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Conjurella Prelude: Castle Mirage
by T. Casey Brennan
This is the story of little mice. David Ferrie's mice. No, this is the story of Conjurella, and her daughter, Glinda; they were both there when I first met David Ferrie in Ohio, at the Old covered Bridge; so were Mama and Daddy and Uncle Johnny. Everyone is dead now, except me, and, I think, Glinda, so there is no one to ask. But I think it must have been the summer of 1953. I started school in September of 1953 at Swamp School on Bricker Road in Emmett, Michigan; a one-room school on a gravel road which boasted my late mother as the CEO of its Board; it was sometime around then that the meeting at the Old Covered Bridge took place.
It looked something like a covered wagon, over a small stream through a narrow road cutting through fields and brush that stretched on forever. This was 1953. The only war we might have lost had been over for less than a decade. Oh-ess-ess was a whisper that lingered in the air; a song that was over, yet the melody haunted us. War measures meant many things to those caught in the web of that whisper, oh-ess-ess, so softly spoken, a love song, a lullaby, a death threat. I don't remember, but I think that whisper was in the air when we first met David Ferrie. Uncle Johnny helped arrange it; Uncle Johnny said he was a finder. Daddy and Uncle Johnny park the car right on the bridge, and get out "to take a walk" -- there is something on the car radio, or maybe Daddy and Uncle Johnny tell us, about "two escaped convicts" believed loose in that area. Mama and Conjurella get in the front seat. Glinda and I are in the back seat. Has MK-ULTRA begun yet? They must have given me some of the amnesiac hypnotic drug that Dr. E, the hypnotist whose work formed the basis for Mama's obsession with hypnosis as noted in Castle Mirage, would later fore on me in a more conventional setting. Glinda is my age, she is five. she sees the Perfect soldier, David Ferrie, standing guard. Everyone has told me: "Don't see that soldier," but Glinda says, "He Sees that soldier."
David Ferrie uses his O.S.S. code name, Perfect Soldier. I don't remember how I know that. He assumes battle stances, brandishes his rifle, and threatens the children with rape. but it is Conjurella who is raped, by the "escaped convicts" who inevitably appear as David Ferrie looks on. Glinda and I are spared, and, I think, so is Mama. But I was too still in that back seat throughout the attack, too oblivious to what was happening - they had used something akin to Dr. E's "red lollipops", a favorite drug ploy of the MK-ULTRA hypnotist who would some day send the Perfect Soldier on a mission to kill John Kennedy.
I have the Brass Monkey, I think Uncle Johnny gave it to me. I don't know if it had anything to do with the OSS. It's not brass all the way through, and it says "Germany" on the bottom, not "Deutchlann" - Germany.
David Ferrie is hard to remember.
I said I went to Swamp School, that was for my first and second grades. In the third grade, I started parochial school, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish School, also in Emmett. That was in September of 1955. I attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel for my third, fourth, fidth, and sixth grades. Daddy, who had always had intermittent violent fits, accusing my mother of an extra-marital affair (and me, of being the offspring of a local handyman from Texas, Frank Tilton) was on his best behavior through that period. He had been elected, or appointed, I forget which, to a position on the St. Clair County Board of Education, to match my mother's, on the Swamp Board. I am trying hard to be a Catholic religious sissy, worrying about mortal sin, telling me priest in confession about my Brigitte Bardot pin-ups, and studying prayerbooks. But in the summer of 1959, after my sixth-grade year, Daddy got in trouble. Getting out of it involved using his family "in hypnotic experiments".
That was how we met Dr. E. And how we all met David Ferrie again. Keep going north on M-19, and you will reach Yale, Michigan, a tiny town with its own tiny airport. David Ferrie, Who is calling himself David Ferris by then, flew into the Yale airport in he pre-dawn hours to meet with my Dad, and follow behind us in a car, as we drove farther north, to Hopeville, to meet the hypnotist, Dr. E. There was no doubt about it; we were in custody.
My Dad is introduced, and he extends his hand to David Ferrie/Ferris and says "I attended to Ferris Institute in Big Rapids..." He stresses the word Ferris; he knows he is in trouble and he is looking for something that will give him an edge conversationally. but there is to be no conversation. A committee of MK-ULTRA agents roughly hustle him back to his car. Back in the car, he tells Mama: "We're cooked. This is the same guy Johnny took us to meet".
