuals, who established a cult following. He built and sold boxes he called “orgone accumulators,” leading to an FDA investigation and an injunction against him which he refused to answer or abide by. He was convicted of criminal contempt and sent to prison in 1957, where he died some months later.

Now, in the twenty-first century, some of the patients—then children, now in their 60s and 70s– who were treated by Reich’s followers want to tell their stories.

Reichian Therapy

New York City 1947. Susanna Steig’s mother takes the three-year-old girl up the stairs of a large concrete warehouse and into the office of her pediatric orgone therapist, Felicia Saxe, follower of Wilhelm Reich. Saxe treats Susanna weekly because the girl is jealous of her new baby sister. Susanna’s parents believe Saxe’s treatments will “dissolve her armoring,” allowing her orgone energy to flow freely and replacing the sibling rivalry with more positive, “natural” emotions.

Felicia Saxe is a gypsy-like woman with dark skin and hair, dressed in shiny silks, breasts bulging out of her blouse. She is a professional dancer; it is unclear who has authorized her to have a therapeutic practice. Susanna has to remove her clothes. The therapy consists of Saxe digging her fingers and nails into Susanna’s body, causing great pain, pain so intense that the child becomes, as she later says, “a screaming, crying machine that would never be turned off.” Then Saxe takes Susanna on her lap and masturbates her. The little girl leaves with her mother: “I am cold, I am alone, and I have no feeling,.” Susanna later recalls. This excruciating “therapy” continues for months.

1951. Susanna is seven. Her father drives her for an appointment in Red Bank, New Jersey, to another Reichian therapist, psychiatrist Elsworth Baker. Her parents are concerned that she is “too much of a lady.” Dr. Baker, a short, slender, dark-haired man, leads her into a room with a big bed, and tells her to take off all her clothes except her white cotton underwear. This is allegedly so he can observe how the chronic muscular tensions called “armoring” responds to his treatment.

With his fingers, Baker applies painful pressure all over Susanna’s body, sometimes pressing so hard she cannot breathe. This time she refuses to scream and cry, the only resistance she can make. Instead, she dissociates: “I am not really here, and it is not body he is tormenting.” As before, this shattering “therapy” continues for months.

Susanna is not alone in this kind of suffering. According to Reich biographer Myron Sharaf, in 1948 Dr. Baker was reprimanded by the New Jersey Commissioner of Mental Health for allegedly masturbating patients at Marlboro State Hospital and, through the use of Reichian therapy, making them scream with pain. Baker resigned from the hospital staff.

One day Susanna is taken to the house of Reichian followers in Maine, where Reich’s son Peter, also 7 years old, is staying. The adults put Susanna and Peter to bed together and tell them to make love while the adults watch. Some weeks later, during a “treatment” with Baker, he grabs her and asks, “Is this where you feel it when you think about Peter?”

1959. Frederika, nine years old, sits in her therapist’s waiting room trembling with fear; her mother forces her to go every week. She looks up to see Dr. Albert I. Duvall, a psychiatrist and follower of Wilhelm Reich, reeking of cigarettes, his mouth and fingers yellow from continuous smoking. She’s summoned into the therapy room, where the walls and doors are covered with cork to absorb sound. There he impatiently demands that she remove her clothes. Once she is naked, he pinches, pulls and pushes her muscles and inserts his hands into her orifices in a way that causes pain so severe she screams. He intermittently passes something called an “orgone hose” over her body as he pinches her. It is a hollow, flexible steel cable terminated in a container of water.

She screams and thrashes about. He sexually molests her, forcing her to perform oral sex on him, and again uses the orgone hose. He licks her genitals, then pinches them until she involuntarily urinates. Again the orgone hose. He thrusts his penis into her mouth, ripping the corners of her mouth, making her gag. He makes her masturbate him. He ejaculates in her face and hair. She screams from the coercion and fear and pain, and begs him to stop. He tells her to stop fighting, stop being a nuisance, a brat, a spoiled kid, a trouble-maker. She submits more and more, and becomes more and more numb. Finally, she begins to dissociate, leaving her body for his use.

Afterward, she is bruised, hair in knots on the back of her head, sobbing, her crotch stinging, burning, swollen, her body black and blue, face red and burning, broken capillaries in her face and neck. She begs her mother not to force her to go, to no avail. She cries all the way home. Her mother is irritated and tells her to stop. Finally, after nine months, when she begins running away, the appointments stop.

