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

The Psychopath Machine


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

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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