By Virginia McClaughry


Part 2 of Camarillo State Hospital Background

This article is going to cover first hand accounts, from both a patient and a nurse’s perspective. These are both from the time period of early to mid 1970’s, which is the time period relevant to my mother’s story.

The first account, is from Bobby Jameson. Bobby now has a blog, where he is telling his life story, and one of the things he discusses is his experiences in Camarillo State Mental Hospital.

If anyone else out there has their own first hand account of this terrible place, I’d be happy to include it here.

*Note: January 1, 2014 – I have created a special page that contains links to articles in this series.



Without further ado, let’s see what Bobby has to say about Camarillo.

Bobby Jameson was a music star in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Credited as Bobby James, he made his first record, “Let’s Surf”, with Elliot Ingber on guitar, on the Jolum label in 1963.

The following year, he hooked up with Tony Alamo and recorded a single for Alamo’s label, Talamo, “I’m So Lonely” / “I Wanna Love You”, both self-penned songs. The record became a regional hit in the Midwest and Canada.

Tony became his manager and promised to make him a star. Alamo mounted a major promotional campaign in the music press, describing the 19-year-old Jameson as “The Star Of The Century” and “The World’s Next Phenomenon”. Jameson later wrote: (at

“For some reason, that is still a mystery to me to this day, Tony just started promoting me in Billboard and Cashbox magazine without ever telling me he was going to do it. He just showed up one day in a coffee shop in Hollywood with a copy of both publications and I was in them. We had no contract, no agreement of any kind and no record. But there I was, world wide in both mags. I don’t know what I can say to describe how weird it was to be nobody and then have that happen….The ads continued to run for 9 weeks doubling in size with each new edition. Half page, three quarter page, full page and so on. By the 8th week the ad ran in Billboard only and was a 4 page, full color fold out…”

The relationship was not a good one, and as time progressed Jameson just wanted to get away from Alamo’s increasingly manipulative behavior. (Alamo later became an evangelical cult leader and convicted child sex offender.)

Jameson also went to England in 1965, and recorded an album which became an underground cult classic. He recorded it under a pseudonym, Chris Lucey.

Jameson was using drugs, and drinking heavily, and one day he climbed onto the roof of the Continental Hotel in Los Angeles and the resulting public spectacle became a media frenzy.

In his own words:

…roof of the Continental Hotel that day in 1973 or 74, I don’t remember for sure.

…Rather than ending the day’s giant public happening positively, and without injury, I was being arrested, handcuffed, and transported to Camarillo State Hospital.

I soon found myself in the grip of an angry group of cops, who were determined to have me, not only locked up, but put away, and this would prove to be one of the most frightening experiences I’d yet to encounter.”


The year is 1973. Ronald Reagan is Governor of California, and early in the year he had announced his plans for the Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence that Dr. Louis Jolyon (“Jolly”) West had been selected to run.

West worked for the CIA mind control programme MKUltra, confirmed by CIA records.

In California, the publicity associated with the Dr. Vernon Marks and Dr. Frank Ervin and Dr. William Sweet report, [1967] aided in the development of The Center for the study and Reduction of Violence. Both the state and LEAA provided the funding. The center was to serve as a model for future facilities to be set up throughout the United States.

Thirteen behavior modification programs were conducted by the Department of Defense. The Department of Labor had also conducted several experiments, as well as the National Science Foundation. The Veterans’ Administration was also deeply involved in behavior modification and mind control. Each of these agencies, including LEAA, and the National Institute for Mental Health, were named in secret CIA documents as those who provided research cover for the MK-ULTRA program.

Eventually, LEAA was using much of its budget to fund experiments, including aversive techniques and psychosurgery, which involved, in some cases, irreversible brain surgery on normal brain tissue for the purpose of changing or controlling behavior and/or emotions.

Camarillo State Hospital, was one of the main places used for these “experiments”.

In 1972, the Director of the Neurophyschiatric Institute and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA, Dr. Louis Jolyon West was selected to run the Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence.

Dr. West’s specialties include interrogation using deprivation techniques, hypnosis and psychoactive drugs, behavior modification through electrical stimulation of the brain, and electronic devices to track and monitor his victims.  Governor Ronald Reagan was a strong supporter of West’s ideas.

Camarillo State Hospital was one of the major testing grounds for Doctors such as West, Lapolla, and others.

The horrors that took place in this and other hospitals, in the name of “research”, would begin coming to light in the Senate Subcommittee Investigation of 1974.

For more on all this, see:

The Man Who Murdered My Mother – Camarillo State Hospital (which is the first in this sub-section of articles)

Bobby was “processed”, wherein usually the patient was made to strip and bathe, as well as be interviewed by the Doctors (psychiatrists). In Bobby’s case, they kept insisting he was “suicidal”.

He was placed in the LOCKED ward, which is in the South Quad of Camarillo. This area, is where most of the truly horrifying atrocities took place.

Where Bobby Jameson was…

Camarillo has since been turned into a State College, but the South Quad has yet to be done anything with and has been avoided. In my opinion this is because it is KNOWN by the new managers, just exactly what that Hell-hole was used for. This is not a sign of responsibility in my opinion, in fact the managers of the State College could be viewed in an opposite light. They have been slowly destroying the record of what really happened there, and even are extremely un-cooperative with activists who want to memorialize the victims of Camarillo’s dark past. Probably using that vicious statement “It’s just business.” to white-out for themselves what that place really is.

Bobby wrote:

“Once inside, I am cut off from the rest of humanity. On entering this surreal world, I am struck by the grotesque feeling of desperation and terror that clings to every surface in this building.

The history of the place, and it’s past horrors, scream out from the walls, begging for mercy that never comes. It takes no intelligence to recognize that this is purely a part of hell on earth.

The sheer darkness and rabid spirit that nests here would be apparent to a dead man. Bodies wander aimlessly up and down the long dark corridors, until they literally run out of space. They bounce like caroms off the walls and dead-ends, only to return again to their endless wandering.

The staff regards most of these as less than human, and treats them like animals. I watch, as men with large leather belts around their waists and their wrists, chained and buckled to those belts, stumble forward like lost zombies in a perpetual state of slow motion.

Within minutes, the smell begins to turn my stomach, as the stench of urine, feces, and vomit hang in the air. I stand in awe of the wretched scene before me, realizing that I, too, am an inmate in hell.”

“The sheer darkness and rabid spirit that nests here would be apparent to a dead man.”

What an incredibly accurate statement Bobby made there.

You could say, and you would be right, that anyone who worked there and DID NOTHING when they knew of such atrocities?

Is a person who is living their life as something worse than Dead.

Indeed, a Monster.

I said, in my opening post of this series honoring my mother, that:

Wherever Evil lives, it only lives because no-one is willing to see it as evil as it is, and no-one is willing take it on directly and defeat it.

As you can see, that very much applies to the majority of the staff of Camarillo State Hospital, and especially the Doctors.

First rule for a Doctor? Physician Cause No Harm.

The moment they walked into that House of Horrors and IGNORED WHAT THEY PERCEIVED, they were no longer deserving of the title, the prestige, nor the authority of “Doctor” – not a single one of them.

These men (and women) need to be dragged out into the light of day; their white mask stripped off, and their dark mask of evil revealed to the world.

Because wherever they are today, alive and living in obscurity, or re-incarnated or haunting the buildings still – the targets of this horrendous campaign still know what was done there, and they will never forget.

JUSTICE! They cry, and justice they will have.

But this can only be done by people who are willing to see evil as evil, and who do not try and “push it away” because it’s not positive, or doesn’t make me feel good, or I only want to focus on the good, any other such nihilistic and cowardly tripe. If you want GOOD? You must LIVE it, and part of that is NOT LYING TO YOURSELF.

Bobby Jameson saw what Camarillo was, and now he’s begun to do something about it – he’s telling his story.


Bobby Jameson was given the usual “cocktail” of drugs on admittance to Camarillo – drugs such as Haldol and Melleril.

“I awake with a jolt, to the sound of a loud electric buzzer screeching through the dim gray of morning. I feel lost and afraid, and am quickly engulfed by a murky sense of dread.

“Something is different,” I think to myself, “something is terribly wrong.” I am not able to collect my thoughts as I normally do. They are jumbled and erratic inside my head. “The drugs,” I think, “What did they give me?”

“Anti-psychotic medication, such as Haldol and Mellaril, can cause psychosis in a person who is not psychotic in the first place. In Camarillo, that was what was happening to me.”

“A doctor, or doctors, had decided, on some basis, that I should be placed on anti-psychotic medication, which was quickly causing me to become psychotic.”

“The more I was given, the worse I got. When I say worse, I mean paranoid, beginning to hear things, unable to finish sentences, terror, and a growing inability to keep track of my thoughts.

“I would start in on an idea and then forget what I’d been thinking in the first place. I knew it was the medication, and attempted to refuse taking it. I struggled with my words saying, “I don’t want it.” I labored to repeat myself, “No, I don’t want it.””

As you can see, the medication is not designed to help the person, it is designed to INTERFERE WITH THEIR ABILITY TO FIGHT BACK.

That is it’s real purpose.

Plus, due to the interference in the body’s operational status, it is also designed to GIVE THE IMPRESSION TO OTHERS THAT THE PERSON IS FEEBLE-MINDED WHEN THEY ARE NOT.

The drugs Bobby was given, for example Mellaril, are well-known to “cause” psychosis.

This same year, 1973, Dr. Jolly West writes a letter to Stubblebine, concerning getting use of one of the military bases in that area for his Center.

   ” If this site were made available to the Neuropsychiatric Institute as a research facility, perhaps initially as an adjunct to the new Center for Prevention of Violence, we could put it to very good use. Comparative studies could be carried out there, in an isolated but convenient location, of experimental or model programs for the alteration of undesirable behavior.

Such programs might include control of drug or alcohol abuse, modification of chronic anti-social or impulsive aggressiveness.”

You can see what the REAL agenda is there, Bobby’s story tells it well.
For the full letter, see:

The Man Who Murdered My Mother – Camarillo State Hospital (which is the first in this sub-section of articles)

Let’s take a short break here, and learn a bit about these drugs that Psychiatrists are so hot to use on other people.

Most of them are in a class called Phenothiazine.

What is a Phenothiazine?

phe·no·thi·a·zine /fēnəˈTHīəˌzēn/

  1. A synthetic compound, C12H9NS, that is used in veterinary medicine to treat parasitic infestations of animals.
  2. Any of a group of derivatives of this compound, used as tranquilizers.

You might say: What???? It comes from an insecticide?

Yes, indeedy.

Phenothiazine itself was introduced by DuPont as an insecticide in 1935.

What are the types of Phenothiazines and their more easily recognized names?

Types of Phenothiazines and their trademarked names are as follows:

  • chlorpromazine (brand name: Thorazine),
  • fluphenazine (Duraclon and Prolixin),
  • mesoridazine (Serentil),
  • perphenazine (Etrafon and Trilafon),
  • prochlorperazine (Compazine),
  • promazine (Robinul and Anectine),
  • thioridazine (Mellaril),
  • trifluoperazine (Stelazine) and
  • triflupromazine (Robinul)

The most commonly used Phenothiazine is thorazine.

Drugs are often mixed, and have often severe contraindications (meaning it HARMS the patient).