These experiences are not mentioned again until Frederika is 16. She tries to talk about it, and her mother tells her she is lying. She does not die from the overdose of Phenobarbital she then takes.

1963. In preparation for a custody hearing, singer Judy Garland’s children Lorna, age 11, and Joe, 8, are sent to Dr. Duvall. He has relocated to the Los Angeles area where he serves as a court-appointed psychiatrist. In Lorna’s first session, he asks her what she’s most afraid of, and she says “Needles.” She has been phobic about hypodermic needles since an earlier surgery. In the next session, he has her lie naked, and then takes out a hypodermic needle, threatens her with it, and asks “How frightened are you of your dad?”


Week after week he moves the needle across her body,; she calls it “psychological torture,” “frightening beyond description.” She learns what he wants her to say, that she doesn’t love her father, and she will say anything he wants. Joe is enduring even worse torture, but they are both too afraid to tell their parents what’s happening to them. Thirty years later, Lorna said if she had known what Duvall was doing to her brother, she would have “told anyone who would listen.”

(Note: She also wrote that if her parents had known what Duvall was doing to Joey, they would have killed him. Any guesses? — M.J.B)

Duvall continued his reign of pedophilic terror well into the 1970’s when eight-year-old Roger M. Wilcox and his brother were his patients, taken by their Reichian parents. In the course of several years of “therapy” sessions, Dr. Duvall requires Roger to be naked, and applies excruciatingly painful thumb and finger pressure to various parts of his body. Roger screams with pain. If Roger is not immediately compliant, Duvall sneers, “You’re stubborn, aren’tcha? You’re stubborn all the way to here!” and jabs hard in the small of his back, as Roger screams. Duvall threatens Roger’s penis with surgical scissors. Once Roger accidentally kicks Duvall, and is subjected to harsh, nightmarish punishment. Duvall also uses the orgone machine, with its hose and hollow metal tubes that causes the sensation of a light breeze over Roger’s body. He threatens the frightened boy with a hypodermic needle, saying “Where do you want it?” but never actually injecting him.

Roger learns to say and do whatever it takes to lessen the pain and attempts at degradation. Now, 30 to 60 years later, they describe their experiences with orgone therapy, Susanna Steig and Roger Wilcox on a website, Lorna Luft in her autobiography Me and My Shadows, Frederika and Susanna in unpublished essays.


Susanna says “I have spent a lifetime dealing with the aftermath.” She knows other children who were subjected to similar or worse abuse by Reichian therapists, including stories of repeated rapes and other sexual molestation. Many children from a Reichian community in Freehold, New Jersey, were sent to Reichian therapists, with similar abuses, and as adults came back to accuse their parents. Susanna says, “I am tired of secrets, of people not wanting to know, of a story so outlandish and horrible that I do not really want to inflict it on people unless they really want to know.”

Acts of Torture

Trauma is the stress resulting from extraordinary experiences of intense fear, helplessness, and loss of control that destroy a survivor’s sense of safety and trust in the world. As psychiatrist and trauma expert Judith Herman notes, to study perpetrators of traumatic injury toward others is “to come face to face …with the capacity for evil in human nature.”

Psychiatrist Lenore Terr, who works with survivors of childhood abuse, distinguishes two types of trauma. Type I involves a single traumatic experience, such as a rape or other attack. Type II refers to repeated, prolonged traumatic events, such as repeated sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and includes the behavior of the Reichian therapists toward these children.

Psychologist Ibrahim Kira has described a third type of trauma.. Type III is torture, consisting of “any systematic act by which severe pain or suffering…is intentionally inflicted on a person for any reason, by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” In the cases of Susanna, Frederika, Roger, and Lorna and their siblings, the “therapists” were perceived as officials, as authority figures, by both children and parents. And certainly the painful and abusive acts performed on the children would qualify as torture.

What was going on? Why would parents deliberately and knowingly subject their children to sadistic physical and sexual abuse that amounted to torture–such extreme experiences that they resulted in life-long trauma? Why would the parents still deny the atrocities years later? These children pleaded with their parents not to make them go. Parents knew something unusual was happening; they heard the screams and saw the aftermath of the sessions.

