Thanks to Gzasmyhero and the rest of this board for helping bring this place down. Many of us will be able to gain some peace from this and no more kids will be hurt.

Here's a link to the article

EDIT 3: Here's a link to a longer article. In this article, Sharon Terry the owner isn't being straight up, imo. For one, she wasn't involved in day to day operations at all, at least in regards to the students. She might have been at the Elan 1 office everyday, but definitely not involved in students day to day lives. In my two years, I saw her only a handful of times. Second, she is denying that many things that were normal parts of the program actually happened.

I once wrote an AMA about this place. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had to delete it. However, I saved the text and would like to share it again. This is the story I originally put in the AMA with a few minor edits for length:

"I posted the following comment about one of my experiences there on the most gruesome thing you've seen thread. After reading the comment, someone said I should do an AMA thread, so here it is. The original comment was, "Mine is less gruesome shocking than if you didn't understand what was going on, it would traumatize you. It in fact did traumatize my friend for reasons I will mention later. I was in a special and extremely controversial therapeutic school in the U.S for two years. Everyone was in there for different reasons. I was primarily there because of my tendency to fight back against authority figures combined with my parents massively overreacting and being naive. I say this because that had absolutely no idea what kind of shit this place pulled. That it had been investigated numerous times. That there had been allegations of students dying there due to their "treatment." It was way worse before I got there, but it was still bad at the time I got there. In fact, the "treatment" method I'm about to describe is no longer employed there as several states that sent kids there started pulling them out, or threatening to do so if the school didn't change it's methods [I would later find evidence that it was still employed, but at the time I wrote this had heard it was stopped].

Either way, the school was divided into three houses of about 55 kids a piece. They operated separately and you didn't really communicate with kids in the other houses. The only time you got together were for really good reasons, or really bad reasons. Now, to set the tone of this, my house was fucking whacked out. A month prior a former resident had just been caught after murdering his mother with a sledgehammer. He had left maybe three months before I got there, but most of the house knew him. We had a bunch of kids try unsuccessfully to run away, leaving our house in almost perpetual lock down. In this program, when a kid started acting out, they would be put in the corner. Basically, you sat in a chair all day and stared at a corner. One to two other residents watched you and if you tried to get up, or move in any way, or cause problems, you were put in restraints. I once saw a kid stay in the corner for like 40 days straight. Eventually, they had to start walking him around periodically, because the muscles in his legs were starting to become so weak from lack of use. Well, they had a special kind of punishment called "the ring" for people who became violent. At one point, two kids were acting out, one extremely violently. He would try to piss on people, throw shit on them, even sit there and try to jack off on them. Crazy ass shit. Same kid who's legs started to atrophy. He also started attacking other residents. So, they decided to throw him a ring. They also, against school policy, decided to throw the other kid in the ring as well. I say against school policy, because he hadn't become violent. They also decided it was going to be a three house ring, on New Year's eve 1997.

So, now I will describe the ring. Basically, someone who got a ring, would have to box another student put in against him. Each boxer was given headgear and gloves (women got chest protectors). It was called the ring, because the other students would make a circle of bodies to form "the Ring." During the match, they would also scream expletives and any other degrading thing we thought of at the person in the ring. The catch was that a new, fresh student would come in each round, until the person had the living shit kicked out of them. After the ring was done, we did what was called a general meeting. The person getting the general meeting, in this case, also the person who was put in the ring, would have a broomstick put in front of them. That would act as the line. Then the whole entire house would crowd up there and scream at the person anything they wanted. Usually it was expletive laced and demeaning. If it was a girl she would usually be called a cunt and a slut and whatever else. If it was a guy, people would be screaming about what a fucking pussy you were and what not. People would be basically spitting on you from yelling. You had to just stand there and wait until all 55 people were done.

So, now I will go to the 3 house ring on new year's eve. One guy, who was entering in my house had been brought to the school that day. He had absolutely no idea what was going on. He literally was taken in, given a delousing shower and given some clothes, just in time for us to march up to a three house ring. No one has explained what's going on to him yet. They send the first kid in, the one who really didn't deserve the ring. Not only did he not deserve it, but the school again broke policy and put him in with a guy 5" taller and probably about 50 lbs heavier, all muscle I might add, who just happened to do kickboxing or regular boxing or something prior to whatever got him thrown in. In the first 20 seconds, the guy shattered his nose. There was blood pouring everywhere and it had splattered all over the people who made up the ring. The dude's face and shirt were completely covered in blood. So, the ring ended, and we went to the general meeting portion. Someone had to come mop up the blood, so people didn't slip. Also, since it was a three house, the general meeting was three times as many people. So, like 155 people. Screaming at this kid, soaked in blood. The look in his eyes haunted me for a long time. The second ring was not so eventful. The worst part was the new guy had absolutely no idea what was going on. He was obviously terrified. Now, the most fucked up part in my mind is that the school was way worse in the 70's and 80's. They were fucking monsters back then."

