When Bruce came back to his room from work one afternoon in mid-February, the phone was ringing. It was the Honeywell engineer who frequently spoke at the mission. He asked if Bruce would be interested in coming over to his home for dinner with he and his wife, and then the three could all go down to the mission. Bruce accepted the invitation and waited for him to arrive. They drove to a Minneapolis suburb and entered the front door, then went to the rear of the house to a large family room. As they talked, Bruce noticed a rather short, pretty woman about his age come into the room. He did not recognize as having ever seen her before. She smiled and said, "Don?" Bruce looked at her with a rather blank stare, then responded, "My name's not Don, it's Bruce." About that time an elderly man walked into the room. He was introduced as Bruce's father, Adam LaRose. Beginning to feel really strange, Bruce said, "My father and mother were killed in a car accident."
As you undoubtedly have surmised, Bruce Williams in Minneapolis, Minnesota was Don LaRose, the missing pastor from Maine, New York. But how could this be? Bruce could not remember ever having seen these people before, and they were telling him that they were his wife and his father. For the next hour they all sat around a table talking about things that made absolutely no sense to Bruce. They even had pictures of themselves with Bruce in them. His head was swimming. He sometimes even felt faint. This just couldn't be true!
Before the evening was over, they had convinced Bruce to fly back with them, so they could prove to him who he really was, and perhaps find some answers to this strange turn of events. They didn't leave Bruce out of their sight that night. The next morning the three took off for Reading, Pennsylvania. Here Bruce was, in their home, with these people who said they were his mother and father and wife. Bruce did tell himself that if this woman really was his wife, he surely had made a good choice. She was pretty and very personable. But the conversation between these people made absolutely no sense to him, so he spent most of his time watching television and blocking out the conversation around him. (Now that it has been confirmed in our story that Don LaRose and Bruce Williams were one in the same person, let us continue with the narrative using the first person pronoun.)
The fact that I had been found made the news, and resulted in a telephone call from the New York State Police. They wanted to talk to me, "to ask a few questions," as they put it, "so we can wrap up this case." So, the following Saturday, we took the three hour drive northward to Binghamton, New York to visit with the lead investigator in the case. What happened next really blew my mind. The investigator and another man took me into a back room where they began bombarding me with all sorts of accusations. They never asked "if," but only "why" I had done such and such. They wanted to know why I had run away. Was it because I was involved with another woman, involved in something illegal or just tired of being a pastor? It went on and on, never leaving me time to anwer anything they asked. It seemed like it lasted for hours, although it was probably no more than half an hour. As suddenly as they started, they quit. Both men walked out of the room, leaving me seated at the table. Within a short period of time another officer came into the room. He went to a desk across the room and began shuffling papers, then struck up a conversation. He said that he lived in Maine, New York just a few houses away from where I had lived. I could not remember ever having seen the man. He talked about Maine, the church, some of the conversations we were supposed to have had together and some other things, which seemed totally foreign to me. He soon left, and the first two returned, confiscated all of my identification and documents, and told me I could go.
We got back into the car, my wife and I in the back seat (although I still did not recognize her as my wife), for the trip back to Reading. I was exhausted. Once we got back on the interstate, everything let loose. Tears came like a flood. I couldn't even talk. I was convinced that I must have done something terrible, but I had no idea what it was. I was an emotional wreck for days afterward.
My wife and I dated during the coming days. We went for long walks in a nearby park, went out to eat, etc. But we slept in separate bedrooms. Even my parents home seemed like a totally strange place, like I had never been there before.
About a week later, my wife and I decided to return to Minneapolis so I could quit my job and empty out my room. On the way we stopped for a visit at the home of my in-laws, the Rev. and Mrs. D. North Miller at Murrysville, Pennsylvania. He was the founder and pastor of the Calvary Bible Church in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, where he had originally married my wife and me, but at this point, I had no memory of that at all. That evening, he reunited us in marriage in a ceremony conducted in their home; then on to Minneapolis we went. There was very little in the room. I had some clothes, and a portable typewriter which I had purchased. We left the room key on the table in the room and left without talking to the apartment manager. I didn't want to have to get into any explanation, which even I didn't understand. And, as far as I knew, there was no lease. I would learn differently later (several years later).
