Manipulator knowing the psychological vulnerabilities of the victim to determine what tactics are likely to be most effective.
Manipulator having a sufficient level of ruthlessness to have no qualms about causing harm to the victim necessary.” Dr George K Simon.
Sometimes the truth gets out, often screenwriters and novelists may write a best selling book which is dramatised into a bestselling movie. Such is the case of Dennis Lahane who wrote Mystic River which was then made into a film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tim Robbins (hello again Tim! My what a small world!) The film is a predictable example of the art of how to traumatise and depress people. If you want to have your will to live sucked out of you and have it replaced by a feeling of forlorn futility, go watch Mystic River. On the strength of its traumatising and weakening effect on the public it seems Lahane managed to get another of his stories made into a film.
Shutter Island however is a very different proposition. As the novel Mystic river deals with the hidden reality of child abuse by certain factions of so called community leaders like police officers, Shutter Island deals with the hidden reality of psychological abuse by certain factions of the so called medical profession.
Shutter Island is the story of a Federal Marshall Teddy Daniels and his investigation into the disappearance of a psychiatric patient named Rachel Solando from an extremely high security psychiatric facility based on an Island off the coast of Boston.
What we are watching in Shutter Island is a fictionalised account of the type of processes of brainwashing and mind control which were carried out during the 1950’s under the name of the US government’s top secret MK Ultra project project based on New York’s Long Island. There are techniques which were brought into the US after world war 2 when as part of the now declassified Operation Paperclip where Nazi rocket scientists such as Wernher Von Braun, and experts at in various species of torture such as Kurt Blume, (a chemical and biological expert who experimented on human patients in concentration camps but was acquitted at the Nuremburg trials) were spirited away from the crumbling ruins of Germany and safely ensconced within top secret government facilities to continue their research.
The facile conclusion which many people come to when watching Shutter Island is that Teddy Daniel isn’t really Teddy Daniels but is actually Andrew Laeddis who apparently killed his own wife after she had drowned their three children. They are often fairly vigorous in their certitude that this is the correct interpretation of the film and that anyone who offers a different view of the film’s story is paranoid. Indeed at the time of writing, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB and Wikipedia, have entirely erroneous synopses for Shutter Island, and perhaps this fact more than any other, shows the true power of mind control.
If even a movie going viewer has sat through 2 hours of the film and followed the story of Teddy Daniels, yet within the last ten minutes of the film, can have their recollection of events so totally modified by the smooth talking and persuasive Dr Cawley, then indeed, what hope was there for poor Teddy Daniels and the thousands of other people, in the real world, who are daily subjected to extremely invasive and unscrupulous techniques of mind control?
“That’s the Kafkaesque genius of it. People tell the world you’re crazy, and all your protests to the contrary just confirm what they’re saying. Once you’re declared insane, then anything you do is called part of that insanity. Reasonable protests are denial. Valid fears, paranoia. Survival instincts are defense mechanisms.”
There are so many obvious inconsistencies and so many clearly transparent tricks between the reality of Teddy Daniel’s character and the mind control fantasy which Dr Lawley conjures out of the air, that one wonders if the film’s audience themselves weren’t perhaps more profoundly hypnotised than DiCaprio’s federal marshal.
Looking through CIA documentation on MK Ultra I noticed the following areas which seemed to serve as a sort of ‘wish-list’ or a focus for their research. Much of this ties in quite well with the events of Shutter Island and my analysis of the film. On the CIA Christmas list for 1953 were the following items:
“A knockout pill which can surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.”
“Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.”
“Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.”
The first thing which is slightly out of the ordinary for Teddy Daniels comes at the ferry crossing from Boston Harbour to Shutter Island. As he steps on deck he meets his new partner for the first time, and finds also that his cigarettes have mysteriously disappeared. As a result he is obliged to smoke one of Chuck’s cigarettes, at the time Chuck comments:
‘Government employees will rob you blind.’ Says Chuck, but Daniels little suspects that his cigarettes have indeed been stolen in order that he becomes dependent on Chuck’s adulterated cigarettes. What I wish to demonstrate, is that from here on, Daniel’s is the unwitting victim of a concerted and extremely well organised programme of very brutal mind control.
Mind control works by destabilising the victim’s sense of reality and making them reach a point where they start to abdicate their own will to the direction and suggestion of others. At such a point a person becomes a virtual slave of any person providing directions or cues which seem to fit with the perceived ‘new’ reality. In order for this technique to succeed the most important thing is to gradually sap the strength of mind and sense of authority which the person has, so enfeebled they will simply be unable to defend themselves and will be at the mercy of their captors.
