This is a  staff list for Elan School in Poland, ME

[This program is reportedly closed/closing as of March, 2011]

(we are working to acquire the complete records for ALL years)



(from approximately 17 minutes into the film to approximately 30 minutes into the film is the Elan segment)




We advise current and/or former staff to report any abuses you may have witnessed while working at Elan School.  For information on your rights and how to take action, visit  If you were fired or forced to resign because you opposed any illegal and/or unethical practices at Elan School, you have the right to take action. 


If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Elan School, please contact if you remember the long-term employees and from which years.  This will help!   Also, if you recognize any of these staff as having worked at another program, please send in any information about their past or present employment at other facilities and/or cults.



The Elan School is reportedly closed/closing.




Additional Information
Martin L. Kruglik Senior Program Director Kruglik has been with Elan since 1972. 
Clare Woodman Senior Program Director Woodman has been with Elan since 1984.
Jeffrey Gottlieb Staff Has "worked" for Elan since he graduated the program in 1972.  (CULT)
Joseph Ricci Founder of Elan Cult  
Gerald E. Davidson Co-Founder of Elan Cult  
Peter Rowe Staff Graduate of Assumption College--Catholic College founded by the Augustinian Sect.  St. Augustine was big on torture and used/supported/endorsed torture to "convert" thousands of "heretics".  Rowe currently works for the Hyde School.
Melissa Esty Residential Director Esty has been with Elan since 1991.
Kathleen Sherberne Residential Director Sherberne has been with Elan since 1993.  Sherberne went on to work for Bonneville Canyon (2013).
Adam Asselin Staff Asselin has been with Elan since 2005.
Deanna Raihl Staff Has "worked" for Elan since he graduated the program in 1998. (CULT)
Nick Pitarys Staff/Case Management Pitarys has been with Elan since 2009.
Peter McCann Director (former) Reported by survivor who attended program in 1976.
Ken Zaretsky Assistant Director (former) Reported by survivor who attended program in 1976.
Danny Bennison Assistant Director (timeframe ?) Reported by survivor who attended program in 1976.  Bennison reportedly claims to have held the title of Assistant Director on the online message board known as fornits.
Mark Rosenberg Staff (1996-1999) Reportedly an Elan "graduate" who became a top staffer for the program.
Anne Flynn Director (1981-1985) Flynn went on to work at North American Family Institute, Inc. from 1989-1994.  Then, Flynn went on to work at Visiting Nurse Hope Health until February, 2018.  Flynn currently (as of March, 2018) works for Coastal Medical.
Robert O'Conner Staff (1981-1983) Reported by survivor who attended program from 1982-1983.  (May 15th, 2011)
Linda Roy Staff (1981-1987) This staff was working for the program as recently as 1987 according to newly received (April 28th, 2011) survivor reports.
Tom Koeppler Staff (1986-)  
Ralph Maldonado Staff (1986-)  
Paul Clement Staff (1986-1987) This staff was working for the program as recently as 1987 according to newly received (April 28th, 2011) survivor reports.  Online sources suggest Clement worked summers at Elan and received a pay check up until the closing of the program.  [Source:]
Jim Leman Director  (1982-1983) Reported by survivor who attended program from 1982-1983.  (May 15th, 2011)
Shawn Fogg Staff Reported by survivor who attended program from 1982-1983.  (May 15th, 2011)
Frank (last name unknown) Staff Reported by survivor who attended program from 1982-1983.  Survivor reported that Frank is remembered as kinder than the other staff.  (May 15th, 2011)
Robert C. Allanach Intern/Therapist "He completed his residency training at the Elan School in Poland, Maine."  Source:
Larry Smaller Staff Reported by survivor who attended program in 1977. (July 3rd, 2011)
Jose Rodriguez Staff Reported by survivor who attended program in 1977. (July 3rd, 2011)
Alice Dunn Staff Reported by survivor who attended program in 1977.  (September 18th, 2012)
Dave McVetty Staff  
Jay Freemon Staff  
John Gaffey Staff  
Ronnie Evans Staff Reported by survivor via e-mail (February 26th, 2013)
Morris Fink Staff Reported by survivor via e-mail (February 26th, 2013)
Ed McColl Program Attorney  
Sharon Terry Staff  
Dr. Jerry Siapan Staff  
"Father Bob" (last?) Pastoral Group Counselor Reportedly worked for program during 1980s.
James Collins Staff (Late 90s) Reported by survivor via e-mail (April 20th, 2015)
Kristen Roberts Staff (Late 90s) Reported by survivor via e-mail (April 20th, 2015)
Kary (Last?) Director (Late 90s) Reported by survivor via e-mail (April 20th, 2015)  Elan School is "proudly" affiliated with NATSAP.
Joanne Ginn Staff  
Faith Melton Staff  
Alice Dunn Director  
Robert "Bob" Oldham Director (1984 off & on) Reported by survivor via e-mail September 2nd, 2018. 
Tina Hicks Staff (1980s) Full name: Christina Lynn Valente (maiden name Hicks).  Now deceased:
Janet Ramos Asst. Director (1977-79) Reported by survivor via e-mail July 23rd, 2019.
Henry Melton Staff Reported by survivor via e-mail December 2nd, 2019.
Faith Melton Staff Reported by survivor via e-mail December 2nd, 2019.
Tania Merette Lead Counselor (1990s-2005?) Reported by survivor via e-mail June 24th, 2020 with additional report by separate survivor on 9/1/20.  Merette is currently a broker associate for “Nexthome Experience” In Bangor, Maine. (2021)  Sources:,-broker-associate___917856_464894035 (Info provided to HEAL Mission via e-mail from confidential source on 2/19/21.)
Daniel Horn (?) Staff of E5 Reported via e-mail by survivor on April 4th, 2021.
Joni (Last?) House Director/Staff Reported via e-mail by survivor on April 4th, 2021.  Joni was reportedly replaced by Linda Roy.
Maria Maldonado Staff/Parent Liaison Reported via e-mail by survivor on April 4th, 2021.  Maria is and/or was wife to Ralph Maldonado.
(Elan School, like many other programs in this industry, keeps a "tight lid" on any specific information regarding their staff, qualifications, and practices.  Please contact us with the names of any staff of which you have firsthand knowledge or experience.  Thank you for your help.)
Survivor Declaration--Sharon Wittwer (1984-1986)
Survivor Website--
Youtube 1--
Youtube 2--
Survivor Declaration--Nick Schwamb (2007-2009)
Youtube 3--
Survivor Declaration--Jessica Charnov (2004-2007)


