Alex Smith and his eight personalities were trapped in a world of unfathomable evil...until he entered the "magic castle" and found the key to his freedom.
When Carole Smith and her husband decided to take in a foster child that no one else would have, they knew ten-year-old Alex would be difficult. But nothing had prepared them for the unruly, self-destructive boy who stormed into their lives. Alone with Alex during the day, Carole was baffled by his infantile tantrums and violent, self-hating behaviors. Exasperated, she tried relating to him as the two-year-old he appeared to be, and finally, a door to Alex's mind began to open.
With the help of psychiatrist Dr. Steven Kingsbury, Alex's tormented mind revealed a host of personalities, each born in a horrifying episode of Alex's past-- each carrying a memory too powerful for his conscious mind to handle. As the personalities came forth in the safety of Alex's inner, secret castle, they unleashed stories of abandonment, brainwashing, and sexual abuse by those Alex trusted the most. In The Magic Castle, here is a fascinating true story of the human mind; of innocence shattered by inhuman cruelty; and ultimately of love's power to transform fragments into wholeness-- tragedy into triumph.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
Carole Smith is a former schoolteacher who lives with her family in Massachusetts.
Carole Smith is a former schoolteacher who lives with her family in Massachusetts. She is the author of The Magic Castle: A Mother's Harrowing True Story of Her Adoptive Son's Multiple Personalities--And the Triumph of Healing.
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The Magic Castle
A Mother's Harrowing True Story of her Adoptive Son's Multiple Personalities â" and the Triumph of Healing
By Carole Smith
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1998 Carole Smith
All rights reserved.
July to August 1984
My husband, Sam, and I were sitting across from each other at the scarred trestle table in the kitchen. Shafts of morning sunlight were coming through a window and my eyes idly followed the bright rays as they played across the pine-paneled walls. For two weeks now, we had been considering the option of taking a special-needs foster child into our home, and Sam was waiting for me to make a decision. Peering at me inquiringly, he had his elbows on the table and his blue coffee mug clasped in both hands. "So what do you think, Carole?" he said, lifting the mug to his lips. "Do you want to give it a try? Would you like to work for these people?"
He was referring to an agency that handled state contracts for the placement of emotionally disturbed children. "I — I'm not sure," I answered with a touch of hesitation and a lot of concern. "These kids have got some severe problems. Many of them have been institutionalized. Maybe I should go back to teaching."
A smile flickered across Sam's handsome features. A lock of gray-streaked hair fell across his forehead and he brushed it aside with a casual, absentminded gesture. "Is that what you really want?"
As Sam was well aware, teaching English to seventh- and eighth-graders was not very high on my job appeal agenda. I had not forgotten the frustrations of discipline and piles of paperwork. "No," I acknowledged. But I knew I had to do something. My husband, a masonry contractor, had injured his back in a fall last May. It was now midsummer, the bills had been piling up, and it would be December or January before he could resume the necessary lifting and climbing.
"At thirty-three thousand a year, this pays more than teaching," said Sam, tuning into my thoughts. "I think you'd find a hell of a lot more satisfaction in dealing with only one kid at a time. And Carole, it's not as though we don't have the place for it."
Sipping my coffee, I nodded in agreement. We did have the place for it. A sprawling ranch house. Twenty acres of oak, maple, and white pine bounded by a river and lichen-covered stone walls. Beyond the gnarled oak tree on the front lawn and down a gently sloping hill, there was a barn. It had a gambrel roof and it was stained a dark, almost black, brown to match the house. Inside were stalls for my horses, a generous hayloft, and more than enough room for Sam's pet rabbits.
Sam and I had raised four children here on this land in this small Massachusetts town of West River. We seldom saw the older three. Scott, an electronics engineer, was married and lived in California. Matt was a long-distance truck driver and lived in northern Maine, and Corey was in the navy.
I wouldn't have dreamed of bringing in a foster child if one of my own was still at home, but our youngest son, Eddie, had gone off to college, and there was a void, an emptiness. We did have a beagle puppy named Bailey and an orange angora cat named Rusty. "I don't know, Sam. I suppose it might be a good thing to have a child around again."
"And as for problems, Carole, look here," he said, waving his hand toward a stack of literature I'd brought home from the preliminary interview.