My memories of Doctor E are very sketchy, and they are not always easily rendered sequential. I know that at some point, through the use of amnesiacs so we would have no recollection of the more threatening encounters, he gained our trust, although it is important to remember that it was as difficult remembering just what had taken place previously with Dr. E then, as it is now.
I know that at one point, Daddy was in Dr. E's office, and Mama and I were in the waiting room, and Dr. E came out and said, "I want to see how fast you can eat a red lollipop," and handed us two red candies, which caused us both to pass out immediately; I only vaguely remember us being carried limply into his private office, and that, only after over three decades.
We went up north in August of 1959 on a trip, and I started back to school in September, at the old Swamp School again, and it was around then that I met Lee through Dr. E. Lee flew into the Yale airport with David Ferrie; I was always afraid of David Ferrie, but I was never afraid of Lee. He did not know about the threatening circumstances of our initial meetings with Dr. E and David Ferrie. He said that Dr. E was going to give him "almost god-like powers", and that he was doing "something important for the government". He said he was going on a trip, but he would be back to see me every so often. He spoke of great authority that he would have on his return, and his explanations of that coming authority vacillated between the governmental and the mystical.
I saw Lee only a very few times, and one of the memories of that era is an implant, because Dr. E. shoved me up against his screen, as I'll describe later, and said, "You're going to meet Lee Oswald again at swamp School, but this time it won't be real." the meeting that was real is sketchy. I don't remember how he got there, but I remember he was standing at the very edge of the road, telling me he was concerned bout how I was being kicked around, but he was going to do something about it. A lady who drove by and saw us, Kathy Malarkey, was later put into a mental institution, though I don't know if there's a connection.
I only saw Lee the first few days of September of 1959 when I entered the seventh grade. By the time I finished that school year, the U-2 incident had taken place, and Dr. E told us: "Don't worry about that one. We control both sides." On another occasion, someone associated with David Ferrie told me that MK-ULTRA, which was directly overseen by then C.I.A. Director Allen "You're a Good Man, Mr. Dulles" Dulles, was in the process of artificiaally creating a disease that would Make the people who caught it hairless "just like David Ferrie".
I am trying to place all this timewise; I know that in the early days, I took home a comic book from Dr. E's waiting room; it was in issue of Robin Hood, under the brand Quality Comics, and several years old. By this time, Mama and I were so disoriented by Dr. E's sessions, that we had forgotten the early, threatening encounters, and Mama encouraged me to leave a comic book in the office in return, which I did, a copy of Brave & Bold #28, an issue which introduced the Justice League, a team of DC Comics superhereos, I was later to have some marginal connection with DC Comics, and my stories appear in some late 1970s issues of the former DC title, House of Mystery.
I am also thinking that my parents may have taken other children from the neighborhood to see Dr. E, and I am wondering if there are any witnesses.
We do not see David Ferrie again with Dr. E, but there are disjointed memories of meeting with David Ferrie in my home, and in a neighbor's home, under so much drugging that I was only dimly, barely aware that my surroundings were real. it must have been later in his life, not around the Old Covered Bridge meeting, because in 1953, he still looked like a man, but by the time these meetings took place, he was just a fat, bald old blob. He looked something like my Catholic godfather, Paul, who was also fat and bald, so I asigned him the name "Bad Paul", which he liked, thouh he always did his best to be as threatening as possible during these meetings, though he never Laid a hand on me.
I further remember them harassing me at a campground outside St. Ignace, around the time of the launching of Telstar, the first satellite to relay television signals, which you could then see orbiting like a shooting star. It was in August of 1962, before I started my tenth grade year, no longer at Swamp School, but now attending Peck High School in Peck, Michigan. Campers, including my parents and myself, liked to sit around a campfire, and watch Telstar. We loved Telstar; I even had the 45rpm it inspired. but on this particular occassion, we were discussing the U-2. A man at the campfire said, well, Powers was just a coward; he had a lethal injection to take if he was shot down, he should have taken it. But one by one, everyone, including my parents, leave the fire, and this one man remains, and he says, the C.I.A., that the U-2 was with, he works for them also. I say, hey, great. He looks guilty for a second, collects himself, and tells me the CIA has a use for me.
