dannemora prisonDannemora Village to left, state prison to right

This is a true story
the images below are the real places the boy experiences

High up in the Adirondack village of Dannemora, a little boy of 11 edges nervously towards the forest encircling a grassy field. Children, under the watchful eyes of stern black-robed women, play with their marbles, noisily chase each other, or a few, like himself, are off to the side to avoid the bullies. It is late October, the year after JFK had been shot, which he remembers so vividly because a nun in tears had abruptly interrupted the class. Without asking the nun already there, she had turned on a TV and slowly came Walter Cronkite’s faltering voice and tearful face to describe, through the snow of the reception, the chilling story.

Up above, behind the trees and clusters of houses, he holds the image of the foreboding gray wall of the New York state prison, of which he remembers Dad having warned him countless times, with spit flying from his lips, that here he would end up in if he ever said anything to others about the sacred work of the Father in a home, as consecrated by the holy Pope.

He has been thinking about this brave act for some time, as he kept struggling after school to understand textbooks in yet a new language from behind the room which Mom had padlocked him into... to await Dad's return from his job as a French Teacher down the mountain in Saranac. The black-robes behaved unkind, for they encouraged those who bullied him for his broken English, and so much else. Agnes, his equally shy little sister, was also periodically locked into the room, or another one, to await her fate.

But he’s grown accustomed to the hurts from the nuns and priests of which he had a clear linear memory. Somehow the more shadowy nightmarish stuff only percolates into vague memory, as if watching from a safe distance his suffering at the hands of the big dark-clothed religious adults, who stank of tobacco, by a thin thread from a corner in the ceiling. And to get to that safe place in the ceiling corner, he’d learned in a village near Montreal how to curl up in a ball and close his eyes in a special way while humming and rocking, to then fall into what at first always presented itself like a scary swirling chaos of shapes and color, which then weirdly felt warm and cuddly. It was like being embraced by a thick comforting liquid, with eyes that could only see shadows, except for the patterns of lines and circles that expanded and grew in shape and form. Here there was no angry God of Dad and Mom and their priests, and no winged angels ceaselessly playing their harps, the way the comic books Dad gave him described them. And despite the warm comfort, this at first always scared him because maybe it was that awful place called purgatory.

It is a warm Indian summer’s afternoon, and the wind has given wings to his imagination.

He had committed a horrible crime earlier that morning, by sneaking a hand into the kitchen drawer to slip a thick rubber band into his pocket. He'd seen how Timmy on Lassie -- or somebody on a some TV show he had been allowed to see -- had fashioned a slingshot with a similar elastic.

Braving the raspberry thorns, which tears a bit through thin pants and a light sweater over short-sleeved shirt, he is more concerned that the nuns, who often slapped his hands with a ruler for not knowing English well enough, will hear his rapidly beating heart. It wasn’t so much the pain in his hands that hurt; it was that all the other kids were looking at the nun doing that to him and smirking about it.

As his heart thumps so loud that he is certain the nuns will hear, he finds a trail and hears a rustling of fallen leaves in the piney thicket of an endless mountain forest. Probably a squirrel or rabbit, he thinks to himself.

Capuchin Pointes aux TredmblesA memory from Pointe-aux-Trembles creeps into his thinking as he walks on the trail away from school, and down the mountain. It is a little village along the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, owned by the Capuchin monks who made maple syrup each spring, and work their apple orchard. First he remembers Père Michelle, and of being allowed by him and the other monks to eat as much of the maple syrup they were cooking outdoors. They’d shown him how to throw a ladle of the hot syrup to the snow to make candy. But he’d gotten sick after eating too much. Hearing a chattering in a tree above the trail, he flashes back to a baby squirrel that had gotten stuck in a chapel closet within the Bocage next to the long and winding Way of the Cross through the manicured woodland behind the monastery. He’d so wanted to help it outside, and maybe hold the cute little furry thing in his hands for a few minutes. Maybe even kiss it. But he’d been shocked by how painful and bloody the bite on his finger had been, as the brown little monster scurried away.

“Ouch!” he’d screamed. The memory is made more horrible by Dad, though that was the day before, or later that night... and the day after... and after... or before... When did it all begin? Probably Denmark, because the next flash to hit his thinking was of embracing his little sister as she screamed in fear. He had just been daydreaming of being very far away while looking out to the sloping field that ended at Roskilde FjordRoskilde Fjord, where once Vikings had sailed far away. He knows all this so clearly; his ability to remember certain things said in passing is very sharp.

What could he do to make him... and he always searched for the word, but it never came. Mom? Maman... Mor? Always beautiful, with flowing brown hair. But only that. And then how he must only ever talk with others, even kids in the family, the way Dad angrily dictated, like he and Agnes were secretly but evilly special from the rest. It is like an invisible wall, both within the home and outside. No matter how much he tried to figure out from Dad’s face what might suddenly come raging out to avoid it, he would be yanked by the ear into a special smoky stinky room a lot, and sat on a metal chair with a light from that horrid desk blinding his eyes, and the belt would come off, and the furious questions in the name of God the Father would erupt. And that was just the beginning.