Like I said, AMA.

EDIT: Here's a link to a good article written in 2001 that appeared in Details magazine

EDIT 2: A person on this thread noted that one of the guy from the comedy show "Red Bar Radio" talked about his time at Elan on a marathon fundraising shows. Apparently, he talks about it for hours. I'm listening to it now and it's causing so many memories to flood back. You can get it on itunes. It's Red Bar Radio - "Mike Talks about Boarding School - Parts 1-4" . You can also find them here. He doesn't start into it for at least the first hour and 20 minutes or so of the first part. Actually, for the first part, he talks mostly about what got him there and the process of getting him to the school. By Part 2, he's actually talking about the school. Actually, as I'm listening, his experience was a lot like mine.

EDIT 4: I listened to the entire Red Bar Show. He nails that place dead on. I thought Mike David went there before me, but he said he was there from late '99 to '01 and I was actually there before him ('97-'99). Interesting show. He's right though. It would be awesome to get people together and do a documentary talking to people of many different generations that went there.

EDIT 5: Thank you everyone for all the questions and kind words. I'd just like to add a few more things. First, when you are in the program, all this stuff becomes normal. It becomes the way things are and thus seems less messed up while it is happening. While you do realize it's fucked up when it's going on, you have to rationalize it as normal in your head so as to not go crazy. Today, I am doing well and have been able to put this stuff in my past. The place definitely left a permanent mark on me, but I am pretty laid back and well-adjusted now. I have come to terms with my experience there. The one gift is has given me is that much of the bad stuff in life, just doesn't feel that bad. There are so many people out there that are in much worse situations than what I had to endure. There's so many people out there that need help just getting by from day to day. While I am happy that this place is gone, it still saddens me that there are so many people in our society that are suffering and so little is done to help them. Fortunately, there are many people out there (including lots of redditors) that are trying to make a difference and help these forgotten people. And I don't just mean kids that were in programs like me, but kids that are poor, veterans that come back from the war scarred, victims of abuse and violence, and countless others. To all of you that are trying to make a difference in the world, thank you.

Comments: 521 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

slappywhite446 karma

Never in all my life did I expect to see Hell close its doors for good. There are no words to describe what I should be feeling.

My parents sent me to Élan to be "recalibrated" knowing full well what awaited me. This determent camp for children disguised as "school" was suggested by my then therapist, who was on their side, not mine. Or maybe not, maybe my parents passed buck's blame from themselves. I have neither seen nor spoken to them since.

For many like me this is too little, too late, but for countless others that could have been and now never will, they will never know how close they came to their own private nightmare. I am grateful for that and for them.

Élan made me the man I am at the cost of the child I once was. Part of me died there, a part of I can never get back. I can never truly be whole again.

Randy_Watson106 karma

I'm sorry. If you ever need to talk to someone, drop me a line. When were you there?

slappywhite82 karma

I was there in the early 90s. Though Élan looked and felt like it never progressed past the 80s. Like going back in time. It was No Man's Land.

Was. It was. It is no longer. Élan was.

You and I share a bond everlasting, one shared by many, one that will never have to be shared again. You cannot measure that gratitude.

Randy_Watson54 karma

I was there in the late 90's. I feel you. That bond is something we share with all our fellow elan survivors. It can be tough for people to understand.

I hope all is going well in your life. If you ever need to talk or anything, drop me a line. Take care and thank you for the kind words.

slappywhite45 karma

I am not one for opening up, however I appreciate your offer and will keep it with an open mind. If I were capable, I would extend the same courtesy to you, but I react offensively, and, I've been told, almost comically when others open up to me. I have Élan to thank for that too. Without the ability to shut off emotionally, I could never do what I do now.

Nonetheless, thank you.

Randy_Watson35 karma

No worries. I completely understand. I don't open up to people either. Probably for many of the same reasons as you.

morphintime214 karma

No questions. But I will say that, although I'm usually pretty cynical about the effectiveness of internet activism, I can't deny that Gzasmyhero and the rest of you got shit done.