By Anonymous


Everything in my statement is true. I give HEAL permission to use my statement.

Do NOT send your child to Elan. Read this before you decide.

Elan is a terrible tormenting place. If a child needs help Elan or places similar should never be considered. It should not even be allowed to be on a list of options. A child may need some time to find a positive path but just because Elan separates that child from the outside world for an extended period of time(two-three years unless you're lucky enough to be taken out or runaway and not be captured)doesn't mean it helps. All of the exits are guarded at all times by students. Being screamed at by four different people at once and let's estimate about an average of three times a day for two years is not just not healthy but is clearly insane.

The first day I arrived at Elan I walked into a room where a "three house ring" and "general meeting" was being held. A boy's nose was the receiving end of a boxing glove and blood streaming down his face was the result from being in the "Ring". Then about one hundred and fifty students in rows of about five all "got their feelings off", which involves screaming and swearing in a persons face who is deemed to have done something "wrong" in the eyes of the so called "Directors" of the school that is a "General Meeting". The "Directors" keep the momentum of these unbelievable events going. I always wished my parents would make a surprise visit and stumble in on a "General Meeting". What would they think?
("General Meetings" could happen as often as two or more times a day. "Rings" happened occasionally, which consist of a circle of students surrounding the "offender" and the other student who are both wearing boxing gloves. The outside circle is taunting the offender while the two box. When the student gets tired another takes his or her place to be in the ring with the "offender")

The "Directors" are the ones who tightly control each of the students lives. Reading students mail, having phone calls listened to so that nothing could breach their operation of making $50,000 a head a year per student.