And in thinking about Pointes-aux-Trembles he remembers again that special brown-robe... a white-bearded Capuchin monk, who had always been the kindest, caring and most beautiful person in that childhood that moved to a new house or apartment or country every couple of years. Not one time had that big man ever touched him hurtfully by hand or with words. He so misses Père Michelle. He had never talked about God and scary demons or hell, at least not the way Dad, Mom and all the other priests and nuns did. But he did talk a lot about animals, and how plants and animals work together, even if they eat one another, to make the planet beautiful and green with fresh air, all without talking like people. The most interesting thing was when he, with a gleam in his eyes, explained, in such a clear way, that the stuff deep inside everything you could see was so small it was invisible and was made up mostly of empty space, and kind of looks a bit like the picture of planets around the sun. And about a guy with wild hair called Einstein, who’d learned how that tiny stuff had so much explosive energy from something that happened a very long time ago. And late one afternoon, locked in some moist cold room, with a single little window that let the sun stream in to catch bits of dust in the air, he was scared about having a hammer and accidentally hitting one of those things floating in the sunlight, and that Montreal would become a huge poisonous hole in the ground with a big mushroom cloud rising.

Knowing those kinds of things, also like what the name Vermont means, did help a bit in school, at least when he didn’t freeze in front of everybody and somebody snickered. But he’d learned long ago that he couldn’t talk about those things with Dad. Only stuff about obeying God, and Dad, and stuff about saints who got burned to death for doing God’s work. He remembers suddenly, as a red-winged bird flew overhead and screeched, a French nun who’d described in scary detail about a martyr priest in the woods of Canada long ago, who’d brought the holy word of God to the heathen Iroquois. He’d been tied to a post, and had had his heart cut out while still alive, and they ate it.*

Maybe when he got hurt by other kids that was sort of like that. Maybe if he got really hurt by them, all bloody, Dad would see how much he loved him and realize that he always told the truth. Maybe then Dad, and Mom too, would stop all that really bad and painful stuff they were doing.

All that which Dad and Mom were doing was so wrong. As far back as he could remember, he’d known that, even though nobody ever had told him. God knew. He just had to.

His sense of direction is intuitively perfect, as he comes to the big road that goes down to the valley below, where the Saranac River eventually flows into Lake Champlain. He looks both ways from behind a massive tree, but not to avoid being run over. He wants no one to ever again find him. No one ever. EVER. Somebody in the family last week had told Dad that he’d done something with a white powder that he hadn’t... maybe while also sitting in a metal chair with a light shining in the eyes, and all afraid. He wonders why anybody would want to poison Dad. But it didn’t matter how much he told the truth to Dad as he cried and cried, the next night, naked with him in the car in the woods, was the scariest ever.

No... don’t think about that. Run! Free!

12642716 1028651553845472 7997124703900152418 nThe sun shines strong and the air is crispy warm with piney scents, and he races across the paved road, almost certain Dad’s station wagon would come into sight from where the road twists into view from behind the huge trees all yellow and red with Fall leaves. He hears someone slam a car door shut from the dirt parking lot of the lumber yard just down the road. Closing his eyes, so no one can see him, he hurls himself into the ditch, and slowly his breathing calms down. But his heart is still racing. And he gets worried about a bee or wasp buzzing in the tall grass.

Peeking over the grass, he sees a dark car coming into view from below, and plunges his head into the dirt, smelling the loam. Such a happy alive scent, like the time he silently, breathlessly watched small plants suddenly being pulled underground. He knew it was a burrowing animal of some sort. He had so wanted to see it, sitting very still for a very long time. And it had gotten dark, and he had gotten punished.

The grass itches his face and ears. But he dare not move a muscle. He holds his breath while listening to the car tires and motor approaching... to then fade up towards Dannemora.

Agnes? Agnes. Maybe he could sneak back to town after having built the log cabin. But first he must dam the creek into a pond, make the hydroelectric generator out of an electric motor with magnets he was sure to find, pick raspberries and blackberries, make jam, put the glass window into the dirt-cave he'd dig out by the pond’s edge to watch the fish, find a girl a few years later that he might marry, be happy together. Then he would go back to the village and find Agnes and sneak her out of the horrible house next to the church, with doors that went into dark creepy places across from the church, and build a smaller cabin for her. She was a girl, and not as strong. Half as much space as he needed. No, maybe 3/4th. But he’d share his kitchen with her. Everything except the bedroom. No one ever would come in there. It was hard to remember her suddenly. She’d been caught shoplifting a candy bar, and Dad had said she was doing the will of devils, like Communists and Jewish movie people, and had made God the Father very angry. But Agnes had whispered into his ears that Dad had told her that he was the Communist spy, like the singers and black people from mysterious states far away in the south and in California, who were corrupting God’s America by protesting. No way. He was going to prove that he was...