I remember googling the elan school a few months ago when he did that first IamA, there was hardly anything critical of them at all. Except a bit on the wikipedia page about how they were seen as controversial. Do the same thing now and Elan School's Record Of Atrocities is fourth from the top.

Randy_Watson114 karma

Gzasmyhero provided the break through that was necessary. However, there have been many sites that were critical and are now gone (funny how all critical information seemed to disappear). There was a really good one called Elan Survivors and a few others. The push to have this place get investigated and shut down has been pretty constant. However, the truth is, it's easy to chase it down the rabbit hole and let your life become consumed by it. So, a lot of the time people spend a year or 18 months obsessed and then walk away. That's what happened to me. I just figured it would never get shut down and decided I wouldn't let it take any more of my life. Elan had avoided close scrutiny for years despite investigations. What's sad is that it took this long.

spoils79 karma

There's a Facebook group for former Elan school students/victims/inmates. It lists a bunch of Elan school jargon, without any explanation. Some of these have already been explained, but I wonder if you might translate the whole list:

  • Booking Incidents
  • General Meetings/House Meetings
  • Encounter/Static Groups
  • Being in "The Corner"
  • Pulling
  • VR's
  • TT's
  • Stand Ups
  • Bright LE's
  • Dining Room LE
  • Every Other LE you can think of...
  • Bans/Contracts
  • "Be Aware"
  • "Dark on Dark"
  • Strength Sodas
  • BO, CM, SC, KC, X's Pride
  • GI'ng, Shotdown
  • GI Movie
  • Little Red School House
  • "With eagerness of spirit we shall find ourselves through knowing others..."
  • 4 minute showers
  • The Lake
  • Weekend Trips/House Trips/Rec Trips
  • zones
  • pull-ups
  • dorm changes
  • "CHIEF!!"
  • SP's
  • dining room/dorm charts
  • "Seconds are passed out in dichotomy"

EDIT: A former resident is posting some pretty amazing illustrations based on her memories of attending in the 1970s.

Dec 1974. One evening while we were watching TV, two escapees were brought in with frostbitten feet. They had escaped with no shoes on their feet.

Jan 1975. As a punishment for running away, Lesley was given a general meeting. Then the director got onto the subject of Lesley being a tomboy and hating womanly things. He made her get all dolled up and made everyone laugh at her and ridicule her. Along with loss of privileges, she had to remain in dress.

Randy_Watson108 karma

Wow, that's a lot. I'll define as many as possible. I'm going to define them in a different order because understanding what one thing is will help you understand another.

  • BO, CM, SC, KC, X's - When you got there you were assigned to a house. The students worked jobs within the house. You had to work your way up through the jobs as part of the program. There were 4 "crews" - Business Office (BO), Communications (CM), Service Crew (SC) and Kitchen (KC). They all had different responsibilities. Service crew was in charge of cleaning, maintenance, and making sure things like the bathroom were stocked. X's was short for Expediter Staff. In truth, it meant security. For example, during the day there were five zones that each had an expediter assigned to them to guard and watch over. There was also always one expediter that did headcounts all day long. Everyone was counted every 10 minutes. In general, the people that did this were lower level expediters.

  • Booking an incident - If you saw someone breaking the rules you went to the SOD (Shingle on Duty), a member of the expediter crew in charge of "the book". You tell them who it was and what they did. The SOD take the incident and brings it to staff. They read it and do what is called gearing an incident. The incident was then passed on to a student coordinator who would deal with the incident and then it would be passed back to the SOD to be recorded in the book. There were usually around 200 incidents a day. Expediters could also book incidents on zones.

  • Dealing Crews - To deal with an incident, a dealing crew is convened. It consists of a high level coordinator and 2-3 other students that are equal or higher rank. You knock on a door and are told to come in. You stand there while the dealing crew sits in front of you. The coordinator reads off the incidents that were booked. The staff has written either VR (Verbal Reprimand) or TT (Talking to) or both. Once the incident is read, the dealing crew starts with the coordinator yelling at you in a weird cadenced way about what you did wrong and why that is bad. Each person takes a turn in order. When it is done, if the staff added an LE (learning experience) you are told what it is. An LE was a punishment. It might be to GI (scrub) a toilet or the floor or something like that.

  • Bright LE - If you were considered a runaway risk you had to wear bright clothing.

  • Being in the corner - When a kid acted out really bad, they were put in the corner. They had to sit in a room separate from everyone else and face the corner all day long. Some people stayed in for days. I saw one kid basically stay for a month.