On the way back to Pennsylvania, some good friends on my wife's side of the family met us at O'Hare Airport in Chicago as we were changing planes. They convinced us to spend the weekend with them before we returned to Pennsylvania. After hearing my story, they decided to take us to Chicago on Saturday morning to see if we could find any of the places I remembered from my days as a bum on Chicago's west side. We quickly found the Calvary Gospel Mission, but no one was there. We looked through a window, and I described the inside, both upstairs and downstairs. We came back a couple of hours later and found the mission superintendent there. He took us on a tour through the building. It was just as I had described it. He said he thought he could remember me from the previous fall, but he was not sure. He said he saw a lot of drunkards there in the mission, and that unless there was a real personal one-on-one contact, sometimes they begin to pretty much look alike. We never were able to find the building where I stayed with Jim and Vern.
Next we went to Moody Bible Institute on the near north side of the city. The hope was that since I had spent three and a half years there as a student that it might jog my memory. That was also where I had met my wife. But nothing happened.
We were set to leave the following morning to return to Pennsylvania, except for a phone call that came that evening. That call certainly must have been from the Lord, because it changed the entire direction of our lives. The phone call resulted in the cancellation of our planned return to Pennsylvania the next day. Instead, we were on our way to Carroll Stream, Illinois to meet with psychiatrist Dr. Marvin DeHaan. Dr. DeHaan had a private practice in Carroll Stream, but he was also a professor of psychiatric medicine at Loyola University School of Medicine and was on the Board of Directors of the University operated mental health facility. It was apparent to him that I was very disoriented, and he put me into the mental health facility immediately. By this time I was ready to do anything.
Several weeks in the hospital did one thing for me. It helped me relax and took the pressure off the constant thought of my circumstances, and my inability to remember anything about my former life as Don LaRose. It was at this point that Dr. DeHaan suggested something rather radical. He suggested using sodium-amytol (truth serum) injections with videotaped interviews. He explained that this was a form of chemical hypnosis. What I would say in response to his questions would be what I believed to be the truth. It would not necessarily be the truth; but it would be what I believed to be the truth. My answers would be controlled by my subconscious.
I was taken to a room where I was seated in a comfortable lounge reclining chair. There were a number of nurses and technicians present, along with Dr. DeHaan. There were also a number of professors and medical students from the University seated at a long table as observers. Dr. DeHaan began injecting the serum into my arm. His voice became faint and finally disappeared as I fell asleep. I awakened some time later back in my room. I was quite apprehensive. The doctor told me that the session had been successful, but there was no hint as to what I may have said while under the influence of the drug. I learned later that the doctor had spent many hours on the telephone with my parents, people in Minneapolis and former friends and associates to check out the things I had said. Everything checked out. However, it was a week later before the doctor invited me back to the same room to view the videotape which had been recorded during the session. The story I told the doctor was incredible. It sounded like something a TV mystery writer might have concocted.
I spoke in a slow, soft voice; smoothy-not haltingly-almost in a monotone voice that was clearly understandable. I began by telling the doctor of the events that occurred on Election Day 1975. I said that I was working in the church office when a man came into the office. He named someone (I gave the name under the drug, but I do not recall it now) I knew from the church that needed help. The two of us got into my car and drove toward the home outside of town. As we left town, a man with a gun emerged from the floor of the back seat. The two forced me to drive to a wooded area along a dirt road behind the Broom County Airport not far from Maine, where there was a van waiting. A struggle ensued, during which I lost my wallet and one shoe. Eventually I was transferred to the van. Once inside, I was connected to an electronic device, which from my description, Dr. DeHaan surmised, was a portable electric shock treatment machine. I then said that I went unconscious, and that the machine was used repeatedly, many, many times during the following unknown period of time.