However, it is necessary, if this technique is to succeed, for the victim to voluntarily surrender his own will, because a battle of wills would only strengthen the victim’s resistance and resolve. Therefore, it is necessary for the manipulator to create the ‘good appearance’ of a reason for the victim to acquiesce, and in the film the process begins before Teddy has even entered the compound where he is obliged to suppress his own feelings on the matter and indeed, his legal entitlement as a Federal Marshall to always bear a fire-arm while on duty, when he is told he cannot enter the compound with his fire-arm. This is the first step of Teddy’s surrendering of his own will and provides an apt metaphor of how the technique of mind control can succeed:
In order for mind control to become effective on someone, just like hypnosis it is necessary to acquiesce to it. It is a well known fact among professional hypnotists that it is impossible to hypnotise someone who doesn’t want to be hypnotised. But there are ways and tricks which can be pulled off to force someone to become suggestible, and lower their defences and effectively allow the manipulator to recreate a reality for them, just as the hypnotist-entertainer does during his stage show. These methods include: inducing feelings of unbearable guilt or shame; inducing the feeling that the manipulator knows what they’re doing and can be trusted; inducing confusion and disorientation. The aims of these methods is that the victim finally acquiescence through fear of the consequences of non compliance. As we will see as we examine the film Shutter Island and explore the events as the plot unfolds, all of these techniques are used on Federal Agent Teddy Daniels.
Fairly early on in the film Teddy realises things are not quite as they seem on the island when he interviews Mrs Kearns who has been incarcerated for murdering her philandering husband. During the interview she asks Chuck to get her a glass of water and during his absence she quickly writes something in Teddy’s note book. After the interview Teddy expresses his suspicions to Chuck that things are not quite as they seem:
“She was coached. She used practically the same words as Cawley and the nurse, like she’d been told exactly what to say.”
This is because Mrs Kearns says the same sentence, word for word perfect as Dr Cawley:
“She believed her kids were alive. She thought she was still living in the Berkshires, and we were all her neighbours, the milkmen, postmen..Deliverymen.”
After the interview, Teddy reveals the note which Mrs Kearns had written to him while he was away:
It is only when he begins to accept or ‘play along’ with Dr Cawley’s schizoid suggestions, that he isn’t really who he thinks he is, that he does become a genuine patient, and immediately we notice a change in Dr Cawley’s tone:
“Who’s Teddy Daniels?”
“He doesn’t exist. Neither does Rachel Solando. l made them up. l killed them.”
“Here’s my fear, Andrew. We broke through once before, nine months ago, and then you regressed. You reset, Andrew. Like a tape playing over and over on an endless loop. l hope that what we’ve done here will be enough to stop it from ever happening again, but l need to know you’ve accepted reality.”
It is only when he accepts the insane reality being offered by Dr Cawley that he can legally be classified as insane and they can therefore neutralise him with irreversible brain surgery.
As Dr Cawley himself says:
“l swore before the Board of Overseers that l could construct the most radical cutting-edge role-play ever attempted in psychiatry, and it would bring you back.”
It is quite correct to say that he has created a cutting edge role play, but its intents were not to bring Teddy Daniel’s back, but to neutralise a threat to their experiments.
I wouldn’t say Daniels becomes convinced himself, but feels sufficiently disorientated and deranged by his experiences on Shutter Island, to be able to offer no more resistance to his captors. His final words in the film are:
“Which would be worse? To live as a monster or to die as a good man?” at this point he briefly looks straight into the eyes of Doctor Sheenan who is still impersonating his partner Chuck Aumes, before he is led away. The ‘good man’ refers to himself about to be made dead to the world, he is comparing himself to his evil captors who have used personally invasive psychological techniques to neutralise the threat to their ongoing experiments by carrying out a lobotomy on Teddy. He asks is it better to die as a victim of evil men or to live on as an evil man? He asks this because he himself is going to ‘die’ a good man, the lobotomy will effectively kill any sense of Teddy Daniel’s identity, yet Dr Sheenan, Dr Cawley and the other ‘monsters’ will have to live on with full awareness of the terrible evil they have perpetrated upon an innocent man.
For anyone who has seen the film and still has doubts that I have made the correct interpretation of the film, I would ask you to remember the early scenes of the film where Teddy has just met chuck, and remembers his dead wife. She is shown as blonde haired blue eyed woman and she reappears at frequent intervals as Teddy begins to hallucinate as a result of him being spiked with psychoactive drugs.
At the stage below he sees Solando as his wife, but as his hypnosis develops he starts to transmigrate the acts of Rachel Solando (who in the book is revealed to be a doctor impersonating this character as she gives him a sedative shot as he is taken to the Ward C in shackles and incarcerated) into the real person of his wife Dolores Chanal.
