In order to gain some insight into Moody’s methods, I’ll give here the story of one of the case files which he cited in his treatise. The patient was only referred to as Marla; most likely a fake name used to protect her real identity. Marla presented to Moody as a patient suffering from numerous personal issues that she felt were keeping her from leading a normal, healthy social life. She was neurotic and suffered from chronic anxiety and depression. She struggled with both personal relationships and professional relationships, having been through many boyfriends and jobs. The catalyst for her seeking Psychiatric help was a nervous breakdown.
After several weeks of sessions, to include some sessions of hypnosis, Moody determined that her neurosis was rooted in her feelings of guilt towards her father. Marla’s father was a stern man who was mentally abusive in how he manipulated Marla’s emotions. Marla and her father’s relationship was horribly strained up until her early 20’s. He was heavily controlling and she rebelled against his attempts to control her so thoroughly but he would always manage, in the end, to force her to feel guilty about her behavior. Usually this would end in him drinking too much and breaking down into a drunken fit of apologies and entreaties for her to understand that his actions were out of love and not out of malice towards her.
Marla’s mother had left her husband when Marla was just a small child and there were also issues of guilt associated with Marla not feeling like she was good enough for her mother’s attention and approval. Marla’s mother had died several years after leaving of some unknown reason and had been so estranged from her ex-husband and daughter that Marla had no real closure with her mother. Marla had no siblings.
Marla tried to distance herself from her father once she reached her 20’s but he would always manage to call or contact her, usually in a fit of drunkenness, begging for her assistance and playing upon her guilt. At one point Marla met a man and they dated for several months in which time Marla had, through a struggling willpower, managed to avoid her father and his antics. Tensions built to ever increasing extremes and her boyfriend began to grow tired of the inconvenient intrusions of Marla’s father.
One night, he drank himself into an uncontrollable rage that led him to Marla and her boyfriend’s doorstep. Marla and her father argued in the front yard, screaming at one another, and causing such a commotion that Marla’s boyfriend had to intervene. The old drunk became ever more belligerent towards the young man until the argument became physical. This escalated quickly out of control and suddenly Marla’s father attacked. In his liquor-addled brain, however, he was too dull of sense to find his mark and the boyfriend found a rock and crushed the old man’s skull. He fell dead.
The authorities arrived and the boy was immediately charged with murder. The outcome of the trial was that he was found guilty and the man was given a life sentence for his crime. The relationship between Marla and her boyfriend ended as well.
Marla was left feeling like she was the cause of both her father’s death and her boyfriend’s incarceration. The guilt plagued her for near 20 years at which time she found her way into Moody’s care at the age of 41.
Marla was also a semi-religious person, not devout but open to the idea of a supernatural reality. Dr. Moody took her feelings of guilt and her open mindedness towards the supernatural as traits he felt would be a perfect fit for one of his test subjects.
Moody’s experiment entailed subtlety in causing Marla to be haunted by one type of “The Guilty Haunting”. He could never overtly persuade her to believe she was being haunted, though. In order for his theory to work, he could only expose her to the right symbols that would push her to believe some type of apparition was haunting her.
The first thing Moody did was to convince her to move into Shockley House for a short period of time. Having her as an inpatient would allow him more control of her care and her environment as well as more ability to observe her.
The room Moody prepared for Marla was carefully decorated to include a large, dark portrait of a man with an intense gaze whose eyes seemed to follow you no matter where you moved in the room. There were many other lesser pictures, but all contained subjects whose eye produced a similar such optical illusion. The room was also painted and decorated with darker colors with the lights engineered in such a way that the room was only ever dim at best.
The real priming of Marla’s psyche took place in the one-on-one sessions with Dr. Moody. During these sessions Moody steered Marla into conversations about her relationship with her father and why she felt his judgment still held sway over her life. Each week there were also sessions of hypnosis; in these sessions Moody would help her connect the symbols of judging eyes with her guilt. Of course, Marla would have no memory of what was discussed while she was under hypnosis. And, while Moody did allude to judging eyes always upon her, he never told her directly that she would see any ghosts or mysterious figures stalking her.
Finally, after nearly two months, Moody’s efforts paid off. Marla was found early one morning in the living room looking quite haggard and obviously shaken. Moody brought her into his office and during this session Marla became emotional and began sobbing. Marla told Dr. Moody that she needed to leave Shockley House but would not articulate exactly why. Moody had to coax her for quite some time till she finally revealed that she had seen a shadowy figure several times in the house. The first time she saw it was at the end of the darkened hallway as she was walking from the bathroom to her room across the hall. She described the figure as a tall, dark figure with pale eyes intensely staring at her.
She quickly ran into her room and convinced herself that she had only seen a trick of the shadows in the hallway. It was many nights later that she saw it again and this shook her up so bad that she began to suffer from insomnia. The room became an intolerable place for her. The previous night she had awoken to see the figure standing in the corner of the room watching her. This is why she was found in the living room.
After this success, Moody convinced Marla to remain in his care but agreed that it would be better for her to move out of Shockley House. His treatment plan for Marla took a different direction after this. He stopped focusing on the symbols that encouraged her guilt and began to treat her in a manner that removed those guilty feelings.
This particular case was an example of a very successful case. Not all cases progressed in such a fluent manner. In some cases it took more time to yield results. In other cases Dr. Moody eventually resorted to medications. Generally, he tried not to augment the treatment with drugs, but was willing to do so when results were not forthcoming. And finally, in yet other cases, there were no results at all.
Most unusual of all, though, was how the cases took a dramatic turn towards the end of the research. Just before Dr. Moody committed suicide, the patients began to experience extreme hauntings much more easily than prior patients. This anomaly was quite inexplicable to Matt and me until our own research struck a similar crescendo of terror.
Looking back upon this now, I expect some might see with clarity the unethical aspects of Moody’s research. Keep in mind that in his day, such experimental techniques would’ve been considered normal fair. Also be aware that our research took a slightly different approach in which the ethical concerns were addressed. Still, considering the unintended course things took, our naiveté is no excuse for inflicting such horrors as resides in Shockley House upon anyone. And, while I stand guilty, it was poor Matt who paid the ultimate price with his life just as his forebear, Calvin Moody, did.