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Table of Contents
-- Introduction
1. Why Straight is a destructive mind control cult
-- 2. deprivations & child abuse 
-- 3. body carvings and suicide attempts 
-- 4. suicide or murder?
-- 5. Where are they?
-- 6. Father Newton: the clinician
-- 7. Synanon Church,  where it started, and The Seed
-- 8. Why Straight is so successful:
- 9.  $100,000,000 charity for white kids
-- 10.  The therapeutic program 
- 11.  The other clinicians 
-- 12.  Straights & medical research 
-- Appx A Straight officers & directors
-- Appx B  Straight Fdn officers & directors




noted mind control expert Steve Hassan on the Straights





Click above to order THE GREAT DRUG WAR by Arnold Trebach.  It's the best printed account on the nightmares of the Straight cult to date.


About the author
EMail author at wes@wesfager.com

Click above to order Jon Atack's  outstanding expose on the Church of Scientology
Please help us tell the story. This electronic version of  A Clockwork Straight is a living document and is frequently updated as new data is uncovered. If you have an interesting story to tell about the Straights--a success story, a tragedy, whatever--we would love to hear from you. If you can refute or substantiate any story told in this book,  we would like to know that too. To report on a story about the Straights click on

To report grammatical and spelling errors, or web page problems click on

Thank you,
The editorial staff at the Oakton Institute for Cultic Studies


Rehabilitation,Thought Reform and the Destruction of Young Minds


by Wesley M. Fager
(c) 2000

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    sound control   (If you're not getting music,  click here.)
"I been around, you know. There was a time when I could see, and I have seen boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off.  But there is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit, there is no prosthetic for that." 
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino) in the 1992 movie Scent of a Woman  

But the fool on the hill,
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning around.
The fool is Jesus Christ, from Fool on the Hill (the background song) by the Beatles
"Life is a very wonderful thing," said Dr. Branom . . . �"the processes of life, the make-up of the human organism, who can fully understand these miracles?. . . What is happening to you now is what should happen to any normal healthy human organism . . . You are being made sane, you are being made healthy."
"That I will not have," I said, "nor can I understand at all. What you�ve been doing is to make me feel very ill."
Alex talking to his psychiatrist in A Clockwork Orange

If I would have realized back then that I would have been out of jail a lot sooner than I got out of Straight, I definitely would have picked jail. It was kinda' like from the movie
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest with Jack Nicholson. Jack thought it would be easier serving his time out in a psyc ward instead of prison and the next thing ya know the poor guy gets a lobotomy. Well that kinda' happened to me. Except my lobotomy was a brainwashing. Start out thinking "I'll just go along to get out of here," then the next thing ya know BAM! I am gone and some jackass flapping his arms around like an idiot and singing songs like "Zippity Do Da" is sitting in my chair. I still get can't believe it. Seems like it happened to another person or something." 
LESTAT49203, Straight-Cincinnati and Straight-Detroit

They [the Straights] run very close to really performing psychic murder."
Marge Robertson,  executive director of the Cincinnati Chapter of the ACLU,  from Cincinnati Post.

I have seen people sit in Group and physically carve into their arms to,  in my opinion,  try to escape the hell they were in. I know that they put to much on us for young people. I wonder if they didn�t set some of us crazy themselves. I know of one  young child that didn�t speak to anyone for probably 2 months. This kid didn�t crack a smile;  it was like he was in his own world. I never understood why some kids with obvious mental disorders were allowed to continue treatment when it was obvious that they needed mental help from someone more than a  teenager or young adult who had no formal training. Will any of us ever know how much damage straight really did to our minds, and our bodies?"  
Mark Fuller, Straight-Springfield

Staff members directed me to physically batter and verbally assault other clients. They gave me this directions when I was a client and when I was a Staff Trainee. I carried them out. So did hundreds if not tens of thousands of other kids. . . As hard as it has been to live with the reality of being clinically abused for nearly two years,  it cannot compare with the complete nightmare of living with the fact that I abused other people repeatedly in the name of a thought control cult. It cannot compare with the nightmare of knowing that some of the people I abused have ended up in jail, or dead, and that I contributed to the destruction of their lives."
James,  Straight-Atlanta

Several children attempted suicide while staying with host families, but the attempts were not reported and the children were not treated. . . Some teen-age clients were forced to reveal their sexual fantasies during group sessions. Others were subjected to "spit therapy," where children would spit on each other to reduce their egos." 
Jacqueline M. Ennis, formerly head of licensing for Virginia's Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, speaking about Straight. [Saint Petersburg Times, 7-31-91] 

