Going into his story, as we were requested, we heard at once about the cruel conditions at home. The boy's own father had been dead for ten years and up to within three years he had lived with a relative. While he was there letters indicated that queer things were going on at home, and the step-father was cruel to the other children. The mother was afraid to tell the whole story. When the boy came home the step-father at once began pervert sex practices with him, horrible things, and John found this man had been doing deeds of the same kind with an older sister and a younger brother. It seems the step-father also beats the children and has put this older girl out of the house. Recently he has left his wife.
When we go into John's own record, with which we had already made ourselves acquainted, he tells us he does not know what gets into him, but he has run away from home no less than eleven times. He works for a while, takes his wages and then stays at a hotel. He says he has been arrested several times on this account. His mother always telephones to the police about him and that is why he is under detention now. He wishes he were at home. The next day we went into more of the details which had been liberally sketched to the judge and other officials. We now learn that the step-father is a professional thief and that stolen goods he has taken are to be found in their home. He often leaves home and perhaps takes his wife's wages--she has to work out--and just now is again living at a hotel. The family have been informed by a physician that he is probably crazy.
On a later occasion the boy told my assistant that he wished to relate the whole story of his family. He then describes how the step-father even blackens the eyes of the sister and that he has long been immoral with her. It now appears that perversions began between this man and John some two months ago, never before that. The mother is there in the house all the time and knows about and permits the step-father's immorality with daughter and son. Cross-questioned afterward, the boy (evidently remembering what he said before) states these practices with him began the night he came home three years ago, but they had been going on with his sister before that. He knows this because his mother wrote and told him about it. His uncle wrote and told her to put a stop to it, but the step-father intimidates her with a revolver.
Our notes state that one afternoon when tests were being given him, John seemed to be in an excited state and often interrupted the procedure with talking. Seen in the hallway soon afterwards he waved his hand and insisted on telling more about home conditions and about what the officers would find if they went up there. On still another occasion he reiterated the same things, giving many details.
It was about this time that John was found to give strangely fantastic and childish accounts of circumstances with which he had been connected. We transcribe his story of a celebration at a school--it is a good example of his tales.
``They had it on Lincoln's birthday and on the 4th of July, too. The teacher did not believe that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. The children said, oh yes, he did. But they did not believe it. The children all hollered and said yes, he did. Then they all run up on the platform and got to fighting about it. The teachers would not believe that Lincoln freed the slaves till an old soldier came up there and told them yes, he did do it.'' I questioned him about this matter whether it was only a play they had, or were they in earnest. ``Oh, all in earnest and they had a fight about it. The teachers would not believe that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and the children all run up on the platform and had a fight about it.''
Home conditions were next looked up by a court investigator and we came to know the mother and sister. Much to our surprise we found them to be quite self-respecting, entirely credible people of good reputation in the neighborhood. The mother is an honest hard-working woman and is exceedingly depressed about the career of this boy. The sister is a modest and unquestionably good, self-supporting, young woman. Not a word was heard against them in any way. In their distress they gave us the full story.
The parents were immigrants when young. The father died through an accident some ten years previously. The mother has kept track of the members of both families fairly well. She had a sister insane, said to have become so as the result of the menopause. The father himself had occasional attacks of epilepsy, but they were never frequent enough to hinder him working as an artisan. He was a very moderate user of alcohol. The mother has always been fairly healthy. Thinks she now has a cancer. There are no other significant points in heredity that she knows. There are three living children; a number of miscarriages came after John was born.