Behavior: Valley of Horrors

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The Rev. George von Hilsheimer, 39, a self-styled minister in the Free Religious Association, is fascinated by psychiatry. Though he has no degrees in the subject, he likes to talk about such "therapies" as electrosleep, vivid confrontation, megavitamins and hypode-sensitization. What is noteworthy about Von Hilsheimer, however, is that he has been able to try out these techniques, and others as well, during his nine years as superintendent of the Green Valley School for emotionally disturbed and delinquent children in Orange City, Fla.

If a child misbehaved, for example, Von Hilsheimer would sometimes gather the students together to declare him "morally dead"; then, concocting his own version of reality therapy (which denies the importance of past traumas and encourages a patient to cope outright with his current dilemma), Von Hilsheimer and the students would force the youth to dig himself a grave and lie in it overnight. "I think it is a beautiful symbolic thing for the kids to go through," he explained. "It's a way of forcing them to look at themselves." At other times he would shackle the child, jolt him with an electroshock machine dubbed a "lalapalooza," or shut him up in a storehouse.

All this came to light last week at hearings conducted by the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The Senators are probing a federal medical-insurance program called CHAMPUS (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services), the benefits of which Include payment for the care of emotionally disturbed children of military personnel in 486 schools and psychiatric centers round the country. Senate investigators claim that CHAMPUS administrators do not properly check out facilities before handing over money. Green Valley, they point out, has received $1.2 million from the Government over a three-year period to perpetrate outrages that Committee Chairman Henry Jackson called worthy of "Hitler, Use Koch and Buchenwald."

In 1973, Florida investigators testified, the school was raided by state officials; among other brutalizing instruments, they found shackles and a brown leather whip. One nurse said she had treated numerous bruises from chains. Von Hilsheimer told TIME Correspondent Joe Kane that his young charges were "miserable, hateful, violent bastards." The school's former headmaster, Ronald E. Nowicki, could also be violent. In a fit of anger he punched a female student so hard that he ruptured her eardrums.

Allergy Treatment. At the hearings, former staff members testified about Green Valley's various treatments. They said that Dr. William Philpott, a consulting psychiatrist who practices in South Attleboro, Mass., believed that mental disorders stem from allergies. He tried to treat the allergies by having students inhale carbon dioxide gas. (Two of his former patients in Maryland died following carbon dioxide inhalation therapy, and Philpott was acquitted of manslaughter in 1966.) According to the former head nurse, Esther Johnson Snow, another consultant, Dr. Sol Klotz of Orlando, Fla., told her to inject a student with his own urine as a test for allergy. Klotz also made a serum of dirt, dust, and other substances and told the nurses to inject it into students as an allergy treatment.

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