Children are a very marketable commodity for hospital admissions."
Pete Kreis (1985), former Chief of Children, Youth and Families Division,  Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS). [Saint Petersburg Times, Jul 6, 1987]

Getting money is easy . . . Myself. [I would invest in] drug and alcohol rehab centers. I�m serious. It�s the number one op of the 90s. Priscilla, people are chic. You tell them they can�t quit on their own and suddenly everybody needs help. I mean the human mind. What can you say.�

Con artist Eddy Otis (Kevin Spacey) from the 1993 suspense thriller Consenting Adults

. . . research has shown that over the last 3 years there has been a decline in Straight�s market, to-wit: middle and upper income children involved in drugs. Instead, more lower income families are affected."
Jay Snyder, Straight Foundation board member, January 17, 1991

"It is too easy for tyranny to eclipse therapy when teenagers have authority over other teenagers."
David Rosenker, Program Director, Louis House North, Blaine, Minn. The [Bergen] Record, 7-26-87, p. A17.

It just shows that we must have been doing things right."
a "grinning" Mel Sembler "proudly" commenting on the ACLU's lawsuit against Straight - Atlanta. Florida Trend Magazine, May 1997

Business!!!! Mankind was my business." 
The ghost of Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I often wonder what it is that brings one man success in life and . . . failure to his brother. . . some men succeed because they cheerfully pay the price . . .and others are unwilling . . . That�s why so many . . . remain on the beaten paths that are for broken men."
A quote carried around by Straight founder Ambassador2 Mel Sembler, AO

They tell you they love you,
but it is a lie;
Satisfaction is theirs once you have cried

From the moment your foot steps into the door,
If you give in a little they push you for more

It's so vicious, so desperate,
It seems never-ending

Your soul is at stake
with the outcome still pending

You awake in the midst of a strangers bed,
And more often than not,
You will wish you were dead.

It is hushed to the world
Yet so full of hate-
A place all too many
Now know as Straight.
Thea, written after her release from Straight - Atlanta, 1990


I have been researching and writing a book about Straight for five years now.  When I started I just had no idea how big they were or just where the story would take me.   I haven't finished my book,  but I have been inspired by three  former Straight students to publish some sort of interim, web-based book on Straight.  These students are  Scott Wagner from Philadelphia who made the first-ever,  substantial page on Straight;  Kathy Martin of Manassas,  Virginia who formed a discussion forum for Straight Survivors;  and Ginger Warbis of Lighthouse, Florida who has put together the pointers to the various resource pages on Straight. 

DEDICATION.   This condensed version of my book is dedicated to all the men and women who have been students in Straight-based re-education centers,  to those those boys and girls currently in abusive, Straight-like therapeutic communities,  and to those former students,  too numerous to mention here,  who took their own life following their Straight experience.  That said,  I will mention three names in dedication:
  • to Professor Arnold Trebach of American University and of the Drug Policy Foundation who worked so hard to tell the story
  • to my friend Richard Bradbury of Tampa, Florida who spent seven long years of his youthful life closing them down under the name Straight, Inc.
  • and to Bill Fager who has given his all.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.  I would like to thank all  who have shared their stories with me through eMail,  snail mail, telephone and personal visits.  Internet discussion forums like Kathy Martin's and Don Smith's on Straights,  and Kimberely Fee's forum KIDS  continue  to be a wealth of information about the Straights and I appreciate everyone for sharing.  I would like to thank everyone who has helped me out on special research projects.   I would like to thank Kathy Martin, Scott Wagner and Ginger Warbis for inspiring me to do an internet presence and to all those others like Marti Heath who have subsequently developed fine web pages about the Straights and its descendents.   I am also indebted to Ginger Warbis  for her technical and editorial assistance, and for her political insights.  This story could never have been told without  Richard Bradbury of Tampa, Florida who turned over his enormous archives to me.  Special thanks  go to Dr. Arnold Trebach of the Drug Policy Foundation in Washington, DC for access to that foundations voluminous files on the Straights and for use of his court documents from the Fred Collins trial.   I would like to thank an anonymous friend who has generously helped the cause financially.   I am indebted to true detectives--the librarians all over the country,  and especially to the library staffs at the Saint Petersburg Public Library,  the Fairfax County Public Library,  and the Library of Congress.  I will always  be indebted to the reporters  and editors of America's newspaper--The Saint Petersburg Times--for their excellent  coverage of the  Straight story and for their coverage of their local citizen Melvin Sembler.   Channel 13 Eye Witness News of Tampa and WAMI TV in Miami have also done excellent jobs in reporting the story.  Finally,  I would like to thank my wife Kay for an ever listening ear and for putting up with five years of research and writing so  this story could be told. 