"Yes, I know. I've read it." I reached to the end of the table, picked up a booklet, and flipped through the glossy pages. I'd read about the complete support services and the twenty-four-hour emergency backup. I'd read about the supervision by trained experts and the clinical staff of psychiatrists, psychologists, and other professionals who could be contacted at any time to help in crisis situations. I'd also read about the respite procedure. If the care of the child became too stressful, the child would be temporarily placed elsewhere. Every possible contingency, every conceivable drawback, seemed to be covered. "Okay," I said to my husband. "Let's do it. But I won't be just giving it a try. You know how I am. If I start something, I stick with it. I am not a quitter."
* * *
The call came in August. My instructions were to stop at the agency and then go to pick up a boy at the foster home of a Mrs. Fisher. When I arrived at the office, a glamorous redhead with upswept hair and meticulous makeup handed me a manila folder. "I'm Cheryl, and you can go over the background information in here," she said as she ushered me into a comfortably furnished sitting room. "I must warn you. You'll have to watch this one. He's very manipulative and aggressive, and I've heard he steals."
She probably felt it her duty to warn me, but I'd hardly expected an angel. I tried to reassure myself with some positive thinking about successful people like salesmen and politicians who had to be manipulative and aggressive.
Opening the folder, I sat down to review the record written by the state social worker. The client's name was Alex. He was just past his tenth birthday and had lived in Bainbridge, Massachusetts, with his mother, Christine, and his stepfather, Albert Mercer, until he was five years of age. At this time the mother became unable to care for her children because of alcohol-related issues. Two older half sisters, Donna and Debra, had been given up for adoption. Alex, the product of an extramarital affair, had been taken by George Slade, the man purported to be his biological father. George, also an alcoholic, was married to a young girl named Sandra. Reports of neglect and physical abuse had led to the removal of the child from the home. At the age of seven he had been placed in the Robert F. Kennedy Residential School, an institution for children in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Although allowed to spend weekends with George and Sandra, he had remained at RFK until June 15 of this year. After leaving the school, he had gone to a summer camp in New Hampshire, Camp Wedicko. He had stayed there for six weeks and then had gone to Mrs. Fisher.
Another paragraph related how the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS) had put much effort into working with the family so ultimately Alex could return to his father and stepmother. An additional note said that his intelligence tested slightly below normal. In the whole perfunctory account, there was nothing to give any indication of extraordinary trauma. The only item at all that triggered a nagging question in my mind was at the beginning of the report. The maternal grandmother, a woman identified as a former prostitute, had twice called the child's condition to the attention of the Department of Social Services while he was with his mother and stepfather.
What had happened? What could possibly have caused this woman, herself certainly no paragon of morality, no model of exemplary behavior, to take such a step? One could easily imagine that she lived in some fear of the law and might have felt threatened by the power of a system that could intrude into people's lives and take their children away. What had she seen? What did she know? Why had she been compelled to report her own daughter to these same frightening authorities?
* * *
I was several houses away when I first spotted him. He was sitting near the sidewalk on the edge of a front lawn, and beside him were two green plastic rubbish bags. The toe of a sneaker and the leg of a pair of jeans protruded from one of them. He did not look at me as I parked my car but stared straight ahead, impassive and aloof.
A thin, frowzy woman emerged from the house. She was obviously distraught. "You Carole Smith?" she asked.
"Yes, yes, I am," I said, leaving the car and walking toward her. "You must be —" I consulted the piece of paper I'd been given — "Mrs. Fisher."
"Thank the Lord!" she replied with much emphasis. "I've been waiting for you. Here, you'll be needing this." She thrust a folded card into my hand.
"Oh, yes, his Medicaid. Is there anything else?"
"No, the rest of his stuff's in them bags. I tell you I never been so glad to see anyone go as I am this one. I kept him two weeks and it was the longest two weeks of my entire life!"
After casting a scathing look in Alex's direction, Mrs. Fisher went on with an account of the crimes Alex had almost committed and would have if someone hadn't stopped him. In conclusion, she related what had happened when a man named Peter from the agency had come to her home to see Alex. "The kid was using a baseball bat to hit rocks," she said, "and Peter couldn't get near him. If you ask me, the guy was scared of him."
Alex sat quietly during Mrs. Fisher's tirade and regarded the woman with what seemed to be amused contempt. He was a sturdily built child with brown hair cut below his ears and long- lashed green eyes. He had a small, turned-up nose, a slightly cleft chin, and a barely noticeable scar on his left cheek. I guessed that he weighed close to sixty pounds.
"Hi," I said to him, swallowing hard and giving him a smile in spite of my growing dismay. Peter was supposed to be my supervisor on the case. If he was, as the woman claimed, afraid of this child, what had I gotten into? I reminded myself of the brave speech I'd made to Sam about not being a quitter.
