Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

For all general discussion of any kind.

Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby TennisPro » Sat Jul 31, 2010 6:15 pm

This portion of this post was a personal attack on an individual. It has been deleted. There is no room at all at for personal attacks on individuals of any kind. The remainder of your post has been left as you wrote it. Please be advised that while ALL opinions are fine at, however, this is not fornits and personal attacks are not allowed. The next time you attack any individual member of this community action will be taken to make sure you can't do it here again. Please enjoy and feel free to express any opinions you may have BUT personal attacks on members of any kind will not be tolerated at all.

I, Jessica Lauren Charnov declare and state as follows:

1. The Elan School located in Poland, Maine, emotionally abuses its students and forces other students to emotionally abuse other students. I was in the Elan School
from March 2004 to June 2007.

We were told we had to partake in an act called "getting our feelings off." This consisted of us yelling, swearing at and degrading our fellow students. We would do this twice a week for an hour each day. When another student got his/her feelings off for you, you had to just sit still and not move a muscle because the slightest movement would suggest you were "reacting." I remember being called such names as "psycho," "bitch," "asshole," "hospital case," "freak," "disgusting," "stupid," "crazy," etc. I was told things like "I fucking hate your guts," "I hope you fucking die," "stay the fuck away from me," "I don't fucking like you," "fuck off," etc. I was called more derogatory names, but this is just to give you an idea of what is systematically done.

I was told that I was a "lazy piece of shit," there were many more names and phrases, I could go on for days. If we did not "get your feelings off" we were punished and told that we were never going to change, that we were just being the same person that got us sent there. If we retorted back with anything, we were sent to scrub floors, toilets, sink, showers, sometimes whole rooms as a form of discipline for hours on end. We were taught that not "getting our feelings off" was wrong and a punishable offense. I still hear the screams of my fellow students throughout the day at times. [Editor: If you visit the Elan facility during an afternoon with no scheduled tours, you will certainly hear non-stop hateful screaming for hours on end.] I don't hate them for it--it was what we had to do to to "move up in the program" and "better ourselves."

2. The Elan School forces students that are in certain positions of higher power (in Elan jargon, known as strength or high-strength positions) to handle responsibilities that should have been solely staff responsibilities. Responsibilities included but were not limited to; assisting staff with restraining fellow students, watching students who were at risk of running away, chasing after runaway students and standing in front of doors to be a security guard throughout the day. In my house/unit in Elan (Elan 8) I was considered to "be a strength" for about half of my stay (about a year and a half).

On my 17th birthday, we went to Boston, MA as a rare house trip. I was celebrating my birthday and having a good time when another student decided to take the opportunity to run away. Once we saw that she had run away, myself and the other strength in our group were told to run after her. So we did, but we couldn't catch up to her. The police then caught her later on that
evening and brought her to the Cambridge police station. Our group took a separate van to go pick her up from the police station. Two students (Kara and Lisa) and a staff (Missy) were sent in to escort her into the van and to take her back to Maine immediately. She tried to attack them and said that she was going to kill herself so she was discharged and put into a psych ward instead.

We were all told it was our fault that she ran away, and some girls lost their "strength" status because of it. According to the staff, it was all of our faults, and we were lectured about how she is now unable to get the opportunity to change as we did.

I was forced to aid in restraining one of my best friends at the time, Gillian. Myself and about four other girls held her down as she spit at us and tried to bite us. She screamed "fuck
you" and "get the fuck away from me" over and over and over again. It hurt me so much, I didn't want to restrain her...but I had to because it was my "job" or "duty" or whatever you want to call it. If I had refused to do so, I would be "compromising the security of others" and not "doing my job." I would have lost my strength position, reduced to scrubbing floors for hours a day and had fellow students "get their feelings off for me" in groups and being told by staff that I was "a failure and a coward" for not "stepping up to the plate."