  • General Meeting - This was a meeting where you were stood in front of the house and everyone got to "get their feelings off". What this meant was a broomstick was put in front of the person. It was the line the other students couldn't cross. They were then told to get their feelings off. Basically, everyone ran up there and crowded the person and started screaming and swearing at them at the top of their lungs. Usually you had 5 or 6 people going at a time and this stopped when everyone was finished. A general meeting would be called if you did something really wrong, but were very common.

  • House Meeting - Similar to a general meeting, but without people getting their feelings off. It was more of a humiliation thing and was done for lesser infractions.

  • Pulling - This meant staying up on night security all night.

  • House in the dining room - This was the call for everyone to drop everything and go to the dining room. For example, if there was going to be a general meeting someone would yell "House in the dining room, general meeting."

  • "Be Aware" - Like I said, everyone had jobs. With each new jobs you got new privileges. For the first few levels of jobs you were considered "non-strength", after that "strength", and after that "high-strength". If you were in a non-strength position you were not allowed to talk to other non-strenght students without someone in a strength position listening. For them to listen you would ask them to "be aware".

I will continue this in another post.

shii35 karma

This school sounds oddly like a distorted version of a British boarding school. If you'd like, you can read about George Orwell's or other experiences at boarding schools.

Randy_Watson132 karma

Ironically, the school banned the book 1984 after an English teacher assigned it and many students began seeing certain parallels and acting out.

Camapily12 karma

I haven't gotten all the way through this post yet but this just struck my mind. You keep mentioning "higher ranking" students, was there a kind of Stockholm effect going on there? Did some kids end up working there as adults?

Randy_Watson12 karma

Yes. However, among students you had to work your way through the program. There were different jobs with different levels of responsibility. This created a sort of ranking system.

Randy_Watson79 karma

  • Shotdown - This was the lowest position. It actually meant you had no job. All you did all day was scrub floors with breaks for meals, groups, and school. Otherwise you sat in the dining room, or sometimes the bathroom and scrubbed. They also took your shoelaces and made you wear bright clothing.

  • GI Movie - We watched movies at night on the weekends. If you got a GI movie, you didn't get to watch it and instead had to scrub the floor through the whol thing.

  • Strength sodas - You got sodas once a week or maybe a day, I can't remember, if you were of a strength level position.

  • Little red school house - ? - Maybe these were the trailers where we had some of our classes.

  • "With eagerness of spirit we shall find ourselves through knowing others..." - This was the opening line of the Elan philosophy. We read it every night.

  • 4 Minute Showers - The length of time we were allowed to shower.

  • The lake - Elan's campus is on a lake. On the weekends during the summer, we were allowed to go to the lake for one hour.

  • Weekend trips - As you gained privileges you got to take weekend trips. One position might get a trip once per month, another twice. By the time you got to the top, you got a trip per week. That's also because you had to chaperon it. If someone ran away, it was your ass. The trips were to places like the movies. You didn't get to decide what trip you went on.

  • Rec trips - This was only during the summer. Randomly as a reward you were taken out on a trip during the day, in the middle of the week. You might go fishing or bike riding. Stuff like that.

  • House trips - These happened rarely, but at least once a year. The whole house would go on a day trip somewhere. I remember one time they took us to Boston to see a bruins game. Another time, they took the entire school to see Titanic. That one was weird. We were so shut off from the world that we didn't really know about the phenomenon of that movie. Randomly, the staff decided we should all go see it.

  • Dorm changes - We lived in dorm rooms with 4-6 people per room. Every weekend we had dorm changes where people would move to different beds. Higher level people only had to change like once a month. Lower level people every week.

  • Lights out - Bed time was midnight. Lights out was 1130.

  • "Chief!" - If someone attacked you, or a kid was trying to run away, or you were put in danger in some manner, you screamed "Chief!" Then the person who was the position of chief-expediter and probably the coordinator of expediters would run help you. If it was a runaway, they would chase after that person.

  • SP - Support person - An SP sat with kids in the corner and watched them. An SP was also assigned when you went on visits to watch you as well.

  • Seconds are passed in dichotomy meant that second helpings at meals were given out in order of the hierarchy high to low.

whew. That was a lot.

pozhaluista14 karma

To your knowledge did anyone go undercover in any of these schools? I know it is unlikely, but I would like to think someone tried to help.

Does this remind anyone else if that episode of ghost in the shell where they are undercover in that school for special hacker kids? Also, as I mentioned earlier, an episode of 21 jump street.

Randy_Watson13 karma

Not that I know of.

spoils11 karma

Do you know what "dark on dark" refers to?