For example when Mellaril and Thorazine are mixed, it may result in elevated plasma concentrations of both drugs.

In layman’s terms, both drugs become STRONGER AND MORE CONCENTRATED  individually then they would be other-wise, which is already bad enough!

Prolixin, one of the phenothizines listed above, is described in modern Drug manuals as:

“PROLIXIN has activity at all levels of the central nervous system as well as on multiple organ systems. The mechanism whereby its therapeutic action is exerted is unknown.”

Prolixin was introduced in 1959.

In the Journal article pictured above, it is described as:

 “…being about 25 times as potent aschlorpromazine [which is Thorazine]. The rapid and sustained action of the drug andits administration as a single daily dose are distinctly advantageous.”

A Camarillo State Hospital staff Doctor was involved in the “testing” of Prolixin in 1963, as well as listed in the following article as “administering it to male patients”. (the image is a bit messed up, but you can still get the idea).

He is also mentioned in 1965 as obviously having been aware that Prolixin CAUSED PARKINSON’S DISEASE.

And here in 1978:


LaPolla and Nash studied 49 inpatients…”

which means the patients at CAMARILLO STATE HOSPITAL.

Lapolla is also mentioned in 1979 here:

In the References section:

“Goldstein, M.J.; Judd, L.L.; Rodnick, E.H.; and LaPolla, A. Psychophysiological and behavioral effects of phenothiazine administration in acute schizophrenics as a function of premorbid status. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 6:271-287, 1969.”

Check out the list of side effects as per the NIH.ORG website:

What side effects can this medication cause?

Side effects from fluphenazine are common:

  • upset stomach
  • drowsiness
  • weakness or tiredness
  • excitement or anxiety
  • insomnia
  • nightmares
  • dry mouth
  • skin more sensitive to sunlight than usual
  • changes in appetite or weight

Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • constipation
  • difficulty urinating
  • frequent urination
  • blurred vision
  • changes in sex drive or ability
  • excessive sweating

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • jaw, neck, and back muscle spasms
  • slow or difficult speech
  • shuffling walk
  • persistent fine tremor or inability to sit still
  • fever, chills, sore throat, or flu-like symptoms
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • severe skin rash
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • irregular heartbeat  “

Here’s what Prolixin was like, from a forced patient’s perspective:

Prolixin lasts for two weeks. One patient describes how the drug does not calm or sedate nerves, but instead attacks from so deep inside you, you cannot locate the source of the pain. “The drugs turn your nerves in upon yourself. Against your will, your resistance, your resolve, are directed at your own tissues, your own muscles, reflexes, etc..” The patient continues, “The pain grinds into your fiber, your vision is so blurred you cannot read. You ache with restlessness, so that you feel you have to walk, to pace. And then as soon as you start pacing, the opposite occurs to you, you must sit and rest. Back and forth, up and down, you go in pain you cannot locate. In such wretched anxiety you are overwhelmed because you cannot get relief even in breathing.”” – Napa Sentinel

Check that…

“The pain grinds into your fiber….”

Both patient and Doctor perspectives of drugs like Prolixin, Mellaril, and Thorazine, taken from Chapter 3 of Toxic Psychiatry by Peter Breggin

People’s voices came through filtered, strange. They could not penetrate my Thorazine fog; and I could not escape my drug prison.” – Janet Gotkin, testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on the Abuse and Misuse of Controlled Drugs in Institutions (1977)

My concern is that people are having their minds blunted in a way that probably does diminish their capacity to appreciate life. – Jerry Avorn, M.D., Boston Globe, November 25, 1988

“It’s very hard to describe the effects of this drug and others like it. That’s why we use strange words like “zombie”. But in my case the experience became sheer torture.” – Wade Hudson, testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on the Abuse and Misuse of Controlled Drugs in Institutions (1977)

“Frequent Effects: sedation, drowsiness, lethargy, difficult thinking, poor concentration, nightmares, emotional dullness, depression, despair . . .” – Dr. Calagari’s Psychiatric Drugs (1987)

Is it any wonder Bobby Jameson fought against taking these medications?

He was RIGHT.

Bobby: “I stubbornly held my ground in front of the nurse’s station med window and would not take the medication. The nurse called for staff back-up on a hospital intercom.

In less than a minute, two male orderlies showed up and confronted me in front of the medication window. After checking with the nurse inside about the problem, one of the staff moved toward me and said, “You have to take your medication, Mr. Jameson, those are the rules.”

“No,” I moaned, “I don’t want it.” “If you don’t take it, we’ll be forced to put you in restraints and inject you with it,” he said coldly.

I stood there in a growing state of fear, staring at his face, knowing he meant what he said. I was in no shape to fight them or continue to refuse, I was going to lose this battle either way.

I reluctantly reached down and picked up the first paper cup and downed the contents, then the next, followed by the last cup of water washing it all down. I turned and opened my mouth wide so the orderly could verify that I’d swallowed the contents of each cup.

Bobby’s blog, 2009

To illustrate that the people that work at Camarillo, do know about the kind of force applied to a defenseless patient, take a look at this photograph of 2 Camarillo Staff members, taken at Christmas in the early 80’s.

Bob Malloy and Jon Pope – They think this is funny?

I sure sincerely hope that was their idea of a dark political cartoon, and that these 2 men did NOT participate in forced drugging of patients.

If they did do this, or knew of it being done, then let this stand as an example of what kind of MONSTERS work at Camarillo.

Bobby continues: “When it was over I slinked away, fearing I was in danger of losing myself altogether into some black hole of terror.

As I waited for the drugs to act, I anticipated the worst. I was not disappointed. They hit me like a Mack truck after fifteen or twenty minutes, and I felt myself sliding deeper into psychosis and the darkness beyond.

I sat huddled against a wall, trying to gather my thoughts, but they evaded me. I sensed that someone was standing right next to me, but when I looked, there was no one there.”

Not much has changed, here a child sits huddled like Bobby describes, in an LA Times pic August 26, 1955

“I couldn’t figure out where to go. I stood up and started in one direction and then stopped and went in the opposite direction. I stopped again, then started, thinking I’d better go the other way. Over and over, until I just broke into tears, trying to remember what I was doing.”

The hall at the Camarillo Ward

From Life Magazine 1946, just how Bobby felt.

Bobby: “Psychosis is the term used in explaining, amongst other things, breaking with reality. The worse the psychosis becomes, the greater or deeper the break will be.

A psychotic person will find it increasingly difficult to respond appropriately to the situation they are in, and in time may break completely away, as if they had disappeared.”

I think this was the GOAL of drugs like this. Make it seem that the person, the real person HAS DISAPPEARED.

At the time Bobby was incarcerated, the usual drugs of choice were Mellaril, Thorazine or Stelazine, as well as Prolixin.

“As I fought the effects of the medication, I knew I was beginning to lose myself. I was then summoned to a small office by staff. I sat on a wooden chair in a room, along with a male psychiatrist and a female stenographer.

After locking the door, the psychiatrist began speaking to me and asking questions, while the stenographer took down every word. I was trying to answer, but kept losing my place and would start again.

Mellaril and Thorazine at work

I continued to struggle, and the psychiatrist was saying, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you so weak? Answer my question, you weakling.”

I began to freak out and started crying. I tried to explain that the medication was doing something to my mind. “The psychiatrist interrupted me saying, “Nonsense, you’re lying to me, what’s really wrong with you?”

This went on for sometime until I suddenly got a single clear thought about what was taking place in that room. It will take longer to explain it than it took me to think it.

I realized the stenographer was there making a record of each of my answers for legal purposes. I also knew that my answers sounded incoherent, because of the effects of the medication.

These answers would ultimately be used against me in a legal hearing, to ascertain my own competency. I immediately clammed up. I would not say another word.

Even in the dim recesses of thought I still possessed, I had correctly figured out the purpose at hand. The medication’s effects had been anticipated to do this to me, by whomever had prescribed them for the purpose I just described–to use my own confused words against me.

“I was finally was let out of the room. I fought to keep my mind cognizant of the one reality–the medication, find a way to limit the medication, “Find a way, Bobby,” I said to myself, “find a way.” I kept repeating it, over and over, as I walked through the dim corridor.

“Find a way Bobby, find a way.”

“Now in a mental hospital setting, I perceived, and rightly so, that the staff was not interested in helping me. They were determined, in fact, to commit me, and thereby be done with me, as well as my antics on the streets of Los Angeles and Hollywood.

This may sound irrational or highly unlikely to some readers, but unless you have been in this situation yourself, you really wouldn’t understand.”

Bobby’s blog, 2009

I understand.


Bobby then correctly figured out that the real purpose of the drugs was to make him LOOK crazy, so they could keep him there:

Legally at this point, they could only hold me for 72 hours, unless I exhibited some form of dangerous or otherwise bizarre behavior, which I had not, other than the interview where I had stopped talking to the psychiatrist and stenographer.

This is why the doctors had insisted I was suicidal at check-in, and why this God-awful medication was forced on me. They were attempting to make me appear a lot sicker than I was, and in turn could then legally hold me for a longer period of time.

What it took to get him out of there, was NOT “niceness”, it took threats that mean something, and toe-to-toe aggressiveness:

“It was now a face to face, eyeball to eyeball showdown, in which my mother demanded that I be released into her custody. She did not believe the hospital had my best interests in mind, and told them so in no uncertain terms… “What have you done to him?” she demanded.

The various doctors and higher ups got together and had an emergency conference, to assess their position in the now volatile matter before them. Whatever the hospital’s position had been in the beginning, the situation was now rapidly changing.

They were stuck on the legal aspects of what my mother was threatening them with, which was to get an attorney, and have me legally removed from their care.

In the final analysis they agreed amongst themselves, that her position, if tested, would be victorious. For the administrators, holding on to me now would be pointless.

With that in mind, Camarillo State Hospital was forced to release me into the custody of my mother, which they did.”

Bobby was one of the lucky ones – he got out. Many, were not so lucky.

These more recent pictures of the South Quad lockzones, stand as testament to the mentality that thinks that LOCKING UP someone is “treatment”.

The doors to patient rooms had lights that would go off when they would lock them in.

Nadine Scolla

Nurse at Camarillo in approximately early 70’s

In 1975, Governor Jerry Brown took office in California.

“Jerry” Brown served as the 34th Governor of California (1975–83), and is currently serving as the 39th California Governor (2011–present). He is the son of Pat Brown, the 32nd Governor of California (1959–67).

Nadine Scolla wrote a book, called Keeper of The Keys, which was published in 1976, about her experiences working as a nurse at Camarillo State Hospital.

This was not an easy to find book, but I did dig up a copy of it out of the Internet Archive, and have uploaded it in pdf form here:


She talks, in her book, about the staff scurrying around one day to try and make the Wards look like they were clean, and the patients well cared for, which of course – they were not. She wrote that this was done because the Governor was coming to visit, and I wondered if she could have meant Jerry Brown.

However, she speaks of “governor” coming to tour the hospital – investigating charges. So I would say this was Governor Brown, and that she wrote the book based on experiences in 1975.

In the same year the book was published, the Ventura County Grand Jury indicted eight employees in connection with a dozen patient deaths at the institution.

But justice was not done, prosecutors recommended and a judge ultimately dismissed the charges, which included manslaughter, neglect toward an insane person and perjury.