In order to become a strength position you had to do what the staff told you, whatever it was, no questions asked. What students were instructed to do from there first day of arrival is "put blind faith in staff." This principle was drilled into our heads to the point staff members were "saviors" to us. So being a "strength" made you feel as though you were closer to God, and the higher up on the ladder you were, the closer you were to "getting better" and changing. You had to lie, manipulate and look good at the expense of others to do so, but it was all about the label.

3. The Elan School fits the clinical description of a cult almost perfectly:

"Limitation of communication with those outside the group. Books,
magazines, letters and visits with friends and family are discouraged or even

When you first come in, you are stripped of anything that you used to wear clothing-wise, and told it is wrong that you dress that way. You are given plain t-shirts and a pair of jeans that they ask you parents to send up for you. Girls shirts have to be shirts that don't show any skin, otherwise you would be wearing it to "seek attention" and bring your sexual appeal into the program, according to staff. There were more guidelines as to what you could or couldn't wear, but to be honest there were so many I can't remember them all.

When you come in you are not allowed to talk to parents until you write a letter telling them all they things you have done wrong and have them write back to accept the letter. You also were not allowed to have visits for more then several hours unless you were in a "strength" position. You were not allowed to go back home unless you were a high-strength position. The only contact that you were allowed to have was with you immediate family at first. If you became strength and "changed" you could talk to non-extended family depending on the circumstances of your family.

The message conveyed to me by [staff member] Missy Esty was, "You miss your parents, don't you? Well the only way you can see them for more then a few hours, is to listen to us and get a strength position." But even strength positions didn't guarantee visits. In my three years and a third months of being there I only saw my father twice (not including when he was there for my high school graduation). Tanya [staff member] told me, "If you love your father as much as you say you do, you would be higher then a non-strength now, wouldn't you?"

We weren't allowed to read magazines, books, or the entertainment part of the newspaper unless we had privileges which were obtained by continuing to follow the rules. Phone calls with parents were very restricted. Students received one phone call a week for fifteen minutes. These calls were monitored by other students or the staff in case you had anything bad to say about your experiences at the school or with staff members. Although family visits aren't banned, they are very limited and you are told what you can and can't tell your parents. Contact is very restricted as well as censored.

New members become convinced of the higher purpose and special calling
of the group through a profound encounter, i.e. an alleged miracle or the prophetic
word of the group."

There was a staff member by the name of Marc Rosenberg. He was feared so much by students, and he was like the back bone of the school. He harbored a lot of the old-school teaching of Elan. Seeing that he was one of the first batch of graduates to leave the school, when he came to the school, he would run general meetings, even stopping meals to do so. [Ed.--A general meeting is when a student is required to stand in front of the entire house and is graphically berated or made to cry by staff. After the observing students are incensed at the student's "crimes," all students are required to stand in front of the victim, four at a time, and "get their feelings off" for the subject of the GM.]

A general meeting was called for myself because I had not made my bed consistently in the manner of perfection required. Marc Rosenberg raised his voice at me, making a joke, saying, "Why don't we just have you scrub out the dumpsters wearing a pink polka-dotted dress with a a toothbrush. All you are living in is filth, it would suit you very well." Afterward, everyone proceeded to laugh. Then, bringing out my bed before the entire student body, he told me I was not allowed food until I had made my bed ten times in the manner he would accept. I made my bed, asking him to accept it. He picked up all of my bedding and threw it on the floor, saying that it was not acceptable and to do it again. Along with some swearing, and the words, "When are you going to get it? This isn't acceptable, and this isn't going to work. You will not 'get over' [be lazy] on me." I was denied lunch that day, and almost dinner until [staff member] Tim Mishu accepted it and allowed me to eat dinner. Marc came only twice my whole stay for a period of a few months. It was mandated by staff members to scream at people during a general meeting, regardless of whether or not it was how we actually felt. This would gain us praise in the eyes of Marc Rosenberg. His word was considered to be much more meaningful, and much more important than that of any of the other members or staff there.

