Library Collections: Document: Full Text

A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

Previous Page   Next Page   All Pages 

Page 12:


The piece of ice in the pitcher of water which stood usually on the table 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 to be produced by some mechanical device resorted to by the detectives for a purpose. Thus it is that the most trifling occurrence assumes vast significance to an unsound mind afflicted with certain types of delusion.




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 confirmed, 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 and 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 inhabitant as myself. Because of the early hour, the streets were practically deserted. This fact too I interpreted to my own disadvantage; and, as the carriage crossed the main business thoroughfare, I took what I believed to be my last look at that portion 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, but wherefore, I knew not.


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 anesthetic 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 up to August 30th, 1902, when I again got in touch with my own world, 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 patients afflicted as I was 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. Fearing 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 memory.


Shortly before seven in the morning, en route 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 particular 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 for which I was destined was situated in the country, and when we reached a certain station I was carried from the train to a carriage and driven thither. Just as we alighted from the train 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 torture.


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, in substance, it was 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 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 now 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 the 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.

Previous Page   Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39  40  41  42  43  44  45  46  47  48  49  50  51  52  53  54  55  56  57  58  59  60  61  62  63  64  65  66  67  68  69  70  71  72  73  74  75  76  77  78  79  80  81  82  83  84  85  86  87  88  89  90  91  92  93  94  95  96  97  98  99  100  101  102  103  104  105  106  107  108  109  110  111  112  113  114  115  116    All Pages