A cover-up occurred, and some of the excuses for letting these monsters off the hook were:

There was a question as to whether it was intentional or not,” said former District Attorney Mike Bradbury, then the top assistant in the DA’s Office. “The office approached it under a negligence theory instead of intentional homicide. … There were a couple that could have crossed the line into intentional conduct, but it was completely unprovable.

There is documentation of that more than 1,000 people died at Camarillo State Hospital of both natural and suspicious causes in the years before the institution for the mentally and developmentally disabled closed. This is only the documented ones.

Nadine often worked in the “locked” wards, such as what Bobby Jameson mentions, in the south quad.

Wards she mentions in her book that she worked at, are Wards 44, 48, 38, and 25.

28, is said to be one of THE worst of the Wards.

What follows are excerpts from Nadine’s book, and I think she gives an illuminating, (and horrifying)  view into the minds of the staff and doctors there at Camarillo.

July 25 Wednesday (after graduation in May)

A young girl was tending the food counter and she took our orders. Ann asked, “Do you work here all the time?” “No,” she said, “I’m going to be leaving soon. I can’t wait to get out of here.” “Why?” Ann asked. “I hear people screaming and moaning all the time and you should see the large needles they use to give shots to the patients. If you complain, you’re told that it’s none of your business.” Ann asked, “What if the patients refuse the shots?” (Nursing students are instructed that if a patient didn’t want any medicine you must chart it and explain the reason to the doctor). The girl replied, “It doesn’t make any difference, they give it to them anyway.” We looked questionably at the girl as if we didn’t believe her. We wondered how she could know so much. After all, she wasn’t a nurse. How could she possibly know the procedures of the nursing staff?

August, Interview, new job

Mrs. Sitton, the Director of Nurses, opened the door and greeted me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Her hair was unkept, bushy, and looked like she hadn’t combed it for a month. Her tight pants were bulging at the seams and her blouse was faded and worn. She was a big woman, with a man’s stance. She stood there jangling her keys. I thought her appearance was disgraceful. Never had I seen a nurse look so terrible.

“…explained to me that I was to become a medication nurse. She pulled” out a large round key chain containing six old fashion keys. (for ward 48)”

“Ward 48 was ugly and badly in need of paint. Feces was on the walls, and the floors were just as bad as Ward 44.”

“Why aren’t there more people who would want to work here? They pay the highest salaries of all hospitals.

“As I settled into Ward 48 this morning, I was told by my superior, Bob Ames…”

Human Trafficking


Today I toured the outside facilities, the state-paid establishments that care for the patients after they are considered well enough to be partly released.

…The final important stop, and one that I would never forget, was just off the freeway. A shabby, run-down group of motels right at a major intersection. I walked inside the main office to announce myself and to give a report on the new patient. People were mulling around in and out of the motel rooms. Men and women lived together in one room. I asked one of them, “Who is in charge?” He motioned to one of the back rooms. I entered the dark room. I only could hear sounds of deep breathing and groans. As my eyes adjusted to the light I could see that a patient was being raped by the manager, and she seemed to be enjoying it!


[that’s a LOT OF MONEY back in the early 70’s]

…I thought of all the tax dollars that the public was paying the staff. Doctors receive one hundred thousand dollars a year starting salary, and the nursing personnel receive the highest pay in the profession, and yet the patients get the worst of- care. The staff is feeding off these patients and they are not doing one damn thing to improve their lives.


…Most of the staff is uneducated formally, and yet, they determine the patients future.

[day she is leaving] I saw a new group of patients being taken to the admissions office. They were handcuffed and being forceably pulled into the office by the police. I wondered why the new patients had to be handcuffed and treated so badly.

My thoughts returned to my diary and especially to the day I was required to assist in admitting new patients as part of my training ….

s I, arrived at the nurses cage, I received a call from the admissions office. Mr. Shaw advised me that he was bringing new patients to the ward.

The patients, individually handcuffed, arrived at the admissions office in police cars with sirens blaring. They were pushed and dragged into the admitting room, finger printed and their mug shots were taken. All their jewelry, money and legal documents were taken from them.

I gave them a routine bath to remove Pediculi or any other removable disease they might have, so as not to infect the other patients. They were then dressed in hospital clothes, and given one of the routine tranquilizers; Mellaril, Thorazine or Stelazine. One of the patients was a little hard to manage, therefore, he was given a large dose, in injection form, for quicker action.

Reality had hit him as he realized he had been stripped of his freedom. They were then shown their rights which included their right to refuse a lobotomy. The notice was hanging on the wall and written in two languages. If the patients were unable to read, while drunk or psychotic, that was too bad.

After ninety days, a conservator will visit the patient and ask him the date, his name, the staff’s names and what unit he is on. [while he is practically mindless on Thorazine etc.] Then he is requested to sign an agreement to remain on the unit for voluntary rehabilitation or treatment. If the patient does so voluntarily, he will get out sooner. Since the patient is told this many of them don’t realize what they are signing. The “agreement” may keep them imprisoned indefinitely.

…I was informed that if I felt any patient wasn’t getting enough or if he showed any signs of anger or resentment, I was to pour more of the medication in his cup. The poor patients staggered off to sit in a chair or on the floor like zombies, trying to lick away the bitter taste of the drugs. Not even the kool-aid given to them was sufficient to take away the awful taste.


Most of them could hardly stand erect due to the previous doses of Mellaril, Stelazine, Thorazine, or the large injections of Valium. The aware patient, and there are many of them, knows he does not need the medication, but is forced to take it against his will. Any refusal is charted as negative behavior.

…They fear for their own lives, when, at all hours, they hear the screams of other patients.


…even if they are able to get over that twenty foot wall, there are police guards on the outside to handcuff them and drag them back in. They are forced to strip off all their clothes and are then given larger doses of tranquilizers. The only privilege they are then left with is walking up and down the dingy hallway in a hospital gown with no shoes. They are told that if they try to run away again, they will be tied down and locked in their rooms. Yes, tied down and locked in their rooms with restraints around their waist, hands, and both of their feet. ,

How can people continue to live with such barbaric measures as these? We treat our pet animals better.

What about the mentally retarded children that are living in these institutions? The children whose families have entrusted them to the care of these people, when there is no place else for them to go? These patients provide jobs for the staff and the staff is supposed to promote the health and welfare of the patients, and try to bring them back to as near normal as possible, so they can live in society. Yet, the hospitals are just the opposite of what they should be. How can those on the staff, who are conscientious and care about the lives of the patients, do anything when they, themselves, are threatened among their own peers? They either conform to the old standards such as giving overdoses of drugs to the patients, manhandling them with hammer locks, twisting their arms, and arching their backs, until they are forced to the floor to submit, or peer pressure from all levels is applied. Arms, legs, and facial bones are broken, and finally, perhaps, death for the patient. It is then charted, possibly, as patient hostility and aggression towards the staff or another patient. The technicians support this testimony, which is expected, and can easily be done because no employee on the unit will dispute what has been said.

It is difficult to say exactly how many people try, but it is known that there are many with little success. Those who do escape, are kept out of the papers. The staff is not allowed to talk about what goes on within the institution after they go home.

Those who do talk about it, do it behind locked doors to people they can trust.

“These are some of the reasons why the public has never known the truth about our state mental institutions.”

Roll call – The patients that didn’t respond and get into the line were forceably pushed into the line, by Bob, even if they were handicapped. If they spoke back because of the abuse, they were refused their breakfast. Bob informed me that this was part of their rehabilitation. The staff was positioned at the front, middle, and rear of the line.

…One of the patients didn’t move fast enough to suit the technician, so he grabbed him by the arm and pushed him to the table. The patients were given five minutes to eat, and most of them had to eat like wild animals. The staff stood guard to maintain order and to keep them from stealing food from one another. One old man said, “This is unfair and I’m not going to eat this garbage.” Immediately, a technician dragged him from the dining room, and informed the patient that he was not going to get any food until tomorrow. The old man screamed, “I’m going to report you.” The technician shrugged his shoulders uncaringly, laughed and said, “Do you think anyone is going to believe you? You’re mentally ill.”


It is well known that nicotine not only interferes with the chemical interaction of psychiatric drugs, it also SPEEDS it’s metabolism out of the system.

No wonder the patients felt it was so important! Nadine writes:

The patients push, shove, hit, and hate, if they are denied their cigarette privileges. Their hands would tremble as I handed them their two cigarettes. They smoke the butt until their fingers are burned and yellow.

Nadine moves to 3 to 11 shift

[dinner] when, suddenly one of the entrusted guards, a large bulgy man about 50 years old, lashed out and beat a helpless patient because he asked for more coffee.

I openly objected about the incident to Jack, my night supervisor! “How can you allow a patient to stand guard over another patient? What gives him the right when he is here to be rehabilitated himself? How can he possibly know how to deal with another patient when he isn’t trained?” Jack said, “Shut your mouth and mind your own business. If I want to use a patient as a stoolie, that’s my business! Besides, you’re still on six-month probation.”

A staff member was moving from table to table, spearing the patients meat and potatoes, dropping them into a plastic bag. Some of the patients bitterly objected, became angry, and started swearing at him. He left the room and made entries on every complaining patients chart: Patient hostile and angry. No reason for the hostility was charted, and again, the complaining patients were not allowed to have their next meal. The new patients in the unit soon realized it didn’t pay to complain because they would have to go hungry.

…Is the end product of the environment for the staff members to become greedy and powerful after working here for many years?

It sure is Nadine, it sure is.

Stealing Patients Treats – Even Birthday Cake!

The staff would heavily sedate them and chart: Patient hostile, uncooperative, upsetting unit and other patients. At this rate these few justly complaining patients maytnever be released.

I had a hard time accepting these rules, but, after all, this was my first nursing job and I did have a lot to learn.


Tonight is Mr. Bartin’s birthday. The kitchen staff decided to bake him a cake. To my surprise, Jim had packed the cake and milk to take home to his family!

Tom and I confronted the staff, and, with stiff opposition, they decided to let the patients have the cake. The patients loved the cake and milk. It was the first time they had a birthday party on the unit. Later, I overheard the staff talking in the hallway, “Well, she’s new here and she might say something to the wrong person about the cake so let’s drop the incident so no trouble arises.”

…A large candy corporation donated a huge quantity of candy to the hospital, which was hauled in on stretchers. It was intended for the patients, but they never saw it. It was taken home by the staff members. I saw them carrying their brown paper bags stuffed with the donation. They asked me if I wanted to take some home. One staff member commented, “Only a fool would refuse. After all, look at the cost of food today.” I said, “You must have a storage room full of all these things?” “Sure, we’ve been doing it for years. We take whatever we can get. This is part of the fringe benefits.”

Doctors Rape and Impregnate Patients

Did you hear about Dr. Kelley? He got one of the young patients pregnant and they told the girl’s parents that the hospital can’t be fully responsible for the patients actions. This makes me angry! How can a doctor help a patient if he takes advantage of her condition? This place is unbelievable.” [her talking to another nurse]


October 1 – The unit received a directive advising all personnel that the Governor [Brown] is arriving tomorrow. He is to evaluate the hospital because he received reports of mistreatment of patients. All nurses and doctors are to dress in their white uniforms. The hospital maintenance people were ordered to paint the flag pole, and spray paint the grass to make it look green. The hospital must be completely scrubbed, even if it requires working all night, and overtime pay will be allowed.


