By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
Several months after Alison Roome flew to Chicago to be treated by Bennett Braun, Mary Shanley, an elementary school teacher and former patient of Braun's, flew to Houston to enter treatment with Judith Peterson at Spring Shadows Glen.
Shanley was initially impressed by Peterson, but later, she has said, her opinion of the psychologist would change.
In fact, Shanley once called a mental health advocacy hot line to complain about her treatment. She soon found herself accompanied 24 hours a day by a technician. "I was locked out of my room and kept in the central lobby," she told author Mark Pendergrast. "I wasn't allowed to use the telephone or to go outside .... I slept on the floor or on a couch."
In the lawsuit she has filed in federal court here, Shanley claims that during her two-year stay at Spring Shadows she was routinely over-medicated and kept in a zombie-like state by large doses of Inderal and Ativan. In abreaction sessions with Peterson, the psychologist's physician supervisor and a "psychodramatist," Shanley was asked to call up her alters and have them discuss her training by a satanic cult and her work teaching satanic doctrine to young children, including her own son. When she didn't bring forth her alters to communicate with Peterson, the psychologist would leave the session, Shanley claims.
Often, says Shanley, if she didn't perform properly, Peterson would order her left in restraints until she could tap into the alter or provide the information Peterson had requested. Shanley says Peterson's physician supervisor and the psychodramatist would attempt to encourage communication between Peterson and Shanley's alters. To prevent Peterson's departure, the two would act out the part of the alter with whom Peterson wished to speak.
Shanley claims she gradually became indoctrinated into the belief system of her therapists, and that she became convinced she had abused her own son but didn't recall it because an alter personality had committed the abuse. As part of her therapy she was encouraged to report herself to the authorities for child abuse. She did.
On file at the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in Austin is a series of letters concerning a Houston woman who terminated her treatment with Peterson and had lodged a complaint with the board against the psychologist. It begins with a copy of a letter Peterson sent to the Harris County Children's Protective Services, dated July 29, 1991:
"The satanic cult memories include more recent experiences .... My concern is she has stopped therapy .... The alters reported that they last attended meetings in December 1990. Cult victims who have the experiences that her alters report, where they have been programmed through the use of electricity, hallucinogenic drugs and hypnosis, often report remembering that they have both abused their children and taken their children to cult meetings where further ritualistic abuse is perpetrated upon the children. I have grave concern that the children are very susceptible to both problems, given that (she) has left therapy at this time and is denying that she is either a cult victim or has been involved in cult activity here in the Houston area. She appears to be specifically programmed and needs a therapist who is able to work on the programming. An example of the level of programming in her is that an alter was programmed to knife me in my office when I got to a particular alter in her."
The file includes a letter to the board from the patient's husband, a Houston professional, denying his wife had abused their children. He noted that his wife had always carried a Swiss Army knife on her key chain, but said he found it difficult to believe she would assault anyone with it. He also admitted that he had once trusted Peterson's judgment but was now embarrassed that he had done so.
"I was convinced for a time (solely based on Dr. Peterson's statements) that my wife might escape to 'the cult' at night. Dr. Peterson had recommended putting locks on our bedroom windows and a burglar alarm on our bedroom door. Dr. Peterson sent home a leg restraint with which I was supposed to strap [his wife] to the bed at night."
Peterson had helped his wife after she began therapy with the psychologist in 1988, the husband's letter says, but then something changed.
"It was Dr. Peterson's description to me of how people could control [my wife] by transmitting sequences of phone tones to her over the telephone, of how she could be made to sneak out in the middle of the night or to take our children to the cult or to commit suicide or to kill someone. It was those claims that stretched my ability to believe Dr. Peterson. Dr. Peterson suggested I rent the movie The Manchurian Candidate to see the types of programming she was dealing with."
That 1962 thriller tells the story of an Army platoon taken prisoner and brainwashed during the Korean War, with one of its members programmed to kill fellow soldiers and assassinate the president upon the soldier's return to the United States. He is "cued" to kill by the ring of a phone.