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I could try to claim that John Wayne Gacy ruined clowns for me. But “ruination” implies that he destroyed something I liked before his intervention, and my mother has no recollection of my ever having a preference for the pale creepers during childhood, which passed in ignorance of Gacy’s offenses. For those of you who are unaware, John Wayne Gacy was a rapist and murderer of at least 33 young men during the 1970s. I should also mention that Gacy often had block parties where he dressed up as “Pogo the Clown,” entertaining the neighborhood children. I should note that at least two of his victims were as young as fourteen…therefore his target audience as “Pogo” didn’t exactly differ greatly in age from that of his victims. When I learned about Gacy, probably some time in my teens (I’m 23 now,) I’m sure that among fright and disgust I found another emotion brewing: vindication. I knew it. There is something creepy about clowns.

I’m from Boston. It’s a source of enormous pride. Even here, however, we’ve had our share of clown scares. Back in the spring of 1981, children were reporting that they were being approached by people dressed as clowns, who were attempting to entice them into their vans.

Is my fear regional? Did these events six years before my birth somehow effect how I came to view these people? Honestly, probably not. It’s likely that my simple mistrust of the balloon manipulating fiends has to do with an irrationally heightened survival instinct fueled by mistrust and a dislike of the covertly macabre.

I was asked to explain my fear of clowns recently and what I managed to summon, flustered as I was in attempting to invoke my dislikes in order to give an impression, was this simple and rather unsophisticated statement….. “they’re all…..ulterior motive-y.” Honestly, I simply have a difficult time believing that these people have good intentions. There is something frightening about covering one’s face so that you can approach others via the ruse of a certain cultural image we’re automatically expected to trust. I find people with personal space issues not only vulgar and difficult to tolerate, but frightening and rude. I also find myself associating a high level of pathology with the desire to put on makeup and shimmering striped clothing on the weekends to go talk to little children…every time I see a clown my first thought is inevitably “Ugh. Stay away,” and my second is invariably “Yep. He lives in his mother’s basement.” It could be my paranoia kicking in, but I find myself imagining a clown, in said basement, perhaps with his mother’s long preserved and petrified corpse, plotting my demise. If you find my dead body abandoned on the side of the road covered in cheap caked makeup, I have been killed by one of two perpetrators: a creepy clown, or one of the hundreds of girls I’ve justifiably declared a whore. Hopefully, my blog will be the first destination for the police attempting to find my killer.

Note: I apologize if you find this particular entry boring due to lack of photos for illustration and entertainment purposes. I have one excuse for this: any relevant photos would be photos of clowns….and I’m afraid of them.

I decided it’s time for a bit of a manifesto. I’m a psychiatric historian, devoted to serious research and, as I’m sure you can tell, susceptible to bouts of fury and passion when I observe what I feel is vile erasure, hideous caricaturization and what I can only assume is selective ignorance dwelling in the realm of my work. In short, this is what you should know:

The way that Massachusetts, and for that matter, the rest of the country, treats its former state hospitals, and, by extension, everything they represent, is deplorable. The powers that be destroy Victorian (and Edwardian) architectural masterpieces and erect yuppie colonies in their place, hollow condominium structures where Prozac lulled newlyweds race around in moderately expensive cars, in deliberate ignorance that they’re supporting a corporation (such as Avalon Communities) which facilitates the American trend of burying or demolishing the unfavorable in our past in favor of a sleek, ignorant, vacuous existence.

Note: I’m certainly not knocking Prozac, but one can’t ignore the irony of pharmaceutically treated tenants paying to live in perceived luxury on the grounds of a former “Insane Asylum.” In addition….I certainly don’t pretend to be above luxurious housing, in fact, I’m rather a fan of it, (not that I’d ever go as far as to call Avalon luxurious, far from it, but I do rather enjoy needling it’s perception of itself) but I promise you I’ll never move into a place which had, after the original building was demolished, replaced a former national historic landmark.

I’m not a “bleeding heart.” You know me, I’m for the most part a vicious elitist, accused of being cold and often pleaded with to “soften” her heart. But there are things I care about. I firmly believe that a society can be judged by how we treat those who need our mercy-not those who deem themselves worthy or deserving of various entitlements…but those who are truly helpless. I find it interesting and rather grotesque that history and philanthropy are collectively as trendy as they have become…or perhaps as they always have been. I have been accused of stating the unpopular. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, I’ll be accused of championing the unloved.

I must say, Facebook does a rather good job providing privacy customization for it’s users. Not only can you block other people, you can enter stealth mode and keep users as your friends but block them from your status updates, or edit the amount of information they can access on you (those people cursed with obligatory Facebook friends: the once you’d love to delete but who would cause a notable amount of real life grief for you if you deleted them from your friends list, undoubtedly consider this a godsend). You can delete annoying wall posts from said obligatory people who just doesn’t know how to take a hint, remove the clutter of game updates (Farmvile bonuses run out after a certain amount of time) or un-tag horrible pictures of yourself tagged by well meaning friends. My favorite is the “Hide” feature which allows me to politely remain Facebook friends with people about whom I have no complaints other than that their lives (and by extension their status updates) are boring. But there is one thing Facebook does not yet protect us from, and no, I’m not talking about those totally creepy “Make a Fake Baby” adds where desperate women splice pictures of themselves and the jock they fell for 20 years ago in high school (obligatory friend on said jock’s part) to make an infant that will never exist. Though, wow, I should write a whole blog on that, because let’s face it, that’s fucked.

Nope, I’m talking about fan pages….now “Like” pages, for whatever reason the titles of said pages were changed.