The Governor arrived today in his helicopter. Every ward was prepared for review. The hospital management took him on the same tour that they take visitors and volunteers. This meant they steered him away from certain wards, eating areas, and only showed him what they wanted him to see.

None of the staff dared say anything against the hospital or they would be reported to the Administrators Office and a permanent adverse file maintained on them. They would never get another job in any other hospital.


This man had simply had a good time, and was becoming happy, and treated nicely by another person. The ward where he was kept, was run by a truly sadistic man, and this is what Nadine said happened:

I had a call from Ward 38. David, the charge nurse for Mr. Dean, was complaining that Mr. Dean brought cigarettes back with him from the exercise session. Mr. Dean was on my ward at one time, but was sent back to Ward 38, a lower regressive ward. I understood from some of the staff that he used to be well-kept and cleanshaven, until one of the staff took a personal dislike to himand had him moved to Ward 38. Then Mr. Dean went through a personality change and didn’t care what happened to him. Windy had taken a personal interest in him. She would bring him into the other wards to play the piano for the patients. He enjoyed feeling wanted and needed, but when he had to go back to his ward, where the patients were treated like animals, he would regress even more. Mr. Dean was an alcoholic, not schizophrenic or paranoic and he wasn’t dangerous to anyone.

David resented Mr. Dean because he was able to go off the unit.

[David] “I don’t want the hassle of Mr. Dean going back and forth on the units. He might get bad ideas. This is the last time Mr. Dean will play for any ward!”

I decided then, that I would visit Mr. Dean on his ward. When I entered the ward, I saw him sitting in a chair all hunched over, withdrawn, uncaring and no spark of life in him. He spoke to no one, not even me.


I asked him, “What drug ring?” “Don’t you know about the pills, hash and other stuff being pushed from one ward to another?” “God no!” I exclaimed. “How is this possible?” AJ. explained, “The drug ring connections are picked up by the police and put into jail. They act like dope addicts while in jail so they can be transferred out here for rehabilitation. If they behave themselves after they get here, they know they’re allowed the privilege of a phone call. The hot stuff is brought in and exchanged between wards.” “Has anyone been caught doing it?” I asked. “No,” he replied.

“You never fink on your fellow employees. It’s a fate worse than death.” “What do you mean, value your life? What can they possibly do?” I asked. A.J. laughed and asked, “You haven’t heard rumors about the grave yards in back of the hospital?” “God no, grave yards, what grave yards?” “I don’t know exactly where, but supposedly, here, on the grounds. Many times I have gone home at night and when I returned the next day a patient had disappeared.” “Didn’t the staff tell you in the report meeting what happened to the patient?” I asked. “No, and I know better than to ask questions. The first thing you learn here is to keep your mouth shut. You know, there’s a big profit in drugs. This is big business!


“But A.J., alot of the staff are licensed. What about them?”

“Anyone who has been here for more than two years has fallen into the ‘pit’ (clique)—you know, birds of a feather flock together.”

“A.J., do you really think it’s hopeless because these people have lost their feelings for humanity?”

“I sure do,” he replied, “Do . you remember the young rape victim and how they treated her—the girl with beautiful olive skin and long brown hair? She loved all living things, especially birds and horses.”

Yes, I did remember. Tammey was about 17 years old and had been raped by fourteen men. Her mother placed her in the hospital because she didn’t know how to cope with Her. Tammey was terrified of men now. She froze like an ice cube every time a man spoke to her. One day, in the kitchen, when A.J. approached her, she picked up a pie pan and held it up to her face, with her back to him. When she saw his reflection in the pan, she began to talk to him. After many weeks of slow and deliberate efforts of seeing his reflection, he gained her confidence.

Bad judgment was made by seemingly sadistic people, when they decided to use shock therapy on Tammey.

“Yes,” said A.J. “It was bad enough when they used the cold shock treatment on her.” They filled the bath tub with cubes of large ice and dropped her into it. Then they removed her from that and placed her in scalding hot water. She came out red as a lobster. Her body was badly blistered.

THAT, is what is called “hydro-therapy treament”.

This treatment didn’t help, so they decided on the shock treatment. “I never saw anything so awful in all my life. They forcibly strapped her down, tied her hands and legs, stuck the electrodes to her head and placed a tongue blade in her mouth. She couldn’t scream, wiggle, or do anything. After the treatment, they asked me to go into the room and get her. Tammey was dead. Her body was limp—she was still trapped in the chair. It was more than I could take. I had to go off by myself and cry. I felt it was so useless. She had started to come around— she had communicated with me. …

I think they need a Federal Grand Jury Investigation, but I don’t think it will ever happen. The hospitals have too much pull in the government and it might put all these people out of work. Besides you’d never get anyone to come forward and tell the truth because they don’t want to get involved—no wonder the good help doesn’t stay long. Just look at how many years these institutions have been in existence.”

“”I can’t stand the physical abuse they give the patients. I have seen too many unexplainable deaths, with doctors quick to sign the papers, without a thorough investigation, because they are afraid of losing their positions.”

“Well, Nadine, I’m not going to be around much longer, I just can’t take it anymore.”

“Last night another unanswered death took place. He was a well-oriented man. The technician said he fell out of bed, but he had a huge laceration and bruise on his forehead, the shape of the ash tray lying on the floor next to him—and you know patients aren’t allowed to have them in their rooms. I wrote it up in my report that I thought the patient had been struck on the head with the ash tray.

When the doctor came in, he told me I would have to change my report and say the patient fell out of bed. I told him what I thought; that someone had deliberately hit him with the ash tray. He said I had to be mistaken because the autopsy showed that the patient fell out of bed. I was about to say that I’d just been in the patient’s room a few minutes before, and there wasn’t an ash tray in sight, but he wouldn’t even let me finish. He said the patient had seizures all the time and the accident had to be due to that. He warned me that I could be dismissed for making false statements.

“I see what you mean, A.J. Who is going to question his authority? After all, he signs the death certificate and what he says goes, and no one questions what he writes.”

That particular passage, well-illustrates the quality of “men” that pose as Doctors at Camarillo State Hospital. MONSTERS, every one of them.


Routinely, if the patients do not respond according to the technicians desires, they’re transferred to a lower functioning mental unit, and so it was with Mr. Cortez. He was send to Ward 38. This is the ward where patients are supervisors over other patients and some of them have to wear football helmets because they’re so mentally ill. Without the helmet they could do serious damage to themselves. This is also the ward the staff cares least about.

This is the ward where the sadistic “David” is the charge nurse, as previously mentioned.


I noticed Mr. Johnson’s pearly white teeth had beautiful gold fillings.


Today Mr. Johnson’s face was swollen up like a big balloon. “My God, Mr. Johnson, what happened to your beautiful teeth?” “I don’t know Miss Nadine, they done pulled um out.” My God, I thought. Did they have the right to steal the gold right out of his teeth? I couldn’t believe it. Once again, I had to remain silent while my heart ached.


Tonight, in the dining room, the little girl who has epilepsy was having a hard time eating her dinner. The technician got mad and shook her so hard that she became incontinent of feces. The technician took it and put it on her plate and stuck her face in it and said, “Eat it.”

“Oh God, A.J., that’s sickening. It makes me feel like vomiting. I just don’t believe it.” He shook his shoulders and said, “Neither do I.” “You mean she got away with treating the child that way?” “She sure did. No one said anything to her about her actions. You know damn well Nadine, no one is going to do anything, because she has seniority.” I screamed, “I don’t give a damn how much seniority she has, she has no right to treat anyone like that.”



Today, on the unit, came the final blow. A young boy was ordered for shock therapy, and, after treatment died.

A.J. argued bitterly with his supervisor over the incident, but, to no avail. His supervisor warned him that he would discharge him if he continued causing trouble. A.J. swore, “You bastard! You and this place are worse than the local dog pound!”


I learned today that A.J. had resigned.

The newspaper had an article in it about a patient that was accidently run over on the hospital grounds. The article said A.J. was the key witness. He blurted out his fear, apprehensions, and concern for the patients to the press. Investigators toured the hospital and stupidly concluded that what it needed was a few more employees. Several of the employees joined together to try and clean up their units, but the only thing that did was to create more chaos.

My thoughts are drawn to Mr. Johnson, who lost all of his beautiful pearly white teeth, and all of his gold fillings. I saw him yesterday and he had aphasia. He was still sitting huddled in a corner, saliva drooling heavily from the side of his mouth, withdrawn, uncaring, unaware.

This, is what they call “treatment”.

This concludes the second part of the Background of Camarillo State Mental Hospital.


This series is my way of honoring my mother.

It will also serve to show others out there,  that Evil can be defeated and that:



Dedicated to my mother, Barbara Ann Freeman.



All Rights Reserved


The Man Who Murdered My Mother Series

The Man Who Murdered My Mother – Introduction
The Man Who Murdered My Mother – Camarillo State Hospital
The Man Who Murdered My Mother – Camarillo State Hospital: First Hand Accounts
The Man Who Murdered My Mother – Camarillo’s Demons and Ghouls
The Man Who Murdered My Mother – Camarillo Scourges of Humanity
The Man Who Murdered My Mother – MKULTRA And Drug Kickbacks
The Man Who Murdered My Mother – Definition of Murder and Drugs That Destroy.
The Man Who Murdered My mother – Duke University – The Anti-Life Zone


Dr. Anthony Lapolla was The Man Who Murdered My Mother


Article image sociopath real person was compiled, created, and/or edited by Virginia McClaughry.

Join the conversation! 39 Comments

  1. Just reading this now Mike… important subject to say the least Bobby

    • Thanks so much for stopping by Bobby, and for posting about us – you made our day!

    • So very scary and sad stories. I was in a girls’ home in Agoura California. I was 15 and was asked if I wanted to do some volunteer work. I agreed and paid a few visits to Camarillo. The year was circa 1972. I was assigned a 30 something year old man named George. He did not speak just rocked and would smile when I spoke with him. An older man approached me, at one time, and asked if I wanted to go in the bushes with him. I remember one visit. A ward full of Down Syndrome women. We painted their nails and they hugged us when we left. I remember feeling fearful and This place really bothered me. It still does. After I was sent to a closed placement in a West Covina called Charter Oaks. We were drugged with Librium 3 times a day, and if we threw a tantrum they would restrain us on a bed in a bldg called a North. Although not as horrific as what happened, when you are younger and drugged, it takes atoll on your mental capabilities. I have a lifetime of addictions I am trying to overcome. Those were scary times.

  2. Thank you for your work on this. It is deeply touching. These articles are very direct and powerful communication on a horrible inhumanity to man. I so hope for justice to be done in these matters.

  3. What a perfect description of what went on back then….lots of people wouldn’t believe it but it is all true. I wasn’t in Camarillo, but I was in the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs Montana and every single thing in this article are things that happened on a daily basis. It was the worst, horrible nightmare of my life just being there. I was depressed (duh!) but treated like I was crazy and belonged there. The medications DO make you psychotic if you aren’t already!! I was there for six months following a suicide attempt. I couldn’t get out until they decided to release me. My job was to try to convince them that I was “well”. When I told them the truth about why I was so depressed, they didn’t believe me, so I had to resort to lying to tell them what they wanted to hear. “The getting out game” we called it.