Randy_Watson35 karma

Yes. Every day, one of the expediter staff (student run security) did a clothing chart. They went around with a special form and wrote down what every single student was wearing. If you were wearing dark on dark clothing (pants and shirt) you would be required to change. That was so that if you ran away it would be easier to spot you in the woods.

ZeitlosEisen61 karma

Why isn't this on the front page? I remember reading your story months ago and I'm so glad it resolved in a just manner.

Randy_Watson50 karma

If you read it a couple of months ago, it wasn't my story. I wrote something a year and a half ago. Thanks for the kind words.

BlazerMorte34 karma

As a former WWASP kid, I know the kind of shit you went thru. Glad you're out.

Randy_Watson31 karma

I'm sorry. WWASP is no bullshit. I'm just glad many of those places have been shut down as well. Take care and thanks for the kind words.

Fourbits31 karma

I'm so confused. Is Poland part of the USA now?

Randy_Watson60 karma

Poland is a town in Maine. It used to be named Poland Springs. It is also where Poland Springs water is from.

ufukks30 karma

Wow. You just made me see my older cousin in a whole new light. He told me he went to elan back in the early 80's, and I wrote it off as a similar experience to the time I had at the state reform school here in CT.

But what I went through was a very very different program, much more mainstream treatment than that.

I am very glad to hear that it is now closed, how anyone ever thought that any good could really come from treating people that is beyond my comprehension.

Randy_Watson30 karma

From what I understand, the 70's and early 80's were the most fucked up times. The stuff they did then makes what I describe to be kids shit. A couple of the staff there probably were in there at the same time your cousin was as students. I remember hearing the stuff they would do back then. Kids were paddled, rings happened all the time and were usually much much longer, and many of the punishments were much more degrading. I remember hearing from someone that they would make you dress up in costume. So, if you were acting slutty, they would make you dress like a whore and sing degrading songs about yourself in front of everyone.

Here's an article from Details that talks about Elan back then. It's chilling.

[deleted]28 karma

How did the school get shut down?

Randy_Watson67 karma

They had to close it due to financial distress. The owner blames a Reddit user's campaign against the school for it's recent troubles.

Here's the article

kendo8519 karma

That link takes me to a paper from 1990

Randy_Watson24 karma

Sorry, I fixed that link.

iloveminneapolis23 karma

How in hell were they able to get academic and therapeutic accreditation?

Randy_Watson13 karma

Lax standards I guess. There were two certified therapists when I was there. Neither were involved with the students on a day to day basis. Education was a joke. We went to school year round, but only had 4 hours of school a night (yes, we went to school at night). I remember teaching myself Algebra II out of the book. After that, there was no one to teach me pre-cal, so I ended up mostly tutoring other students.

freakyspeed21 karma

How would you react if you came across one of the resident antagonists on the street? I can't say that I would be one to take the high road after going through events like this. I believe I read somewhere along the Elan storyline that staff members earned very comfortable wages, which would most likely spur on further resentment.

Randy_Watson36 karma

It would depend on who it was. Many lower level staff were good to the students. I think that caused the high turnover among them. I'm still friends with one guy who worked there and he said that he always felt guilty about what he was doing there, but didn't want to feel like he was abandoning us. Lower level staff were not paid well. There was also a lot of support staff and teachers that were pretty cool.

The higher level staff was paid better and many of them were total pricks. Several of them were actually former students. If I ran into one of them, I would likely just walk away.

MC65012 karma

That's amazing, that you could see someone who put you through almost two years of torture and walk away. I doubt myself when it comes to things like that, but I also haven't had an experience like or even similar to yours. You have my admiration and utmost respect, sir.

Randy_Watson14 karma

For the most part, the staff were not evil people, just very very misguided. They did this because they truly believed in it. I'm sure some of them were sadistic nut jobs who just liked hurting people, but I doubt that was high percentage. Many of the staffers were kind caring people. Unfortunately, most didn't last long and the turnover was very high.

ScopeOfTheFatedSky21 karma

While you were there, did anyone die or become critically injured?

Randy_Watson42 karma

No one died that I know of. I heard that there was one girl in another house that refused to eat and became extremely malnourished. They had to force feed her. Apparently, she was extremely disturbed and after a few months, they finally had her transferred to another facility. I don't know the specifics of this because it wasn't my house.

I know that a decade or so before I got there, someone who ran away from the program was raped and murdered. I have also heard rumors of a kid who died in the ring back in the 80s from an aneurism bursting, but I cannot confirm that happened.

ScopeOfTheFatedSky14 karma

Wow. That must have been terrifying. How long were you there?