Time passes in a weird way. He’d run away into woods before, remembering each time, as a mosquito lands on an ear and he swats it away, but only for short periods. This is permanent.

This ends Part 1 of 3

For Part 2 please follow this link


*The traumatizing story, which the boy -- at the age of eight -- had been told in vivid detail by his teacher, a nun, is of Jean de Brébeuf, who died in 1649 and is a celebrated saint in Catholic Canada. For a more fact-based understanding of what the First Nations indigenous peoples of America experienced as Christian Europe first invaded native territories, please follow this link

Below are scientific and therapeutic help links for further reading

Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Abstract: In recent years, there has been a surge of research into early brain development. Neuroimaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), provide increased insight about how the brain develops and how early experiences affect that development. One area that has been receiving increasing research attention involves the effects of abuse and neglect on the developing brain, especially during infancy and early childhood. Much of this research is providing biological explanations for what practitioners have long been describing in psychological, emotional, and behavioral terms. There is now scientific evidence of altered brain functioning as a result of early abuse and neglect. This emerging body of knowledge has many implications for the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect

Dissociation FAQ’s - International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation
Dissociation is a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other. Dissociated experiences are not integrated into the usual sense of self, resulting in discontinuities in conscious awareness (Anderson & Alexander, 1996; Frey, 2001; International Society for the Study of Dissociation, 2002; Maldonado, Butler, & Spiegel, 2002; Pascuzzi & Weber, 1997; Rauschenberger & Lynn, 1995; Simeon et al., 2001; Spiegel & Cardeña, 1991; Steinberg et al., 1990, 1993). In severe forms of dissociation, disconnection occurs in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception. For example, someone may think about an event that was tremendously upsetting yet have no feelings about it. Clinically, this is termed emotional numbing, one of the hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder. Dissociation is a psychological process commonly found in persons seeking mental health treatment (Maldonado et al., 2002).

OUT OF THE FOG - Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse; childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse; entrapment or kidnapping; slavery or enforced labor; long term imprisonment and torture; repeated violations of personal boundaries; long-term objectification; exposure to gaslighting & false accusations; long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull,splitting or alternating raging & hooveringbehaviors; long-term taking care of mentally ill or chronically sick family members; long term exposure to crisis conditions...

Religion Exploits Normal Human Mental Processes
Because the child’s mind is uniquely susceptible to religious ideas, religious indoctrination particularly targets vulnerable young children. Cognitive development before age seven lacks abstract reasoning. Thinking is magical and primitive, black and white. Also, young humans are wired to obey authority because they are dependent on their caregivers just for survival. Much of their brain growth and development has to happen after birth, which means that children are extremely vulnerable to environmental influences in the first few years when neuronal pathways are formed...

Religious Abuse
Religiously-based psychological abuse of children can involve using teachings to subjugate children through fear, or indoctrinating the child in the beliefs of their particular religion whilst suppressing other perspectives. Psychologist Jill Mytton describes this as crushing the child's chance to form a personal morality and belief system; it makes them utterly reliant on their religion and/or parents, and they never learn to reflect critically on information they receive. Similarly, the use of fear and a judgmental environment (such as the concept of Hell) to control the child can be traumatic.

National Center for PTSD - Treating C-PTSD, a professional site
Many traumatic events (e.g., car accidents, natural disasters, etc.) are of time-limited duration. However, in some cases people experience chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time. The current PTSD diagnosis often does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma. People who experience chronic trauma often report additional symptoms alongside formal PTSD symptoms, such as changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events.

How to Choose a Therapist for Post-Traumatic Stress and Dissociative Conditions - Sidran Institute
One of the primary roles of Sidran Institute’s Help Desk is to assist people who have been traumatized in finding various kinds of help. “Treatment” is usually sought when the behavioral adaptations (usually called “symptoms”) typical of trauma survivors become disabling, interfering with work, home life, recreation, sleep, parenting, and other aspects of daily function. Our aim is not only to help people feel better and function better, but also to help them learn to be informed and empowered consumers in general and consumers of mental health services, in particular. We hope trauma survivors find that taking appropriate and well-considered action to improve one’s life is made a little easier by the information on this page.

If you are currently in crisis: The process of choosing a helpful therapist takes some time, thought, and focus. If you are currently in a crisis, or are worried that you might hurt or kill yourself or someone else, please contact your community’s mental health center, hospital emergency room, or a hotline.  Here are some hotline numbers that might be useful:National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/Sexual Abuse: 1-800-799-SAFE
National Youth Crisis Hotline: 800-442-HOPE

When the crisis has passed, this brochure will help you organize the task of finding a therapist for ongoing treatment...

Bent Lorentzen

Bent Lorentzen

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