The Psychopath Machine


A good contribution to the history of psychiatric malpractice, as well as an engrossing personal memoir.

In this debut memoir, a Canadian man tells of his ordeal as the subject of radical psychological experimentation, and of how he subsequently put his life back together.

Smith writes that his 1968 arrest for car theft at the age of 18, even though the charges were later dropped, “began my trip into hell, which was to last eight months and haunt me the rest of my life.” He was sent to Oak Ridge, a forensic mental health facility in Midland, Ontario, where he says that a doctor told him he was a “psychopath” and subjected him to treatment that included large doses of hallucinogens and other drugs, sleep deprivation, and being handcuffed to fellow inmates (“rapists and killers determined to convince me I was insane”). After his release, the author went through many ups and downs, sometimes flush with cash, sometimes homeless. He was involved in various crimes, including recruiting girls into prostitution: “I have no excuse or explanation, only that I was young and didn’t know any better,” he says. Stealing cigarettes sent him to Burwash Correctional Centre, where he did well and learned new skills, but an escape attempt landed him back in Oak Ridge and then in Kingston Penitentiary. Upon his release, Smith reunited with his brother, partied a lot, and traveled through Mexico and Central America, having many adventures. He also pursued a class-action lawsuit against the Oak Ridge doctor, not to his entire satisfaction. The author eventually married and began a successful plastic fabrication business. After a somewhat confusing opening section—in which the author tells of meeting Peter Woodcock but doesn’t explain who he is for readers unfamiliar with the Canadian serial killer—Smith writes very expressively about his own confusion, despair, and anger. The book sheds light on therapeutic practices considered cutting-edge in their time, but which now seem barbaric. Many details here have appeared in other sources, but Smith’s description of Woodcock’s secret “Brotherhood” organization, and his own subsequent involvement with it, is difficult to verify. The author has a good eye for telling details, though, including heartbreaking ones, as in his description of girls on the “Indian bus” in public school who would throw notes out the window saying “HELP ME.” He makes his tangled story readable and absorbing.

A good contribution to the history of psychiatric malpractice, as well as an engrossing personal memoir.

Pub Date: July 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-8783-5

Page Count: 216

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2016



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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