At night a student stays awake to guard the dorms of his or her gender. Every ten minutes for eight hours a night a "bed check" is conducted. Each student has their sheets lifted up and a flashlight is shone on the students body to make sure they don't have any hidden clothing to take with them in the event that they try to run away. Could you imagine having your sheets pulled up every ten minutes for eight hours every night for years? Can you imagine that students are expected, who are in positions of responsibility, to stay up all night and be a "night guard"? And if you fall asleep you will be punished and be made to scrub the floors for a couple of days and have your shoe laces taken away.

"The Corner", which is really a term dubbed for being put into isolation, is used to take a child who is not conforming with Elan out of the population. Another student is then placed with them as a "support person". This support person could be subject to the other student acting out, which could involve attempts at self mutilation, being spat on, sworn at, screamed at, exposed to the students genitals, exposed to them masturbating for shock effect but Elan has a no kick out policy. The "support person" may be expected to physically restrain the acting out student. Sometimes the support person had to hold them down on the floor and have plastic restraints put on the student so his or her hands are behind his or her back. Sometimes this student who is acting out could be in the corner for over a month. Spending his or her days facing the corner of a wall and sleeping on a dingy mattress on the floor. This student could spend a month acting crazy like this and then stop and come out of "the corner" only to be put right back in because he or she starts acting out again. Usually there was at least one student in "the corner" for the two year period I was there. Also if the "support person" may take their eyes off this other student in "the corner" and he or she decides to self mutilate and succeeds then the "support person" will be stripped of his or her position of responsibility and made to scrub floors for a time of maybe two to three days. Can you believe that this is allowed to go on? A fifteen year old child being forced into this responsibility if he or she wants to succeed in Elan? Also that child who is"acting out" does so because he or she is standing up for themselves albeit it is in a damaging fashion but that is how a person may cope when being forced to stay in a place like Elan.

The school curriculum, is fabulous for an unmotivated child, with no test, exams, or projects it couldn't be better. When parents receive news that their child, who was once possibly failing in school, is now getting great marks they could only think that Elan is doing something right. That is one of the tactics Elan uses to decept parents and school boards but ultimately rob that child of a real education.

Could you imagine not being allowed to go outside when you want? When I was in Elan you pretty much got outside once a week for a gym class. If you were lucky you got to go out for special outings maybe once every month or two but that only happens after about six months, which I would say is about the average length of time it takes for the "brainwashing effect" to be fully active in a student. After that constant fear and guilt consumes a student and everything from brushing up against the opposite sex to taking a minute longer in the shower than is allowed is written down on a piece of paper(referred to in Elan as "copping to your guilt") and given to the powers at be so they know your every move. So basically everything that Elan deems as "wrong" is instilled through feeling immense guilt and usually eventually you fess up. When I was in Elan for about a month I spat in a staff member's coffee but nobody knew except me. A year later I told on myself. By the way Elan is co-ed but no physical or flirty behaviour is allowed. Can you imagine a house full of hormonal teens being watched over so severely that you're scared to look someone of the opposite sex in the eye for too long? I received a " general meeting" for being flirty. I had people scream and swear in my face for ten minutes because I am human. This is where the ultimate control happens and the "Directors" or staff were ruthless. They would scream and swear in your face and make you feel absolutely hopeless. They controlled the level of fear among the students.

Can being around all of these things and many other detrimental things for years be conducive to grow up healthy? Because you really are growing up in Elan. Two or sometimes three years during your teens is crucial and Elan tears those pages right out of your life. THEY CAN NEVER BE REPLACED.

Annual fees for a 12 month year of $54,960.60 ( on October 5th, 2010).  This is more expensive than a year at Harvard University.  "Harvard University will increase tuition next school year by 3.8 percent, the school announced yesterday, bringing the annual cost of a Harvard education, including room and board, to $50,724." (Source:, March 19th, 2010)