    • Sharon, Thank you SO much for stopping by and telling your story. I hope more people, like you, come forward now and tell the world what it IGNORED and allowed to happen.

      Re: The “getting out game”, what a great term, I’ll remember that.

      All my best to you – Virginia

  4. The greedy staff also stole money from the trust accounts of the patients.


    • Hey Frank! Thanks for stopping by – it’s great to hear from you. It’s such a travesty what went on at Camarillo – truly. I’m so glad you and Nadine are going to be speaking out again, keep me posted as to what’s happening on all that. I’m not done with my series on Camarillo, there’s still more to come so do check back from time to time. Virginia

      • Thank you for making us aware , it’s so terrible and hard to read but must be told, I wondered if there’s a list of the men that were at the hospital? I saw the list of the women and my bio dad was in This hospital and was shocked I’m told by his sister . So I’ve always found this very sad , I printed Keeper of the keys years ago but couldn’t finish reading it, but I’m back to checking into this sad sad story.
        Thanks for any information you may have, Cherie

      • Cherie, re: list of men. Not that I’m aware of at the moment, but if I come across something like that I’ll be sure to add it. Virginia

  6. I was a “patient” this is what they called it, as a child at age 12 in 1983 for one year and again at age 14 in 1985 for another year & 3 months at Camarillo in unit 71 A & B, I was a ward of the state at the time, “I lived in this horror of of a place and it lives with me every time i lay my head to sleep” 27 years later it still haunts my dreams.Never told my story.

    Thanks Alan

  7. Hi Virginia,

    Thank you for posting such important facts. My beloved uncle was institutionalized in Camarillo for psychosis following drug use. He climbed that 20 foot fence twice and and ran all the way to my aunts house (his sister) in Oxnard begging not to be returned because as he stated “they are going to kill me.” No one listened and sure enough in 1977 at the age of 22 we got a phone call stating that he was found hanging. No one believed this story because of what he told us and also the fact that he was scheduled to be released one week after he died. I have longed to find information regarding his death and your work has led me a little closer. I will continue to search until I find answers to a senseless and tragic death amongst so many others. Thank you so much for writing this!

    • Hi – oh my god! That’s just terrible what happened with your uncle. Do you know who his doctor was? Thanks so much for telling a bit of your story, I think the more that can come out about this House of Horrors, the more healing can take place. There are a LOT of injustices and horrific abuses that have taken place under the sobriquet of “mental health”. I was thinking that people might want to know how to access medical records from Camarillo, I came across a link somewhere to who those requests would be addressed to. When I find it I’ll add it into the next series articles. I’m so glad my work has been of assistance to you, and I wish you the best of luck in finding more about what happened at Camarillo. Please feel free to submit more on what you find here, a LOT of people read these articles I wrote and I think it really helps them to see these first-hand accounts. Thanks again, and you take care. – Virginia

  8. I am so grateful for not only your work but also for your reply. I absorbed every single word not once but a few times. It prompted my own research. You have no idea how bad I want to exhume whatever information has not been destroyed. I am in the process of getting his death certificate to see who signed it. I was only nine when he died. My grandparents were immigrants from Mexico that barely spoke English thereby, the best people to be taken advantage of. When my grandfather went to pick up the body he said that all the bones in his face were shattered, he had a broken leg and nothing around his neck indicating that he hung himself as they stated. It angers me that he was thrown in there to be “cured” and his horrific accounts of what went on in there were proof for the family that his psychosis was not getting any better. He was not just my uncle he was more like a big brother. My grandparents, my uncle, my parents and siblings all lived together and he was the beloved uncle that new everything, made us laugh, played with us until they sucked all the life out of him to the point that when we would visit him he was merely a sad remnant of what once was. So with those words I want to let you know and anyone that stumbles upon this website either out of curiosity or through their own painful stories that I agree with you on letting the world know and anyone that wants to hear the atrocities committed under the facade of medical treatment.

    • I want you to know that I think it’s very brave of you to share your family story like this, and I for one, very much appreciate it. Gracias! – Virginia McClaughry

      • I’ve been doing a little background research and apparently there is no record of “Ward 48” on any Camarillo Hospital map and infact a google search of the ward brought me right back to your site. So I’m wondering if you got the ward number wrong.

      • Hello, Ward 48 is not something that I came up with – it is from Nadine Scolla’s book, (which I included a link to in my post). Her book specifically mentions Ward 48. For example: “We left Ward 44 and continued down the dim hallway to Ward 48. I was to spend my working hours here. To my surprise, Ward 48 was ugly and badly in need of paint.”

        Perhaps the maps you are looking at are out of date or incomplete, is the only thing I can think of. Hope this helps and thanks for letting me know.

  9. I was there in 1981, I was only 14. I was on ward 13 I think it was 13 its been quite awhile. I remember having a staff member Janine Bidgain sqeeze my neck so hard I couldnt turn my head for a few days. I was also forced to sit at a table all day with my head up when I was very sick because the staff accused me of lying. I was very tired and was abruptly forced awake each time I would fall asleep. although I had never complained before and always went to school. There was another incident where I had to carry my bed into the dorm I remember it was a very heavy solid metal bed and it was digging into my hands. I went to set it down for just a minute and as a punishment was held down and given a shot of Thorazine in spite of my objections.. What kind of punishment is that! I have to say it is one given from people who themselves are very very sick so much so that they have to be in complete control of others.

  10. Thank you for this. It just breaks my heart to see what this place was like. My Grand Aunt was a patient in Camarillo for 22 years, from 1941 to 1963 when she died. She was placed there due to severe epilepsy. I’m sure if her family knew what was going on they never would have left her there.

    • You are most welcome, Michelle, and I really appreciate your taking the time to tell me that. I’m sorry to hear about your Aunt, but maybe, wherever she is, she can rest a little easier knowing that the truth is finally coming out.

      True justice has no time limits, it is never too late.

      Warm regards,


  11. Hi Im doing some research on camarillo as in my grandmothers attic I found a keychain from ward B Id like to know more about it and if its worth anything or maybe a historical society would like to have it either way you can email me at please get in touch , Kayti.

  12. I enjoyed reading both stories of Bobby Jameson and Nadine Scolla.

    I was at Camarillo State Hospital in 1963, at age 15, on what was known
    as ward 13, it was a ward of boys who where out of hand, and the mentally
    retared. I would meet girls my age at a school call Lucky 13.

    To share with you some of the things I went through and saw, was I being
    bet up by staff, seeing the boys and girls get Shock treatment of a pool
    table, a man known as the Rose man kill him self, I said something was going
    to happen the would shock everyone, it was JFK getting killed, and I saw two
    boys rape a five year old boy, who died on ward 13 at Camarillo.

    Vernon Montoya.

    I saw and under went the same abuse that Bobby and Nadine saw, when they
    where there.

    I been trying to write a book about my 90 days there, and when I left Camarillo,
    I made a vow to fight for Patient Rights and when I became adult, for 39 years
    I did that as a mental health survivor/client advocate, now retired.

    I would love to hear from anyone who may had been in Camarillo State
    Hospital in 1963, it was when President Kennedy was killed


    I purchased a Kindle book named “Commitment Criteria – 23 Women Patients of Camarillo State Mental Hospital: A Look Inside One of America’s Most Infamous Mental Asylums”

    No it was not a good book to tell the INSIDE story of CSMH, BUT, For me, the book did have some merit due to my Father’s confinement there in 1963.

    I purchased this book, to gain further insight upon Camarillo State Mental Hospital. Although I did not get more insight on actual things that happened to those women while confined there, it did confirm for me that THINGS DEFINITELY HAPPENED AT CAMARILLO STATE MENTAL HOSPITAL THAT WERE NEVER MAKE KNOWN TO THE PUBLIC, THINGS THAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED.

    Why I was looking for more insight?
    I was 12 1/2 in 1963, when my father went on an alcohol bender during the messy divorce between my parents. My father was highly agitated and had drank a lot of alcohol, got picked up by police, transferred 5 times from one facility to another within a 27 hour time period, with his final destination being Camarillo State Mental Hospital at around 11pm at night, where he was given the typical “cocktail” of sedating drugs within minutes of his admission and then put into bed, two of the drugs he was given was high doses of Thorazine/Hyoscine (noted on 5 facility’s records of meds given). He woke up during the night, was confused due to drugs he was given and alcohol in his system, he also became combative likely due to the body’s natural adrenalin system to help the body stay alive when oversedated, at this point he was given another cocktail of drugs, which soon stopped both his breathing and his heart. An hour or so later at bed check time, about 4 am, he was found to be nonresponsive and pronounced dead. Many many years went by. Then, In 1998, my sister and I ordered copies of his medical records, and through close scrutiny of those records (I was an RN) I saw gross patient physical assessment negligence prior to being given the sedating medication, and medical and medication malpractice which led to his being overdosed by being given drug cocktails shortly before leaving a facility, and then given a similar cocktail upon arrival at the “next” facility, until his death which occurred within 5 hours after arriving at the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. Basically, the nurse’s who gave the med’s upon his arrival did not even look to see what he had been given in the previous hours. A day later, I was home sick from schoool, and a telegram came, which was notifiction of Father’s death. I opened it and was instantly devastated and my heart hurt from sadness. In essence, my father was murdered there at Camarillo State Mental Hospital. He was only 44. At the time, my mother was not knowledgeable enough to order his records, or pursue wrongful death litigation. Sad.

    My Final Thoughts from an RN standpoint:
    What was available for mental health services in the years prior to the 40s and on through the early 70s was far different than what is available today. So many sedating drugs such as Thorazine and Hyoscine etc were given routinely to each patient. Today, IF a person is placed in a Psychiatric facility, it has been my experience as a Psychiatric RN, that although the majority do get treated with dignity and respect, I have also seen some deplorable patient situations due one particular Psychiatric facility’s staff’s self seeking agendas, including theft or denial of patient rights. I witnessed first hand where staff routinely stole patient belongings, medications, clothing, cigarettes (MDs, RNs, Psych Techs, CNAs), and commonly, patient’s were being overmedicated which is also known as a chemical restraints and considered the same as being tied down with cloth or other types of restraints).
    After losing my father at Camarillo, and working in the field, I’ve witnessed enough to know I would never want any of my family members to have to be in any facility unless absolutely necessary.

    Advice; if you have a family member who goes into an institution (even a medical hospital), BE THERE as often as you can, ask questions, get second opinions if possible from other MDs regarding medications or treatments given. Get power of attorney from patient to get past the HIPPA privacy laws, and request copies of ALL written records daily. Ask to read the charts. Keep written notes on everything you see or hear during visits. Know who the staff people are 24/7 and pay attention to everything that happens while you’re there. Names. Dates. Anything and Everything. The facility staff does make it well known that a family member is watching, so be careful. (I was told that in nurse to nurse report many many times)

  14. Hi Virginia, was wondering if you’ve happened to come across the YouTube video put out by CSH as they were shutting down ( What a stark contrast between the way the hospital is portrayed in the video vs. the portrayals in your blog. Granted, many of the horrific practices were probably stopped by the time the video was produced, but many employees in the video had been there since the 60’s. You can detect many euphemisms and sugar-coating in some of the topics (drug experiments and electro-convulsive methods). Wanted your take on this.


