Have you ever noticed that?  When one claims they are not crazy, society automatically assumes that person must be a raging lunatic.  Sometimes it seems as if one has to defend their sanity instead of prove their point.  In the courts, it’s as if one tries to defend their “insanity” to justify their poor judgment.

The portrayal of mental illness in the media can really be appalling.  To educate the public about mental illness and its treatment, along with that comes the education of the stigma.  Used for fear or comedic relief, the people are uneducated to the truths of mental illnesses.


Due to the length of my documentary (2 hours), I unfortunately had no room for this incredible story…

In my research, I came across this book a few times; and learned how it’s one of those books that’s extremely difficult to get your hands on.  The author died and supposedly, his widow wasn’t interested in keeping the book on the market.

In the 80s, an Illinois journalist wrote a manuscript of an account he had when he was assigned to write a simple obituary for an old woman who had died in a nursing home.  What should have only taken a day or two to write, this death wasn’t exactly average.  The deceased was unclaimed, unnamed, and obviously had no family.  The journalist gruelingly traced her back to Ohio where she once worked as a schoolteacher and ended up at the Peoria State Hospital until it’s closure in 1973.

This mysterious and captivating story follows this woman who was renamed, “Mary Doefour” after failing to provide her real name.  Around the early 1920s, she had suffered sexual and emotional trauma and a botched abortion by a quack doctor.  Mysteriously, she was last seen taking a train out of town for the weekend.  Even more mysteriously, a police officer claimed to have seen a woman who looked like her, walking along the Lincoln Highway delirious and confused.  She ended up at a Chicago police station where she was reported to be an obviously intelligent, well-dressed woman who was experiencing some type of memory loss.  They believed surely, someone would be looking for this poor girl.  Unfortunately, neither the police thought to look as west as Ohio or her family to think to look as far east as Chicago.  As the jail was no place for such a lady, she was transferred “temporarily” to the state insane asylum.  There she stayed.

“I’m not crazy.  I just can’t remember who I am.  I’ve got to get out of here.  If I don’t get out of here soon, I will be crazy.”  The nurses and staff would console her while saying, “There, there, dear.”  It is said that Mary Doefour, formally known as Anna Mary Sizer, became a “back-warder” to prevent her from escaping.

The strangest thing of all the things that are strange in the story is how it reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s last hours.  He was found wandering the streets at night; delirious and confused.  Only hours later, he died in a hospital.


Was a sudden traumatic life experience to blame for their delirium?  Or a mounting collection of trauma from years of pain to blame?  The mind can handle a certain amount of trauma… but when it too much?  What drives people over the edge?  What drives people to madness?  Institutionalization?  Deinstitutionalization?  The world?  Ourselves?


Independent Filmmaker/Photographer


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