I’m subjected to a daily barrage of commentary from serial clickers who “Like” everything with a Facebook page, who think that every single link that that band, or television show or author posts to Facebook would somehow be incomplete without the grammatically incorrect, punctuation and capitalization deprived pseudo sentences they so generously provide us. The comments are usually entirely irrelevant ranging from “I love _____” to the even more aggravating “first” these people feel the need to share with however many thousand others are also fans of said page. Let’s face it, if I cared what you thought I’d friend you and read your updates. So, Facebook, could I have a button that hides all “likes” and comments from my news feed and publishes only the links? Of course, it would behoove all of us to be able to undo this setting change, on the off chance that our fellow fans acquire some relevance.

A Collector of Relics

I’ve been spending time with ghosts. The research for my novel has finally begun in a serious, formal sense, and I’m quite excited. Since finishing my BA in February, I’ve had the chance to immerse myself in the psychiatric history books I’ve amassed since I first became interested in the subject. I haven’t the faintest idea why the topic interests me so (the only reason I could give you is that it’s fascinating, which isn’t exactly objective, if that is what you’re looking for)…but I will tell you that the culture of psychiatry as a practice in the early to mid 20th century is as interesting as the pathologies of the patients it treated.

Dr. Walter Freeman, Psychiatrist (Left) with his sometime partner Dr. James Watts, Neurosurgeon.

What a strange thing, to find yourself in a world of antiquity not yet old enough to have gained a solid fan base (and thereby the accompanying reverence). On the cusp of being romanticized. In the shadow of those who, in their “infinite” hindsight is 20/20 wisdom find themselves in a position from which they feel comfortable judging the efforts of those for whom, in their time, there existed none who knew better. So much of the information out there, particularly pertaining to psychosurgery, is dangerously misrepresented. To read some of the interpretations and “histories” put together by random amateurs whose only qualifications are visits to wikipedia and web access, you might imagine that your average psychiatrist in the early to mid 20th century sat around his office purposefully dulling dirty scalpels by chopping wood for the blazing fireplace in his office, waiting until his patients were frozen enough in the back wards that the frostbite might provide some sort of respite in numbness as he sawed open their skulls, or attached them to car batteries for ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy). I’m afraid all the damage done wasn’t as purposeful as all of that. Certainly, there were sadistic doctors, but I’ve found more tragic heroes than menacing villains. So I’ve been occupying myself with the lives of ghosts, wondering where everything went wrong, how ambition begets consumption, and how we can blame doctors alone for what we ourselves (the public, the community) allowed to happen to the mentally ill in the United States.

The novel isn’t horror story, but an examination of a blighted past, a fevered era. It’s tragic, but not in the ways you think it is. The most complicated are the questions that seem easiest to answer.

It’s rare I find a book I think is truly awful. Even if there are books I don’t particularly like, I can usually find ways of appreciating certain aspects of them, or respecting the author’s position and intentions. But this book was, in actuality, absolutely terrible. It’s called The Spiritualist, and the woman responsible is called Megan Chance.

Instead of actually being an interesting book dealing with the history and culture of spirit circles in the Victorian age, this four hundred page daytime drama is as easily believable as the table rapping and “spirit possession” the book deals with. In short, if you’re gullible and uninterested in convincing detail, you’re going to adore it.

Prefaced as a book about a woman who is intending to solve her husband’s murder against all possible odds, this weak little fairytale is the story of Evelyn, a woman who married above her station who now finds herself in all kinds of trouble after she is the one suspected of killing him. Suffice it to say that she succumbs to the seduction of a slimy creeper called “Michel,” a fake medium intent on swindling a grief stricken older woman out of her substantial fortune, who appears to be the murderer. She allows herself to have wanton, dirty sexual encounters with him, despite the fact that she intends to attempt to marry her husband’s law partner, and the fact that she knows him to be sly, caniving and untrustworthy. When they find that Evelyn is actually a true medium(!), as opposed to the savvy skeptical woman that we are all initially persuaded to believe she is, Michel begins to cultivate her talents and she discovers that her husband’s law partner actually killed her husband Peter because Peter had fallen in love with Michel, and Michel had killed the law partner’s wife a year before. Why couldn’t she just have fallen in love with Michel and believed him the murderer because of the love triangle? What the hell was the dead wife’s role in the story, other than to cast doubt upon Michel’s reliability, which the author had already done. I am of the belief that sometimes, simplicity in a story is the best method by which to suggest plausibility.

What? Well, it was clear enough, and easy enough to follow (the stereotypical hints at homosexuality between the law partners in the beginning of the book are about as subtle as a nuclear warhead going off), but really? Over complicated and predictably dull at the same time, this book made me ill to read. There was nothing whatsoever redeeming about the main character; despite the fact that the author seemed insistent upon proving to the readers, (and perhaps herself?) that Evelyn wasn’t a greedy materialistic social climber, the reader knows better, especially when she contests the family’s right to take a share of Evelyn’s inheritance, and leave her with a substantial allowance as opposed to the heirlooms within the family home. In short, it’s just another story of some lower middle class girl sleeping, sneaking and lying her way to the top. Which I would’ve preferred to have been told straight out, so I could have avoided the book altogether.

On a guy I am so glad removed himself from my life earlier tonight.  Though I would have enjoyed the satisfaction of having done it myself.  I can breathe now.

“You know that I have very little sense when it comes to ladies, right?

And yet even I have learned a valuable lesson:  Don’t stick it in the crazy.”

I have nothing more for tonight.  This says it all.  Thanks to my awesome male friends who continue to give me hope that I won’t spend the rest of my life stepping on eggshells for the indecisive and overwhelmingly troubled (who, let’s face it, belong together).


As expressed in several lines from Shakespeare in Love.


William Shakespeare: We are lost.

Mr. Henslowe: No, it will turn out well.

William Shakespeare:  How will it?

Mr. Henslowe: I don’t know.  It’s a mystery.