While not directly participating in the abuse, the parents certainly were responsible. Criminal charges could have been brought against them, as well as against the so-called therapists. Roger says if he’d known he could notify Child Protective Services himself, he would have. Susanna reports that many of the other children who were also sent to Reichian therapists, with similar abuse, came back as adults to accuse their parents.

What allowed these crimes against children to continue?

These therapists and the parents of these children (except Lorna and Joe) were part of a group that began with avant-garde New York and New Jersey intellectuals in the 1940s and 50s who came under the spell of a charismatic leader, psychiatrist Dr. Wilhelm Reich. The group might best be called a cult.

Formation of a Cult

A cult is a group led by an “inspired” or “wise” charismatic leader, whose members are required to agree completely with rigid doctrine. The leader is usually seeking power, or money, or both, and may be seen as a messiah. Cult leaders hold out promise of superiority, a utopia, some form of ideal society. The leader requires strict adherence to doctrine, discourages independent thought, and teaches that outsiders (unbelievers) are dangerous or not worthy of consideration. Members are forbidden from contact with family. According to psychologist and cult researcher Margaret Thaler Singer, in many, if not most, cults, children are abused.


Concerned psychologists, sociologists, and religious leaders identify several destructive elements in a cult. The three most easily identified here are (1) acceptance of blind obedience to a self-proclaimed authority figure who claims to have special knowledge; (2). the conviction that the belief system is absolute truth; and (3) child abuse.

The Leader

Wilhelm Reich was born in 1897 to a well-to-do Jewish family in Austria. He was educated by tutors until he was 13. At that point, according to two of his biographers, he informed his father about his mother’s affair with one of his tutors. As a result of his revelation, his mother killed herself. When his father died four years later, young Reich was left to manage the family farm and attend high school.

After serving as a lieutenant in the Austrian army during World War I, Reich entered premedical and medical training at the University of Vienna. He received his MD in 1922 and later completed postgraduate education in neuro-psychiatry.

He developed a profound, almost exclusive, interest in sexuality, which led him to become active in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic circles. He began a private practice, but his extreme and exclusionary emphasis on orgasm and sexuality, and his belief that sexual dysfunction caused all neuroses, led to a break with Freud. He was denounced by psychoanalysts and in 1934 was expelled from the International Psychoanalytic Association. Active in liberal politics, he had also been expelled from the Communist Party in 1933.


Escaping from Nazi Germany, Reich spent a few years in Scandinavia, continuing to develop a therapeutic technique to release sexual energy and get rid of “body armor”. He also pursued research into a substance he claimed to have discovered , “orgone”—a “life energy” omnipresent in physical form, involved with all emotional and physical problems, responsible for weather patterns and influencing alien space ships. His ideas were attacked as unscientific and unproven.

In 1939 Reich went to the United States to teach at the New School for Social Research in New York. Although not licensed as a physician in the United States, he taught his therapeutic techniques designed to combat character armor, which he defined as personal traits used as defense against emotions, lodged in muscles and organs. Continuing his research on orgone, he invented boxes called “orgone energy accumulators” which he sold or rented to his patients. In the early 1940s he bought land in Rangeley, Maine, and set up a research laboratory there.

Back in New York, Reich had a private practice in which he treated patients, some of whom had cancer, by placing them in the orgone accumulator boxes.

It was in the 1940s and 50s that Reich gathered around him an enclave of politically and artistically avant-garde New Yorkers—mostly Jewish Eastern European Bohemian Marxist Bauhaus artists, musicians, and writers. Notable among them was Susanna’s uncle, writer and illustrator William Steig.

Reich had two marriages—to Annie Pink, with whom he had two daughters, and Ilse Ollendorff, with whom he had a son—as well as one other long-term relationship, and numerous sexual relationships, including at least one with the wife of a colleague. However, according to his wives, while he claimed sexual freedom for himself, he had delusions of jealousy in which he angrily accused them of infidelity. His first wife left him because of his violent jealous accusations and temper outbursts. Ilse, his second wife, writes in Wilhelm Reich: A Personal Biography, “He would accuse his wife of infidelity with any man who came to his mind as a possible rival.”


Ilse describes him as “a black-and-white thinker.” She adds, “The power of his personality was enormous and…difficult to withstand….He was violent of temperament, taxing people around him to the utmost, but he was at the same time terribly exciting to be with.”

