On another page, I detail my own experiences with Reich's orgone therapy (a.k.a. vegetotherapy). This page contains the accounts of other people who have had experiences with orgone therapy, and who have given me permission to display those accounts here. Each account appears in more-or-less each person's own words.
Susanna Steig (born 1944) is the niece of William Steig. (William Steig was a prominent follower of Reich, most well-known for his illustrations in Reich's Listen, Little Man!.) Here is Susanna's account:
MY CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES WITH REICHIAN THERAPY
By Susanna Steig
I was three years old. What I remember: my mother leading me down the long, dark hallway of our New York City apartment. The cold, tiled hallway. A bus. Going up the stairs of a concrete building, cold, huge and scary (a warehouse, I now realize).
She was sitting in a chair. A gypsy-like woman dressed in shiny silks, with her breasts hanging out of her blouse. Her name was Felicia Saxe. I was left alone with her. The sharp pain of her fingers and nails digging into my shoulders. And then, I was caught up in what felt like a screaming, crying machine that would never stop. My screaming and crying was what she wanted.
More memories: my face coming closer and closer to her breasts, being shoved into her breasts — I couldn't breathe! A huge vagina, coming nearer and nearer to my face. And then, as if from afar, her holding me on her lap, her hand under my skirt, masturbating me.
I remember being on a bus with my mother, on the way there. There were newly blooming Spring trees. I said something about what was happening. My mother looked out the window.
When I was an adult my mother told me that she had taken me to this therapy for months and listened to me scream. What was the reason? I was jealous of my younger sister, born when I was two years and two months old, and I was aggressive towards her.
What stopped this was that my father came to pick me up one day, saw what was going on, and decided I was not to go back. He cried and begged my forgiveness. I don't know if my parents noticed that I changed from a happy, boisterous child to a frightened, quiet one.
When I was six, my family moved to rural New Jersey. A year later, my father came to me one day and started telling me everything that was wrong with me. All I remember is that he said I was "too much of a lady", and needed treatment.
My handsome father, my saviour, drove me to Red Bank, New Jersey. It was a long ride. We got out and went into a house. We sat, and I heard blood-curdling screams coming from a neighboring room. I was numb. Then, I was led into that room with a big bed, where Ellsworth Baker asked me to take off all my clothes except for my white cotton underwear. And then the pain began — pressing pain, all over my body. He also asked me to lie on my stomach, and pressed on my back so hard that I couldn't breathe. This, also, went on for months.
No matter what they did to me, I made no noise, and did not react at all. This was my way of protecting myself. Since this therapy was supposed to provoke a dramatic physical and emotional reaction, I don't know what they thought.
After the first time with Dr. Baker, my father took me to visit a friend. She asked me where I had been, and I was too ashamed to tell her. I said, "PT", meaning physical therapy. I was very ashamed, and ate some marshmallows to make me feel better.
That same year, Reich did some experiments at his lab in Rangeley, Maine that apparently turned out to be toxic. I was sent to Maine to keep Peter Reich, Reich's son, company for a week, since we were both seven. We stayed at the home of Myron Sharaf (who later wrote Fury on Earth) and his wife Greta. She was pregnant. She later had a son named Peter, who killed himself when he was a teenager, rumored to be because of Greta's affair with Reich.
I loved Peter Reich. He was my friend. We were put to bed together on that first night I was there. Myron and Greta stood over us and said, "Why don't you make love?" Peter and I hugged and kissed. A few minutes later, Myron and Greta came into the room naked. She put in her diaphragm in front of us and said they were going off to make love, also.
One night, Greta showed me some live lobsters in a pot that were to be boiled for our dinner. By the end of the week, I had decided to stop talking.
(Peter Reich later wrote a wonderful book called A Book of Dreams about his childhood. He was not a true believer. He was shunned by the Reichian community.)
The treatments with Baker continued when I returned home. He gripped my leg one day and said, "Is this where you feel it when you think of Peter?" I realized that he knew what had happened in Maine and that I was part of an experiment.
Other stories I have heard:
Felicia Saxe was discredited by Reich at some point, after which time a relative of mine, as a child, was sent into treatment with her for years. Despite this, and my father's opinion of her, not one adult in my family lifted a finger to try to save my relative.
Some of the boys who were in treatment with Felicia Saxe, at an older age than I was, were masturbated by her as part of the therapy. Felicia Saxe also ran a summer camp for children, where many horrible experiences happened to relatives of mine. I hope these former children of Reichians tell their stories.
When I was in my fifties, I was visiting my mother, and an old friend of hers was there. I found out for the first time that the friend had sent her younger daughter to therapy with a Reichian who raped her repeatedly for months. The younger daughter was eleven years old at the time. I don't know the name of the therapist, but he was later put into a mental institution.
I wrote to the younger daughter. Her older sister had been my friend when we were children. My friend had been sent to this same therapist when she was five. When she was twenty, she broke with her family and joined a born-again Christian cult. Their mother was distraught because her younger daughter still blamed her for what had happened and insisted that she had known what was going on.
As I said, I hope that all these children of Reichians write their stories. I believe this should be made part of history.
How do I feel now about all this, now that I approach my sixtieth birthday? I have spent a lifetime dealing with the aftermath of my traumatic childhood, full of abuse and betrayal. I am now estranged from most of my family. I am tired of secrets, of people not wanting to know, of a story so outlandish and horrible that I do not really want to inflict it on people unless they really want to know.
I think the Reichians were meglomaniacs, true believers, and elitists. Not one of them had a bit of empathy or sympathy for children. Many of them were sadists. I really hope the truth of what happened to us becomes well known.
This is a cautionary tale about true believers and the evil that they do.
Frederika (last name withheld for the sake of privacy) was born in 1949 or 1950, and tells a story of physical and sexual abuse inflicted on her by Dr. Albert I. Duvall when she was 9 years old.
Her story is detailed in Marjorie Bayes' article Breaking the Silence: Secrets of the Reichian Cult (.pdf file), which is hosted here with Dr. Bayes' permission.
Note: This same article also describes some of the events that happened to Susanna Steig, and contains a condensed version of the events I describe on the page here about my personal experiences. It also recapitulates Lorna Luft's experiences with Dr. Duvall, as described in Luft's autobiography Me and My Shadows.
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