FOREWORD  by attorney and world renowned author and addiction expert Dr. Stanton Peele.  In many cases, kids in trouble (read "distress") are seen to require no care or affirmation; quite the contrary, they are often seen to benefit from highly aggressive and degrading communications and environments -- one thinks of prison programs such as "Scared Straight," boot camps, drug treatment interventions, and ":tough love" treatments.  The thought seems to be that kids are misbehaving since they are disobedient and willful -- they may be bad seeds -- and need to be brought to heel.  Straight, Inc. was and is a treatment regimen for children built on such assumptions.  As in other such cases, it produces often strongly negative outcomes (such negative outcomes are not restricted to children in abusive programs, but occur with adults as well, as in the high suicide rates reported by the Atlanta Constitution for doctors and other health care workers treated by G. Douglas Talbott, founder and board member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine).  Thanks to Wesley Fager for commemorating the victims of this abuse, who died for reasons unknown, but whose deaths should not go unacknowledged.          Stanton Peele, J.D., Ph.D.


ENDORSEMENT.  As a person who was incarcerated at Straight, Inc., for twenty months, I can personally attest to the veracity of many of the accounts of abuse and wrongful imprisonment contained in this book. As a physician, I am horrified by the absolute disregard for the psychological, emotional, and physical health, safety, and constitutional rights of Straight clients during the period I was there in the early to middle 1980's. I graduated from the program after having been forced, by repeated verbal and physical assaults, to accept the notion that I had a drug problem even though I did not. I was an honors high school graduate already accepted into a competitive college, but because of my parents' poor parenting skills and their vulnerability to the slick marketing tactics of Straight, Inc., I found myself, at the age of eighteen years, a prisoner with absolutely "no rights" according to Miller Newton, the executive director of Straight at the time. Submission to every rule and Straight custom was demanded and enforced by brutality. I existed in a constant state of terror for my safety and even my life if I did not conform. Although I lost my innocence, precious years of my adolescence, and was forced to delay my educational goals, I realize how fortunate I am that I was able to succeed professionally and personally despite the repeated assaults on my psyche and body. Sadly, many former clients whom I knew have suffered terribly, some turning to drugs and others having committed suicide. To this day, some twenty years later, I suffer from nightmares and periods of intense anxiety brought on by such seemingly simple triggers as certain songs I heard while in the program. Mel Sembler boasts about the over 12,000 successful graduates from Straight1, although it begs the question "what does he mean by 'successful'?" Although I appear to be such, I succeeded despite the program and would give anything to remove from my closet that ghastly skeleton that is Straight, Inc., and the inescapable images of horror and violence I was forced to endure and witness there.  Victoria H., M.D.,  Sept. 2002

INTRODUCTION.  This is a story about organized child abuse in the western world on a massive scale,  maybe in excess of 50,000 kids involved.   It's about convincing affluent white parents that their child will die without the services of a juvenile drug rehab program called Straight (and in some cases one of its abusive follow-on programs).  This is a story about human excrement, urine, vomit and spit.   It's about little white girls on their periods sitting in pools of blood   and about kids carving on their bodies.  A tongue partially bitten off or the inside of a cheek chewed up,   starvation and sleep deprivation.  It's a story about coerced or coaxed sexual confessions.  It's about teaching a child to become ultraviolent and about ripping families apart.    And it's about money--90 million dollars.  As I write this introduction I am reminded of an old Twilight Zone segment I saw years ago�probably before many of you readers were born. According to that episode:  
A flying saucer had landed on the mall in Washington, D.C. The aliens told the Washingtonians that they had come in peace and gave the authorities a little red book to prove it. Problem is the document was written in alien language. So the generals turned the little book over to the code breakers at the National Security Agency. After a month-long effort, the best the code breakers could do, even with the aid of modern computers, was to decipher just the title of the strange little red book. It read: HOW TO SERVE MANKIND.  Now that was a nice gesture. The aliens could not stay on earth for long, but they invited a delegation from earth to journey back with them to their native planet in a distant galaxy. A Russian botanist, a Catholic priest, a senator, an educator. People of various disciplines from the far reaches of earth were selected for this momentous trip�even Roger Johnson, one of the cryptologists at the National Security Agency who had helped break part of the alien hieroglyphics, had signed on for the space flight. Finally the big day arrived and the earthlings filed onto the saucer�s gang-plank one-by-one. But just as the last foot vanished as the underside metallic-crab door slammed shut, the chief code breaker from the NSA ran up screaming with all his might, "Roger, don�t go!   DON�T GO!!  HOW TO SERVE MANKIND!!!"
Now you don�t have to look far to find the documented evidences of Straight abuses. A boy restrained in his own urine in Detroit, a teenage girl with a sock crammed down her throat in California, a boy with a broken leg in Virginia, a girl forced to wipe up the blood from her roommate�s recent suicide attempt in Maryland. You can find abuses documented by Trebach, by Miller, by Baum. But what you can�t find is Straight�s big secret. What is the big secret?   Through the years Straight, Inc. has operated 12 treatment facilities.  There has never been one Straight, Inc. treatment facility that has not been accused of abuse.  Several programs have imitated many parts of the Straight, Inc. program.  The title of this book makes claim that Straight, Inc. destroys young egos.  It make no claims that any of the follow-on Straight programs are destructive or that they destroy young egos--unless specifically noted.   