  15. You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write.
    The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid
    to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.

  16. Amazing! I am a student at CAL STATE CHANNEL ISLANDS, and i do believe that the campus still has a fearing feel to it. Especially at night, it feels so alone and sad. I always felt it. I dormed there for two years in South Quad and always felt like someone was there.

  17. I just found out that a great aunt of mine died at this hospital n I’m awaiting more info on her, but she died THERE in Jan 13th, 1982. I’m curious of how long she was there n the reason.These stories are horrific n justice should be sought after to those if possible. When I get more information I’ll post again. I’m sure, unfortunately she might have been a victim also. I’m very saddened by this information. Thank you..

  18. I was a patient at Camarillo State Hospital not only once but twice once when I wa12 and again when I was 15 the treatment I received there was as described by most of the accounts above. I was verbally abused as well as physically restrained for unnecessary and unwarranted reasons. I even had one staff member who tried to have sex with me on both occasions that I was there. I was also very heavily medicated and I I’m surprised that I survived that place both times.

  19. “For His Own Good”
    Camarillo State Mental Hospital Children’s Unit, April to June 1966.

    By Dale W. Mitchell

    It is approaching April of 2016. Every April, I become an involuntary time traveler to the spring of 1966. Darkness lurks there within my memories; though now watered down to loneliness, loss and oddly a twisted form of nostalgia for a world and a childhood now irrevocably gone. As I type this, that darkness has haunted me for exactly fifty years and on this anniversary, before I am gone, I wish to give an account of what I experienced when I was sent to Camarillo State Mental Hospital’s Children’s Unit at the age of twelve.
    In the Sixth Grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Riverside, California, I had only two friends, nor did I want more; but the two I had were close (or so I thought). We did not indulge in the usual playground activities; but instead we withdrew to a corner where I spun complex evolving children’s tales of the ‘Cat Island’ vs ‘Dog Island’ wars—yes, a fantasy conflict between anthropomorphized cats and dogs. My friends, in turn, sat or stood rapt and seldom contributed. We had been doing this since Fourth Grade, and from this level of interaction I drew all the attention I felt I would ever need. Though my schoolwork, especially that involving numbers, was troublesome, Life, overall, seemed good for me. I thought this world would go on forever; even after we graduated out of elementary school to the unknowns of Central Junior High. Whatever happened, surely my friends would have my back come September. . .
    Well, the very structure of Junior High (now called Middle School) is shockingly different from anything I knew in Elementary. One does not go to just one classroom, does not have the same teacher and has a very individual schedule to follow (a paper I never seem to have had), to name a few. Piece of cake? Not for me. No one had briefed me on any of this beforehand, not my parents, not my former teacher, not anyone associated with the new school I was now going to. From the moment I darkened their halls, I was utterly, completely, lost. I wandered the corridors for days, and then weeks, and eventually found a home in the school library. Thank goodness, my two friends were there. All I had to do was find them, ask how to make this place work, and, at recess, resume the Cat Island Stories. Late that first day, I did find them. They acted like they did not know me. Over the summer they had abruptly matured into teenagers and now wanted nothing whatsoever to do with me. I was embarrassing. I was juvenile. Go away!
    I still find it odd that the personnel at Central Junior High School never intervened in all the months I wandered or sat alone in the library. My parents did not know because I was too frightened and ashamed to tell them. By January, I had puzzled out some of all this enough to faithfully attend a few of my assigned classes but not yet all. Homework became part of my life again. However, come early spring of 1966—while I was literally trembling in the throes of one of my greatest life-changing epiphanies having stumbled across Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to Western Birds in the library, and through this finding out that Nature, herself, could be understood in glorious detail by kids—the Riverside Unified School System did intervene.
    They had brought in a very official-looking, white-coated, Psychologist and called my parents to the school. Prior to their arrival, this man interviewed me alone in a school office. I do not remember everything that was covered but two questions stood out. “Do you believe that cats can talk?” I patiently explained in my best twelve year old science that cats like all mammals can communicate many of their wishes. However, I attempted to also add that the cats in my stories were just that: stories; but he seemed impatient and cut my answer short. Then he later followed with the question, “Do you like your Mother or your Father best?” I quite rightly refused to answer this; whereupon he rephrased it: “Do you like your Mommy-kins or your Daddy-kins best?” Of course my dignity was highly insulted at being addressed in the vocal tone and content of a two-year old. The interview soon ended and we both went out to my parents. This man explained smoothly to them my ‘special’ mental situation and strongly suggested that I be removed from Central Junior High and sent clean across Southern California away from all my family to a friendly ‘Special School’ where I would receive all the tutoring I so clearly needed. That school he repeatedly named as either the Camarillo School or the Camarillo Children’s School. If he ever mentioned Mental or Hospital it got by everyone. He eventually got my people to sign the paperwork and agree to drive me over to Camarillo. His parting words directed to both me (and my parents) was that all of this was being done “For his own good.” In the retrospect of adulthood, I now am certain said gentleman was in the pay of Camarillo State Mental Hospital and got payment for collecting kids for Camarillo. Otherwise, why flat-out lie about Camarillo being a special school—with high levels of advanced, intensive tutoring? Had he really been just vested in the Riverside Schools many more ‘localized’ solutions were available.
    ` My parents dutifully drove me to Camarillo. I was not allowed to bring anything with me besides some clothes (my memory is not clear here—but no books, no toys or the like did I have from home). My whole family came along. Arriving, the first thing I remember was driving past a small cemetery on the grounds. There was more. The sign said clearly that this was a State Mental Hospital and no one was happy or prepared for seeing this. We made a brief stop in one of the main buildings and I was checked in and my parents given directions to the Children’s Unit farther up the road. By now, the doubts about what we had been told were growing but our family felt it was committed to try this. After all, did not unending tutoring and other special instruction lay just up the road? I was left at the boy’s cottages where I was met by a member of the Staff, and watched the long white car carrying my family back home drive away. I had no idea how long this exile was going to be . . . Until this point, I had never been away from my family even overnight.
    The man rather roughly hustled me inside and a welter of demands followed. I was to obey all orders. I had to be good all the time. If I was to try to run away or otherwise be bad, I would be sent to another darker place not in Camarillo, and so on and on. It was crowed, nosy and scary within.
    These early days begin to blend into each other after this. Three times a day we were lined up and marched outside to a cafeteria to eat. You had to eat anything you put on your tray; so you became very careful after the first time or two. The food was not especially good, but I had come from poverty, so I had few issues. Much more disturbing was the bathroom/shower situation. There were no stalls or other privacy coverings. I never got used to this. There was a TV hung up in the common room and it seemed always to be on the news out of Vietnam for some reason. Body counts closed out every day. Also in the common room was a tiny, unfilled, library. Daily at night, and sometimes at other times, medications in little white paper cups were brought out and we always had to take all of them in front of a Staff member. It stands to reason, like everything else about this place; no explanation was ever given as to what we were taking or what it was expected to do to us. There were individual differences in the pills given to one child vs. another. The Staff member dispensing these was one of the few females I recall being in our boy’s cabin. The other commonly seen female Staff member was a rude, brusk, sort that delighted in plunging unannounced into the boy’s showers and bathrooms. I was both terrified and disgusted by her. I slept in a room with two other boys. One was a hulk of a kid who was severely retarded. As I have forgotten his name (sadly), I will call him ‘Waldo’. Over time, I got to like ‘Waldo’ after a fashion. The other bed was unoccupied in those first days, but was soon filled by a veteran of The System we shall call ‘Sharpie’. He was transferred in from the Juvenile Justice System and was not a mental case at all but a criminal one. Many such Juvenal Hall inmates passed through without distinction or separation from the mental cases.
    Sometimes we were allowed to go outside of the cabin and I avoided the basketball court-ish areas adjoining to scurry off to where a nearby stream flowed chocked with the first Fennel plants I had encountered. The grassy field was surrounded by rocky hills with one notable, very pointed one I called Pencil Peak. We never strayed into or over the creek or otherwise left the area. (That would have likely brought swift retribution.) In turn, we were essentially unsupervised in these outings. It now seems odd that most times we were alone out there. No one from the other cabins at all, apparently used the space and, of course, no girls. They were somewhere else, distant. I do not recall even groundskeepers or janitors though they must have been present. On a positive note, speakers often blared out the latest music. I still associate Camarillo with Fisherman’s Daughter and Monday, Monday, the tunes of a yesterday.
    This Fennel Field brings up Donny Peters. Yes, that is (or was) his real name—the only one I remember after fifty years. Unfailingly cheerful, bright and kind, he was the closest friend I had in those three months I was imprisoned there. It was he that showed me that Fennel tastes like licorice. (Fennel is rather rare where I came from). He was interested in my budding bird watching and watched me as I searched the bushes around the cabins in vain for California Thrashers, and successfully for other creatures, such as American Goldfinch and Barn Swallow. He became very nearly my constant companion. Yet there was a profound sadness within him. Donny greatly missed his family (and I gather they missed him), but because of his diagnoses, Camarillo had had him for years as it soon became clear to me, such was to be my fate. I still cannot see the reasoning behind housing someone like Donny away from society. Donny seemed to know the most about a place called Mc Learn Hall in Los Angeles. This was the dark place you would be sent to if you were bad or ran away—variously called Mac Hall (or confusingly Black Hall). I was never quite certain if he had ever actually been sent there; but he knew.
    For those who want horror in this story, I am sorry to ‘disappoint’. Down the hill in the Adult facilities or at Mac Hall were the true snake pits. Yet, any child sent to CSMH knew in his or her first fifteen minutes that anything dreadful was suddenly in full ghastly flower. Any child that met a White Coat felt the godlike power of being looked down upon like a piece of moldy bacon. It was the initial point when the fear began. It was the moment when one began the internal struggle to become invisible, to be some definition of Good. To fly under the radar of Staff and, horrors, to never make eye-contact with a rare visiting White Coat from the Adult Complex, these were more than goals, they were life strategies. Then, first as an acute ache, slowing grinding into a longer groan as Hope faded, came the loneliness. Loneliness. Loss. Abandonment. This was the texture of my days stretching into months. No toys to play with (more on that below). No books to read (more on that below). Boredom bedeviled many and put them closed up in corners, curled them on chairs; but I have always had a greater tolerance for quiet and un-action. I can still see them. Folded in, rocking little things. Staff passing them by, without glancing or even pointing and laughing at them. This was Camarillo for many of us. A window to stare out became a significant world.
    An early event may shed light as to the quality of my memories. I will just tell it as I remember it and leave my readers to draw their own conclusions; but I remember this one well. On or soon after Easter, a box of wrapped gifts was brought into the cabin by Staff. We were told it had been prepared by volunteers from the Town of Camarillo to “provide Easter presents for the Poor Kids of Camarillo Mental Hospital”. Each of us was allowed one gift from this box. Mine turned up to be a red plastic model car. As things are I am not especially drawn to putting together models, but under the dire level of sensory deprivation I was experiencing, I jumped at the chance. Well, I managed to somehow glue the thing together (I am naturally clumsy and model cars in the 1960s were seldom crafted to Germanic precision) and to my surprise it actually came out rather well. I kept it in my room beside my bed. Then one morning, I awoke to ‘Waldo’ eating the thing: plastic crunching, wheels popping off. Much of it he swallowed. There was no blood, no cuts, no sending him to the hospital. Nothing odd happened afterwards. A very strange event indeed; but I felt the loss of my only toy very keenly ever after. We had no shared pot of playthings at the Children’s Unit. That one of mine toy was it for me. I soon stopped blaming ‘Waldo’. If you had known him you would see there was little of meanness in him.
    Once, someone from one of the cabins ran away. (I did not know him.) We went into immediate lock down (as only a prison can!). But the worse part was that all inmates, remember we were children inmates, were ordered to sit on chairs without talking, moving, getting up (except to go potty with an escort), or collectively to eat in the cafeteria in dead silence, for as long as it took to catch the miscreant. It grew hot in our cabin (air conditioning was never the greatest, as you can imagine) and water, as such, was withheld until a meal. The ‘theory’ as explained to us that no one would consider running off if they knew that everyone left behind would be punished. Fancy American Democracy Logic that: punish the truly innocent. Because of our loneliness and neglect we actually managed this perhaps better than many others might have; but it was the twisted principle of the matter that galled us. It did not help to think that the runaway might never be caught. We endured this treatment for three days. The runaway was apprehended and presumably sent to Mac Hall. There were no words spoken when we were ‘dismissed’. There were none to say.
    The most frightening thing of all for any child in the Children’s Unit was to be escorted down to the Adult Complex. I was taken several times during my incarceration. The first time was soon after I arrived for a medical exam. I do not remember much of this (or any of the other times—I can only recall disjointed patches of pain); but I distinctly remember the blood they drew and the set of shots I was given. Of course, no one asked my permission for any of this. Patients at Camarillo have no rights whatsoever. The blood test was complicated by my delicate veins and they took turns working on me until they were eventually satisfied. The injections were just stabbed in. I left that day with an arm so shocked that fifty years later I still have to ‘remember’ to swing it when I walk otherwise it just hangs there limp as a dead fish.
    Another time, I was dragged to the Complex to have some bizarre, indeterminate, sort of dental work done to me. Everything seemed unusually poorly lit for a doctor’s office and my recollection is now severely broken up. Years later, when I had my first dental work done after this blood fest (now as young adult), my dentist was astonished I had had a tooth pulled without telling him. I did not remember this. I still suffer from deep phobias about medical practices though I am not otherwise particularly prone to these. There may have been one or two other times I was dragged back to the Adult Wards. I just do not know.
    In my desperate condition, I turned to the only one I knew that had anything like control of the situation. I give myself (in the Baptist tradition) to Jesus Christ. But, sad to say, He did not then show up and fix things. More to the point of this history, as a religious soul in the Children’s Unit, there was never a Bible available nor was anything resembling church services ever offered. (Over time my faith would come and go . . . and then finally just go. Camarillo does not garner all the blame; but it did educate the child in me swiftly to the perverseness of the world and the utter impotency of gods.)