Randy_Watson31 karma

Just under 2 years.

unfriendlyfire20 karma

Were any criminal charges pressed against the school? Have you kept in contact with anybody else you've met during your time there?

Randy_Watson29 karma

Not that I know of. Yes, but not very many.

BCouto19 karma

What was the average age of the kids in this facility?

Randy_Watson30 karma

Probably about 16. Kids as young as 12 were placed there. I remember a few over 18, but that was rare. Most people who were over 18 were at the tail end of the program and usually graduated shortly thereafter. I do remember one guy who 20.

tryx14 karma

If you were over 18, how did they keep you there against your will? Or was anyone who was there at that age so indoctrinated that they did not wish to leave, or had no means to?

Randy_Watson28 karma

At 18 you could sign out and leave. They gave you $20 and a bus ticket. That being said, they didn't let you leave for a couple days. They would make you stay in isolation and try to convince you to stay. However, eventually they had to let you go because that was basically unlawful imprisonment. Some kids stayed after 18. That was indoctrination.

scootey16 karma

Wait. For a couple of days? If you're an adult, how is it not unlawful imprisonment for them to force you to stay there for a single minute?

Randy_Watson20 karma

It's not. However, they did it anyway. I remember one guy who told staff he was going to sign out at 18. Otherwise, he was a good student who did what he was told. The day he turned 18, he said he wanted to sign out. They put him in the corner. He just waited them out. They kept making excuses about why he needed to wait to sign out. After three day, they finally gave up trying to talk him out of it. He got a bus ticket and bounced.

xMadxScientistx8 karma

Has anybody ever tried just walking out the door when they hit 18?

Randy_Watson6 karma

Yes. People signed out at 18.

mr_grission18 karma

What did they feed you there?

Randy_Watson19 karma

Breakfast was either two of those self-serve cereal bowls, or a bagel and cream cheese. On the weekends, it was usually something like french toast sticks or scrambled eggs. Lunch and dinner were usually normal school cafeteria fair like hamburgers and stuff like that. The food wasn't terrible there, but I remember meals always feeling rushed. Also, where we ate wasn't big enough for sixty kids. The tables were on top of each other so it was always kind of uncomfortable.

emilyelle18 karma

What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

My boyfriend and I both work(ed) in social support and we've seen some bad things like hitting/yelling, being degrading and rude to residents, etc. but this is the most fucked up shit I have ever heard. It's amazing, the cruelty humans are capable of, and this is with CHILDREN... troubled children, I understand, which can be very stressful, and... anyway. I'm really glad this place is getting shut down.

Where will the kids go?

Randy_Watson11 karma

I'm guessing that they don't have many students left and that's what caused the financial troubles.

ILoveAMp16 karma

Did anybody who was put in the ring strike fear into their challengers so that nobody wanted to fight them?

Randy_Watson19 karma

The truth is there were some bigger guys that probably could have gotten thrown in the ring, but weren't. It's likely that they were afraid that no one could beat them. I heard that shortly before I got there, there were two rings, one guy, one girl, who in both instances had to go through at least 6 rounds, each with new people because they kept beating the shit out of whoever was put in. I wasn't there, so it could have been an exaggeration. Also, I saw quite a few rings and the one described above was the only one I saw someone's nose get broken.

The_Dirt_McGurt15 karma

I remember your original AMA, and afterwards did a lot of research into that wretched place. I'm glad to see it hasn't totally fucked you up because I don't know how I would cope with that experience. Don't have any questions, just wanted to congratulate you not only for surviving that terrible time in your life, but working to make sure no kid ever goes through it again.

Randy_Watson16 karma

Thanks man. The truth is, everyone reacts differently. I have a bunch of friends who have seen combat and in comparison my experience seems pretty tame. It's been almost 12 years since I left that place, so it's faded. I have a nightmare maybe once or twice a year. Others haven't been so lucky. As far as coping, people just do what they have to do to get by. Since I've left Elan, life has had it's ups and downs, but has been generally good. Also, an experience like that makes you appreciate a lot of things you might normally take for granted.

Undercoverwd14 karma

A close friend went there in 2002 because his parents caught him smoking weed. When he came back he was a shadow of himself lost in a world that had forgotten him and he'd forgotten. He became an alcoholic. I don't think I'll ever forgive his parents for their stupidity or callousness, but I'm glad to hear you were able to. Glad it's closed.

Randy_Watson11 karma

If your friend ever needs someone to talk to, let me know. Just PM me here if he wants to talk and I will send you an email to contact me at.

nerglish14 karma

Alright. I understand you went through horrible things which i couldnt even begin to imagine, much less on a daily basis.