"An explicit goal of the group is to bring about some kind of change, be it
global, social or personal."

Every night, a student was required to read the "Elan Philosophy" to the entire student body right before dorm time. We were told to live by it and we would do well. It was a nightly ritual. Every student was convinced that it was solely their life goal to graduate the program. Failure to do so meant that you were now worthless and would never get along in the world--a hopeless case, unable to change, unwilling to change and unwanting to change, or so labeled by the staff.

"The group's perspective is absolutely true and completely adequate to explain everything. The doctrine is not subject to amendments or question. Absolute
conformity is required."

People who disobeyed the rules were treated poorly. A girl who was in my dorm decided to kiss another guy [a rare occurrence]. There was no sexual relationship and nothing more than a kiss. She was told she was going to end up just like her mother because of it. Her mother was found dead on the side of the road in Georgia a few months prior. The girl, Lydia, was considered a whore by the whole house. The staff had convinced us of this, or, had told us that was what she was. She was then made to clean trashcans, toilets, bathrooms...just about everything, while the rest were told to relax. If you were considered "shotdown" (moved to the lowest position in the program), you had no privileges at all.

"A new vocabulary emerges within the context of the group. Group
members "think" within the very abstract and narrow parameters of the group's
doctrine. Loaded terms and cliches prejudice thinking."

Certain terms that we were in the habit of using in the outside world we were not allowed to speak of in Elan. We were only allowed to call a person by there first name. Nicknames were not permitted and would result in a disciplinary actions. Any foreign languages were strictly forbidden. If you spoke a foreign language with another student, you were immediately interrogated and accused of planning to escape, even if you were just trying to practice a language so that you could keep it. I lost a lot of my French that I knew because of this.

"Pre-group experience and group experience are narrowly interpreted
through the absolute doctrine."

Everything that happened before Elan was classified into being done because you felt one of five subcategories of feelings: Anger, Hurt, Concern, Intimidation, and Jealousy. All of those feelings came from two primary feelings: Pain or Fear. Every action you had ever done was categorized into something you did because you felt Pain (Anger, Hurt, Jealousy) or Fear (Concern, Intimidation). If you claimed to not feel either one of the two, you were considered lying to yourself, no questions asked. So, we lived in a world where the sum of our choices boiled down to being in pain or being in fear. Happiness was something that we never really expressed because we were so engrossed in feelings of pain and fear that happiness seemed like such a surreal and false feeling. The only thing that was ever validated was the pain and fear we felt or the pain and fear we had caused others in our pasts/present.

"Salvation is possible only in the group. Those who leave the group are

When you turn 18 you are given the option to do what's called, in lingo terms, "sign out." Since you legally are under your own custody at the age of 18 in the United States, you may choose to leave Elan at your own free will. But, the staff would call people who signed out "cowards" and people who were just too "scared of change." When a student wanted to sign out, they had to go through a lot of emotional guilt-tripping just to do it. There was no just handing the papers to you and leaving. Sometimes you would be removed if you were over-demanding for your papers and "being negative," as you had other younger students (like myself) who were brainwashed into crying because one of their "family" was leaving prematurely. [Ed.--Removal is one of the higher punishments at Elan. Students are isolated and made to sit in a chair all day. They are supervised by strength students and not allowed to talk, although non-strength students may never talk anyway. Removals leave after being subjected to a general meeting. Prior to the publicity Elan received in the Moxley case, this was known as "the corner."]

Students that left were told they would resort to a world of drugs. The staff would bring up their past history and throw it in their faces, saying that they would "resort back to being the same person" if they left. They would also tell them that they were "abandoning their fellow students." If the student endures the emotional torture and decides to leave, they are immediately talked down upon, and we were warned not to turn out like them.