In October of 1962, we flew to New Orleans with David Ferrie and Air America, as I could help with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee very briefly. To understand the manner in which the Hopeville MK-ULTRA office - The Project, as I learned it was called- could be lethal with its participants one week, and a cooperative confidant and ally with them the next, it will be useful to understand, by way of a comparison, the effects of two drugs known to the general populace today; Rohypnel and Ritalin. Rohypnel produces unconsciousness and amnesia; Ritalin produces a very singular one-pointedness in users allowing them to concentrate on exactly what they are doing, and nothing else. It is possible for a person under the MK-ULTRA counter-parts of these drugs, combined with hypnosis and post-hypnotic suggestion, to, for instance, blithely pass out Fair Play For Cuba Committee literature in New Orleans, without ever even questioning how he got there, or believing that it should be questioned. also, there are processes of MK-ULTRA induced amnesia which make it virtually fool-proof. In the induced trance state, the victim is subjected to threats on his family members and himself. He is forced to witness real or contrived torture-killings of other human beings while in this state. Then, he is withdrawn from the scene of this abuse, given hypnotic commands in conjunction with drugs, told that the abusive treatment was all imaginary, and that he must not remember it; if he will not remember it, it will not be real.
I remember the Fair Play For Cuba Office in New Orleans, and I remember the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade office on the other side of the building. I remember asking someone, I don't remember who, but it wasn't Lee, "Are we for or against Communists?" And he said, "Both." and I laughed.
Anyway, Lee says the big Fair Play For Cuba campaign was in August, and I missed it, but we pass out a few pamphlets, and on the way back, we go into a store, it's just the two of us, on foot, and he buys me a candy bar, and he tells me to give them a pamphlet, tell them you're Lee Oswald, he says, and I do. And he laughs. Not far down the street, he stops by a tree. He wants to talk.
He says, "I'm doing dangerous work. If anything happens to me, I want you to take care of the family."
"Sure," I say.
But I really don't want any part of this. After we fly back, that night, Daddy pretends to have a fit. I say pretends, because now that I am an adult, and not under the influences of the substances forced upon me during the incidents, I see very well how his threatening, seemingly erratic behavior, contributed to the process of drug-and-hypnosis induced amnesia. My first example of it was, in the early days of visiting Dr. E, Daddy and I took separate pills, voluntarily this time, on the premise that they would help to "induce hypnosis", which, at that time, we thought we were studying. Driving back, Mama is crying, and I am lathargic and disoriented. I mention the pill I took, and Daddy flips out: "I took that pill, not you!" He stops the car and becomes more threatening. I say to Mama: "Daddy has gone crazy." Mama says: "This is a lot worse than Daddy going crazy."
The incident following the flight from New Orleans was a parallel; he began yelling "I want you to forget that trip! You're going to forget that trip!" And I did, again, for more than three decades.
I also forgot this:
At some point, Dr E asked if I would like to play the shooting gallery game that he had. I said that I would. He put me in front of a kind of television screen with a head brace on the seat in front of it. He says, "We don't have the gun that goes with it hooked up yet. But when you see the cowboy shoot the penny, you'll have good luck."
I look at the screen coming on, and he hits me with something, I think an injection in my neck, it hurts, and I slump. But the pictures form on the screen, and I can hear the words through head-sets.
First there is a picture of a penny.
"SEE THE CENT WITH LINCOLN'S HEAD."
Then there is a picture of John Kennedy.
"THEN THINK OF THE SQUIRREL WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY'S HEAD."
Girl's voice: "IT'S NOT REALLY LINCOLN. IT'S JUST A CENT WITH LINCOLN'S HEAD."
Then there are moving pictures of a cowboy tossing a penny into the air.
"Pop!" he shoots it with a revolver, but instantly, the picture is of John Kennedy.
The voice says: "THINK OF THE CENT WITH LINCOLN'S HEAD, THEN SHOOT THE SQUIRREL WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY'S HEAD."
At another point, Dr. E shows me a whole film. It is sometime after I have seen something on real television, I think Disney, about the MacGregor family of Scotland, which I liked, about all the oppression they endured, and how, in the end, everybody stood up for them, and they are back on top. Dr. E. tells me he has something similar about the Fitzgerald family. I watch it, and I only remember the ending. It's set in the late middle ages or something, the Fitzgerald family is put through all sorts of problems, but in the end, there's a big crowd scene, and the speaker, a Fitzgerald himself, has just won some major victory, and he has everyone in the crowd with Fitzgerald blood yell "hooray for the Fitzgeralds!" The voices start up, and in seconds, you see that they are all over the place in the crowd. And that's the end.