“Let me ask you. Any past traumas in your life? Because they’re gonna point to some event in your past and say it’s the reason you lost your sanity. So that when they commit you here, your friends and colleagues will say, ”Of course he cracked. ”Who wouldn’t after what he’d been through?”
The point is they’re gonna say it about you. How’s your head? Any funny dreams lately? Trouble sleeping?”
Dr Naehring, the Nazi doctor explains the connection between Teddy’s strange dreams, the strange and unsettling events of Ashecliffe and Teddy’s advancing susceptibility to mind control.
Did you know that the word ”trauma” comes from the Greek for ”wound”? And what is the German word for ”dream”? Wounds can create monsters, and you…You are wounded, Marshal. And wouldn’t you agree, when you see a monster, you must stop it?”
The German word for dream is of course ‘traum’ as in trauma, and it is believed that the origin of the word dream comes from the German word ‘traum’. It seems clear that Teddy’s dreams or rather his nightmares while on the island, are the result of the series of traumas which are inflicted on him, beginning right back at the beginning of his encounter with Dr Cawley when he shows him the picture of the dead little girl and tells him the story of how Rachel Solando murdered her three children. From this point on these traumas start to enter his consciousness through his dreams until he starts to have waking visions of his wife Dolores actually starts to become the mythical Rachel Solando and at this point he becomes insane and mind controlled.
The doctors are at this point well aware of his life and know exactly the effect their role plays and dramas and drugs will have on Teddy’s psyche, because the Nazis developed and perfected these techniques. Like any other scientific process, there are certain predictable outcomes which are assured when several different variable are known and specific psychologically provoking stimuli can be applied. This is why psychology is actually classed as one of the science because it is predictable and it is entirely possible that if enough variables can be controlled, then a person’s mind can be radically altered and impaired.
Due to the overall disordered state of his mind at this point he his subconscious mind has started to accept the hypnotic suggestion that Rachel Solando was actually his wide Dolores Chanal, as we can see in the previous image, Teddy himself is becoming increasingly unsure of what is real and what is not, but the fact that he now ‘remembers’ his wife killing their children, when his wife actually appears to be the same woman who he was apparently sent to the island to find, and who it was said, murdered her three children, but who was certainly alive and well, should tell us there is a certain logical inconsistency in this scenario. Many viewers simply miss these clues that the ‘reality’ which Daniels is being forced to accept simply is entirely a fabrication.
Below is the shot immediately following Teddy’s traumatic encounter with Rachel Solando. The statue in Dr Cawley’s room is a representation of the Greek God Pan. From the name Pan we have the origin of the term ‘panic’. It was said that during battle Pan had to the power to instil disorder and fear, Pan is also responsible for the feeling of sudden panic in crowded places, thus we have the word ‘panic’. I believe Scorsese as the film’s director, is trying to show the occult connection between techniques of mind control and the practises of the ancient mystery schools, which as I have already tried to show, were created to sow disorder and confusion into the mind of the initiate and make him or her more pliable to furthering the goals of the group.
The fact that this statue is found in Cawley’s quarters, shows clearly that Dr Cawley sees himself as a modern priest of the cult of Pan, after all one would only harbour a statue of the God if one had a particular allegiance to that God, just as seeing a figurine of Jesus, or a crucifix on the wall of someone’s house clearly shows they are a Christian.
As the story develops and the mind control programme is cranked up into overdrive, the initial veiled threats and hints about how ‘dangerous’ Shutter Island would be if somehow the patients escaped, becomes a reality:
“The backup generator’s failed. The whole place has gone crazy.” Patients are released and let loose leading to Pandemonium all over the island in the attempt to further break Teddy’s will and make him ever more defenceless and ever more fearful.
Daniels is seen visibly ringing his hands in fear as he looks around at the scenes of chaos all around him. Guards chasing escaped patients, trees blown over by the storm and useless fences which have been knocked down and electrical security wires cut.
“Christ. You think the whole electrical system is fried? All the electronic security, the fences.. …the gates, the doors.” He looks around nervously and clearly his own fear is increasing with every moment he remains on the island.
All throughout the film you will remember that Daniels is continually complaining about the brightness of the lights and he keeps developing migraines as a result, thus providing Dr Cawley with an excuse to give him some unidentified pills which he claims will reduce the pain.
The following scene, where Chuck and Daniels enter the infamous ward C finally gives some clues into the significance and cause of the strange photosensitivity which Daniels is told he is suffering from. Later on in the film, in the final denouement and final battle for Daniels’ freedom, the headaches and photosensitivity are used by Dr Cawley as proof that he is the mentally deranged Andrew Laeddis and that he symptoms are actually withdrawal symptoms from no longer taking his prescribed anti-psychotic medicine.