Anyone who was pulled out of the program by their parents were considered to be in this category as well. Basically, anyone who did not complete the program was made out to be "a failure", even if they had managed to obtain a high school diploma. When I had received my high school diploma, [staff member] Peter Rowe told my mother, "You should start looking into a new group home or placement to place her in, and don't bother putting her in college. She's not going to make it." He told her this just because I had not graduated the program and I had only graduated high school.

As if that wasn't enough, there are many issues with the way that Elan School staff members conduct themselves, as well as their treatment of students. There have always been issues. There were issues in the past before my attending, and there are issues to this day. This school needs a review for accreditation, as well as a review of their staff. I can understand if a punishment was, perhaps, cleaning. However, the amount of time being exposed to chemicals as well as forced to do physical labor with the threats of general meetings or something else are not ethical. Nor is dragging someone's bed out in front of the student body and forcing them to make it over and over, or degrading them because it is not to the liking of the staff. Had I not agreed to make the bed, I would have been put in the dumpster and made to clean it with a toothbrush.

On Elan's website, there are interview videos claiming how the school creates a change in people for the better. These things are not true. Horrible things happened to myself and many others there. There are enough usergroups and discussions to prove that, with people telling their recollections of what had happened during their stay there. This is not a correctional facility. If it is a school, all of the instructors need a license to teach. I have heard that many of them are lacking this. I still have nightmares about some things that happened there, as well as about what I was made to do to my friends and others. This has been taken lightly for far too long.

I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct--November 15th, 2009.


Also, just for arguments sake, what if just one person who attended Elan had their entire life destroyed because of it? Would that make it right for the 10 who were mature, or lucky, enough to have utilized the few tools Elan offered. Well here is one who it didn't work for: ... the_a.html

A TROUBLED YOUNG LIFE. The accused: dad says she has struggled with demons

“She was never in serious trouble,” her father, Timothy Riordan, told the Daily News in an exclusive interview. “Most of what we did was to keep her out of trouble.”

But early Tuesday, Krystal Riordan, 20, stood in a dingy motel room in Weehawken, N.J., and watched as her ex-con boyfriend raped and sodomized an unconscious teen he had abducted in Manhattan, police say.

When 18-year-old Jennifer Moore attempted to fight off her attacker, Riordan allegedly did nothing to help her. Instead, she stood by as her boyfriend, Draymond Coleman, 34, a small-time pimp, beat and strangled Moore to death, police say.

Even after Moore was dead, Riordan allegedly did not try to walk away. She helped Coleman carry Moore’s naked corpse, stuffed into a suitcase, to a Dumpster two blocks away, where Riordan and Coleman threw the body like trash, police say.

“To think of the possibility that a child of your own, adopted or otherwise, could have anything to do with it - that’s heartbreaking,” Riordan’s father said.

Wearing a neatly pressed white shirt, Timothy Riordan, a certified public accountant, struggled for words at times while talking to The News outside his upscale home in a rural section of Orange, Conn.

“I never knew Krystal to hurt anybody. The only person she hurt was herself,” he said, adding that he would never turn his back on his troubled daughter.

“As a parent and a Christian you never close the door,” he said. “There’s always hope - but there also has to be reality.”

Desperate to help Krystal when she was a teen, her parents sent her to the Elan School in Poland Spring, Maine, about 140 miles north of Boston.

The school - a live-in rehab center for children of the wealthy that charges about $49,000 a year - is notorious because it is where Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel of Greenwich, Conn., allegedly confessed to killing his 15-year-old neighbor, Martha Moxley, in 1975.

But even beyond Skakel, the school’s rigid methods have come under scrutiny. Critics call the techniques abusive, but supporters, including some graduates, credit the center with turning around many lives.

The school’s Web site says the highly structured environment teaches kids a work ethic: “They learn that occasionally failing is part of life, that they can start again and succeed, and that development of resilience is fundamental to success.”

But Elan did not lead Krystal Riordan to a better life. Instead, her sister Nicole Riordan says, the rehab center was the reason Krystal met Coleman.