Dr. E says to Daddy: "Well, I scared him with it. He'll be scared as hell of that story some day."
On the morning of November 22, 1963, I am awakened by Daddy unexpectedly in the pre-dawn hours. He says we are going to see Dr. E, then we are going on a trip. I think he means vacation, so I say fine.
We reach the tiny Yale airport, deserted in the pre-dawn hours, in no time. Daddy and I proceed to David Ferries plane, where Dr. E is waiting. Dr. E produces a hypodermic needle. His face is grim and he is wearing a parka in the pre-dawn cold.
Now I am scared, and try to get away. I yell "I don't want a shot!" and try to run. I know now that I m about to be kidnapped. I am fifteen years old now, but a pale, sickly fifteen, and I am in no shape to fight these men for my freedom. I struggle, but Dr. E injects me anyway, and I fall. The last thing I se before falling is the parka-clad face of Dr. E.
When I awaken, in the storage room of the sixth floor of the Texas Book depository building in Dallas, it is broad daylight. They have obviously brought me in crated up, or rolled up, in something. Anyway, I get dumped out, and David Ferrie kicks me in the ribs, and turns to my Dad.
"There's the assassin," David Ferrie says.
Daddy and David Ferrie make me stand agaisnt some cartons of books, and not look around. I am groggy. Sometimes when I would go up north to the Upper Peninsula with Mama and Daddy, they liked to explore abandoned buildings, places where I didn't always feel they had a right to be. I can't remember the injection now, and I amtrying to place just what is going on, whether it is one of these unauthorized romps Daddy liked to take through old buildings.
"Are we supposed to be here?" I asked, groggily.
David Ferrie laughs.
"Don't worry about that," he says, "If anybody bothers you for being here, you send them right to me!"
Daddy and David Ferrie are laughing now, and I'm beginning to think everything is all right. At some point, someone has told me that I am in Dallas, where Lee is now, and I ask to see him before we leave.
"Did you want to talk to him about comic books or something?" David Ferrie asks.
I say yes, that I wanted to tell him about the new Justice League comic just out, and that lee liked the Justice League, talked about how great it was that DC comics had brought back their old comic book series, the Justice society, from the 1940s.
"Well, he's downstairs pushing a broom. He's down on the second floor pushing a broom."
At some point, the lights went out. I don't know if I was injected or dosed somehow again, or whether post-hypnotic suggestion alone did the trick. Anyway, a hood was placed over my head, and then part of it pulled away and the gunsight pressed against my left eye.
Daddy gives the hypnotic command: "WHEN I YELL NOW, PULL THE TRIGGER."
Remembering this over three decades later, I can hear David Ferrie saying "I don't want him to see the gun!!" as he pulls the hood over my face.
David Ferrie says to Daddy: "Can he keep that right eye closed? If he can't, I'll kill him."
Now that funny screen of Dr. E's, at first it said "SHOOT THE SQUIRREL WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY'S HEAD". But just at the last, when they made me watch it, it said "SHOOT THE SQUIRREL WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY'S HEAD. THEN SHOOT THE COWBOY BESIDE HIM. YOU DON'T LIKE COWBOYS ANYMORE. YOU DON'T LIKE THIS COWBOY (Picture of Governor Connaly in a Cowboy hat). SHOOT THE SQUIRREL WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY'S HEAD. THEN SHOOT THE COWBOY BESIDE HIM."
Then they lift me up, in front of the open window.
I hear the voices: "Can he get up by himself?" "Lift him up!" "Don't let him open that eye!"
Slowly, I am lifted up, groggy and disoriented. I hear Daddy's crying voice say: "Please don't open that right eye, please don't open that eye, oh god, please don't open that eye."
David ferrie says "Can you see John Kennedy on the little screen?" My heart leaps as I see John Kennedy in the convertible six floors below, but only through the "little screen", i.e. the gunsight; I secretly like John Kennedy, though Daddy hates him, and I am glad to see him on "the little screen". But it all happens so quickly, seeing John Kennedy and then Daddy yells:
My finger automatically contracts on what I now know was the trigger. I have never seen the Zapruder film, except in little glimpses. In my recollection of the incident, this is what took place: My shot hits the President in the chest. To my amazement, he writhes sideways as the bullet hits. David Ferrie takes the rifle instantly, and fires two more shots as I collapse.