He suffered from delusional disorder in at least three forms. In addition to delusions of jealousy, he exhibited delusions of grandeur—he saw himself as like Galileo and Christ, and later in his life often stated that the Air Force and the President of the United States were secretly protecting him. Delusions of persecution led him to believe in a communist-inspired conspiracy against his work.
The Belief System

Cults offer apparent utopias. As do most cult leaders, Reich focused on affluent, educated people to recruit into his system. The children, now adults, of the followers of Reich recall being taught that the world was divided into Reichians, who were the “enlightened and healthy” people, and everyone else, who were diseased with “the emotional plague.” An emotionally plagued person is chronically armored and tries to suppress and control “life energy,” which is expressed in spontaneity, emotionality, and sexuality.


Cults are likely to enforce either celibacy or extreme sexual activity. Susanna, whose “therapeutic” experiences beginning at age three were described earlier, says, “The cult is about the perfectibility of mankind through having an ‘unarmored’ body and the proper orgasmic sex life, which was the key to everything. Although Reich held out the promise of great sex in a repressive time, the Reichians were actually extremely fascistic about sex, being very homophobic, thinking only some positions were correct, etc.” However, they did believe that children from infancy to adolescence should engage in sexual activity with other children.

What were the specific beliefs that permeated the cult? Followers were asked to accept unquestioningly the following premises, because Reich presented “scientific” evidence unconfirmed by others, that they were true:

1. All emotional illness and perhaps physical illness is due to repressed sexuality.

2. The body develops rigidities in muscles and organs, called body armor. The personality develops character traits to protect repressions, called character armor.

3. Therapy is designed to break through and reduce body armor and character armor.

4. People, including children, must be allowed to act on their sexual impulses.

5. Orgone, discovered by Reich, is an invisible energy.

6. Orgone can be concentrated in boxes and used to treat diseases..

7. Orgone can control the weather. Reich designed a contraption with pipes and cables called a “cloudbuster” which was to make rain. He claimed it influenced local weather immediately and regional weather for days after its use.

8. Alien spaceships which frequently come from other planets can be disabled by orgone. (Social scientists Margaret Thaler Singer and Janja Lalich, in their book Crazy Therapies, which reviews cults created by psychotherapists, note that these therapists can “become entranced with the idea that UFOs and alien life exist.”)


What attracted otherwise intelligent and sophisticated people to this man and his beliefs? Susanna says, “The need for certainty and perfectibility.” For whatever reasons, his theories are still being taught and utilized by some psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners.

Child Abuse

Many cults have presented doctrines that support violence and other destructive behavior. Given the nature of the leader and the rigidity of the belief system, it follows that brutal and dehumanizing activities can be carried out in the name of “Truth.” The young, innocent, and powerless are prime targets for ruthless exploitation. And that’s what happened in the Reichian cult. Unfortunately, Reich had the status and credentials of a medical doctor to enhance his messages.

The terror, torture, and sexual abuse described by Susanna, Roger and Frederika, and experienced by many others, was ostensibly done to rid them of character and body armor. But it is also true that a belief system that allows such treatment will attract unprincipled people— psychopaths and sadists—who will use it for their own purposes. Pedophiles would be drawn to a school of thought that encourages sexuality with children. The behavior of the therapists Felicia Saxe and Albert I. Duvall appears to be pedophilia associated with sexual sadism.

The late psychologist and cult expert Margaret Thaler Singer, in her book Cults in our Midst, emphasized the prevalence of child abuse in cults. She writes,

“Cult children are powerless. They are total victims—even the parents on whom they should be able to depend are controlled by the cult leader, … In cults, parents do not function as they do in the regular world…. the cult leader dictates how children are to be reared, and the parents simply implement these orders….Often cult parents are led to regard children as creatures similar to wild ponies, who must be broken…. Moreover, in many cultic groups… parents’ dedication is measured by their willingness to abuse their children at the leader’s request” [and parents are taught] ”to stand by while their children… are severely abused…. child sexual abuse is promoted in certain cults…. Child-to-child sex, adult-to-child sex, and incest are encouraged in some cults.”

The Reichian children–-Susanna, Frederika, and Roger–now adults, have described their sexual torment. Furthermore, Singer notes, children who witness or are subjected to “brutality and harshness” can “become terrorized and docile to avoid such a fate befalling them.” Roger, in particular, on his website tells about exactly that reaction.

