Celia Imrie: “My electric shock nightmare at the hands of the CIA’s evil doctor”

67

Actress Celia Imrie ( Bridget Jones’s Diary, Star Wars: Episode I, Nanny McPhee) recently wrote an article for the Daily Mail discussing her nightmare at the hands of a MK-Ultra psychologist.

Living as an actor is rather like living life on the trapezes in a circus. Every time you jump on, you have to pray that when the time comes for you to jump off there is another trapeze swinging your way.

I have been very lucky. So far they have kept swinging by and over the years I have had more than my fair share of roles on stage and television, including Upstairs Downstairs, The Darling Buds Of May, Dinnerladies, Acorn Antiques and Cranford.

Then there are the films, parts that have, to my surprise, given me quite a saucy reputation. After Calendar Girls, people might well think of me as something of an exhibitionist. I am not.

In fact, the scene where we had to take off our clothes was a source of great concern. It was shot one actress at a time  –  and it was my bad luck to be called ahead of Helen Mirren, Julie Walters and the rest of that wonderful cast. 

I arrived at the studio feeling quite ill. It was as though I was in some horrible dream, wading through treacle. With a thundering heart, clutching my dressing gown around me, I made my way down to the set. Even I couldn’t put it off for ever. I tried to imagine that somehow I wasn’t really taking my clothes off and that, anyway, no one would ever see the film. How wrong I was, even if some strategically placed cupcakes preserved my modesty.

There was nothing understated about my part in Nanny McPhee either. Before it was released, the film was shown to a sample audience of children and they were terrified by the sight of my non-surgically enhanced bosoms.

The studio decided that there was nothing else for it but to airbrush out a large percentage of my cleavage – a move that cost the production company £150,000.

It is hard to believe, then, that as a child I dreamed of being a sylph-like dancer. While other girls swooned over The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, I worshipped Rudolf Nureyev and Isadora Duncan.

It was a yearning that was to lead me almost to the grave before I was 15 – not that I had any idea at the time. I pored over ballet books and magazines, and practised whenever I could. I was going to be a dancer.

My mother Diana was a trueblue aristocrat, descended from William the Conqueror and listed in Burke’s Peerage. My father David, from a poor Scottish family, was a doctor.

I pressed them to let me attend ballet classes, to which they agreed. Always stubborn and wilful, I had my career planned. I would go to White Lodge, the junior branch of the Royal Ballet School in Richmond, South-West London, and serve my time in the chorus before being discovered, finally dancing in the arms of Nureyev, who would worship and probably marry me.

I practised and went in for every exam, bounding through the grades until I was good enough for my teachers to send me, aged 11, to audition for a place at the Royal Ballet School.

Waiting anxiously at home for the results to arrive, I yearned for the day when I would be whisked away from our home in Surrey to start my new life as a ballet student. One week. Two weeks. A month. But the letter never came. I knew something was wrong, so went searching for it, breaking into my mother’s bureau. There it was.

Budding talent: Celia as Corinne Perigo in the hit television show The Darling Buds Of May

Trembling, I slid the already opened letter from its envelope and read the fatal words: ‘Celia is very good and advanced for her age, but sadly she is going to be too big ever to become a dancer.’

Too big? I was shattered. Surely this could not possibly be true? All right, so I might be too large at this moment, but I had seen diet adverts in newspapers. Surely if I worked hard enough at not eating, I would get small enough for the whole judging panel at the Royal Ballet School to get fat themselves – eating their words.

Over 18 months I lost an astonishing amount of weight. It was noticed first at six months by our nanny, known as Pop, when we had to try on summer clothes for our annual family holiday near Bognor Regis, West Sussex. After that I realised I was being watched at mealtimes.

I would look at myself in the mirror and, even though I was something near a skeleton, I didn’t think I had gone far enough. In despair and I am sure with some embarrassment – my father being an eminent doctor – my parents brought in a child psychologist.

I was 5ft 2in and weighed 4st. What was the problem? Why couldn’t they make me eat?