As he enterers the compound he everything is arranged to startle and subtly unnerve him, from the huge branch of a storm felled tree being cleared from the roof and falling to the ground with a crash just as he happens to arrive. As they enter Ward C a guard jumps out at them and we see the odd recurrent light effect of a power surge going through a bulb and we hear the crackle of electricity.
Indeed, certain types of incandescent light bulbs are known to trigger migraines, health workers advise in these cases not to have exposed light bulbs, but, throughout the Shutter Island, we have just that and this is the reason for the peculiar lingering close up and accompanying sound effect of the crackling of the electric light early on in the film:
The guard who jumps out at them also reads the riot act to Chuck and Daniels, while bright lights continue to flash on and off.
“We got most of the bugsies locked down now ,but some of them are still loose .And if you see one, don’t try to restrain him yourselves. These fuckers will kill you. Clear? All right, get your asses moving then. Go on.”
Everything that happens to Teddy is prearranged and set up. Everyone else in the film is engaged in a role play to destabilise Tedddy. As they progress through Ward C Chuck becomes separated from Teddy. At which point a bald patient named Billings jumps out at Teddy and nearly strangles him to death. He then fights back in order to defend himself and is caught by Chuck and admonished by both Chuck and the guard:
“Jesus Christ, Teddy. Jesus! Oh, you got Billings. What the fuck’s the matter with you guys? Catch them, not kill them! Gotta get him to the infirmary.”
At which point Daniels, still clutching his throat where he had been strangled by Billings walks forward to go with them, assuming they are referring to him:
“ God damn it. No, no! Not you, not you. Take a walk. Come on. Cawley’s gonna have my goddamn balls for this.” This manipulation technique we have already seen and is known as ‘vilifying the victim’ and also shaming is specifically applied by the guard’s words and actions as he lays an admonishing hand on Daniels, and by the admonishing looks which Chuck directs at Teddy.
Dr Simons mentions the psychological manipulators tool of ‘shaming’ and defines it thus:
“Shaming: Manipulator uses put-downs to increase fear and self doubt in the victim. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them. Shaming tactics can be very subtle such as a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, rhetorical comments, subtle sarcasm. Manipulators can make one feel ashamed for even daring to challenge them. It is an effective way to foster a sense of inadequacy in the victim.”
This is later used as further currency to intimidate Daniels:
“They heard an orderly went bat-shit on a patient. They’re looking all over the place for him and they’re on their way to the roof.”
Few people would doubt that medical professionals like the Nazi Dr Mengele, Adolf Hitler, and maybe even people like George W Bush, were functional psychopaths. The problem is that psychopaths manage to quickly rise to the top or their professions by being able to read people particularly well and act without conscience of compunction. This gives them a significant lead over normal conscientious and ethical people who may find that the moral shortcuts that the psychopaths is willing to take, such as donning a mask in order to become popular and ingratiate themselves with people who will be able to favour them for advancement later in their careers. In Chapter 4 of the book “Snakes in Suits”, Dr. Hare and Dr. Babiak perfectly describe the cunning and unethical manipulation which a psychopath will engage in. It is my conviction that the person playing Chuck who later reveals themselves as Dr Sheenan is, along with Dr Cawley and the former nazi Dr. Naehring just such an example:
“As interaction with you proceeds, the psychopath carefully assesses your persona. Your persona gives the psychopath a picture of the traits and characteristics you value in yourself. Your persona may also reveal, to an astute observer, insecurities or weaknesses you wish to minimize or hide from view.”
If you recall Daniels reveals the most intimate details of his life to ‘Chuck’ who is then able to inform the other doctors at Ashecliffe in order to create a tailor made mind control programme.
“ As an ardent student of human behaviour, the psychopath will then gently test the inner strengths and needs that are part of your private self and eventually build a personal relationship with you by communicating (through words and deeds) four important messages”.
These ‘four important messages’ refer perhaps to ‘the rule of four’ which was found written on a piece of paper in the room in which Rachel Solando was said to live. Although at the end of the film the rule of four is revealed to be a psychological trick in which to finally snare Teddy Daniel’s mind once and for all, at this point it is worth examining what is meant by ‘four important messages’ in terms of psychological manipulation because they fit in with the profile of the character of Chuck so well. These are:
“1) I like who you are; 2) I am just like you; 3) Your secrets are safe with me; and 4) I am the perfect friend or lover or partner for you. That is why psychopaths so often feel like soul-mates in a relationship – they project your own persona back to you in their ‘assumed’ personality.”