For parents and kidsSummary: How does a parent deal with a child who has behavior, alcohol or drug problems?  Boot camp-style programs have tried to deal with these issues through participant isolation, hard labor, restraints, name-calling, humiliation, sleep and food deprivation and hiking into the wilderness or desert.  These programs often hire kids off the street to be counselors working for minimum wage.  Some workers, she discovered, had criminal records or little training, education and experience with troubled children.  She says it was rare if there was even a psychologist on the grounds.  Among the programs she tackles are Synanon, Tough Love, The Seed, Straight Incorporated, the Challenger Camp, Elan School, KIDS and World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP).  Public officials including Nancy Reagan promoted these programs in the 1980s as the solution to drug abuse.  Talk shows used them to teach ungrateful rich kids how to behave, and other media outlets publicized boot camps as a miraculous cure.  Some children were sent because they admitted to being gay. Parents thought the camps could "straighten their children out" and make them heterosexual.  Szalavitz examines these programs through the eyes of the children who endured them.  She also speaks to parents of children who died horrific deaths in these programs. There were about 30 kids who died, many of them because counselors had little training to deal with desert conditions and lack of water.  Szalavitz investigates the lack of education provided to these kids during camp.  She also looks at the way panic-stricken parents are manipulated into sending their children.  For complete story, click here.

Excerpt from: "Duck in a Raincoat" by Maura Curley:

Chapter Five

In Their Own Words...
"Despite requests to Joe Ricci and his lawyers for Elan success stories to be included in this book, none were furnished...


Former residents and staff members consequently were tracked down through newspaper advertisements and by word of mouth.  Conversations with nearly two dozen people who were at Elan at different intervals between the years 1971-1988 reveal striking similarities, though these people come from five different states, and varied economic and social circumstance. In most cases they have not talked to each other since leaving the program. All contacted were willing to discuss their experiences, though some did not want their names used for fear of reprisal. 
Stephen Smith now 29 was 15 years old when he was sent to Elan by a social worker in Connecticut. He had been a ward of that state since the age of six  when his father signed over custody of Stephen and his sisters  after their mother had been sent to prison for robbery.

At fifteen he was sensitive and withdrawn,  read books all the time, and hated school because the other kids seemed childish, and had  perfect families. He explains that the circumstance that led to his going to Elan involved an altercation with a neighbor whom he "shot in the butt" with a bb. gun after the neighbor kicked his dog.  Stephen says his social worker gave him the choice of either going to jail or Elan. "I chose Elan  because she told me it was like a summer camp in the Maine woods, " he recalled with irony from the warden's office of Maine State Prison where he was  serving a ten year term for burglary.


Stephen is  boyish looking, small boned with honey blond hair pulled back in a  ponytail. His eyes portray a sadness, which his  story supports. The images from his teen years are still alive for him, enough for his voice to crack when he talks about being raped by another  Elan resident when he and three other boys and two girls  were left in a semi isolation room for a period of more than  a week. He is articulate and  candid about his life before, during and since his years at Poland Spring and  Parsonfield. "I don't care how personal you get," he says. "The most important thing is that the truth comes out about Ricci. He has no business screwing up kids, and making a fortune doing it. The state takes kids from messed up families, but they put them in places worse. If I was not messed up before I got to Elan, I certainly was afterwards..."  


He says: "When I first got there, I couldn't believe it. Everybody was  screaming and beating on each other.  I had to sit in these groups, and I didn't want to  talk to anybody. I feel that I was misdiagnosed. For one thing I didn't have a drug problem. Most of the kids that were in there were I guess  there for drugs because  I'd be sitting in the groups and they'd want me to talk about what drugs I was doing', what I was hooked on. And I said, 'listen I don't have any of that,' and they'd all say 'Oh yeah? sure !' as If I was denying it. Then they'd ask me if I hated my mother. They'd take out my file and read in front of everyone in the group, things about my mother and  her criminal record.  I didn't dig that, so I just didn't say anything. And then when I shut up,  they accused me of intimidating the group, said I was doing some violent act against the group members for not opening up. I was making people hostile at me. So everyone once in a while they'd set up a general meeting, and then throw me in the boxing ring until I lost. So I just used to try to run away all the time. Its the only thing I ever did; try to run away every chance I got. I tried about seven times, but they always caught me because they had this posse that would go out. If they caught someone they'd be rewarded by Ricci..."