In those days there was not the excess of food there is now. People ate three pretty meagre meals a day if they were lucky, with no snacking in between. 

Many people in those days were malnourished, but not through personal choice. So it was a mystery to the experts to find someone who had decided not to eat, just as it might have been then to find someone who was obese.

I was sent for a brief spell in the local hospital, where, bewildered by a condition they had not seen before, staff simply offered me three meals a day, which I politely refused.

After a few weeks, I was released to spend Christmas with my family.

I was happy to come home, but, far from being cured, I now knew that in future I must find even better ways of avoiding eating. I became sly. I worked out every way to dispose of food. I was so successful at it that soon I was little more than a carcass with skin.

Desperate now, my parents decided to send me away to St Thomas’ Hospital in London, to enter one of the special wards belonging to the Department of Psychological Medicine. And once there I was placed under the care of world-famous psychiatrist William Sargant. I was 14.

Now, more than 20 years after his death, Sargant is notorious for his work for MI5 and the CIA, particularly its covert MK-ULTRA mind control programme.

Brusque and cold: Psychologist William Sargant used electric shock therapy on his patients

Even then, Sargant was a world expert on brainwashing. Today his books are said to be studied by Al Qaeda. His work has links to the mysterious death of CIA biochemist Frank Olson after being given LSD; the Jonestown massacre in Guyana, where 900 people killed themselves; and to the mind-bending and occasionally lethal drug experiments performed on unwitting human guinea pigs at the Porton Down research centre in Wiltshire.

Sargant’s methods were simple: electric-shock treatment and insulin-induced comas leading to continuous narcosis, or deep-sleep therapy, complete with taperecorded ‘brainwashing’ orders being played at the patients from beneath their pillows. And to think that all this came free on the NHS!

The hospital building is still there and even today it sends a chill through me when I pass it on my way to Waterloo station, the Imax cinema or the National Theatre. It is a gloomy, dark red-brick edifice, the green and white ceramic tile lettering still declaring it to be the Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children and Women, although today it houses the Schiller International University, a private American college.

From outside the Imax, you can see the window where I would sit waiting for my mother to emerge from Waterloo station, hurrying across the road, looking frantic. She was the only one who came to see me and I often wonder whether anyone else in the family even knew about her rushed, desperate visits. After all, I was the black sheep of the family.

At 14, I was the youngest in the ward. Most of the other patients were middle-aged women suffering from depression. From my bed, I watched them howling, moaning and screaming, fighting with the nurses. I thought: ‘I don’t want to be mad. I must get out of here.’

The doctors and nurses did their daily rounds. Twice a week or so, we were treated to a bedside visit from the Great Man himself.

Sargant still features in my nightmares. He was brusque and cold, and he never talked directly to you. Instead he issued orders over your head, talking about ‘this one’ and ‘that one’. But that was preferable to making eye contact with this proud, incorrigible man with his dark, hard, evil eyes. I have only seen eyes like that on a couple of other people in my life.

After Sargant left the ward, the nurses would start preparing the horrors he had prescribed for the day  –  the electro-convulsive therapy. Friends have asked what it was like to have electrodes put either side of your skull before huge surges of power were fired through your brain, while you squirmed and wrestled and shrieked and moaned and dribbled into the pillow. But the truth is I don’t remember. 

I do, however, remember vividly watching the woman in the next bed when it was her turn to be assaulted in the name of health. I remember every sight, sound and smell. The huge rubber plug jammed between her teeth; the strange almost silent cry, like a sigh of pain; the shuddering contortions and jerky gyrations of the tormented body; the scent of burning hair and flesh.

I remember also the famous Narcosis Room, a ward where patients were forced into a drug-induced sleep for days while tapes played instructions to them from under the pillow.

Whenever I have been asked about Sargant’s Narcosis Room, I can describe it perfectly. I used to sneak out of the ward to peer through the portholes in the swing doors, and gaze at dead-looking women lying on the floor on grey mattresses, silent in a kind of electrically induced twilight.