    Now let’s get to all that schooling and tutoring promised my parents. Well over a month, at least, somewhere, somehow the Staff finally got wind of this little detail in my ‘contract’ that had been overlooked. I was supposed to be . . . educated. I was severely deficient in math (still am, by the way), and moreover I now had lost almost a year of Seventh Grade instruction. A Staff member took me to the ‘School’ of the Camarillo State Mental Hospital’s Children’s Unit: a long, abandoned, room, its door always open to the elements, covered in dust, with a single long table and a few chairs. No books, no other students and one occasional teacher that showed up, or not. (I suspect this lady was a volunteer from the nearby town and not payed CSMH Staff.) My lessons, indeed the whole of my academic curriculum was: light Leatherworking 101. Yep. Leatherworking. I can remember often being alone and just staring out that open door, doing nothing, again. Perhaps the frightening but plausible rumor going around, that we kids were all going to be press-ganged into picking citrus come Summer, was both true and academically relevant. Maybe I was going to need something like leggings or a leather apron?
    On the subject of books. I have said there were no books in our cabin. Actually that was not strictly true. There were sometimes a very few on some low shelves in the common room. Doubtless I must have read them early on, having taught myself to read even before Kindergarten; but I do not remember this any because of one incident that appears to have wiped portions of my mind clean. I looked down one day and there it was: a book from my favorite series: Danny Dunn, probably Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine. These were kiddy science fiction chapter books which I knew from personal forays to the big downtown library in Riverside. Though I had already read it, I snatched the little volume up in delight (not the least because it was a little piece of home), cracked the covers and . . . WHACK! The huge hairy hand of a very angry man, a Staffer with a looming red face, knocked the book to the ground so hard my fingers stung.
    “That stuff will rot your brain! Why are you filling your mind with such trash! Fiction is *** garbage! I thought you were interested in science! Why don’t you stick to reading scientific papers?” It went on like this, cliché by cliché, seemingly forever. Of course, everyone in the cabin was there looking on; but Mr. Behavioral Modification just terrified, crushed and behaviorally-modified me with all the subtlety of a runaway Mac truck. The only counter I feebly remember trying was that there were no scientific papers available in our little ‘library’; but I doubt he even heard me. After this tirade, it would take me more than three years until High School, and two very patient, hero, teachers, Miss Delores Lustgarten and Ralph Brand, to get me to read fiction again and not until college before I could make the transition all the way back to full-on imaginative fiction. I might add, my abilities to deal with the complex scientific concepts I now dabble in did not blossom until I had re-added fiction to my life. I now believe both are useful and complimentary in stretching the ability to understand.
    Why Mr. Behavioral Modification was so ‘interested’ in my future career as a scientist (like that was going to happen in a Mental Unit!), cuts to the heart of why some of my experiences in the Children’s Unit lack the more unremitting, daily-slog, horror quality of many other CSMH survivors. Whenever I was traumatized, it would often unexpectedly be followed by something relatively good. Then bad times leaped in and clamped down, until without announcement, a new ‘good time’ popped up, and so on. This strange alternating state of affairs came about because, to be frank, I was privileged. I was quickly identified (and I have no idea how) as a Good Boy. There were about five to seven of us, the membership in this arbitrary ‘club’ varied. Good Boys got to go on outings, and there can be no denying this, outings were pleasant even fun. Watching Camarillo State Mental Hospital roll under the hills in a rear-view mirror on nearly any pretext was gold in and of itself. Donny Peters was always a Good Boy, sometimes ‘Sharpie’ was too, but ‘Waldo’ was considered too far ‘gone’ for outings. These field trips were hosted by a Staff member but, for once, said Staff was nice enough if you behaved. I doggedly behaved. The Staff wore different personalities ‘off campus’ (and away from prying White Coats?). I will not speculate on this further.
    My first field trip was to an ice-cream parlor in the Town of Camarillo. The moment our wide-eyed little group was ushered in the door, a hushed silence ensued and every eye turned to us. To the whispered questions of some of the less experienced patrons, we were identified, out loud, as the mentally-retarded kids from the Mental Hospital down the road. Remember, this year was 1966 and political correctness had not yet been born. Then, with little more than a collective shrug, all went back to normal in the shop. This sort of ‘invasion’ of their watering hole was apparently rather common and tolerable with only the occasional sideways glance or whispered joke.
    A bigger outing was a fishing trip to nearby a mountain location with three small ponds nestled in oak trees and chaparral. I put in some time fishing but caught nothing. More fascinating to me were the occasional Garter Snakes that swam past in the reedy verge of the shore lines. (I would be surprised if the Two-striped Garter snakes are still there. Indeed in our much more crowed world, likely the ponds themselves are gone.) Probably it was at this point that my interest in science was discovered. Though quieter at Camarillo, and almost never talking with a Staff member if I could have helped it, I very likely was overheard talking excitedly to Donny Peters about everything natural—whether my twelve year old mind really knew any of this stuff (beyond birds—where I really was very advanced) or not.
    A second fishing trip was to the harbor in the City of Ventura. This was my first trip to a working harbor and utterly fascinating. This time there was nobody to stare at us, ‘freaks’. Early on I managed to catch a very large, very thorny, Scalpin; but in the ensuing struggle to find a way to get this poisonous, spiny, heavy, wriggling, animal off the hook, it banged against the wharf and flipped back into the sea. That was the first fish I had ever caught. Later, I wandered the wharf picking live periwinkles a, chitons and limpets from where they clustered at the water’s edge. I put these into a box, snuck these back to the cabin, and hid them under my bed. Unfortunately, the seashells soon stank and my roommates turned me in. I begged Staff for a chance to try cleaning the shells out and then try drying them in the sun. Perhaps because this was the same Staff member who was interested in my ‘science’, this was granted. (Fifty years later, I just cannot pull apart the now blended faces of the Staff to signal out anyone in particular.) A bowl of water was provided. I tried this picking, cleaning and drying for three days (the chitins fell apart, by the way), then brought the shells back in and under my bed; but within a day, they perversely resumed stinking at the same damn level and so the lot was briskly tossed away. The fact that my seashells lay in the sunshine utterly undisturbed for days seems to support my recollection that few kids were ever outside of the cabins for long periods. All my memories of these ‘basketball’ courts are almost entirely empty of kids or adults.
    The last outbound adventure was a climb up to the top of the big hill that loomed over the Children’s Unit. To me it was a Mountain. A lot more kids were involved in this climb than just the Good Boys. It was, for the skinny, un-athletic, city kid, a hard climb though it was on a path. On the way we passed a shoulder of the hill allowing us to see over its other flank and the Dairy below. The pungent smell of said Dairy easily overcame the more aromatic chaparral odors. When we reached the top, we could see the little world of our tiny cabins below. It was mesmerizing. This was the first ‘mountain’ I had ever climbed.
    As an aside, I never seem to have gotten a true picture of the ‘structure’ of the Boy’s cabins, at least as I experienced it from the inside of one. If I had ever grasped this correctly on the ground, I quickly forgot. I was told there was an older boy’s/young men’s cabin beyond ours and a younger kid’s cabin behind us. Therefore, soon after I made it home to Riverside, I labored under the impression that we had been the middle cabin in a set of three independent buildings. Yet, aspects of my memories signaled only two cabins were ever visible overall. At the risk of straying too far afield, I will point out that I much later acquired a US Geological Topographic Map clearly showing three little structures all lined up nicely. ‘Mine’ would be in the center. Case closed. Well, not so fast. In preparation for this history, I used historicalaerials,com to recheck my conclusions. They never show three separate cabins. The photos seem to support there were really were only two long low structures on the Boy’s side and never three (in turn, all linked in a larger constellation which included some other buildings—and yet another two long, low, cabin complexes—the girls?) I now think these cabins (for boys and girls, respectively) were internally divided into sets of two and two. My cabin would be one end of the northern structure with an internal wall just beyond my bedroom separating the oldest children. I will have to leave things there. My remembered view from the hill top seems closer to the aerial photos I studied. As to internal decor, I seem to have no memory. Some of the websites show murals in the girl’s sections (at least prior to all children’s quarters being removed from those of adult inmates), but if we had anything of the sort, I have blanked on it. However, one lovely little touch is clearly remembered as it made an indelible impression on me: the stout bars adorning all the windows.
    To my young mind it seemed the girl’s portion of Hell was far off. Actually an adult would likely have fond them to have been closer; but undoubtedly there were physical barriers to any of us inmates just wandering over to the other side, say on an exploration outside. The only real interaction I remember between the sexes of inmates was an ill-conceived ‘dance party’ held in the evening at what I think was a hall between the two sets of cabins. It was awkward, attended by very few kids from either ‘side’ and had absolutely no spark of spirit or happiness about it. A few of the more ‘with it’ kids danced right away (and maybe would remember this event a bit differently); but most of us (boys and girls) just stood around to blaring rock music with our hands akimbo. I absolutely did not know anything about how to dance and had never been to anything of this sort before. The girls seemed to my eyes even more dysfunctional as a lot than even we were. One pushy and rather crude male Staff member kept almost cattle-prodding me to participate; and so I finally managed to hop and jerk my body around after a fashion in front of the only girl that was willing to mirror my movements. I recall her robe was undone the whole time and fell loosely from her slender shoulders. She was totally naked underneath. As I was still essentially in a pre-sexual stage of my development, this was just a scream of pure embarrassment to me. (I was as equally shamed by my ‘dancing’ as by the female nudity—yet another first, by the way. Sadly, I do not think that she, for her part, understood enough to know what was really going on about her but—movement and DANCE.). Unlike the field trips, I was convinced that most of the kids involved were heartily glad when the sorry little cotillion was over. Of course, the adults may well have thought the event a success: the male Staff certainly, but there were female Staff to ‘chaperone’ as well. I cannot reconstruct the latter’s thinking beyond the notion that they just did not care what the little ‘retards’ of either sex did. I never learned how to dance, but for once, that is no one else’s fault.
    Once in the middle of the day, we got a hurried call to evacuate the cabins: no, not a fire or an earthquake, nor stampeding bison, nothing so mundane. There was an inspection coming by some bigwig group or the other. We were all quickly herded out onto Fennel Field, far from the cabins, lined up in columns and told in no uncertain terms to just stand there quietly. Under no circumstances would we be allowed to speak, gesture or otherwise attempt to communicate anything at all to these Important People. Of course, we all stood in the hot sun for hours seething not with the temperature; but with deep resentment at being utterly cut off from telling these outsiders the truth about what was going on. If only these Important Persons would emerge from the cabins and walk over to us. If only . . . It did not happen. We never even glimpsed them. We did not get a chance to speak. We went back in in silence.
    Weeks had now passed, most eventless, long, quietly fearful but mostly boring. I had begun to internalize my sadness, my hopelessness and my sense of abandonment when out of the blue; I was told my family was outside. I was not being released. It was just a visit; but my heart leaped for joy! We drove away past the graveyard to a pretty little park in the area of the Town. I remember it had a marvelous babbling brook and lots of Western Sycamores. In my absence, my people had turned ethereal. They fairly glowed with all the warmth of a world now lost to me. I began to cry, hard. I told my family (My Family!) all the things that had happened, all the things any of us would have told those bigwigs if they had cared to come out. Then we got on the subject of my ‘education’ in leatherworking in Camarillo’s Special School. My parents were livid. They had been flat-out lied to. They told me they were going to do whatever it took to get me out of that hell hole and swindle. It was their finest hour. Sadly, nothing could be done today. I had to return.
    The last two incidents of my time in exile left indelible memories.
    I was torn in worry as to whether or not my parents could actually get me out of there; so I kept utterly quiet about it. One day, as I was seeking some solitude to again mull this over, I found myself outside in the Fennel Field with Donny Peters. I did not tell him anything, partly due to a budding empathy about how my condition of possible freedom compared to his long and seemingly permanent separation might just make Donny’s feelings worse. So we were talking about lighter stuff. Then, at my feet on a small concrete slab near the creek was a long black movement. It coiled up and lightly hissed: a baby Southern Pacific Rattlesnake! I love nature (as you likely know by now); so no thought came into my head but to find a way to move this little, one-button, rattler to some safer spot on the far side of the creek. But . . . how? I had never tried to handle a snake, let alone a poisonous species. So, after Donny and I had thought about it a bit, I decided that we needed a box to push the snake into. (We had all the sticks we could ever need.). I stayed with the baby rattlesnake and watched as Donny ran back to our cabin to get a container. We had solemnly promised not to let the Staff in on any of this. In a few moments, Donny appeared running but empty-handed. Then behind him came two burly Staff men. Damn you, Donny! They pushed me away and took up rocks and repeatedly dropped them on the little animal until it was just a dark spot of blood and goo. I took off bawling back to the cabin and felt once again my deep disappointment with adults, their natural cruelty, and their world. Strangely for Staff, one of them seemed remarkably curious about why I was so upset at this wanton murder committed right in front of me. His interest did not last long, but there you have it, a moment of shared emotion between a Staff member and an inmate.
    The last important thing that happened to me in my three months at the Children’s Unit of Camarillo State Mental Hospital was my near death. It might even be why that Institution released me, to avoid potential legal troubles. For some reason, like the Girl’s Dance, every now and then the Powers That Be would sort of throw in a one-off event: in this case an afternoon spent swimming. I did not know they even had a swimming pool. I had never been in one of those scary things before. I had never even put my face under water. I absolutely did not want to go. I thought I was going to die . . . Well, in Camarillo Mental Hospital, no inmate was allowed to say no. I went. It took quite a bit of prodding to get me into the pool. The thing looked vast and very, very deep. It was a confusion of splashing boys because this was not just a Good Boy event. There were guys from the other cabins that I did not know. I decided to hang on to the side of the pool and spend the day shivering with as much of dread as cold. Suddenly a boy I did not know was behind me. He wrapped his arms around my waist and implored me to let him ‘help me teach you how to swim’. I called for help but only Staff could have really done anything and they just ignored the situation. With a hard jerk the boy pulled me off the wall like a limpet and as he dragged me towards the deep end, he said over and over, ‘When I let go, just swim. That’s how I learned.” And then I was alone, no one touching me, little sound, looking around in a strangely calm state with just my eyes above water in the deepest part of the swimming pool. I began to peacefully drown. Then . . . I was back in the shallow end. Sadly the sense of peace left me and I burst into tears. I had come back, spitting out water. I was alive but still in Camarillo. A Staff member had pulled me back. I never found out what happened to the kid that nearly killed me. (Of course, there is an afterthought. It would take me until late in High School and a very patient PE teacher, Mr. Cross, who worked with me for an entire semester to finally teach me to not fear water enough to put my face in it. I can now swim. For a time I became a sort of underwater specialist—holding my breath for long periods of time.)