Where are you in life now? Was it difficult getting a job when they saw what "school" you attended?

Randy_Watson30 karma

I've done pretty well. I finished college in four years, went to grad school, traveled the world, and done a lot of cool stuff. However, my first few years out were extremely rocky and it was tough keeping it together. With the help of many very kind and understanding friends, I began to readjust to normal life and do better.

I know some very successful Elan graduates. I also know Elan kids that have been murdered, committed suicide, and died of drug overdoses. Everyone handles it differently.

HoboWithAGlock13 karma

Not to rain on everyone's parade, but this wasn't the only school of it's kind.

Although many have been taken down, there are about a half a dozen that still remain active in America.

Randy_Watson19 karma

It's also not the worst school. There's a great book called "Help at Any Cost" that describes many of these places. The ones like Tranquility Bay that aren't in this country are really messed up.

astraightman11 karma

Why did you attend the Elan school? Did you have behavior or drug problems? Who made the diagnosis that your treatment was to enroll you into a private correctional school system?

Randy_Watson19 karma

Predominantly behavioral problems. I had issues with authority. I didn't have any problems in school, but many with my parents. I did experiment like a normal teenager, but mostly drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes. In that regard, nothing that was abnormal for the typical teenager. I wasn't a heroin addict or anything. My parents chose to send me there.

astraightman8 karma

I've done maintenance work for a school that deals with troubled teens and many other dark issues, but I haven't witnessed any extreme policies such as the Elan school. The staff is much more professional from what I can tell. The staff is taught restraining holds, they get retrained twice a year, and if there's any trouble we call in the police. My job involved repairing a lot of dry wall. The clients love damaging walls. While I worked there, I hate to imagine what happens at night. The students always fighting, I don't really know. I only witnessed a lot of verbal fights and staff restraining those who are aggressive during the day. Oh and I constantly keep an eye on my tools! Recently there is one client on trial for attempted murder on a staff member. I was not employed when that occurred. How did you get by through those nights? If I were in that situation, I think I would hide out in my room.

Randy_Watson10 karma

The difference was at Elan the students were the ones restraining the other students. It was common.

99_Probrems8 karma

repost in case you missed it:

I cant believe anyone's parents would put them into a program like this, none the less pay top dollar for their kids to be treated like shit. It's almost like they do this to make up for shortcomings as parents. The mindset is just pay the fee for the school and out pops an awesome kid. Bullshit.

I don't know how you could ever forgive your parents for forcing you into this, I mean weren't the kids able to communicate with there parents and complain of how they were being treated?

Randy_Watson12 karma

Sorry I missed this.

As far as communicating with your parents, you got to speak on the phone with them once a week. Until you were of a certain position and had enough privileges, someone listened to your phone call. All you outgoing mail was read before it went out. Until you've been there long enough and earned the privileges, another student accompanies you on your visits.

If you told your parents what was really going on, you were accused of trying to manipulate them and got in trouble. Also, a lot of parents didn't care. Mine didn't.

Oeamus6 karma

Also, a lot of parents didn't care. Mine didn't.

Damn, I'm so sorry you went through this.

Randy_Watson3 karma

I get along with my parents now. A lot of people are surprised by this. However, it definitely altered my relationship with them forever.

[deleted]9 karma

your story sounds nearly identical to mine. in fact, it is still open as we speak. how exactly did you go about being active and saving those poor kids from having to go through the shocking, traumatic, and ILLEGAL practices by these institutions?

if needed i will also write my story. the school from my own experiences is in Halifax County, will point you to the devil's abode....

Randy_Watson15 karma

It closed due to financial difficulties. Bad press kept parents from sending their kids there. The really bad press started about 10 years ago when a murder trial involving one of the Kennedy's named Michael Skakel was reopened. He had been to Elan and supposedly the school beat a confession out of him. That was the beginning of the bad press.

rmm451778 karma

Have you read the book, "Boot Camp"?

That was the book that first informed me about these places.

It's so nice to see one of them shut down.

Randy_Watson9 karma

Nope. Maybe I will check it out.

napalm_beach7 karma

This place truly sounds like hell on earth and I am saddened that any of you had to experience it. But it should also be said that there are many therapeutic boarding schools that are caring, well run, and staffed by dedicated professionals. my daughter would be the first to say that the school she attended turned her life around. It was not fun by any means, but it was important and valuable for the kids who were there. The bell curve applies to everything and I am glad this shit hole you attended is closed, but I just want to say that all boarding schools are not the same.

