The Alienist's Opinion

Was Frank W. Sandford entirely sane? This question invariably arises during discussions of the actions of The Kingdom's prophet.   It is most commonly brought up by those outsiders who have no awareness of the mortal fear associated with the topic's discussion within the movement.  Below, printed in 1911, is the opinion of a Boston Alienist, defined by Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary as:
. . . . . . PSYCHIATRIST; esp: one specializing in the legal aspects of psychiatry

Is Mr. Sandford a Paranoic?
Opinion of Harvard Alienist

Dr. Edward B. Lane of Boston, Discusses
Mr. Sandford's History and Public Acts
and Says He Believes Him Insane.

Dr. Edward B. Lane of Boston, has been a national officer in the McLean asylum, Northampton Insane hospital, for several years instructor in mental diseases at Harvard Medical school, twenty years in hospitals for mental disease, is now professor of mental disease in Tuft's College of Medical school, was superintendent of the Boston Insane hospital, and is well known as an expert chemist.

Dr. Lane is known in Maine. He testified as an expert in insanity at the trial for murder of George W. Pierce in Auburn, also in the trial of George Brainard for murder in Portland, Maine.

He is known to Judge Whitehouse and Judge Enoch Foster; also to Mr. Mitchell and Mr. McGillicuddy, attorneys in Lewiston.

This unsolicited contribution from his pen is very interesting in view of the efforts of Gov. Cobb and his Council, to solve the trying problem of Shiloh and the protection of the children and others in that strange place.


BOSTON, Mass., Nov. 17 (Special). -- I wish to know, Doctor, if in your opinion as an alienist, Mr. Frank W. Sandford, the head of the peculiar school at Shiloh is insane? was asked of Dr. Edward B. Lane of Boston, the distinguished alienist one day this week.

I must ask you to excuse me from giving you at this time a simple yes or no to your question as I have never seen Mr. Sandford.  I have, however, read his autobiography entitled "Seven Years with God," and have talked with one who has known him intimately.  With this evidence I will say that I strongly incline to the opinion that he is insane and that it is highly probable that before many years he will readily be recognized as such.

I am sure the majority of people who know of him and his teachings will agree that he is a fanatic. The question to be considered now is: Has Mr. Sandford crossed the somewhat vague line between sanity and insanity?

There is a well recognized form of mental disease called now paranoia - it is closely allied to the older and more widely known term "Monomania." The characteristics of the person suffering from this disorder are: (1) An intense egotism or conceit. (2) The possession of a dominating idea or belief, (i.e. delusions) which affects his whole life. (3) The evolution or growth of this idea associated with an ever increasing self-conceit. (4) A perfect intolerance of the opinions of others or of opposition upon matters relating to this delusion. (5) A proneness to periodical losses of self-control, with attacks of rage or excitement, especially if opposed. (6) Usually they hear imaginary voices or see visions. This symptom is known as hallucination of the senses and is an important factor of the progress of the disease paranoia. These hallucinations are often a projection upon the senses of sight or hearing of the thoughts of the person and they invariably relate to the dominant idea or delusion. Such phenomena are often explained by the sufferer as supernatural events and are frequently regarded as messages from a divine source. Thus fortified with special and unusual instructions from the Deity, he holds himself far above his fellows and no longer respects human teachings or codes of conduct. He has had an especial revelation and he often commits serious crimes believing he is thus carrying out the will of God. (7) There is very apt to be seen a gradual loss of natural affection and a loss of interest in all matters not related to his controlling delusion.

This is a progressive disease and in time the victim of it becomes unable to attend to his ordinary affairs and he is apt to adopt a belief that he is of royal lineage, or is a king, or he may be a supernatural being, and angel of God, a second Christ, or even God himself. I once knew a man who on becoming insane had the delusion that he was an alderman of his city. Soon he claimed to be the mayor, then the governor of the state, and a little later the President of all America - within two years from the onset of his disease he claimed to be the "highest form of God that ever walked on earth," and he sent letters daily to his servant the Archangel Michael. Every large hospital for the insane has one or more of these cases who claim to be superior to all other human beings. They often do not announce their final rank for years after they are known to be insane. The majority of these cases retain their intellectual abilities to the last and appear to strangers very intelligent and even sane.

We may expect to find other cases of mental trouble in the families of these people.


Is Mr. Sandford a Paranoiac ?

