Albert Brown waited for a message…

Posted 12/6/22

On the night of July 3, 1907, Albert Elmer Brown walked into a dark forest in Apponaug. The 27-year-old mill employee remained there all night, patiently waiting for a message from God.

Albert was …

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Albert Brown waited for a message…

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On the night of July 3, 1907, Albert Elmer Brown walked into a dark forest in Apponaug. The 27-year-old mill employee remained there all night, patiently waiting for a message from God.

Albert was born to Henry Calvin Brown and Mary Aldrich on Sept. 14, 1879 in Providence. He had one sibling, an older brother named Henry Calvin Jr., and their father was employed as a housepainter while Albert had worked as a store clerk before securing his position in the mill.

If there had been anything leading up to Albert's religious beckoning, it wasn't noted. He had previously left the home he shared with his parents to venture around the state and ended up in Warwick that summer. While in Apponaug, he was suddenly overcome with the belief that God was making contact with him. In addition to assuring him that his soul would be saved, God had also allegedly informed him that he was about to be given message which would redeem the whole world. Eager to become part of this global transformation, Albert went into the woods to wait for that message.

When he was led back out, the following day, the world was not redeemed and nothing and no one saved him from being transported to the Rhode Island State Hospital for Mental Diseases. There, physicians examined him and diagnosed him as being insane. The causes of his mental deterioration were reported by the doctors to be alcohol and cigarettes.

Albert was later labeled as suffering from a sub-type of dementia praecox, another term for schizophrenia, known as Hebephrenical. The specific sub-type did not include an occurrence of delusions and hallucinations as common as found in other types of schizophrenia. What it did include was a high degree of emotional responses inappropriate to stimuli; laughter, anger, happiness and other emotions usually being misplaced in various situations. The sub-type also shows up in unusual speech patterns, bizarre behavior and episodes of severe aggression or excitement.

Hebephrenical schizophrenia is a mental disorder with an onset at puberty. Usually, it becomes severe enough to be noticed by others when the individual it affects is between the ages of 15 and 25. Having remained a mysterious working of the mind for centuries, schizophrenia is believed, by experts, to be a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors affecting the afflicted person.

Throughout time, schizophrenia has included a high degree of religious delusions and hallucinations. It’s been long believed by many experts who study the illness that, when one begins hearing voices or seeing images that others cannot hear or see, they must come up with an explanation. Desperate for comfort within one's own mind, it is much more comfortable to believe God is speaking than to question why one's own mind is filled with disconnected voices and visions. It was a relief for one to believe oneself a chosen entity rather than suffering from a mental illness.

Albert spent the rest of his life as a patient at the Rhode Island State Hospital for Mental Diseases. He died there of pulmonary tuberculosis on Oct. 29, 1924 and was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Cranston.

 

Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.

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