When people ask if ever I spent any time inside, I used to reply ‘No’, for I do not remember that ever happening.

But it recently occurred to me that everyone, in order to be put into the Narcosis Room, would first be drugged and that although I saw many women come back to the ward from there, I never saw any patient emerge from the place awake. You went in asleep and you came out asleep.

I don’t think anyone who was treated by Sargant’s sleep therapy was at any time aware of going in or coming out of that room. While inside, you were totally unconscious. So maybe I was in the Narcosis Room. I could not possibly know.

It is probable, I realise now, that I did go in. Like the electric shocks, I presume it definitely happened to me, though I can only recall it happening to others. I was certainly injected with huge doses of insulin. These injections are now understood to be one of the methods Sargant used to kick-start his sleeptherapy process.

I cannot know whether his mindcontrol methods worked on me as I do not know what the tape recordings under my pillow were telling me to do.

Some years back, I tried to find my hospital records, to see whether I could find out the limits of my treatment and if I had been in the Narcosis Room. I wanted to know the exact instructions on the tape constantly playing under my pillow, Sargant’s wishes drummed relentlessly into my young, unconscious brain.

Unfortunately, my search was in vain. When Sargant left St Thomas’, he illegally took away all his patients’ records. By the time of his death in 1988, every single piece of paperwork about his inhumane treatment of us, the human guinea pigs, had been destroyed. So I will never know the absolute truth.

I do recall being given massive doses, three tumblers a day, of Largactil, an anti-psychotic drug. The effect of this drug was startling. My hands shook uncontrollably for most of the day and I’d wake up to find clumps of my hair on the pillow. But the worst consequence was that everything I saw was multiplied by four. When Sargant came into the room, I saw four of him. It was horrific and terrifying. Even simple tasks such as picking up a glass of water became impossible. The drugs had turned me into a victim. 

As she increased the dosage one day, I overheard one nurse saying to her senior that I was exhibiting a ‘dangerous resistance’ to the drugs. Dangerous for whom, I wonder? Who could tell in that terrible place where, as far as I can see, the truly insane were the workers rather than the patients.

Sargant used to say that every dog has his breaking point – the eccentrics just took longer. I suppose my ‘dangerous resistance’ was what he was talking about. I like to think that I was one of those eccentric dogs he did not manage to break.

Many years later, I went with friends to see a film called Coma. It was a secondrate thriller starring Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold, in which Bujold discovers a ward full of patients suspended in hammocks in druginduced comas. When we came out into Leicester Square in London, my friends were laughing at the silliness of the plot, but I had the shakes and it took me some days to recover.

They probably thought I was coming down with something. In fact it wasn’t until years later that I saw the link and realised why that film had upset me so deeply.

Whatever Sargant might have thought, my eventual cure was nothing to do with him or his bizarre techniques. The events that saved me from my self-induced anorexia came about in a very simple way.

Two things happened in short succession. First, one of the nurses, quite improperly I am sure, said to me one morning: ‘You do realise that your selfish act of starving yourself means you are stealing the bed of a truly sick, possibly dying child?’ She described other stricken children she had treated – those with polio and cancer.

She had no idea but what she said was more powerful than any of Sargant’s insulin injections and taperecordings. My conscience was well and truly pricked.

A few days later, my dance teacher came to visit me. I didn’t know the true reason at first but when I did, it was to send a chill through my barely there flesh. Miss Hawkesworth had been told that medical opinion was agreed that my weight was way below that which could possibly sustain life for any length of time. I would not survive the few weeks until Christmas.

Unlike do-gooders who tiptoe around the subject of illness and death, Miss Hawkesworth said: ‘I came to visit you because they told me you would die in two weeks and I thought I ought to say goodbye.’

I had spent three years with everybody telling me: ‘You must eat. You will eat. If you don’t eat you will fade away. Please eat. Eat. Eat. Eat.’ And so I didn’t. Now here was a new order – ‘You will die!’ Die? How dare anyone tell me what to do. I wasn’t going to die just to please them.