I have been researching and writing a book about Straight for some time now. I never knew when I started this project just how big it would turn out to be, and, for a variety of reasons, I have not yet finished. Encouraged by recent web pages and discussion groups on Straight and Straight follow-on programs, I have decided to develop my own page to share some of the insights I have learned about Straight during my extensive research. Rather than spending several more months composing a finished web-page document, I have decided to let this page just grow as I develop upon one topic or another while I build  this site over the next few months. 

After all these years I suspect that  tens of thousands of former Straight clients still suffer from the confessional sessions which they were forced to endure.  A purpose of this web page is help them  understand what happened to them and why it happened.  A few parents caught on sooner or later to what Straight is, but even they don't know the whole story.  Most parents have never caught on at all.   To this day they firmly believe their child had a life-threatening disease that only Straight could cure,  and many will continue to be eternally grateful to  Straight, Inc. for saving (or for gallantly "attempting" to save)  the life of their teenage son or daughter.  And so another purpose of this web page is to educate these parents, as well as law enforcement officials, health officials, judges and probationary officers, high school officials, the media and  politicians including the President of the United states as to  what actually happens when the doors are shut so that we can all work to provide safeguards  so that such excesses and abuses can never occur again behind Straight's closed doors.   Check out "What you can do" from time-to-time in the left  margin of my web page on the Straights to see how you can help.   A big message we want to spread is that no child can be denied access to the outside world when held captive in rehabilitation programs of any sort. 

Everyone I talk to seems to run into the same two problems when they try to tell the story of Straight.  One,  if you try to tell the story,  you just can't seem to do it.   You just can't get people to understand the sheer human misery that Straight kids are forced to endure.  Or if you're a victim trying to tell the story to your own  parents,  they refuse to believe what you.   Two,  like the Nazi Holocaust,  the scale of suffering is so enormous  that it's almost impossible to document and describe it all.  Years ago I read  Simon Wiesenthal's book on the Holocaust.  I was a bit  disappointed then because of 7 million stories of human misery,  Mr. Wiesenthal  just told the tragic tales of about 20 people.   I remember one tragic tale he tells of a little boy who lit a candle each time the Nazi's came by and took one of his family members.  Finally,  one day,   they came and took the little boy too.  As his armed captors were hauling him away in an ox cart he asked his guard to wait a minute. With that he jumped off the cart and ran into his house and lit a final candle--one for  himself!  In this web-based,  abridged version of my up-coming book,  I,  at first, thought that I faced a similar problem to Mr. Wiesenthal's.  How do you tell the story of  thousands of cases of abuse in just one volume.  Ultimately,  I think,  I have a different task than  Mr. Wiesenthal's.  For the Nazi Holocaust is well established;  Straight's is not.  Therefore,  to some extent,  I did have to,  I feel,   document many more of the cases of abuse so that you can see that Straight,  is in fact,  an American Holocaust.   Speaking of Holocausts,  I want to say one final thing.  My professional background is in mathematics and information sciences.  Years ago  when I studied about the Nazi Holocaust   I was so enraged with what I heard that I was seriously considering contacting Simon Wiesenthal to offer my services as a volunteer to help track down Colonel  Doctor Josef Mengleles--The Angel of Death.   But Doctor Mengeles drowned before I could take any action.  (BTW.  Anybody  know what kind of medical doctor he was?  Colonel Doctor Joseph Mengeles,  who performed all sorts of medical experiments on children and adults,  and especially on twins,   without their consent, was not a  medical doctor at all.  He was a medical anthropologist.)   One man who will tell you that he escaped the Nazi Holocaust as a teenager is Walter Loebenberg,  the visionary behind the Tampa Bay Holocaust Museum on whose board sits Straight's founder--Melvin Sembler.  And why not.  Walter Loebenberg is formerly the President of Straight.  Melvin Sembler is also the finance chairman of the National Republican Party,  and one of the reasons for Straight's  longevity and success is its endorsements by prominent Republicans including Nancy and Ronald Reagan and George Bush. (Don't ask me which one either.  The whole Bush family is tied to Melvin Sembler's pocketbook.) 