This is made more explicit in the book where Doctor Sheenan is actually the narrator of the story and at one point says of Teddy during his first meeting with his alter ego Chuck:
“Teddy suppressed a laugh, liking this guy a lot now.” This shows how Dr Sheenan is aware that he need to be ‘liked’ by Teddy in order for their scripted scenario to succeed: it is essential that Chuck be trusted in order that Teddy reveal enough information about himself which they can use against him and also that Teddy be led astray by his own feelings of responsibility toward Chuck as his partner, this is later used to bring Teddy to the lighthouse and the final showdown between his own will and the mind control doctors.
Chuck presents himself as Teddy’s partner, and he plays on this relationship as being a sure basis for trust and he even admonished Teddy at one point when he refuses to let him know what he is thinking. Chuck deceptively tries to gain trust from Teddy through seduction, by claiming a certain level of relationship to Teddy which in fact does not exist, when Daniels refuses to give Chuck the full details of his suspicions of the case, Chuck acts with mock outrage and hurt:
“What the hell, boss? l’m your partner, for Christ’s sake.” to which Daniels pointedly replies: “We just met, Chuck.”
Dr. Hare and Dr. Babiak explain the nature and mechanics of the bond between the psychopathic manipulator and their victim:
“..the persona of the psychopath-the “personality” the person is bonding with-does not really exist. It was built on lies, carefully woven together to entrap you. It is a mask, one of many, custom-made by the psychopath to fit your particular psychological needs and expectations… the relationship is one-sided because the psychopath has an ulterior–some would say “evil”–and, at the very least, selfish motive. The victimization goes far beyond trying to take advantage of someone on a date or during a simple business transaction. The victimization is predatory in nature; it often leads to severe financial, physical or emotional harm for the individual. Healthy, real relationships are built on mutual respect and trust; they are based on sharing honest thoughts and feelings. The mistaken belief that the psychopathic bond has any of these characteristics is the reason it is so successful”.
And indeed it is the false bond created and Teddy Daniel’s attachment to Chuck which ultimately proves to be undoing. Despite receiving visions and dreams that Chuck is not to be trusted, Daniels is charmed by the persona that Chuck has created and also the bond and responsibilities which he perceives are natural to his ‘partner.’
The image below shows Dr Cawley hypnotise Daniels into accepting his version of reality, namely that the entirely fictitious Rachel Solando, was actually Dolores Chanal, his real wife. Throughout this scene Ben Kinglsey who plays Dr Cawley stares hard into DiCaprio’s eyes, and with sheer force of will attempts to convince Daniels that what he is saying is true. He also shocks him by showing him the picture of a dead girl which reminds him, not of the girl his wife supposedly killed because this is a complete fiction, but which reminded him of the dead children he saw in Auschwitz. Hypnotism is simply attempting to exert your will power over someone in order to so dominate them, that they fall under the spell of your suggestions. Hypnotism has been successfully used in psychiatry for many many years and is used successfully as an aspect of encouraging patients to deal with trauma or break harmful habits and patterns of behaviour.
In this instance however, all of Dr Cawley’s fake sincerity and concern for Teddy is nothing more than one of the psychological manipulators battery of techniques.
In fact neither Rachel Solando nor Andrew Laeddis even exist but are invented characters created to allow this very moment to take place. This is why earlier Teddy states of Laeddis that:
“ Ugly-looking son of a bitch. Huge scar from his right temple down to his left lip. Eyes different colours. Not the type of face you’d forget. He burned down a schoolhouse, killed two people, said voices told him to do it. First he went to prison, then he got transferred here. Then nothing. He vanished like he never existed. After Laeddis vanished, l started doing some checking on Ashecliffe.”
The reason being that the person known as Andrew Laeddis was just a character in the long term role play. He didn’t in fact exist, but his face had to be distinctive enough that Teddy would remember him. It is probable that this Andrew Laeddis character had been watching Teddy for a long time and was acting under the orders of secret agencies unknown but was just another fictional persona. Just like Chuck says of Solando:
“We came here for Rachel Solando. Where’s one shred of evidence she even existed?”
Chuck as we know, is also part of the mind control programme, and initially he masquerades as Teddy Daniel’s partner, and later assumes the role of Teddy’s long term personal psychiatrist. The techniques of psychological manipulation which Chuck indulges in are many and varied and all lead up to trying to elicit a sense of trust and comradeship from Teddy, before finally turning on him at the end and providing another voice to the chorus telling Teddy he is actually insane and none of the life he believes he is living, is even real. He also consistently reveals the truth about the situation Chuck finds himself in in order to foster a sense of fear in Teddy. Just as the ‘other Rachel Solando’ who Teddy meets in the cave contributes further to terrorising Teddy and making him feel powerless, hopeless and that he has already lost.
