Agnew State Mental Hospital 1967

This little saga should start by reminding you that it was 1967, the decade of experimenting with sex, drugs and rock and roll, not always in that order.

agnewI had taken a large hit of LSD and was just coming on while sitting with some friends in the Gourmet House, a restaurant close to my home. For an hour I had been seeing double and triple with paisley patterns around the edges.

My voice had been reduced to little more than Neanderthal grunts and mumblings, unrecognizable to anyone other than my fellow trippers sitting around the table.

I looked up and somewhere through the cloudy haze stood my mother.

I tried to stumble out the words, “Hi Mom,” but the worried look on her face told me I wasn’t successful.

There may have been an attempt at a conversation, I don’t remember, but I found out later that in her frantic state over my condition that she thought was permanent, she went to the police to find out if there was anything they could do.

“Yes”, they said, I can only imagine rubbing their hands together in glee. I had been dealing ten-dollar bags of marijuana for quite some time, but because of my extremely paranoid and cautious nature, they had not been able to catch me.

Soothing her mother hen tendencies, they told her if she signed commitment papers they could have me brought in and committed to Highland County Mental ward for three days observation.

Because someone said it was dangerous to take acid two days in a row, I always waited a full day before taking another hit. For a year I had been experimenting with LSD and had lost count how many times I went under its influence.

On the second morning, two friends and I went into the woods and spent the day in LSD euphoria, romping through the forest, gazing at the creek and its inhabitants and gaining a better understanding of the universe.

That evening, as we were coming back to earth, we decided to go back to his apartment to see if we could scrounge just one more joynt from the sticks and stems of a kilo we had divided and sold a month earlier. The stems had been gone through with concentrated effort too many times and there was nothing left to scrape. Even the dastardly headache-causing seed husk had long ago been smoked.

Being inventive and creative persons, we decided that if we lit the fist-size lump of stems we could simply breathe the smoke as it floated into the room. It was a good plan, but as we later found out, wrought with problems.

So, there we were, sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room with a candelabra the size of an earth ball, dripping wax from the half dozen lit candles. We were having a grand time breathing the ever-thickening air from the burning stems in the bathroom, mellowing out from a long day.

Who knows how long we would have continued to sit there before the smoke completely used up all of the oxygen and killed us? Lucky for us a knock came at the door.

We looked at one another and I said, “Cool, someone to share this wonderful evening.”

I got up, stumbled to the front door and opened it.

Three burly police officers burst their way into the room, made a fast sweep of all of the rooms until they found the little dish with its burning stems, opened all of the doors and windows, and handcuffed us for possession of a controlled substance.

“You’re Nick Colyer?” the biggest cop asked.

I nodded.

“We have a signed document that says you will be going to Highland Mental Hospital for three days observation.”

It took twenty minutes before we were taken from the smoke-laden apartment and put in a police cruiser.

Our two cops were giggling, telling stupid jokes and wildly laughing at one another. The driver, in a very jovial mood, drove over the curb. He and his buddy howled with laughter and continued most of the way to the police station.

There was a short few minutes where everyone in the car was having a great time, but it ended when we were taken into the station and locked in a holding cell.

By midnight, the door to the mental hospital was unlocked and I was escorted into an office for admittance, then much later into a padded room.

The next morning, knowing I was under observation, I was my jovial, nonchalant self. I wasn’t about to give them any indication that I was anything other than a regular normal young man, though I had Jimi Hendrix hair that stood out to my shoulders and a wild, untrimmed beard to match.

Around ten that day, the doctor called me into his office and wouldn’t it be my luck that he spoke in a thick German accent. He didn’t understand more than two percent of my California hip, teenager lingo. So there we sat, he couldn’t understand any of my answers, nor I many of his questions.

By the end of the interview, I knew he had me marked as some kind of psycho case destined for a life on the mental ward.

Luckily for me there were interviews from other doctors who were a little more up on street language, and understood that I was just a regular kid. Both of them would have easily overpowered the German doctor’s willingness to commit me for life, except for the following circumstances.

It was midday of the second day when mom came to visit. She felt bad about how things had gone and she explained that all she wanted was the best for me.

It took a few years before I got around to telling her that I didn’t hold it against her. In fact, her cautions probably saved my life in more ways than one, but that is a whole other story.

A year earlier I had crossed paths with the legal system and as a result was on probation for three years. At the time of my sentencing the judge said that if I got in any trouble during my probation I would go back to jail to serve my full three-year sentence. Possession of a controlled substance was that kind of trouble.

Mom’s lawyer said if I went to court, that I would have to go back to prison in Colorado. The only other choice was to act mentally unstable and spend three months under observation in Agnew State Hospital.

From that moment on, I began acting a little weird, unstable and unreliable. By the end of the three days, all three doctors agreed I was a whack job and they shipped me off to Agnew State Mental Hospital.

One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest is exactly what happened to me on that ward. The characters were similar, nurse Ratchet and the attendants. I was McMurphy, the renegade loose cannon. The only thing that didn’t happen was me ending up with a lobotomy.

It was three months that probably saved my life, but I’ll save that part of the story for another day.

5 thoughts on “Agnew State Mental Hospital 1967

    1. Nik Post author

      Denise; So far I’ve written three hundred pages of my memories. Before I send out I have to go back and edit them which is the real job. More to come.

    1. Nik Post author

      Sixty six years so far. It’s been a great ride. Instead of novel writing, these days I’m writing little vignettes like this one about my life. It’s been fun.



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