As he does, Daddy shouts: "Don't shoot Jacky, Ferrie! Don't shoot Jackie, or I'll kill ya right now!"
David ferrie says: "Shut up, Bill!" - then, as three more shots ring out from elsewhere on the street - "Back-up! Good men! They could have left me hanging, but they didn't!"
I look out the window now, but David Ferrie gives the hypnotic command: "Don't look at the man we just shot!"
Either Daddy or David Ferrie says: "It's the end of the world. There's nothing but chaos out there now. Nothing."
I am groggy and disoriented, and am trying to take these words in a Catholic religious sense. I am looking around for signs of a Biblical Judgement Day, even though I cannot look toward the convertible at all, even if I wanted to, that was how great their power over me.
The next thing I remember is a man with glasses and a business suit, thirtysomething, short hair and professional-looking, entering. By now, we are all away from the window.
I call him Ultra Subaltern.
Ultra Subaltern says, matter-of-factly: "Everything go all right?"
David Ferrie says, "Well, Bill lost his head for a minute, but he's all right now." Daddy had no right to fly in David Ferrie's face like that over Jackie, they're thinking. Daddy nods nervously.
"You'll pay for that though, Bill," David Ferrie says.
Ultra Subaltern goes to the window.
Daddy says "You're going to the window?!" Ultra Subaltern says: "I was told to assess the situation. One of the ways to assess is by looking. Everyone is looking out windows now."
Ultra Subaltern leaves.
The next thing I remember is David Ferrie yelling "There's the signal!" Immediately, we were hustled into the hallway, with him carrying a suitcase. We walk rapidly down to the second floor. I do not yet know that the President has been shot, in spite of the fact that I've just witnessed it, and participated in it. My head is coming together a little now, and I say groggily that I'd like to see Lee now that we're in dallas."
"You'll see him," says David Ferrie, then: "Casey, you never believe me on these things, but they don't even remember you. We slipped them something. You'll see."
We see Lee in the halls of the second floor, sweeping. I say, "Hi, Lee!" but he doesn't even look toward me. Immedi_tely, David ferrie starts yelling at him: "I've got some friends here and I'm telling you we're through with you, you dumb sonofabitch, you goddamned fairy, yeah you goddamned fairy..."
I don't remember it all, but in the end, David Ferrie pushes Lee in the chest hard. I am embarrassed by this hostility toward a man I intended to meet as a friend. Lee is stoical, tight-lipped, and condescending, like he's just barely putting up with this abuse.
During this, people run by, and a woman yells, "Something's going on out there!"
Lee starts to walk away, and David Ferrie says, "Where are you going?"
Lee says: "I'm going downstairs for a Coke." The altercation with David Ferrie has prevented Lee from learning that the President has been shot.
As Lee walks away, I step forward apologetically, and say. "Er...uh...Lee, the new Justice League comic came out..."
He looks at me blankly, and keeps walking. I feel my face redden. What could I have done wrong?
I don't remember the trip back, but the next thing I know, I was in a chair in front of a desk with Dr. E in it. Dr. E says, "we're taking you to school. Walk as fast as you can, and the faster you walk, the faster you'll forget this. you'll be late, so walk up to a girl, and tell her you went squirrel hunting, this morning, and as soon as you do, you'll forget all this, and the whole trip never happened."
Next I was hurrying down the halls of Peck High School.
But this was the story of little mice, David Ferrie's mice, that he used in his experiments while he made the disease that would make everyone who got it bald like him. No, this was the story of Conjurella, who divorced Uncle Johnny, and though she wrote for a while, I never saw Glinda again. No, this was the story of Castle Mirage, and my mother's obsession with hypnosis as demonstrated in this book, and how that obsession might have come about, in an alternate world, in a paralell time. Not what truly happened, for that, no one knows, nor will, ever. Not truth, but Gothic Fiction; Alice: Life, what is it but a dream?
T. Casey Brennan is the author of numerous comic book stories, published in the 1970s Warren anthologies Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Brennan later campaigned to have depictions of smoking in comics banned, which led the Governor of Arkansas to declare January 1990 as T. Casey Brennan Month in Arkansas.
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