Sunday, November 28, 2010

The School: Part 2

After Sharon left the school, it continued in part-time residence at the Therafields farm until Christmas time, 1976. In January, 1977 the school was relocated to Toronto full-time with 59 Admiral Rd as the official and main location. At first the school was restricted to the large basement room but later got rooms on the first floor as well. Malcolm had an office there and in the "greenhouse" room at the back the kids sometimes watched black and white movies. Malcolm's personal quarters were in the coach house at the rear. As his antipathy toward Therafields had grown with time, Malcolm wanted to clearly distinguish the school as his own, not as it had earlier been called, the Therafields' school. He gave the school the name of Ka around that time. (The word represents 'a life-force component of soul in ancient Egytian religion.') Malcolm's feelings about Therafields were by no means kept from the children in his charge. One of the older girls recalls: "Malcolm was very anti-Therafields. He hated it; he thought that the whole thing was evil and that everyone involved was a lemming."

Lea continued to worry about Malcolm. She had pushed for his becoming a part of the school and then supported his take-over, but she felt that he was languishing. She believed that he had talent with the children but that he needed support. She designed an elaborate scheme to help him by establishing house groups of promising people from her learning groups to surround and be involved with the school. As I mentioned in an earlier blog this scheme failed as Malcolm became progressively more irascible and rejecting of the milieu's assistance. One of the women who lived there spoke of her experience: "We had been carefully hand-picked by Lea to do a job but Malcolm wouldn't allow us to do it. He permitted me to have some role in the school though for most he simply refused. I was very careful with him as he was an extremely scary man. I figured that if he disapproved of me that I could be thrown out and I didn't want to take that chance. He had gotten one of the younger boys to leave his father and live at the school and he asked me to be involved in the boy's care. I welcomed him and looked after him but it was very difficult. Malcolm was completely in control of every detail of how I looked after the boy. If I did any slight thing he did not approve of, I would get a phone call. He expected me to clear everything through him, absolutely everything. The more he squeezed though, the more I threw up my hands.

"Eventually it became clear that the milieu was not working though no one wanted to say why. There was a sort of admission that Malcolm was a tyrant but the whole focus was always on seeing what we could do to salvage the situation. There were months of groups about this kind of thing with Grant or Adam. After a year or so Malcolm was belly-aching to his mother and it was decided to move us all out of 59 and 61 Admiral. We moved to 55 and started another house group. After that I had no contact with the boy I had cared for until years later when he was no longer in Malcolm's grasp. He had been told that I was his enemy. Even after we moved to 55 the milieu continued for another year and we endured more of those awful groups."

My own sense about Malcolm at that period is that he was not simply "languishing" as Lea indicated, but that he was sinking into a profound depression with numerous characteristics of outright mental illness. As Lea was deteriorating in the late 1970s, so was her son. The control that he established over the children extended to their acting out his views about Therafields in general and the people living closely with them in particular. One of the men there during that period says: "The way the kids were allowed to talk to adults was totally objectionable. The kids were always very distainful. That would have come from Malcolm. We were given a list of things that needed to be done at 59. One day another fellow and I went over to fix the doors. Malcolm came outside and went ballistic. I had never met him but he was screaming at us that we had no right to be there."

Malcolm became obsessed with spotless cleanliness and safety issues. Another man living for some time in the milieu told me: "My first encounter with Malcolm happened on a Monday evening about 9:30 after one of our first milieu groups. I had gone over to 59 to visit a couple of my friends. We were with some others in a sitting area on the second floor. I heard a noise coming up the back stairs. It was Malcolm and two of the boys. I didn't even know who Malcolm was . The boys had a mean look on their faces and Malcolm was furious. He began: 'You people don't seem to realize that you have a real responsibility living in a house with children and a school. I found this in the dryer and I'm not happy about it.' He then held up some fluff and went into a tirade about fire hazards and irresponsible people. I just stared. Everyone else knew him and they were cowering. I just thought, 'Who is this asshole?' He threw the fluff on the floor and left. I asked the others,'Who does he think he is?' 'Don't you know?' they asked. 'He's Malcolm Hindley-Smith.'"

Over time the situation with the milieu and Malcolm, Lea, the children and their parents became progressively more Orwellian. Things that were true could not be spoken without fear of censure. One man living in the milieu found that, "The reality of our lives there was that everything about it was focussed on pleasing Lea. No one took a real position on anything. It was impossible to raise real issues about how things were going so long as Lea took the groups, which she usually did. For example, no one was allowed to suggest that Malcolm was something of a nut-bar. It would be turned back as a problem of one's own." In the seminar a father spoke of an incident at the school in which his son had been treated sadistically by Malcolm in front of the other kids. The details certainly bore out his conclusion that it had been sadistic. Lea said, 'Well, there's always two sides to every story.' This man who told me this story concluded," Lea simply wouldn't touch it. Malcolm was quite crazy and Lea was trying to defend and protect him at all cost. It was terrible, criminal, in fact. It's amazing how with all of her insight she so entirely blinded herself in that way. On the other hand she would speak about how rebellious Malcolm was and how he didn't want to have anything to do with Therafields."

A parents' group had been established in the Brunswick milieu in the early 1970s to support the many families resident there. As the relationships with the parents and Malcolm deteriorated issues related to the school came more frequently to the fore in their meetings. The therapists taking this group were greatly influenced by Lea's determination to support Malcolm, however, and I believe that it would have been difficult to in any way mount a concerted protest about Malcolm's methods and his treatment of the parents themselves. In 1977 Lea decided that the parents of Hypno I ought also to form a group to discuss their children and to help one another. It was a quite unpleasant experience. The group met every couple of weeks in Josie's living room at 105 Admiral. True to her sense that she ought always to take on the role of the therapist, Josie consistently led the conversation. There was never in this group a sense of safety and hence trust for people to talk openly about their own concerns and struggles as parents. Increasingly, however, there developed talk about Malcolm and the school. Over the next two years I heard progressively concerned stories about Malcolm's contempt and rudeness and of his exclusion of the parents from any form of participation in the school. He would not allow any of this vastly educated crowd to teach the kids. The only activity given to a volunteer was cleaning. Toward the end of our "parents group" in early 1980 the tenor was growing more desparate as clearly some of the children were going to be withdrawn from the school, making the already heavy fee schedule even more onerous. One of the parents lamented this direction, saying passionately,"We need new blood!" My elder daughter was nearing school age and I was already under pressure to enroll her that fall. "Not my kid's blood," I thought.

In the next blog I will recount the experience of the kids at the school with Malcolm after returning to the city in 1977.


  1. "Malcolm was quite crazy and Lea was trying to defend and protect him at all cost. It was terrible, criminal, in fact."

    Yes it was criminal!

    1. Yes. I spent time in this mess called a school! I hope that M-H-S burns in hell!how's that for a little therepy! preying on girls! I am 44 today and if that piece of shit is still alive I hope that every day he lives in fear! I came out of that crap pretty much ok. I have a great career,great wife,and 2 healthy kids. He deserves no breaks what so ever! He knew fully well what he was doing,and screwed(no pun intended!)at least 60 kids out of a happy childhood. watch your back M-H-S!!! :(