“You haven’t taken any pills, have you? And you ate the food in the cafeteria and drank the coffee they gave you? You tell me, at least, that you’ve been smoking your own cigarettes. lt takes 36 to 48 hours for neuroleptic narcotics to reach workable levels in the bloodstream. Palsy comes first, first the fingertips, then eventually the whole hand.”
Apparently there was an unidentified man in Ward C yesterday. He subdued a highly dangerous patient quite handily.
The ostensible purpose of Teddy Daniels going to the island to help locate an escaped mental patient is questioned roughly half way through the film when Daniel’s real business as a federal marshal are made plain when he reveals his real intentions and intent on the island:
“A lot of people know about this place, but no one wants to talk. You know, it’s like it…lt’s like they’re scared or something. You know, this place is funded by a special grant from The House Un-American Activities Committee?” Daniels then explains that he believes ‘experiments on the mind’ are taking place on the island and adds:
“Like l said, no one would talk, right? Till l found somebody who used to be a patient here. Guy’s name is George Noyce. Nice college kid. Socialist. He gets offered some money to do a psych study. Guess what they were testing? So, he starts seeing dragons everywhere. He almost beats his professor to death. Ends up here in Ashecliffe, Ward C. They release him after one year, right? And what does he do? Two weeks on the mainland, he walks into a bar, stabs three men to death. His lawyer pleads insanity, but Noyce, he stands up in the courtroom and he… He begs the judge for the electric chair. Anywhere but a mental hospital. Judge gives him life in Dedham Prison…. it’s pretty clear from what he tells me. They’re experimenting on people here.”
The above narrative about the life of George Noyce us borne out by certain facts which have been released about the testing of various psychotropic drugs to both witting and unwitting people, and the subsequent charge made by Dr Cawley that all of this is a fantasy dreamed up by Teddy is a total impossibility as this kind of information about illegal drug testing would not have been available to anyone at the time, unless they had access to genuine top secret information, perhaps through investigation into someone they knew personally, and what is more this information would certainly in no way have been made available to a psychotic patient as Teddy is portrayed to be. Someone like a Federal marshal would most certainly be one of the few people around at the time who might have the inside scoop on the kind of things senator Ted Kennedy exposed, many years later on the Senate floor in 1977:
“The Deputy Director of the CIA revealed that over thirty universities and institutions were involved in an “extensive testing and experimentation” program which included covert drug tests on unwitting citizens “at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign.” Several of these tests involved the administration of LSD to “unwitting subjects in social situations.” At least one death, that of Dr Olson resulted from these activities. The Agency itself acknowledged that these tests made little scientific sense. The agents doing the monitoring were not qualified scientific observers.”
“Wait a minute. You started asking around about Ashecliffe, waiting for a chance to get out here, and then suddenly they need a U.S. Marshal?”
“Yeah, l got lucky. There was a patient escape. lt was the perfect excuse.”
“No, no, no, boss. Luck doesn’t work that way. The world doesn’t work that way. They got an electrified fence around a septic facility. Ward C is inside a Civil War fort?” A Chief of Staff with ties to the OSS? Funding from HUAC? l mean, Jesus Christ, everything about this place stinks of government ops. What if they wanted you here?” -You were asking questions. What if while you were looking into them, they were looking into you? All they had to do was fake an escape to get you here, and now they have you. Now they have us both. Here! Now!”
It is worth while nothing that the peculiarly loud volume and the accent with which Chuck shouts the word ‘Now’ timed to coincide with the sudden opening of the tomb in which they had been hiding along with the appearance Deputy warden McPherson, indicate that Chuck himself may have been signalling their location and that his shouting the word ‘now’ indicated to the staff the optimum moment for them to make their appearance. It is also odd that Chuck could have come to the conclusion that ‘they were looking into you’ as there is simply no evidence or reason for him to come to such a conclusion. Simply it is a further attempt to disorder and sow a feeling of panic into the Marshall’s mind. McPherson calls with a bullhorn and bright lights shining into their location. How could McPherson have known where to find him and how could the lights have been so arranged as to shine directly into the tomb if somehow Teddy’s location had not been given away by Chuck? Straightaway Teddy adapts the mentality of the hunted, and seems to wince visibly from the sound of the bullhorn and the bright glare of the lights shining on them.
It is also worth pointing out that at this stage when they are ‘captured’ their clothes are confiscated and they are forced to wear the white orderlies uniforms.. Without his own clothes it seems that Teddy has suffered a major setback in getting off the island and this symbolically start the process of institutionalising Teddy and reducing his freedom and making him more and more dependent on Ashcliffe and acquiescing further to Dr Cawley’s instructions. He is effectively locked in the basement and imprisoned and also given more unidentified pills.