"The first time I met Joe Ricci..." he continues, his voice getting softer, and more serious, "...was at a general meeting that was called by a guy named Jeff Gottlieb. I had tried to run away again, and Joe Ricci came in.  I'll never forget it, because he made me feel really worthless, you know  like I was an absolute nothing. He came in and I was called up along with a girl named Nancy, and another girl named Marie,  two guys named Ray, and  Johnny, and another kid named Sean.  So when  Joe Ricci came in to the house we were all sitting down around a table, and he announced:  'We have some cancer in this house,  and  any good surgeon knows the best way to get rid of cancer is to cut it out, before it spreads.' Then he called all of us up in front of the house, and asked everybody else if they had any feelings for us, so we all got screamed at. Then they put us in the boxing ring you know. Then at the end of the meeting Joe Ricci says ' Now  we're gonna put you upstairs in one of the rooms. It was a room about the size of this. (6x10) and they boarded up the windows, and boarded up the door and locked it. And he said 'Whatever goes on in there goes on.'  It was in July...I know it was in July, because it was my 16th birthday the next day... It was horrible. Six of us all  stuck in there together. The guys- Ray and Johnny would take turns beating each other. Ray would pound his head until he got tired. And they'd take turns having sex with the two girls. One of them didn't care, but the other girl  didn't want to, but they made her. Sean and Ray would keep her food, and that's how they got to her. The day I turned 16 I was sitting in the corner and I mentioned that it was my birthday, and Sean picked me up and said 'Oh it's you're birthday, I have something to give you...' He started to hit me in the face and stuff, and then, well he raped me in there," he  says, his voice trembling. 


"After Sean did that stuff with me, he made me do it with the others..." Stephen continued, taking a breath and observing: "Between that time, and one other time  I think it had a lot to do with me not having  normal relationships with  girls. It's really screwed me up, and during the past years I've gone from blaming my mother, or my social worker Mrs. Daley, for what happened to me at Elan. But I realize  it was really Joe Ricci's fault.  He didn't care what happened  to us in the room, or anywhere else. He was just in it for the money, and he didn't care about kids. He was running a business  and that's all it was."

Other punishments Stephen detailed included  cleaning toilets with bare hands, wearing signs, and doing meaningless chores just  to be taught a lesson: "I'd have to  push this wheelbarrow down to the lake in the summer, about a mile while wearing a winter coat," he says.  " And I'd have to get rocks out of the water, and fill up the wheelbarrow, and bring it back up again, then empty them out, and then fill the wheelbarrow up , and go back down to the water.  Other times I'd dig ditches and fill them up again. The whole time they'd be one or two people watching, and hollering  to hurry up. It was totally meaningless...and this was all just because I wouldn't talk in groups, or I'd try to run away...Sometimes I'd get a cowboy ass kick too,"  he recalled.  "One time Joe Ricci was there and he said he was sick of my shit, trying to run away and stuff. I tried to talk to some people who came up from Chicago to do some kind of investigation, and I think that's what he was all pissed off at. I never talked to them though.  Anyhow I got a cowboy ass kick then. That was when they took you and  threw you from room to room bouncing you up against the walls. All the residents would  drag you around digging you with their  hands,  punching you , and spitting  in your face. It was a lot worse than the ring.  It was really vicious."

Stephen  doesn't hesitate to compare Elan with the maximum security prison where he was incarcerated.  "Elan's much much worse...Here there's a lot of shit. But I get a chance for some solitude, to read, and I'm going to college. I 've also gotten to learn woodworking, and make some money in the prison store. At Elan, there was nothing positive, it was pure hell,"  he concluded. "You know the worst thing is the judge that sentenced me here (for 10 years ) lectured to  me saying I blew the opportunity I had at Elan...I don't understand how the courts  can legitimize a guy like Ricci who has harmed so many mixed up kids."

Maine School For Troubled Teens Closing [The Elan School]--March 23rd, 2011 (Source:

A school for troubled teens in the town of Poland is closing.

The Elan School has been open for 41 years.

In a letter to News 8 Wednesday afternoon, Executive Director Sharon Terry said declining enrollment and resulting financial difficulties is the reason for the school's closing.  For complete story with lies from the program included, click here.