  is the condensed, electronic version of a hardback book which is still under development.  Though condensed,  it is nevertheless quite long for a web page.  The tragic heart  of the story can be learned by reading the first three chapters.  Chapter 1 on deprivations and child abuse enumerates many of the instances of child abuse at Straight.  Chapter 2 on body carvings and suicide attempts suggests that Straight caused many of its young students to attempt to kill themselves due to the deprivations the kids sustained;  but watchful eyes by Straight personnel, including fellow students, prevented any suicides from occurring on the premises.  But what was Straight's after care plan to prevent suicides once a student left Straight.  Chapter 3 looks at the deaths by suicide of many former Straight students and questions whether Straight and its officers should be liable for any of these deaths.  So if you can't read the whole work,  you should try to read the first three chapters in order.  

Most people think that Straight closed in the early 1990s,  but the chapter on "where are they" tells the story of  how some former Straight officials opened their own treatment programs as the Straights closed.  Many of these programs are still in operation.   Next I introduce you to some of the men behind the Straights.  In 2000 Reverend Doctor Virgil Miller Newton and his medical team settled with a client in his KIDS program in New Jersey for $4.5 million for abuses she claims she sustained at KIDS.  Miller Newton was Straight's former national clinical director and I devote an entire chapter to him.  Chuck Dederick is the man who actually popularized the Straight concept of addicts aiding in their own recovery.  Dederick's story is in the chapter on his church--Synanon Church.  This chapter shows that there was never any real medical basis for the Straights in the first place and that there were warnings from competent people that the process could be dangerous to human subjects--especially to children.  And then I discuss why Straight was so successful.  One of the major reasons for its great success was its founder Melvin Sembler and his connections to the national Republican Party.  Another chapter shows that Straight took in almost $100 million dollars in treating predominantly white children.   Next the Straight therapeutic process is discussed followed by an essay which shows that  Straight officials do not have the requisite credentials to run a drug rehabilitation program.  

Of course the best introduction as to what a Straight is  can be found at my web page on Straight at www.thestraights.net .  For those few of you who have actually seen the book, you  can attest that this web page is not the book.  After four and 1/2 years the research is virtually completed and 60% of the writing has been done.   So let's get on with the story.    What?  Oh.  You were wondering why the chief code breaker was trying to call Roger back?   OK. Let�s go back.

Finally the big day arrived and the earthlings filed onto the saucer�s gang-plank one-by-one. But just as the last foot vanished as the underside metallic-crab door slammed shut, the chief code breaker from the NSA ran up screaming with all his might, "Roger, don�t go!  

You are the  visitor since Dec 8, 2000

1. U.S. Department of State web site, biography of Melvin Sembler, Ambassador to Italy. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/7043.htm
This electronic book is offered as a public service and as an educational resource to those interested in learning about the potential dangers of abusive, Straight-based synanons*.    [*A synanon  is a therapeutic community approach to drug abstinence  where one's peers attempt to control one's addiction by shouting indictments at the addict.  A Straight-based synanon is a synanon designed for teenagers which was perfected at Straight, Inc. in Saint Petersburg, Florida between 1976 and 1993. ].   The web paged was designed and developed by Wesley Fager with technical assistance from Ginger Warbis of Fornits.com.  Ms. Warbis converted the page from frame-based to table-based format.   Music is Fool on the Hill by The Beatles and comes from web page by kyoto2 at www2.justnet.ne.jp/~kyoto2.