“l’m gonna have to ask you to go down into the basement. There’s food, water and cots. lt’s the safest place to be when the hurricane hits. Are you all right? You look pale.”
“l’m fine. lt’s just…lt’s just so goddamn bright, isn’t it?”
“Photosensitivity, headaches sometimes. Take the pills, Marshal.”
In Shutter Island Daniels comes across ‘the real Rachel Solando’ who claims to have once been a doctor at Ashcliffe, before she was incarcerated as a patient herself when she started asking too many question. Although she is just another plant involved in a deeper level of the role play, she serves to increase his sense of panic and general insecurity and the sense that there is nothing he can do. However, despite her being just another agent of the mind control experiment, she tells him the secret of the island:
“Recreate a man so he doesn’t feel pain or love or sympathy. A man who can’t be interrogated, because he has no memories to confess. You can never take away all a man’s memories. Never. Marshal, the North Koreans used American POWs during their brainwashing experiments. They turned soldiers into traitors. That’s what they’re doing here. They’re creating ghosts to go out in the world and do things sane men… Sane men never would. Fifty years from now, people will look back and say, here, this place, is where it all began. The Nazis used the Jews, Soviets used prisoners in their own Gulags, and we tested patients on Shutter Island.”
One incident in the public record of a someone being involved in a mind control programme which modified the victim’s behaviour to such a degree that this person went from child prodigy accepted by Harvard University at 16 years old to Unabomber at 36, killing 3 people and injuring 23 others.
While at Harvard university Ted Kaczynski found himself selected without his knowledge to take part in MK Ultra experiments on behaviour modification. From August 1959 through to Spring 1962, Ted was subjected to personal attacks and techniques of psychological manipulation directed by former OSS (CIA precursor) officer and head of mind-control experiments Henry Murray which we have seen in this chapter and in chapters 2 and 3 of this volume. The upshot of this method of attack was that during seminars he was with what appeared to be other students but which were in fact plants, and these plants were there to monitor and assess his reactions to their attacks and provocations.
Eventually Ted started having psychotic episodes and becoming fully paranoid schizophrenic raving about strange machinations and secret groups. But he wasn’t paranoid. Like the old joke goes: I’m not paranoid but they ARE out to get me.
For the final showdown with Dr Cawley and the final unveiling of the fact that Teddy is indeed ‘a rat in a maze’ he is taken to the meeting by the psychotic and intimidating looking Warden of Ashecliffe who addresses Teddy as a fellow psychopath:
“Did you enjoy God’s latest gift? The violence. We wage war, we burn sacrifices, and pillage and plunder and tear at the flesh of our brothers. And why? Because God gave us violence to wage in his honour. l thought God gave us moral order. There’s no moral order as pure as this storm.”
This is straight out of the little book of Nazi ideology. The Nazis often spoke of a ‘moral world order’ and the Warders words seem to evoke the attitude of Hitler as expressed in Mein Kamp:
“Either the world will be ruled according to the ideas of democracy, or the world will be dominated according to the natural law of force; in the latter case the people of brute force will be victorious.”
The Warden also seeks to suitably weaken and terrorise Teddy before the critical meeting with Cawley which will finally decide the fate of Daniels and the continuation of psychological experimentation in the island:
“lf the constraints of society were lifted, and l was all that stood between you and a meal, you would crack my skull with a rock and eat my meaty parts. Cawley thinks you’re harmless, that you can be controlled, but l know different.-Oh, l know you. We’ve known each other for centuries. lf l was to sink my teeth into your eye right now, would you be able to stop me before l blinded you?”
This is known as ‘Traumatic one trial learning: using verbal abuse, explosive anger, or other intimidating behaviour to establish dominance or superiority; even one incident of such behaviour can condition or train victims to avoid upsetting, confronting or contradicting the manipulator.”
Although Daniels is tough, he is being shown that there is someone who is tougher, and that he will not escape by violence alone. He is receiving a lesson on ‘violence’ and that because Daniels has used violence to defend himself from attacks by inmates and by Dr Naehring trying to drug him, he in being made to feel guilty about this and that somehow doing so puts him on the same level as the obvious psychopath warden.