Whenever I am issued with an absolute order, my instinct has always been the same: do the opposite. And thanks to Miss Hawkesworth, I decided there and then I would not oblige these horrible, self-appointed gods of psychiatry and die just to satisfy their theories. Slowly, I started to eat.

I reversed the action that had been my secret weapon against them, and in twisting it round, it became my new secret weapon against them. I decided I would show them that they knew nothing about me. Plus, I was not going to let anyone think that my selfishness was responsible for depriving a sick child of treatment.

I later returned to school, somewhat changed in appearance. During a consultation with my psychiatrist, I had said I would like to have a baby one day, and hoped that would still be possible since I had upset the usual order of puberty.

Specialists at St Thomas’ decided to give me a massive dose of oestrogen to kickstart the process. The trouble was that practically overnight it sent me from being flatchested to a 38in doubleD cup.

So, resembling a teenage brunette version of Jayne Mansfield in a fright wig, I took my O-levels and got the same number as Princess Diana (you can look it up if you’re so interested).

I left school the day I turned 16, the earliest day I legally could. Determined to follow a life on stage, preferably with some dance connection, I applied for and won a place at the local drama school. I was on my way.

Years later I was talking to actor Nicholas Lyndhurst’s wife Lucy. She had trained and become a professional dancer, even appearing with the Royal Ballet.

‘A lot of it was hell,’ she told me. ‘Not at all what I had thought it would be. It often made me very unhappy.’

She described the strife and tension, the painful muscles, bleeding toes, rivalry and starvation diets. For the first time in my life I wondered if I had been fortunate by being forced out of dance and into acting.

I felt a tremendous surge of relief. I started to wonder what had impelled me to chase a desire that had almost killed me at 14. Now, I finally knew that my life had gone the right way. I had taken the best possible path.

Share.
Loading...

Leave a Comment

67 Comments on "Celia Imrie: “My electric shock nightmare at the hands of the CIA’s evil doctor”"

10000

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
AMJ
2 years 10 months ago

im a little confused…can anyone shed some light on a possible reason as to why Celia would have had to endure this torture? Were the tapes brainwashing her to become an actress? if so, why? I'm not familiar with Celia's work. Was she used to push sexualisation?

Devonrex kitty
5 years 2 months ago
Everything Celia and Mary said is true. Because it's so horrific there will always be people who say "It never happened. " Telling someone they're lying, when they have been exposed to terrible victimisation, re-traumatises, shames and is inhumane. I was on the same ward with postpartum depression. Strangely all the patients that I have come across were young vulnerable women almost as if we were easy targets. It was the same in Montreal where there was a similar Unit (funded by the CIA). The government of Canada settled a huge lawsuit because of this. Never doubt that this happened.… Read more »
Dee
1 year 7 months ago

Why does people comment his eye are scary .. for me, it doesnt scary at all .. His eye show that he need something .. It feel like he is lonely ..

ADG
3 years 5 months ago

In this weeks Doctor Who, Celia played a victim of mind control.

Ray in Vegas
5 years 1 month ago

He kind of looks like Dick Sargant from Bewitched … I wonder if there's any relation?

5 years 3 months ago

Amazing story. What a survivor.

Maryt
5 years 5 months ago

He was my doctor also, and 40 years on the memory persists. I went back last year to look at the waterloo hospital, which was semi derelict. I think its being restored now. I saw the ward I was on, and the narcosis room in which I slept all day every day except for ,meals, for weeks on end. I could never forget Sargant till the day I die, but I did survive.

Gillian
3 years 3 months ago

just read your txt and am urgently trying to find people who went through the "deep sleep" treatment Please will you contact me as soon as you see this reply? My email address:-gilliandennis8@aol.com

Sarah Connor
5 years 5 months ago

God bless you Mary! I bet you have some stories……wish we could sit for tea! Hope you and yours are well missy!