Former Elan Student- A lifetime of bad memories  March 25th, 2011 (Source:

Mark Babitz is 50 years old and he can’t get the memories of his year at the Elan School out of his mind.

So, several weeks ago, this Chicago man traveled to Maine to visit former Elan sites in Sebago, Parsonsfield and Waterford.

“I had to get it out of my head,” Babitz said, and visiting Maine was the only way he could think to do that.

The tour brought back some ugly memories.

Enrolled at the school in 1975 by order of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Babitz was one of 11 students withdrawn from the school by that agency in response to accusations that children were being mentally and physically abused at the Poland school.

Babitz was one of three children who returned to the school, but he didn’t go back because he liked it there, he said. He went back so he could disrupt the place.

And he did.

Before Elan, Babitz had a long history of running away from home and stealing cars. “I was a wild, stupid kid who just had to learn on his own,” he said, and that defiance didn’t ease at Elan.

One day, he ran away from campus and stole a car in Lewiston. He drove to Augusta where a police officer saw him driving against traffic in the rotary. The officer gave chase and Babitz said they were soon zooming up to 100 mph, but he was never charged in that incident. Instead, he was taken back to school where students and staff worked to change his behavior. Babitz calls the program abusive.

He did not graduate from Elan, but left the school and stayed for a while at another home for troubled youths before he ended up serving time at the Illinois State Penitentiary.

“Elan prepped me for prison," he said. "When I got to prison, it was absolutely a walk in the park compared to Elan.”

When he was sent to Elan, Babitz said, “it was a time in my life that I needed more hugs than punches. And I went to a place where there was nothing but punches.”

[Complete article included above.  Hyperlinked title to original article source online.]

 Duck in a Raincoat by Maura Curley

"Author Maura Curley updates her 1991 book with new information and a dramatic epilogue, presenting a provocative portrait of Ricci as a drug addicted psychopath who terrorized adolescents at Elan and his employees at his racetrack.

This is the story of Joe Ricci, racetrack owner, and founder of Elan, a for profit treatment center for troubled adolescents attended by children from around the world, including Kennedy cousin, convicted killer Michael Skakel.

Elan operated for nearly forty years in rural Maine until it closed in 2011 because former residents - now adults - waged a campaign to tell their experiences of abuse via social media and anti-Elan websites. They are still seeking justice and considering class action.

Yet Ricci ran for governor of Maine posing as David facing Goliath, duped the the iconic news show 60 Minutes into broadcasting a favorable portrait of him, and convinced a jury to award him $15 million in a lawsuit he filed for violation of his civil rights."