In answer to successive questions from the doctor, I described waking up in a room in Chicago, where a tape recorder kept playing facts about Bruce Williams: name, birthdate, parents, childhood, education, etc. I was Bruce Williams, a drunk on skid row with my two friends (or at least I thought they were my friends) Jim and Vern. We went out drinking; ate in soup kitchens and attended services at the Calvary Gospel Mission to get food and clothing. There was than another blank period which ended with me waking up in that railroad car in the rail yard in Minneapolis. I then wandered toward town; was thrown out of one apartment house where I sought shelter from the weather; but was shown to a room in the second nearby building. Within a couple of weeks, I was cleaned up and working. This is a short thumbnail sketch of what I related to the doctor over a more than one hour period.
The revelations on the videotape were astounding to me. I had no memory of any of the events prior to arriving in Chicago; and then only spotty remembrances up through the first few days in Minneapolis. Yet under the control of this "truth serum" I was able to put together most of the missing links. My wife and parents were told to keep it absolutely secret. During the next two weeks I underwent two more sodium amytol sessions with Dr. DeHaan, trying to get more detail, and to cover areas that had not been covered in the first and subsequent interviews; or which were raised during those interviews. Each time I was shown the video tape after the interview, and marveled at what I had said.
As of this point, I had not been told anything about the accusations that had been made against me by the private detective from Grand Rapids and the New York State Police. Among the accusations were: (1) nine months before I disappeared, I opened a bank account using a false identity; (2) two months before I disappeared, I sold $3,500 worth of my stock in Mars Hill Broadcasting Company and took it with me when I vanished; (3) a month before that, I had gotten a $675 cash advance on my credit card and took it with me; and (4) five months before I disappeared, I purchased a piece of carry-on luggage using a Sears credit card. Dr. DeHaan did not ask me about the first accusation. However, we discovered some months later that it was as false as the others. He did ask me about the $675 cash advance. Under the influence of the sodium amytol, I explained that my wife and I had purchased 20 acres of land near Maine in March of 1975 on a land contract. We paid $1,000 down, and were to pay another $1,000 in September. The $675 was a part of that $1,000, and was confirmed later by our checkbook. When asked about the missing $3,500 from the stock sale, I answered that it was not $3,500, but $5,000; and that it was sold as a part of the final payment on the land which would be due the following March. I named the two banks, one in Syracuse and the other in Baldwinsville, where the money was located. As far as the piece of carry-on luggage purchased five months before I disappeared, I told him that it was purchased for a three day pastors' conference in Rochester the following week. I rode with three other pastors in a small car and there was not room for four full sized suitcases in the trunk. I learned much later that the State Police had accused one of those pastors of taking me to Middleport and helping me obtrain the Bruce Williams identification. As a result, he was very hesitant to help me get the information I needed for fear of jeopardizing his own ministry. And I can't say as I blame him in view of what happened to me.
Still, how could this be true? I had no memory of ever having been Don LaRose; nor did I have memories of anything in his lifetime. Dr. DeHaan explained that the machine in the van probably was some kind of electric shock treatment mechanism (ECT-Electroconvulsive Therapy) which they used repeatedly to try to erase my memory. Then, by using the recorded tape of facts, they gave me a new identity, complete with identification papers. The doctor said that the mind, being void of any information, would grasp at anything it heard and accept it as truth. The doctor indicated that, given time, much, most, or perhaps all of my memory as Don LaRose would return.
We were ecstatic! Not only did this relieve my mind and that of my family, but it would also clear me of the unsubstantiated allegations made by the detective from Grand Rapids, and by the New York State Police. In addition, it would certainly get an investigation going that would eventually apprehend those responsible for my abduction. We had high hopes.
Following is a discussion of "Electroconvulsive Therapy"-ECT, which explains what was done to me. To view just click on "ECT Machines" at the top left of this page