Crazy Cat
5 years 5 months ago
It's sickening that people like him think its fine to treat other human beings this way. I'm 14 myself, and i could not imagine something like that happening to me. Hell, I suppose. But, for a long time, I've always thought that humans need to treat other humans with respect before we die out – from killing each other. When will we learn? We only get one chance on Earth, and we need to make the BEST OF IT. People like him and the CIA who run these kind of programmes need to wake up already. We're all part of… Read more »
Joe
5 years 5 months ago

So who is this lady exactly? How do we know she didn't just write this book to have a story to tell people like us who want to see just this sort of evidence? (not that we want to see it because we are glad it's happening, but because we're trying to prove things to our friends who are rather loathe to come around)

Crazy Cat
5 years 5 months ago

she's hugely famous in England. maybe not so much in the USA, but she doesnt seem like the kind of person to make this up.

Bhikkhu
5 years 5 months ago
Snoop Dog is in one of his videoclips (can't rembember the name) where he scares the hell out of me with his eyes. Can't fully know what is in somebody's mind through his eyes. But most of the time it will tell you good from wrong. We have our eyes for a reason. And even blind people can sense good and bad vibrations of people. I would run as far away as I could if I meet someone like that. Scary how it is they are human and have a spirit. They are suffering like all of us. Some or… Read more »
Ryugen
5 years 5 months ago

Guys don't give Sargnt excuses, he wasn't possessed by a demon, an if he was one of the top researchers on mind control then it's very unlikely he was subjected to the same. In the end he was just an evil man with no compassion or guilt for the horrors he inflicted. There is nothing on this earth more evil than man, forgetting that or telling ourselves that they must have been coerced excuses their behaviour. In the end a few people just don't care about the suffering they inflict on people.

Keen
5 years 5 months ago
The only part about this story that gave me chills was the end, where, after she discussed the horror of being in the evil hospital, she decided that she had gone the right path… She tried so hard to be skinny, to be accepted, and landed in a hospital where she was electrocuted and most likely put to sleep and fed messages under pillow… yet after all that she decided it was the best possible way she could have gotten where she is today. Was it the best way? The last sentence just creeps me out, makes me feel as… Read more »
Lorenzo Vindice
5 years 5 months ago

Surely she is saying that she took the right path by giving up on being a ballerina and instead becoming an actress where being tiny is not important? The article is a poorly cut excerpt from her book THE HAPPY HOOFER. She deals with her attitudes more fully there – and also tells of the cupfuls of drugs like largactil that she was forced to drink at 14 years old which gave her quadruple vision and thus saw four William Sargents entering the room at once. Jeepers.

nonto
5 years 5 months ago

the man proberbly m.k.ed himself…. speaking of which, he reminds me of the ''black eyed'' peas…. hahaha just saying

Jammer
5 years 5 months ago
her story reminded me of Huxley's Brave New World… they would play messages for people as they slept to indoctrinate them or convince them of things, or give them orders… just as she thinks happened to her and others by this doctor… Also, if anyone has read Paulo Coelho's biography, he states when he was younger he was deemed "insane" and sent to a psych ward where he recieved electro shocks as well… this is also in his book Veronika Wants to Die….. very interesting how these truths and facts come out in pop fiction… is it to convince us… Read more »
Sarah Connor
5 years 5 months ago
Tactic to discredit – I concur!! Or promote the charge that if you think something in the movies is real, it is somehow likened to 'conspiracy theory'. Yet they (hollywood) always tell you beforehand if you really think about it. I wish I could find someone that has been keeping a list on such things. It's shocking. I don't know why but your comment totally reminds me of an article I read on Sunday called '25 Rules of Disinformation' from Don't Tread On Me……basically calling out cyber agent's mode of operation etc…..thought it was an interesting read – and somewhat… Read more »
U.N. Owen.
5 years 5 months ago

Does everyone else seem to be missing the point that after she'd been brainwashed and MK-Ultra'ed, they gave her some estrogen, she grew in cup size exponentially and then became a famous, successful actress?

Do you think whatever the evil doctor did was not to perpetuate and build her into that?