And in the End…

What Happened to the Reichians?
In the late 1940s articles about Reich appeared in The New Republic and Harpers.

Written by Mildred Edie Brady, co-founder of Consumer’s Union, they were critical of orgone accumulators and medical claims. (The child abuse was still secret.) The articles caught the attention of the Food and Drug Administration, which began to investigate.

In 1954 the FDA filed an injunction, denying the existence of orgone energy and requesting the court to prohibit the shipment of orgone accumulators in interstate commerce. Reich refused to appear in court, so an injunction was issued; all orgone accumulators and related materials were to be destroyed, and Reich’s books on the subject were banned. When Reich disobeyed the injunction, he and a colleague, Michael Silvert, were sentenced to federal prison for criminal contempt of court. For Reich the prison term was to be two years. The machines were destroyed and his books were burned.

During this period, Reich became even more rampantly psychotic. A psychiatric examiner at the prison described Reich as “paranoid manifested by delusions of grandiosity and persecution and ideas of reference.”

Reich, who had had one heart attack and frequent cardiac problems, died of heart failure in 1957 after eight months in federal prison. When released from prison, Michael Silvert killed himself. The cult broke up into warring factions

Felicia Saxe, Elsworth Baker, and Albert Duvall have died. (When Roger heard about Duvall’s death, he says, “My brother was overjoyed. I’m sure he would’ve danced a jig on Dr. Duvall’s grave, and I’m sure I would have joined him.”)

And yet…Reichian therapists have followers and have established various institutes. In 1968, Elsworth Baker founded The American College of Orgonomy near Princeton, New Jersey. The College continues to provide training about orgone and “biopsychiatric therapy,” as does The Institute for Orgonomic Science in Philadelphia, The Orgonomic Institute of Northern California, and The Reichian Institute in Sacramento. There are thousands of Reichian therapists all over the world.
What Happened to the Children?

As they have tried to tell us, these children and others like them are not who they might have been.

The lifelong effects of child abuse are well documented. Such trauma has far-reaching effects in all aspects of life—thoughts, feelings, identity, behavior, and relationships. Physical, sexual, and psychological abuse disrupts a child’s biological and psychological development.

Researchers point to biological changes in the brain as a result of early trauma, and particularly Type III trauma. Various physiological systems, including the immune system, are affected by early high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In their book Transforming the Legacy: Couple Therapy with Survivors of Childhood Trauma, Kathryn K. Basham and Dennis Miehls review the alterations in neurotransmitters, brain hormones, and brain structures.

The International Cultic Studies Association, founded in 1979 and based in Bonita Springs Florida, is a global network of people with extensive experience with the effects of manipulation and abuse in cults. Members include legal and mental health professionals, former cult members and their families. Their research points particularly to the prevalence of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder in survivors of long-time cult abuse.

These two sources describe post-torture difficulties in the following areas of life:

–problems with stress management
— intense, extreme emotions, including rage storms
–problems in developing emotion-regulation systems
–re-victimization; choosing abusive partners
–startle responses; increased sensitivity to stimulation, such as sound or light

–flashbacks; reactivation of traumatic events, such as day and night terrors
–shifting patterns of response ranging from hyperarousal to numbness
–development of self-protective mechanisms, including use of drugs and alcohol

–parasuicidal acts; cutting, burning, and other modes of self-injury
–eating disorders
–feelings of shame

–problems with sexual functioning in adulthood –avoidance of reminders of the abuse situations –hyper-vigilance
–numbing and withdrawal

–dissociation and depersonalization
–problems with trust, connection , and attachment in relationships

–clinical depression

Abuse survivors experience some of these conditions every day of their lives. Some problems come from their efforts at self-protection: at the time they were being tortured, the survivors tell us, they used various psychological mechanisms to survive, some of which became habitual. Frederika and Susanna describe dissociation and self-anesthesia, leaving the body, losing awareness. Roger talks about passive compliance—“I’ll do anything, just don’t hurt me”—that became generalized to other areas of his life. Susanna trained herself not to cry under the worst pain and terror.

This, then, is Reich’s legacy. Frederika says the trauma and betrayal are as fresh as yesterday. She has never had a pelvic examination without crying. Susanna says, “I changed from a happy, boisterous child to a frightened, quiet one….My heart was broken, and would never totally mend.”