Let us see if the history of Mr. Sandford fits the story of a paranoiac. He has said that at the time he first cast out a demon he was almost "terrified with the sound and swish of black demon wings."  He interpreted this as a sign of the awful consternation in the realms of darkness at the presence of the man commissioned to bring their sway to an end. God whispered the word Armageddon" to him while at Old Orchard. At another time he heard a voice say: "Beware how you judge the Lord's children." He frequently states that he has messages from God.  If he really believes he hears the voice of God he is a victim of hallucinations of hearing.

His life story, reveals the facts that he was an active, ambitious young man who had strong religious feelings before he entered college. He prepared for entered the ministry of the Free Will Baptist denomination. He soon found the authority of the church irksome and he yearned to get outside narrow denominational lines. He became interested in the hysterical body of people known as The Christian Alliance, and also attended the Moody School at Northfield. But no ordinary pastorate could satisfy the ambition of this man. He vowed to exchange the color of the religious map of the world: and started on a tour of the world's evangelization. But this work was not to his liking. He saw that in this way his life would not be long enough to convert the whole world and he set about this in a methodical, ambitious way. He again searched his Bible to find God's message for him. At this time God whispered to him "Armageddon" and later the simple message Ago, as he writes, "the word that changed my entire life, the gladdest I ever heard Him utter." At this point the dangerous idea possessed him that he had a mission from God and he cut loose from the established and recognized organizations of the Christian body and became his own advisor and counselor depending upon his belief that God would personally reveal His will to him. He recognizes neither bishop, Synod nor council but sets out on the most stupendous undertaking of religious history without, so far as I can learn, seeking advice from any human source. He and the Almighty are partners in this enterprise, and what man could advise them.

When a man reaches the point where he is indifferent to the advice of his fellowman, his sanity is in grave danger. Sandford has followers it is true, followers in every sense of the word. He even assumes to act as their mentor in the most intimate exercise of private prayer. Note this evolution from a country pastor to an evangelist of the state, later of the entire world. Then filling the conditions necessary to become an Apostle, namely, ability to cast out devils, to heal the sick, and to raise the dead! he announces that he is an apostle of God. Soon he believes himself to be an incarnation of "Elijah the Prophet," later "David the Prince" and later still of "Tsemech the Branch, a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec."

An instance of his enormous conceit - blasphemous it would seem - is where describing a "battle of faith" he asked God if He was satisfied with him and God said "Turn away thine eyes" which is explained that Sandford was so beautiful spiritually in God's sight that he dazzled even God and He had to turn away. After this it would be a short step for him to claim the attributes of the Deity, which I suspect he will soon do, if, in fact, he has not already. For now he claims to be the mediator between his followers and the Christ, thus usurping that office which by so many Christians is regarded as belonging to Christ alone. He has deceived himself in believing that he restored Miss Mills from death to life. But later, when a child died at Shiloh, he failed to resurrect him after he and the select few of his followers prayed over the body for sixty days. The child was buried secretly at midnight. When a man in the twentieth century believes he can raise the dead or that he can prevail upon God to do it that man is a victim of an insane delusion.

But associated with this supreme belief in his own exalted religious character we see a curious lack of self-control when he is opposed in trifles, or his absurd claims are questioned. He has repeatedly poured forth the most violent abuse upon his followers singly or in groups, has even struck his own wife, one giving her a blow in the face in public when she ventured to assert herself. Such conduct seems strangely inconsistent with the character he assumes. This combination of a claim to the most lofty character of the church with the petty actions of a nasty temper, appropriate to the dwarfed mind of a degenerate, is extremely significant of mental disease: it is to be expected.

It may be asked that if Sandford has been shown to be guilty of playing cheap tricks upon his believers, such as praying for a definite sum of money and having a confederate in due time produce the exact sum in new bills or again while the school prayed for blinds for the new building to have a load of blinds made correct to measure delivered from a neighboring factory, may he not be after all merely a charlatan - a pious fraud?

I think not. We must remember that an insane man may still possess the ability to deceive and lie. Let us remember also that one who believes he is a deputy of the Almighty, who recognizes no human authority, may justify a petty trick when it serves to further the enormous work of converting the entire world. It may well be that he feels himself in the attitude of a wise elder who exercises a petty deception upon a helpless sick child to induce him to take a disagreeable but very necessary remedy. We must not forget the fact that in many financial matters he has been very honorable and that aside from these tricks mentioned he leads a strictly moral life. These inconsistencies are common to the insane mind which is incapable of getting far enough away from its fixed delusion to look at many simple matters with a common sense (i.e. sane) view.