"Hi," I said again in a firmer, more positive voice. "My name is Carole, and the people at the agency said you're to come with me." He didn't answer. His eyes warily examined me from head to toe like some kind of electronic scanning device. I had a feeling every detail was being recorded for future reference, and I experienced a vague discomfort. There was something about those cool, green eyes. They were out of place in the rounded, prepubescent features. They did not seem like the eyes of a child.
Alex picked up his possessions and wedged them into the floor space in front of the passenger seat. After I said goodbye to Mrs. Fisher and made my way onto the turnpike, he was still trying to maneuver his legs protectively around them. "My father's got a new Cadillac," he announced. I did not miss the condescending implication that my Ford was inferior. "My father owns two of them trucks," he added, nonchalantly referring to a shiny white eighteen-wheeler that was heading in the opposite direction. "A red one and a blue one."
I didn't believe a word of it, and I almost asked him if the new Cadillac and the two trucks weren't a bit of an exaggeration. But there was so much pride in his voice, and if his fabrications made him feel any better, what did it matter? It was all he had. "That's nice," I replied with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. "I guess your father makes a lot of money."
"Oh, yes. He makes a thousand a week. I seen him bring it home. He got twenty guys working for him. And you should see my stepmother! She's so beautiful. She's real awesome."
"I'm sure she is," I agreed.
We left the highway and drove through one of the wealthier suburbs of the area. Two white-pillared mansions were set well back from the road, and Alex proclaimed each to be not nearly so grand as his father's house. Soon after that, he began to fidget. His hands were constantly twisting, turning, and pulling anything and everything within reach. I said nothing when he replaced the easy-listening music I preferred with the dissonant sounds of hard rock, but when the maps, keys, and other contents of the glove compartment were strewn about and my automobile registration was being mutilated, I responded sharply. "Don't!" I snapped at him. "Put those away."
He stiffened visibly and recoiled against the seat. His face was a frozen mask of fear, and he watched me closely out of the corner of his eye while he returned the objects to the compartment. "You can't tear up my registration," I said apologetically. "We'd be in trouble if we got stopped by the police."
It was ten o'clock that night before I could get Alex into bed. My every attempt to have him undress and take a bath had been met with a screaming tantrum accompanied by every filthy word I'd ever heard and a few I hadn't. In the end we made a compromise. He agreed to let me wash his face and hands if he could keep on the same clothes he'd worn all day.
"At least he fell right to sleep," I said to Sam as I let out a sigh of relief and slumped into the antique Boston rocker by the living-room fireplace.
My husband settled himself into the black leather sofa in front of the picture window. He eyed me intently with a slightly raised brow. "Why do you think he insisted on wearing his clothes to bed?"
"I don't have a clue. He wouldn't unpack those plastic bags either. He said he hadn't decided if he was going to stay here or not. And there's another thing. He has this spontaneous, fearful reaction if I say 'no' or 'don't' to him. It happened in the car and again tonight. He literally cringes as though he expects to be hit."
"Maybe he was. They probably belted him every time they said it."
I inwardly flinched at the mental picture evoked by Sam's statement but I knew it must be true. It was the only logical explanation. Alex was conditioned to expect a blow. But it did seem he should be past that by now. He'd been in state custody for two and a half years. Pausing reflectively for a moment, I said, "You know, Sam, I need some kind of a plan. I need to figure out how to handle this child."
"What about this supervisor, Peter? He'll be able to tell you."
I told my husband what Mrs. Fisher had said about Peter's apparent fear of Alex and that I wasn't sure he would be of much help.
"Well, what are you going to do then?" asked Sam. "He's as bad as a two-year-old. He wasn't in the house an hour before he broke two dishes and a lamp. He didn't do it on purpose, but he doesn't seem to have any control. He'll drive you crazy."
"That might be it, Sam," I said tentatively as I rocked back and forth.
"What? He'll drive you crazy?"
"I suppose it's a possibility," I agreed with a wry smile. "But, no, it's about him acting like a two-year-old. I've been trying to think what his behavior reminded me of and I couldn't put my finger on it. He does. He acts like our boys did when they were at the terrible twos. Into something every minute. Demanding constant attention."
"Carole, he's not two. He's ten."