The children encountered what philosopher Hannah Arendt called radical evil,domination through reducing human beings to non-human objects. They saw a delusional, megalomaniacal leader whose followers, regarding human beings as less than human, conducted brutal manipulation of innocent minds and bodies under the guise of medical treatment. They saw their families collude, sacrificing their children for a belief in their own superiority and permission for unbridled sexuality.

And so the dancer and the doctors—Saxe, Baker, and Duvall—found a home, a group in which to legitimately inflict and enjoy children’s pain and terror, to dominate by reducing human beings to sub-human, with parents and others as silent, complicit bystanders. They did not manage to destroy these particular children, but other child victims may not have been so lucky. With resilience almost unimaginable, they survived to tell their stories with outrage, recapturing their dignity and humanity.

These children, now adults, have found ways to create fulfilling lives, sometimes in service to others; however, thirty to sixty years later, they struggle daily with the aftereffects of their pain, fear, and the attempts to degrade them. Other victims are still silent, but these few have found the dignity and strength and courage to tell their stories, in spite of the pain of doing so, hoping the accurate history of the Reichians will not disappear, hoping someone will listen.


Similar Psychotherapy Cults

Two other groups are eerily similar to the Reichians—The Center for Feeling Therapyand the Sullivan Institute for Research in Psychoanalysis. They were founded by mental health professionals, resorted to abuse of members, and usurped parental authority over children.

The Center for Feeling Therapy.

In her book Insane Therapy: Portrait of a Psychotherapy Cult, sociologist Marybeth F.Ayella describes The Center for Feeling Therapy, established in Los Angeles in 1971 as a off- shoot of psychologist Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream Therapy. Janov and his followers claimed to be influenced by the writings of Wilhelm Reich, preaching a doctrine of “freeing physical blocks.”

The members were mostly college-educated people in their 20s and 30s. They were forced to have abortions, to strip naked, to have sex, and they were beaten. Children were taken from their parents and sent away.

By the time the group dissolved in 1980, 300 members were living together and 600 more were outpatients. The founding therapists claimed to have absolute truth and guaranteed a life of “identity, meaning, intimacy, and community.” The charismatic leaders, notably Joseph Hart and Richard Corriere, demanded blind obedience, utilized harsh punishments, rigid unrealistic norms, while claiming that following these dictates made members far superior to outsiders.


These therapists were finally convicted of committing fraud, gross negligence, unprofessional conduct, misrepresentation of professional qualifications, and patient abuse. Their licenses were revoked, but they went on to have careers in related fields, such as counseling in corporate and academic organizations

The Sullivanians

Sociologist Amy B. Siskind, in The Sullivan Institute/Fourth Wall Community: The Relationship of Radical Individualism and Authoritarianism, describes the leadership and practices of the cult in which she was raised, founded in New York in 1957 and known as the Sullivanians. The founders were Jane Pearce, M.D., student of respected psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan, and her partner, Saul Newton, an office worker with no clinical training. Newton, charismatic and dominating, soon took over.

Their members were Upper West Side New Yorkers—liberal, educated, intellectual, some famous in their professions. The stated goal of the community was to make its members psychologically superior through the Institute’s own brand of psychotherapy, through “regression, corrective experience, and personality restructuring” based upon perverted theories of psychoanalysis and communism.

Throughout the next few decades, hundreds of Sullivanians lived together in apartments and saw their therapists often, for therapy, classes, parties, and sexual relations. Promiscuous sex was mandated. Children were removed from their parents and either sent to boarding school or given to other group members to be raised.

The group was ruled by Saul Newton and his various wives (he had six, of whom Jane Pearce was one) as a dictatorship, wherein Newton exerted absolute domination over the lives of members. Those who did not submit were punished or expelled. The group became increasingly paranoid and abusive, and in the 1980s, it split into warring factions. Newton died in 1991. In the New York Times obituary, he is described as charismatic and tyrannical; a former member labels the Sullivanians as “a manipulative cult that preyed on people, made patients feel troubled and vulnerable, cut them off from their families and the outside world.”

Former patients and students charged the remaining leaders with professional misconduct. The leaders gave up their professional licenses (if they had them) rather than contest the suit, but continued to work as therapists.