A classmate introduced the pair about two years ago, the sister said. The couple have a 1-year-old daughter, Trinity, who is in foster care.

When Nicole visited her sister in New York about 18 months ago, she said, it was clear Coleman was pimping Krystal out.
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Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby Ken Zaretzky » Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:16 am

Not many of us were destined to have a "Normal High School Experience" anyway. I hear that a lot "that we were robbed of a "Normal Hich School experience". I would say in fact that I robbed me of my normal high school experience.

There is room here for all sorts of opinions about Elan.

I was one of the first. My director was Joe Ricci. Did Elan help a lot of people? IMHO, Yes, I think it did, Did Elan hurt a lot of people? IMHO, Yes I think it did. Everyone's experience at Elan is different and the same.

Those of us who worked there, like myself, Danny Bennison and others would all agree with the following statement I think. Everything I did as a staff member, Assistant Director and Director at Elan was in an effort to help people.
Did people get helped because of my actions while on the staff of Elan? Yes, I think they did.
Did people get hurt because of my actions while on the staff of Elan? Yes, I think they did.

But I never took any action while a Staff Member, Assistant Director or Director in which I intended to do any harm to anyone. It was ALWAYS my intention to help them.

I also became a full director on my 18th birthday and left Elan By the time I was 20. I was certainly a little young for that sort of responsibility.

There were things that happened to me while I was a resident at Elan that certainly did me good and some that absolutely hurt me. I don't believe that it was anyones intent to harm me.

So to me, the answer to the question "was Elan good or bad?" is yes.

and No Doug, I haven't heard from Dan in years but I harbor him no ill will.

Ken Zaretzky
Graduate Elan One 1973
Staff member Elan Five 1974
Staff member Elan Six 1974
Assistant Director Elan Six 1974
Resident Director Elan Six 1975
Resident Director Elan Five 1975
Resident Director Elan One (Three) 1975

P.S. That was a long time ago kids.....And Danny Bennison, Please give me a call (You have my number) We have something in common that I have been dying to tell you about for over 30 years.

I hope everyone is making thier lives good. When you grow up you have to realize that sometimes someone else caused your problems but they are your problems, you have to solve them.

Ken Zaretzky
Posts: 12
Joined: Sat Aug 07, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: Chicago Area

Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby Ken Zaretzky » Mon Sep 13, 2010 2:41 pm

I'm not popping in to argue. Just to correct a misstatement. There WAS a well publicized Elan Reunion held in Chicago a number of years ago (I know this because I hosted it). Around a hundred people flew and/or drove in from around the country. These were people from all different times, 70's, 80's, 90's. I would have to say everyone had a great time. and EVERYBODY who had ever been at Elan was invited,

So there has been at least one (and maybe more) Elan Reunions.
Ken Zaretzky
Posts: 12
Joined: Sat Aug 07, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: Chicago Area

Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby Peter Moore » Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:16 pm

"I am sure that if, instead of the Ring, Elan used a punishment known as the 'dick-chopper', a bunch of ex-Elan people would make claims about how rich their lives were, now that sex was not a driving force."

Actually I know a director who threatened to enforce a similar punishment during somebody's GM. No joke.

Not to take any position, but I laughed my ass off at this line.
Peter Moore
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2009 3:46 pm

Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby OverIT » Sun Sep 19, 2010 1:23 am

A portion of this post was a personal attack on an individual. It has been deleted. There is no room at all at for personal attacks on individuals of any kind. The remainder of your post has been left as you wrote it. Please be advised that while ALL opinions are fine at, however, this is not fornits and personal attacks are not allowed. Please enjoy and feel free to express any opinions you may have BUT personal attacks on members of any kind will not be tolerated at all.

I went there, went through tons of shit, including a ring, a runaway, a beating, countless corner time and much more. Guess what, I make a shit load of money. I have two well adjusted children, and a loving wife who nags at me endlessly. I went on to do great things in my life, and continue to raise the bar for myself, repeatedly.