What were those messages that were whispered beneath her pillow….

Antony
5 years 5 months ago

If it's left her deluded enough to believe being descended from William the Bastard constitutes 'true aristocracy' they should have increased the voltage.

5 years 5 months ago
Nearly eleven years ago I lost my wife with Bulimia and I can totally relate to what Celia is saying. I have read and understood all of this article and there some parallels in what Celia went through and what my wife went through. I can remember the doctors telling my wife how selfish she was being and also being told to eat, eat, eat. I can also remember the doctors giving up on Dione, because she was not doing what they expected her to do. she was incredibly stubborn even when she was wrong. I was speaking to my… Read more »
Sarah Connor
5 years 5 months ago

Nobody has said so yet, so I will. I am very sorry for your loss John….your story touched my heart! God Bless you hun….I am thinking of you! Healing, blessings, peace and God Bless!!! For reals….

Fayelin
5 years 5 months ago

I don't get why everybody is claiming that this man has no soul. He is human, he has a soul and the only thing that separates him from you and me is circumstance. We are all capable of the worst and best mankind has to offer. Do not assume that if you had led his life, you would have made any different choices. We are all equal in the eyes of God.

Sarah Connor
5 years 5 months ago
This is just what I think of when I see people like this…..they are fallen: Fallen from the grace of God. The word devil comes from do evil. There is a certain point where a person can become so evil their soul is not recoverable. To fall is be in a state where you are to lose your soul. The soul is the spirit and body combined. To lose your soul is a separation of body and spirit. To be cast into outer darkness is to have your spirit separated from your body and denied the privilage of living in… Read more »
lincy
5 years 5 months ago

scary eyes…..

jay
5 years 5 months ago
Well this reminds me of the black eyed people articles on the net.. it seems to me these people with black eyes are actually portals for dark entities, soulless beings referred to on the net… these people exist and definitely have no conscience at all.. avoid at all costs.. and also ask for divine intervention if you ever come across one.. banish them in the name of the highest source of love and light.. and never agree to help one if they approach you, never let them in to your house.. dont fear them.. it is only through fear that… Read more »
LiyLiy
5 years 5 months ago

Okay.. I have very dark eyes also and I am not this way at all! I found this a little offensive. But, I don't know if you mean literal BLACK eyes (because I don't know if that truly exists- maybe I just haven't seen it) or your talking about dark brown eyes that appear to be black, unless you get up super close. Lol I have the later.

Laurjo
5 years 5 months ago

It spooks the heckl out of me but i think he means like all black eyes. A scary example i always picture are the "blood diamond" eyes in Kanye West's Diamonds from SierraLeonne

aware
2 years 5 months ago

i agree, all pure black like that rapper tech nine or however he spells it

Laurjo
5 years 5 months ago

It spooks the hell out of me but i think he means like all black eyes. A scary example i always picture are the "blood diamond" eyes in Kanye West's Diamonds from SierraLeonne

Annia
5 years 5 months ago

The guy looks like a psycopat. Scary!

ali
5 years 5 months ago
I don't know why people are making out this is an expose. These means were pretty standard practices back then and the public know little of the major programs and their goals nor the distinctions. Let alone the ongoing reality of mk. This is an unfortunate result of primitive yet not purposeful evil, they dont see this as a small example of a much wider and deeper situation and how that means by todays standards we must have evolved perfected complex techniques. In short without the actual knowledge to appreciate you can show ppl allsorts of stories and they wont… Read more »
Denise
5 years 5 months ago

His eyes are creepy. OMG! They live among us.
U know the eyes are the window of the soul.
Verdict: He has none.

Rahman
5 years 5 months ago

This is not cool. Being exposed to those scary eyes is enough torture, let alone the electro-shock. Human life is almost priceless, and I don't know why someone would make lab rats of his fellow humans. Bunch of sadistic losers, really.

rocktheboat
5 years 5 months ago

What if that's what she was brainwashed to do??

To become an actress.

wpDiscuz