Randy_Watson10 karma

Sure, there are many great therapeutic boarding schools run by decent caring professionals. There are also places out there that are worse than Elan. I can only speak to the places I have been. I'm glad that you were able to find a place that helped your daughter. Also, thank you for your kind words.

[deleted]5 karma


Randy_Watson14 karma

Prison helps some and hurts some. Elan definitely helped some people, but it also fucked up a lot people. The program messed up a lot of kids worse than when they started. I remember one guy telling me he went in a dumb kid who smoked pot from time to time and ended up leaving and becoming a full blown addict trying to bury the pain he felt going there. I also don't think that takes away anything from those who did benefit from it. However, it seemed like a huge gamble with people's lives using an unproven method being delivered by people that were not trained therapists.

[deleted]10 karma


Randy_Watson14 karma

I told my parents what it was like. Shit, I gave tours to perspective parents and told them what it was like. A lot of parents didn't give a shit. Mine didn't. In some cases, I understood. There was some people in there for some extreme problems and the parents were desperate. There were others where it was just the craziest overreaction, like little jimmy got caught smoking pot, I saw on Dateline that that will lead to him sucking dick for heroin and dying by 15. I had to chaperone people on visits with their parents, visits home (that's super awkward), and people on other trips.

Parents definitely did come sign their kids out.

[deleted]9 karma


Randy_Watson7 karma

Truthfully, I haven't fought very much against these institutions. The person who is referred to in that journal article is not me. He was there around the same time as me, but it definitely wasn't me. Several years ago, I was more gung ho and was trying to do a lot more. Unfortunately, my efforts really didn't get anywhere and I found myself getting obsessed. The only time I wrote about it recently was the original AMA that I reposted here today. That caused some problems when I did it a while ago for reasons I won't get into. It had nothing to do with Reddit. It had to do with someone I shared the link with.

There are groups that have formed to fight this type of stuff and the government has begun to step in. I've thought about trying to get more into it, but haven't had a lot of time.

That's awesome that you taught in an alternative school. I know that must have been tough at times. A lot of us at Elan were shitheads. However, I don't think we deserved to be treated like that.

If you are more interested in this subject, check out the book "Help at Any Cost". Elan is mentioned a little in that book, but it isn't the focus. Also, if go to itunes podcasts, there's a comedy show called Red Bar Radio. It's pretty popular. During a recent fundraising marathon, one of the hosts describes his experience. I haven't listened to all of it because it's something like 5 hours. It's titled "Mike's Boarding School Stories"

By the way, awesome username.

[deleted]4 karma


Randy_Watson3 karma

It really wasn't my efforts. Like I said, the redditor who Sharon Terry refers to in the Journal article isn't me. I'm just reposting and telling my story.

The Skakel trial is really what was the downfall. It killed enrollment there.

sonicmerlin5 karma

Does anyone else wish "owner and Executive Director Sharon Terry of Casco" would meet up with a fatal "accident"?

Randy_Watson8 karma

Truthfully, I think I met Sharon Terry no more than 5 times and it was always in passing. I remember one time when I was supposed to be driven to the bus station to go see my grandmother, there weren't any vans, so the driver took me in Sharon Terry's BMW.

I doubt she really had much involvement in the school. Her husband was the one who started it. His name was Joe Ricci. He wasn't involved in the school by the time I went there. I met him maybe twice and once I wasn't at the school.

SylvesterSnake5 karma

How in the hell was it not shut down before this?

Randy_Watson5 karma

I have no idea.

fantasticsid4 karma

Anybody successfully escape that you know of?

Randy_Watson6 karma

Yes. However, all of them were off on visits. I don't know of anyone who managed to successfully escape from the campus. I actually had to track a runaway through the woods and caught them.

cxde4 karma

It was shut down? hallelujah!

Randy_Watson8 karma

Did you go there?

Geroy1213 karma

I read the AMA a while ago, I am glad something finally happened to that terrible school and the people responsible for the mess. Sorry you had to go through this school, you're a hero to a lot of people I am sure. Thanks for your past efforts as well as Gzasmyhero's, and others alike.

Randy_Watson5 karma

Thanks for the kind words.

HanaNotBanana3 karma

thank god this awful place has closed. I was in a very bad place in life about a year and a half ago, and my parents threatened to send me to Alaska military school. I thought that sounded bad, but compared to elan, military school sounds like skipping through a field of flowers

Randy_Watson5 karma

I went to military school for a while too. That place was awesome. I actually liked it there.