Sure, I might be a little butt-sore over my experiences at Elan. But, guess what??? I MOVED ON... Forget your past, stop dwelling, don't relive it every day. There is no don't need to focus on the "Doomed to relive it" cliche's they told you.

Wake-up, anger is consuming what could otherwise be quality time in your life. Don't care? Feel passionate about what happened to you, great!! Stop wasting your clock cycles throwing pebbles into ponds, and get something legitimate going. Pathetic attempts to rally support from disenfranchised students is amateur.

If you really want to make change, lobby state congress in Maine, or make waves in DC. Sitting here wont do shit, so they sit here and bitch and moan for sympathetic ears.

Get over it. If they're doing bad things, then let them suffer the eternal damnation of karma, instead of eternally damning yourself with the venom of hate.

FO-REELZ, you need to take a walk in the world of happy, and move on.


Brad (no, i did not like my E8 experience, but I moved on) Fred.

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Joined: Sun Sep 19, 2010 1:14 am

Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby Ken Zaretzky » Sun Sep 19, 2010 9:43 pm

There are a lot of people who agree with you. I do. Then there are a lot who don't. Here at we have always allowed ANY opinions as long as they are not and don't contain personal attacks on any individual (that's just mean, cruel and generally non productive.). Thank you though for posting your opinion which I happen to agree with. However, if anyone else has a different opinion we'll keep letting it be expressed here as long as it is not meant (and doesn't) represent a personal attack on any person (alive or dead).

What won't ever happen here is this board turning into the sort of freak show some others have where Elan people act like fools for the publics entertainment.

Thanks for posting,

Ken Zaretzky
Posts: 12
Joined: Sat Aug 07, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: Chicago Area

Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby FranLupo » Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:31 pm

I was in Elan for just about 2 years from 90-92. I was in E3 then transfered to E7 where I graduated a few months later. I have to say that I am kinda tired of hearing the complaints about how Elan ruined someone's life, how they still have nightmares 10 years Elan is the reason they got in trouble after they left etc. Personally, ELan saved my life. If you had a bad experience there, maybe you should examine what your actions did to cause it. Stop blaming other people for everything. If it wasnt Elan, you'd blame something else. Elan is a super structured enviroment. It works to fix your life when you allow it to. Just like smoking, you will quit only when you are ready to. I have friends who left Elan and got in trouble after...who later woke up and put into practice what we learned and who are thriving in life right now. I also have friends who either ran away and were murdered (RIP Dawn) or who left and never utilized what they learned and who committed suicide (RIP Maurice). I ahve friendships that I have made of which I hold til this day. The facts remain, Elan showed me how to live life right, how to feel and deal with the things I felt. I am sorry that it didnt work for all of us, but that is no need to try and ruin a place that has saved and can continue to save lives!
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Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby dannyb50 » Tue Oct 05, 2010 4:22 pm

Thanks Fran this is a inspiring letter. We are responsible for our actions today and I also realized that I have to be open to others and their experiences.
Yes, at times it seems some of us just can't let go of yesterday no matter who was to blame. I feel for these folks and pray they finally find their answers so they can be happy too.
There are also people that are very happy and content in their lives yet heard a calling to protest against the injustices they felt Elan perpetrated on them and others and are still doing.
I through long thinking have come to the conclusion that I don't have the final say on what happened to the thousands of us who went to Elan, so many experiences have been shared by so many on various web sites, that they all can't be wrong or right. I also found out that when I judge them (my fellow Elanians) I push them away.
Once again, thanks for your thoughts. I appreciated them.


('75-'77 Elan 3/5)
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Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:12 pm

Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby JoShow » Tue Oct 12, 2010 7:35 pm

you should be ashamed of yourself
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:12 pm

Re: Those who got out and did nothing should be ashamed

Postby dannyb50 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:47 pm

JoShow wrote:you should be ashamed of yourself

Who are we talking about or is this a general comment. :?
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Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:12 pm


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