For a few minutes the only sound in the room was the creaking of the old chair. "Sam, I read this book once for one of those psychology courses I had in college. I remember it was by a doctor, Carl Rogers. He claimed you can't force a person to change and the only way people will change is if you accept them as they are. I'm sure there are arguments and disagreements about it, but here we're saying Alex is acting like a two-year-old. Well, what would happen, Sam, if we treated him like a two-year-old? If we accepted him on that level, I could give him the same kind of care and attention I would give a toddler. No expectations. No negative commands."
"I don't know," said Sam doubtfully. Then with a nod and an assenting shrug, "Hey, what the hell. You might as well try. You don't have anything to lose. The kid is a disaster."
Sam's candid assessment of Alex hung in the air between us as he put his feet up on the couch and leaned his head back against a pile of red and beige pillows. There was a contemplative note in his voice when he spoke again. "There is something about him. You know, Carole, I'll bet Alex has had a rough life, but he's got one thing going for him. He's a fighter. He's a survivor."
* * *
For the fourth time during breakfast the next morning, Alex jammed a handful of scrambled eggs into his mouth, snatched a piece of toast, and ran around the room leaving a trail of scattered food in his wake. His extremities seemed to have a will of their own that was separate from his mind and the rest of his body. His hands continually touched, rapped, or twisted while his feet kicked, tapped, or banged. I took a deep breath and counted to ten to keep from crying out, "Stop it. No! Don't!" as he raced from the kitchen into the dining room, kicked at the wall, and streaked greasy fingers across one of the windows. Returning to the table, he grabbed another handful of egg, went back to the dining room, and proceeded to rummage through some bureau drawers. His impulse control was virtually nonexistent. To feel was to react; to think was to do. There was nothing in between.
Excerpted from The Magic Castle by Carole Smith. Copyright © 1998 Carole Smith. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations,
II. A Matter of Control,
III. Some Badly Needed Support,
IV. The Family,
V. Talking Times,
VI. Turning Points,
VII. A Foiled Kidnapping,
VIII. The Death Threats,
IX. Sacrifice Any Child,
XI. Some Answers, More Questions,
XII. Dr. Kingsbury,
XIII. The Twin,
XV. He Who Handled Drugs,
XVII. The Halloween Child,
XVIII. Easter Boy,
XIX. The Old One,
XXI. The Magical Thinking,
Epilogue by Alex Smith,
Afterword by Steven J. Kingsbury, M.D., Ph.D.,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Some factual errors regarding the use of the star in a circle symbol and its relationship to literal satanism. Most upsetting is the idea of babies being murdered and sacrificed. No physical evidence of the remains of these poor babies have been found anywhere in the United States to date. Reminiscent of the "satanic panic" literature which was prevalent in the 70s and 80s. Writing is adequate but the subject matter adds nothing to the current understanding of how memory works. There are other, less sensational accounts of people who have survived horrific child abuse and rape. This book also probably NOT appropriate for adolescents.
This was a tough one for me. Books like this make me want to find the abusers and go 'postal'. Then I want to find the survivors and warm fuzzy them. Alex's story is one that needs not just to be read but taken into the readers soul and left there never to be forgotten. Even though this story was years ago still there is much understood about this mental illness and that is so very sad. It was hard to read they way it was wrote. It seemed the style was one of jumping around and I had to go back and forth alot which tends to irrate me. Given that one tiny peeve it was a remarkable read. Filled with all the disgust for the villians to fill an ocean and all the admiration for the victim for the courage to survive and heal.
This story will break your heart. The things this young man had to endure were horrible. Not for the weak of heart.
Kenneth Laning, an F.B.I. agent and a conservative Christian, investigated 200+ so called occult crimes. He began his project firmly believing that occult crimes existed and the tales of breeders kept perpetually pregnant to provide unbaptizrd infant for sacrifice, etc. He concluded there was NO evidence to back up the claims.
I again used this book in my classroom as supplimental reading. Students engaged in very insighful discussion. Truly a study in compassion.
This boy's story was so very emotional and shocking, I truly cried at his pain. I read Magic Castle in two days. I was amazed at the courage and strength of this child! This is a story you will want to read!
I am not a reader at all i hate to read, but when i started to read this book i got so into it i could not put it down. it is a great book and a sad story. The way this boy over comes his struggles is amazing and heart warming. This book is well woth the time and money you put into it. TWO THUMBS WAY UP!!
Having just finished a unit on abnormal psychology and touching on multiple personalities, i had several students in the class read the magic castle. I think it gave them a personal insight into how multiple personalities work. Very interesting book. I would highly recommend it to read.