Dowie and Sandford Compared

One cannot study the history of Frank Sandford without comparing it with that of his contemporary, Alexander Dowie.

Dowie reached the stage of evident mental disease first. I look to see the subject of our sketch complete a similar career.

You ask if these absurd beliefs of Sandford are insane delusions, why does not the same judgment apply to each one of his followers who hold precisely the same belief? And why are they not all suffering from paranoia? This is a very pertinent inquiry and suggests another very interesting chapter in morbid psychology. I will only say that I do not believe there is another case of paranoia among the inhabitants of Shiloh. Paranoiacs, unlike birds of a feather, do not flock together. The mental trouble in his followers is very different. They have surrendered their judgment and right to reason to their leader. They have acquired their belief in Mr. Sandford's exalted nature, not by their own intellectual operations, but as the result of their extreme credulity and infatuation. It is the result of suggestion made to them by the dominant mind of Sandford who believes in himself. They have sunk their individuality and they entertain few ideas except at the dictation of or by permission of Mr. Sandford. It is probably true that few have reached this state of complete subjection without experiencing at times great mental agony. So great that some have rebelled, others have lost their reason. We have no good English name for this curious mental malady. The French call it Folie a Deux which may be translated as contagious insanity. It often happens that a strongly self-assertive personality will impress upon others of his family or his neighbors the strangest beliefs. But the victims of these ideas lose them soon after they pass from under the spell of their insane leader.

The paranoiac is absolutely sure he is right. He takes advice from no one. He is free from doubts, his followers on the other hand hold for the time no opinions of their own. For the time they surrender their common sense until it returns when they are shocked by some strikingly absurd conduct of the leader.

The case of Freeman, the Pocasset murderer, well illustrates this situation. Freeman, a religious man, was insane. He received communications directly from the Almighty. He had a little following among his neighbors who held religious meetings with him and his wife at his own house. These believers accepted his absurd claims. Finally Freeman believed that God asked him to sacrifice his little daughter on an altar after the manner of Abraham's offer of Isaac. The neighbors assembled to witness the supreme test of their leader's faith in God, and not until this unbalanced man actually killed his child on the altar as a sacrifice to God, did they realize how that had been duped and rejected his leadership. Freeman was sent to an insane hospital where he should have gone weeks before. He lived at a time when it was considered nobody's business to interfere with a lunatic or a religious fanatic until he violated the statutes.

Society and Its Duties

Society has recently enacted many statutes which interfere with the liberty of individuals to prevent the spread of contagion. It is considered that the health and life of the many is of more value than the liberty of one. The history of insane criminals teems with the folly of the let-them-alone policy in its treatment of the insane in the community. How many innocent victims of the insane might have been spared had society acted the day before the crime rather than the day after. Again how much better the insane person would have fared had he been cared for in the hospital rather than been punished in prison. After a revolting crime has been perpetrated by a lunatic, society listens with little patience to a defense of insanity. Many and many a time has popular clamor forced an insane man to be sent to prison when he should have gone to the asylum.

We have now no board of health authorized to protect society from the dangers of mental disease. Our legal doors are closed after the horse is stolen. Assuming that the leader of Shiloh is insane, let us consider what harm he is inflicting upon society. He has done a great harm to our greatest safeguard, family life. He has separated wives from husbands, children from parents, and most ruthlessly destroyed parental discipline. He has removed from the community a large body of singularly pure and unselfish men and women whose energy is wasted in pursuing the crazy scheme of a fanatic. Not least, he has been the means of driving more than one follower to the insane hospital to be a burden upon the State. He is causing his believers, including many helpless children, the most intense mental, and well as physical suffering.

I trust it will not be long before our law makers will see that they have a duty to society to protect it from the injurious effects of the vagaries of an unsound mind. Would there be anything improper in creating a State Board of Insanity with powers corresponding to those of the State Board of Health relative to bodily disease? Why should not this board be empowered to force an inquiry as to an alleged insane person and to recommend a commitment to a hospital, if, in their opinion, he is a menace to the happiness or safety of the community, and thus avoid to some extent the tragedies now too common?