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Le Roy's Lot
Salem Witch Trials
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Is It Real or Memorex?
The small town of Le Roy, New York has certainly had its fair share of media coverage and chaos in the past two months. I’m sure every citizen of Le Roy wishes the whole thing would just go away. This is not say they don’t care about the health and welfare of the girls with the mysterious affliction, but the resulting confusion caused by the media circus must be turning their normally quiet lives into a hellish existence. Now that famed environmentalists, Erin Brokovich and Lois Gibbs have stepped into the fray, things can only get worse.
Numerous medical professionals such as the New York State Department of Health, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Environmental Protection Agency have been called in to test and probe the high school the students attend. All of these agencies and dozens of professionals have assured the District that the school is safe. They have concluded that there is no evidence of environmental contamination or infectious disease. In addition, to help assist the District with assessing all aspects of this situation, it hired its own independent environmental expert to conduct a review of the official findings and offer alternative approaches. This was done not because the District questioned the state medical professionals or federal agencies, but to help reassure a community still highly anxious from a 1970 train derailment that spilled TCE and cyanide four miles from the high school.
It is a wonder what the final price tag will be once all of the testing, hiring of experts, and medical treatments are completed? State agencies and the school district will probably need to spend millions of taxpayer’s dollars in order to decipher this mystery. Each day lost due to the authorities' incapability to find a cause for the girls ailments, brings more girls forward with new cases. Is this a case of human beings once again bumping up against ignorance? Have we run into yet another incidence where we just don’t know enough about the problem in order to fix it?
Fourteen girls and one boy have all been diagnosed with conversion disorder by a doctor from the Dent Neurologic Institute. Conversion disorder is a psychiatric disorder brought on by stress. Symptoms include Tourette-like fits (similar to what the girls are experiencing), as well as seizure-like spasms, fainting spells, numbness, blindness and paralysis. The girls aren’t experiencing any of these latter, more serious symptoms. The disease is thought to manifest itself in physical form after the patient has been exposed to some traumatic event. Worse, doctors warn these physical abnormalities can be “contagious” and cause mass hysteria among sympathizers of the original patient. So, as a result the other twelve students became afflicted by the first two. They all have missed a great deal of school as a result of this malady.
Well, having raised three girls on my own, I’m skeptical of the whole thing. In my opinion, teenagers “cry wolf” all the time in order to get out of difficult situations or achieve some petty desire. I can remember many mornings any one of my kids would fake a cough, menstrual cramps, fever, asthma attacks, etc. in order to get out of going to school. I would miss a day of work to stay home with them just to find her a short time later watching Jerry Springer. I think these girls started off just trying to get out of going to class and it morphed into this spectacular nation-wide fabrication. Much of it is thanks to their parent’s refusal to admit their child might just be acting out for the attention. They have become enablers by inciting town-wide outrage towards school officials and government agencies. I would even speculate they believe there might be some grand monetary benefit of winning a lawsuit or a resulting book deal. Bottom line, the whole thing has gone too far. The entire nation has seen the many interviews given by the parents and their kids. I think if any of them were to come clean now, it would prove a huge embarrassment that would haunt the entire town’s reputation for the decades to come.
This falsehood can’t last much longer, as the girls are giving themselves away. In some news coverage videos the girls’ “tics” seem to be transient, inconsistent and infrequent. A good example is this interview1 given by Erin Brokovich. A shot a brunette girl on a gurney shows her calm and her symptoms seem to be reduced to a simple, frantic waving motion. In a previously live shot shown immediately after, the same girl holds a somewhat frightened expression, but her symptoms are still reduced to slight elbow jerks. Her initial Tourette-like outbursts seem less pronounced and frequent. Joining her in the interview was a red-haired girl whose hand-wave “tic” was identical to the brunette’s while she lay on the gurney, but not as convincingly executed.
Neither of their symptoms was as well performed as the efforts made by the brunette in her initial interview on the Today Show2. On the show, her movements are more distressed and the contortions of her face are so pronounced one would think she was in severe pain.
The most telling is this interview3 with another afflicted student who is a young mother. She exhibits the exact same “tic-like” symptoms as the brunette and red-head, but she is unable to pull it off to the same skill level. Her head twitches and arm waves seem highly contrived as she pauses in between flinches to concentrate on exacting the arm movement. She is later filmed playing with her baby and can be witnessed to completely lose her symptoms while she is handling her daughter. We wouldn’t want mom dropping baby to the floor on television now, would we?
The whole situation brings to mind the fictional tale of “The Crucible”, by Arthur Miller that was inspired by the true events of the Salem witch trials of the 1690s. The book focuses on the inconsistencies of fact and the extreme behavior of a group of young girls with dark desires and hidden agendas. The girls are supposedly influenced by a slave whose conjuring and black magic cause them to see specters, throw fits and become catatonic. Under Puritan law of the time, this unacceptable behavior was illegal and punishable by public displays of torture and death. When confronted and faced with possible prosecution, they accused others of practicing witchcraft to deflect skepticism. They are successful for a while, as the slave and several other innocent men and women are summarily executed based solely on the word of the young girls. The pandemonium culminates with the entire town becoming frenzied with distrust and accusation. When the Royal Charter was revoked in 1692, ownership of land parcels came open for debate. Neighbors began to accuse each other of witchcraft in order to settle old vendettas or to steal another person's land once they had been executed. Read the book to learn how it ends.
Making this comparison may seem a bit harsh, as no one has been tortured or died as a result of the girls’ con; however, there are signs that there are ominous events yet to play out. I predict the parents will continue their vicious brow-beating interviews with the help of Erin Brokovich and Lois Gibbs. They may soon picket the school district and infuriate school officials so much that they give an ultimatum of expulsion to try to force the students back to school. In the melee, the board may even fire the superintendent. The superintendent would then subsequently sue the student’s parents, Erin Brokovich and Lois Gibbs for defamation of character. Late night talk shows will crack tasteless jokes and Saturday Night Live will do an even more tasteless skit. But that’s all speculation on my part. Can you see what can happen when you mix a vivid imagination with a gullible public? In a time when people should be standing up for what is common sense, right and fair, they cower in fear of being sued, ridiculed or ostracized.
In the following video4, a young woman is hospitalized with conversion disorder. Her suffering is evident and beyond a doubt against her will. Her symptoms are so severe that she loses control over most of her body. In the video description it is mentioned that she has suffered several concussions as a result of a hate crime. Her disorder leaves her completely debilitated, hobbling on a walker and dependent on her friend. I’m not a doctor, but the eyes don’t lie much. I can guess the Le Roy girls may have also viewed this video posted in May 2011 and decided to emulate some of it for fun. If the girls had “played the record all the way through” and thought about how their parents and neighbors might react, they could have foreseen how a small white lie could turn into the hysteria. Watch all of the videos, and then judge for yourself! (I apologize for not embedding the video here. Their format aren't supported.)
In the end, this can’t just fade out and go away, as much as the citizens of Le Roy would probably like. There is deplorable karma afoot that must answer to fate. When the dust settles, someone has got to be accountable for the money wasted and reputations ruined. It is just a matter of when. Sooner or later, someone will be forced to tell the truth or maybe a spurned student with an ax to grind might turn them all in. Who knows? No matter what the consequences will be for the town of Le Roy, skepticism will always remain. In the future, if a town finds itself suffering with real environmental issues and in need of help, it can just about expect no one will take them seriously after this.
1. Dr. Drew Interview
- Dr. Drew: Possible break in medical mystery | HLNtv.com
In an exclusive interview, environmental activist Erin Brockovich talked to HLN’s Dr.