    And then it was over. I had no word of this until it happened. My parents came and got me. I went home and knelt down and actually kissed the dirt of my back yard. I would repeat Seventh Grade in the fall. I do not know how I was released. Perhaps, my parents came through. Perhaps the near drowning had something to do with it. Perhaps it was only the expiration of a Ninety Day Observation interval that I read of in my research for this history?
    The other obvious question is why was I sent to Camarillo Mental Hospital? Likely we will never know that one either because years later when the psychologist I was seeing tried to obtain the record, he was told it had “been destroyed in a fire”. Over time, I have been diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome; but I am informed that that disorder was not being diagnosed in the 1960s. Most likely my ‘original’ diagnosis was “High-functioning Autism” or even “Autistic-like Tendencies”. Asperger’s runs in my family.
    I had no problem figuring out Junior High when I got back. It is amazing what a little directed instruction could do. At this time of writing, I am putting the finishing touches to the first ever book to all species of amphibians in the world, with a companion reptile volume aborning.
    Now understand, I am not maudlin about these events. After I regained my freedom, I soon enough turned by back on them and got on with life. Camarillo State Mental Hospital itself taught me that it is not wise to give up even more power to an Evil by ever-after brooding about it or striving for some sort of ‘justice’ or even ‘closure’. I am damaged—much of it unrepaired. So be it. I can stand up again. I can walk still. I can love still. I have other things to do. I have stopped hiding and feeling ashamed and instead turned my experience into a regained sense of personal pride. My purpose in this paper is therefore neither personal healing nor to bolster any political ‘agenda’ (myself or that of others), but only to convey a (largely) dispassionate record of my memories for the historical record. I have no overarching ‘lessons’ for anyone else herein. Each person that survived (and that is the correct word) that institution has their own story and their own life solutions. That said, perhaps, the most jarring notes from my story compared to some others whose lives were swept through this sinister place, is that, at least one small piece of Camarillo Mental Hospital was not unremittingly awful, not . . . every day, every hour. . . a snake pit of horror. In all honesty, there were days I had fun. Part of me still feels a whipsaw of confusion of liking and not liking; rather than experiencing that species of cathartic healing that might have come from a more ‘single-directed’ arrow of emotion and hatred.
    Books tell me the experience of war is often that way. A little closer to what I and the other ‘unwanted’ passed through was the 1940s Internment of the Americans of Japanese descent: also a very ‘mixed’ but ultimately life-scarring event. Life and history, as people actually live it, is often complex.
    I am done here. I do not feel any need to go back or look any deeper inside. Frankly, I feel this is for MY own good.
    May love have your back, Survivors. Even if your narratives are clouded by a few things ‘contrary’ to the point you wish to make, you still have a true voice, you were there, and you have a right to tell what really happened to you and those around you. Never fear. History has already rendered its verdict on Camarillo State Mental Hospital.

    • Dale, I’m honored that you chose me to share your story with – thank you so much. It’s wonderfully well-written and I think really let’s people see what it was like to be so arbitrarily put in that place. I wish you all the best – Virginia

  20. Thank you, Virginia. Outside of snippets told over the years to family or to make an intellectual point or two, no one has heard any of this. Certainly I have never tried to pull the whole mass together into one telling. Hope this helps some others.

  21. Hello,

    I was in Camarillo between 1970 and 1973. First I was on the juvenile unit (boys) and then the last trip I was with the adults. It was a horrible as they say.

  22. I was sent to Camarillo in Oxnard from the L.A. county jail in the early eighties for a 90 day stay & got the mellaril/thorazine treatment – I distinctly recall a few bizarre incidents there, some between patients & a few between medical staff. I did meet a girl there whom I was later told had drowned in the pool one night, whether or not it was the truth – I’ll never know – she was quite free-spirited danced around tge dayroom a lot & of course her name escapes me. I was able to palm the drugs for awhile, but then the liquid meds were given & no slipping by that any longer. From that place, I was raken to a halfway house in San Pedro, one of the largest in the country – that looks out over Ports of Call in the L.A. Harbor. Talk about a place where time stands still, many hundreds of people were there in an old YMCA bldg. – the top floor were all people from out of the Twilight Zone, it seemed.

  23. WOW! I can not believe the treasure that this is. When I was in High school a good friend of mine got in a fight with his step-dad, beat him up [won the fight], and was arrested by police and sent to Camarillo Hospital. He suffered in there for several weeks while his “Parents” left town and moved. Just left him there to rot. A few buddies and I and his girlfriend would visit him inside when allowed and the things I saw and felt there I can never shake. We ended up breaking him out by bringing a wrench hidden under a pizza on a “visit day”. This affirms and confirms the novel I was writing about these times in my youth.
    Thank you much, E.Z.M


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