Source and Link to Purchase:  Duck in a Raincoat by Maura Curley

Maine School For Troubled Teens Closing [The Elan School]--March 23rd, 2011 (Source:   POLAND, Maine -- A school for troubled teens in the town of Poland is closing.   The Elan School has been open for 41 years.   In a letter to News 8 Wednesday afternoon, Executive Director Sharon Terry said declining enrollment and resulting financial difficulties is the reason for the school's closing.  For complete story with lies from the program included, click here.  [See for more information on this program's history.]  For more on this story, click here.
N.Y. filmmaker focuses his camera on Maine school for troubled teens | Sun Journal//-->  N.Y. filmmaker focuses his camera on Maine school for troubled teens   KATHRYN SKELTON, Staff Writer   Lewiston-Auburn | Saturday, February 13, 2016 New York filmmaker Todd Nilssen is in the final stages of a two-year effort to produce a feature-length documentary on the notorious Elan School for troubled teens. Filmmaker Todd Nilssen, left, and a friend in a photo that Nilssen believes was shot in August 2007 during his graduation from the Elan School. He was 19 and had stayed two years at the Poland school. Submitted photo New York filmmaker Todd Nilssen during a filming trip to Maine. Nilssen, an alum of the Elan School in Poland, is working on a documentary on the former school and its impact, for better or worse.  Submitted photo The sign outside the Elan School in Poland as seen in 2006. Submitted photo A photo from Elan taken in the mid-1980s showing one student, known as "an expediter," or the house policeman, being yelled at by a superior for not doing a good job, according to filmmaker Todd Nilssen, who is shooting a documentary on the former Poland school. He's a former student who says he's not concerned about whether it will be hard for some people to watch. It probably will be. Nilssen, 28, said that as a student he was helped by the Poland facility's unconventional tactics, but he knows plenty of others weren't. He's trying to show its good and its bad. A three-minute trailer for "The Last Stop" released last month features former students sounding wistful, crying or swearing, and flashes a quote from Illinois state officials: "We've never seen anything quite so bizarre and degrading." It ends with archival NBC footage shot in 1979 of a 17-year-old girl in a dunce cap in tears as a counselor bellows at her that if everyone "had their way, they'd cut your throat, put you out of your misery and relieve the human race of having to deal with an ingrate like you." Elan opened in 1970 and shut down in 2011 after declining enrollment and a dogged online campaign to close its doors. "To me, this film isn't just for the people that went to the school, but also for the rest of the world who knew nothing about it and the underground industry it was a part of, the troubled teen industry," Nilssen said in a phone interview. "I think it would be great if the powers that be took a closer look. However, I'm not doing this for justice. I'm doing this because it's a story that needs to be told." Elan was founded at a former camp by a psychiatrist, Dr. Gerald Davidson, and businessman Joseph Ricci, better known in later years for being the outspoken owner of Scarborough Downs racetrack and a candidate for governor. Its tactics were featured in the 2002 trial of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel when he was charged with killing Martha Moxley in Connecticut in 1975. Former classmates testified that a young Skakel was forced into an often-used boxing ring at Elan and other peers didn't stop fighting him until — some claim — he confessed. In his film, Nilssen interviews a woman who saw the Skakel fight. Nilssen, originally from Long Island and now living in Manhattan, attended Elan from 2005 to 2007. He had gotten into drugs, been kicked out of school and was arrested for trespassing on school property and running from police. Nilssen's parents were in the middle of a divorce when his mother found Elan through a therapist. "I woke up at 5 a.m., there were two guys standing over me, 'You're coming with us, you're not going to run, this isn't a choice,'" he remembers. "I got thrown into a van and then ended up in Poland Spring like four hours later. She tried to get me to go the easy way. I was like, 'I'm not going to do that.' So I went the forceful way." Nilssen said a new set of rules came swiftly at Elan: No talking to anyone unless a third person was standing there listening. No going into a room alone. Punishment could be facing a wall or corner for months, or being yelled at by dozens of people at once. The tactics were known as "attack therapy." "It should be stressed that everything was managed and run by the kids. It was very 'Lord of the Flies.' We ran the program, we provided the therapy, the staff members were there for a check and balance to make sure nothing was getting too out of hand," Nilssen said. "If I explain what I went through, it's definitely harsh. But if I start to talk about what might have happened back in the '80s and the '70s, there was a chance you might not even believe me. They would dress kids up, you'd have to wear a sign, 'Ask me why I give (sex act) and degrade myself for money,' anything you could do to bring that person down and make them feel bad about who they are." The upcoming film's title, "The Last Stop," is a nod to a frequently repeated mantra at the school, he said. After Elan, it was jail or death. The school was the last stop. "That was kind of ingrained into my head, but I also thought that I could get something out of the program," Nilssen said. "I will say that I did. I kind of embraced some of the therapy there and learned some things about myself that were very valuable; that's not to say that I might not have learned those things through the natural process of life, just growing