Another psychological technique identified is known as ‘feigning innocence’. This tactic is particularly effective when wielded expertly and, as Dr Simons describes, can have dramatic effects:
“Feigning innocence: Manipulator may put on a look of surprise of indignation. This tactic makes the victim question his or her own judgement and possibly his own sanity”
Teddy is now adamant that he wants to leave now and carry out his threat to ‘blow the lid of this place’ however now the storm is over and the Rachel Solando mystery has been cleared up there is one last trick which is played to keep Teddy chained to the island. The mysterious disappearance of his partner Chuck, to whom he has now learned to trust and has become quite attached. However, in reply to his inquiry about the whereabouts of Chuck Dr Cawley now tells him:
“You don’t have a partner, Marshal. You came here alone.“
For the first time in the film, Cawley now explains and attempts to justify himself to Teddy, along with a final veiled threat:
“ You know, l’ve built something valuable here, and valuable things have a way of being misunderstood in their own time. Everyone wants a quick fix. They always have. l’m trying to do something that people, yourself included, don’t understand. And l’m not going to give up without a fight. l can see that. So, tell me again about your partner. What partner?”
‘the fight’ is the series of psychological games they are playing with Teddy in order to deprive him of his mental strength and sanity to such an extent that they can control restrain and eventually neutralise him. Cawley’s bald faced lie that Daniel’s never had a partner and came to the island alone, show that he is prepared to use any and all shamelessly manipulative and duplicitous tactics to save what he has ‘built’ and must now act in order to prevent Daniels from ever reaching the mainland and filing his report.
This is the same project which real life MK Ultra neurophysiologists like Dr Jose Delgado would later publicly comment on:
“We need a program of psychosurgery and political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically mutilated.
The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective.
Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electrically control the brain. Some day armies and generals will be controlled by electrical stimulation of the brain.”
Dr. Jose Delgado Director of Neuropsychiatry, Yale University Medical School
Congressional Record No. 26, Vol. 118, February 24, 1974
Similarly the revelations made to Teddy in the cave echo a covert reality of the use of pharmaceuticals to modify a patient’s mood. This was a major research focus for MK Ultra.
“l started asking about these large shipments of sodium amytal and opium-based hallucinogens. Psychotropic drugs.”
In a interview found on freegovreports.com and apparently dated 25th February 1952 between a CIA agent and a professional hypnotist, the following extremely interesting and suggestive facts come to light relating to the possible use of sodium amytal as an agent for hypnosis and mind control. The fact that this interview was carried out just one year before the MK Ultra project, headed by Sidney Gottlieb, officially commenced in April 1953, shows that this interview was probably a prelude to the more invasive and prolonged research carried out on both willing and non willing participants at various locations around the United States including Long Island, Deep creek Lake and for which Shutter Island is clearly an analogy:
“Q: Do you have any special techniques that you think are valuable?
A: All techniques are valuable. I use about eighteen different approaches to individuals ranging from fear to anxiety, to deception, etc., etc. All individuals are different and a hypnotist always studies his subjects carefully, psychologically and otherwise, before attempting hypnosis with them. Only skilled professional hypnotists have proper training and work at it often enough to be skilled hypnotists. I would be glad to show you all my techniques when we have time to discuss them.
Q: Have you ever had any experience with drugs?
A: Yes, many times. I have worked with doctors using sodium amytal and pentothal and have obtained hypnotic control after the drugs were used. In fact, many times the drugs were used for the purpose of obtaining hypnotic control…sodium amytal and pentothal are the weapons used. If I had to tackle a case, tough and unwilling, I would rely on sodium amytal. I do not know of any “wonder” drugs. I do not believe they exist and none of the psychiatrists and doctors I work with use anything but those I have mentioned.”
Well what do you think? Are you convinced that Shutter Island is a film about CIA mind control techniques learned from Nazi doctors spirited away from Nazi Germany under the name Operation Paperclip? Or do you think I’m paranoid and am reading too much into it?
Well, I predicted this response so guess what I did?
I read the book too. The book begins with Dr Lester Sheenan, the man who impersonated Chuck Aulle throughout the film. He narrates the story as an old man and he expresses his sorrow about poor ‘Teddy Daniels and his poor dead wife those twin terrors Rachel Solando and Andrew Laeddis and the havoc they wreaked on us all.’ His first page of narration concerns the early life of Teddy Daniels with his dad visiting islands by boat. Perhaps the most striking admittance of Dr Sheenan’s guilt in this whole affair are the following words: “I want to write these things down, then. Not to alter the text so that I fall under a more favourable light. No, no. He would never allow that. In his own peculiar way he hated lies more than anyone I have ever known.’ Clearly the account is from a Dr Sheenan who, plagued by feelings of guilt for his part in Teddy Daniel’s downfall, finally wants to in some way atone for his crimes by exposing them by writing them down.
Some good videos for further research on MK Ultra and CIA mind control programmes:
Ted Gunderson Chronicles, former FBI: