another interesting mail story - a well-known British actress was subject to Sargant's psychic driving techniques, totally uselessly, to cure anorexia :www.dailymail.co.ukMy electric shock nightmare at the hands of the CIA's evil doctor
By Celia Imrie
Last updated at 10:17 PM on 2nd April 2011
Desperate now, my parents decided to send me away to St Thomas' Hospital in London, to enter one of the special wards belonging to the Department of Psychological Medicine. And once there I was placed under the care of world-famous psychiatrist William Sargant. I was 14.
Now, more than 20 years after his death, Sargant is notorious for his work for MI5 and the CIA, particularly its covert MK-ULTRA mind control programme. Brusque and cold: Psychologist William Sargant used electric shock therapy on his patients
Even then, Sargant was a world expert on brainwashing. Today his books are said to be studied by Al Qaeda. His work has links to the mysterious death of CIA biochemist Frank Olson after being given LSD; the Jonestown massacre in Guyana, where 900 people killed themselves; and to the mind-bending and occasionally lethal drug experiments performed on unwitting human guinea pigs at the Porton Down research centre in Wiltshire.
Sargant's methods were simple: electric-shock treatment and insulin-induced comas leading to continuous narcosis, or deep-sleep therapy, complete with taperecorded 'brainwashing' orders being played at the patients from beneath their pillows. And to think that all this came free on the NHS!
The hospital building is still there and even today it sends a chill through me when I pass it on my way to Waterloo station, the Imax cinema or the National Theatre. It is a gloomy, dark red-brick edifice, the green and white ceramic tile lettering still declaring it to be the Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children and Women, although today it houses the Schiller International University, a private American college.
From outside the Imax, you can see the window where I would sit waiting for my mother to emerge from Waterloo station, hurrying across the road, looking frantic. She was the only one who came to see me and I often wonder whether anyone else in the family even knew about her rushed, desperate visits. After all, I was the black sheep of the family.
At 14, I was the youngest in the ward. Most of the other patients were middle-aged women suffering from depression. From my bed, I watched them howling, moaning and screaming, fighting with the nurses. I thought: 'I don't want to be mad. I must get out of here.'
The doctors and nurses did their daily rounds. Twice a week or so, we were treated to a bedside visit from the Great Man himself.
Sargant still features in my nightmares. He was brusque and cold, and he never talked directly to you. Instead he issued orders over your head, talking about 'this one' and 'that one'. But that was preferable to making eye contact with this proud, incorrigible man with his dark, hard, evil eyes. I have only seen eyes like that on a couple of other people in my life.
After Sargant left the ward, the nurses would start preparing the horrors he had prescribed for the day - the electro-convulsive therapy. Friends have asked what it was like to have electrodes put either side of your skull before huge surges of power were fired through your brain, while you squirmed and wrestled and shrieked and moaned and dribbled into the pillow. But the truth is I don't remember.
I do, however, remember vividly watching the woman in the next bed when it was her turn to be assaulted in the name of health. I remember every sight, sound and smell. The huge rubber plug jammed between her teeth; the strange almost silent cry, like a sigh of pain; the shuddering contortions and jerky gyrations of the tormented body; the scent of burning hair and flesh.
I remember also the famous Narcosis Room, a ward where patients were forced into a drug-induced sleep for days while tapes played instructions to them from under the pillow.
Whenever I have been asked about Sargant's Narcosis Room, I can describe it perfectly. I used to sneak out of the ward to peer through the portholes in the swing doors, and gaze at dead-looking women lying on the floor on grey mattresses, silent in a kind of electrically induced twilight.
When people ask if ever I spent any time inside, I used to reply 'No', for I do not remember that ever happening.
But it recently occurred to me that everyone, in order to be put into the Narcosis Room, would first be drugged and that although I saw many women come back to the ward from there, I never saw any patient emerge from the place awake. You went in asleep and you came out asleep.
I don't think anyone who was treated by Sargant's sleep therapy was at any time aware of going in or coming out of that room. While inside, you were totally unconscious. So maybe I was in the Narcosis Room. I could not possibly know.
It is probable, I realise now, that I did go in. Like the electric shocks, I presume it definitely happened to me, though I can only recall it happening to others. I was certainly injected with huge doses of insulin. These injections are now understood to be one of the methods Sargant used to kick-start his sleeptherapy process.
I cannot know whether his mindcontrol methods worked on me as I do not know what the tape recordings under my pillow were telling me to do.
Some years back, I tried to find my hospital records, to see whether I could find out the limits of my treatment and if I had been in the Narcosis Room. I wanted to know the exact instructions on the tape constantly playing under my pillow, Sargant's wishes drummed relentlessly into my young, unconscious brain.
Unfortunately, my search was in vain. When Sargant left St Thomas', he illegally took away all his patients' records. By the time of his death in 1988, every single piece of paperwork about his inhumane treatment of us, the human guinea pigs, had been destroyed. So I will never know the absolute truth.
I do recall being given massive doses, three tumblers a day, of Largactil, an anti-psychotic drug. The effect of this drug was startling. My hands shook uncontrollably for most of the day and I'd wake up to find clumps of my hair on the pillow. But the worst consequence was that everything I saw was multiplied by four. When Sargant came into the room, I saw four of him. It was horrific and terrifying. Even simple tasks such as picking up a glass of water became impossible. The drugs had turned me into a victim.
As she increased the dosage one day, I overheard one nurse saying to her senior that I was exhibiting a 'dangerous resistance' to the drugs. Dangerous for whom, I wonder? Who could tell in that terrible place where, as far as I can see, the truly insane were the workers rather than the patients.
Sargant used to say that every dog has his breaking point - the eccentrics just took longer. I suppose my 'dangerous resistance' was what he was talking about. I like to think that I was one of those eccentric dogs he did not manage to break.
Many years later, I went with friends to see a film called Coma. It was a secondrate thriller starring Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold, in which Bujold discovers a ward full of patients suspended in hammocks in druginduced comas. When we came out into Leicester Square in London, my friends were laughing at the silliness of the plot, but I had the shakes and it took me some days to recover.
They probably thought I was coming down with something. In fact it wasn't until years later that I saw the link and realised why that film had upset me so deeply.
Whatever Sargant might have thought, my eventual cure was nothing to do with him or his bizarre techniques. The events that saved me from my self-induced anorexia came about in a very simple way.