up." Nilssen, who works as a film editor specializing in commercials, music videos and corporate work, was looking for a project for his first film and quickly arrived at Elan. He put out a call on Facebook for former residents and students who would agree to be interviewed. He winnowed those to 15 and said he's designed the documentary around three arcs: what landed them there, life at the school and how they fared afterward. He plans to incorporate reams of research: old photos, state reports from Illinois and New York critical of Elan, clips from an NBC news piece, footage from the 1983 "Children of Darkness" documentary and an interview with Maia Szalavitz, author of "Help at any cost: How the troubled-teen industry cons parents and hurts kids." The trailer shows violence and humiliation. There's a re-enactment of a girl forced to wear a crown of tampons wrapped around her head, kids in shackles, kids doused with green goo. Matt Hoffman, a Virginia musician who was a resident at Elan from 1974 to 1976, said he's happy with the trailer and that the documentary is being made. He saw the girl forced to wear the tampons when he was attending the school. Hoffman isn't sure what the lesson back then was supposed to be. "From this three-minute film, it gives a voice," Hoffman, 57, said. "A lot of people in Maine didn't know really what this place was. The Elan story is big. It is so huge, it is so sad, it is so sick, the things that happened in there." Hoffman said he was subject to frequent abuse growing up and that he was sent to Elan after standing up to his father for the first time. Within months of being there, he attempted suicide by drinking shampoo. And once, after being kept awake for two days straight — he was tasked with writing a daily report that had to be error-free in order to sleep, but kept spelling the same word wrong, not knowing how it was really spelled — he stabbed another boy. "They didn't know how to build you back up; they knew how to break you," Hoffman said. "Only thing I can think of is I had a psychotic break. I didn't do it because I was sick, I did it because they were sick." He's hoping public officials watch the documentary and take note. Neither Elan's former owner Sharon Terry nor lawyer Ed MacColl, who represented Terry, responded to messages for comment about the trailer. "The Last Stop" is in post-production. Nilssen hopes to have it finished by the end of the year and to debut it in Maine before hitting the film festival circuit. "If (viewers) can't identify with Elan, they can identify with that teenage angst, that confusion when you're young," he said. "I think for some people it will be very hard to watch — I think it's extremely unpleasant, depressing and dark; it's not a feel-good story. In some areas it might be, for the people that were helped, but then there's the people that were severely damaged by it and their lives were forever ruined."   Source:
Police looking into 33-year-old death at Elan School LEWISTON, Maine (AP) " Maine state police are looking into a claim that a boxing match used as punishment at a now-closed school for troubled teens preceded a student's death from a brain injury three decades ago. Comment 0  1 By The Associated Press By The Associated Press Posted Mar. 15, 2016 at 4:53 PM Updated Mar 15, 2016 at 8:26 PM By The Associated Press Posted Mar. 15, 2016 at 4:53 PM Updated Mar 15, 2016 at 8:26 PM By The Associated Press Posted Mar. 15, 2016 at 4:53 PM Updated Mar 15, 2016 at 8:26 PM LEWISTON, Maine (AP) " Maine state police are looking into a claim that a boxing match used as punishment at a now-closed school for troubled teens preceded a student's death from a brain injury three decades ago. Authorities told Pam Newell in 1982 her brother, Phil Williams Jr., died from a brain aneurysm. She said she only learned two weeks ago that he had been forced into the infamous boxing ring at the Elan School the day before he died, the Sun Journal ( ) reported. "There's a lot of information that needs to be gathered," Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said Tuesday. "A great deal of time has elapsed since the teenager's death." Forced fighting was among several controversial therapies employed by the school, which closed in 2011. The practice emerged during Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's 2002 murder trial in Connecticut. Former student Ann Bowen told the newspaper Newell's brother was pummeled by teenagers wearing boxing gloves as punishment because staff members thought he was faking a headache. Another former student, Laura Allemang, said she remembers Williams going into convulsions. The school in Poland, Maine, was founded by the late Joe Ricci, a former heroin addict, and the late Gerald Davidson, a psychiatrist. Several former school officials said they'd never heard of the allegations. The death certificate for Williams cites a probable brain aneurysm as the source of "brain stem compression" and "massive cerebral hemorrhage." An aneurysm is a weakening of the wall of an artery or vein wall that can cause death in the event of a rupture. McCausland said another former student from Chicago came to him with the same allegation that a boxing match preceded the teen's death. He said they were forwarded to the major crimes unit, which is looking into the death. Williams ended up at Elan after he and his sister, both from Auburn, became wards of the state and were sent to a foster home in Rockland after their father was imprisoned. Williams was sent to the Maine Youth Center, then to the Elan School, after getting into trouble. Newell said she and her father, now 74, want answers. "I want to know," she said. "If he was murdered, my brother deserved justice." ___ This story has been corrected to show the victim was 15, not 12, when he died.  Source:


 Last Updated: April 5th, 2021

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