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Crook Frightfulness

'A Victim'. CROOK FRIGHTFULNESS. Birmingham: Cornish, 1932; Birmingham: Moody Bros., revised edition, 1936.

A strange and slightly disturbing book. Some consider it unintentionally hilarious. It tells of how a young man whose business was rent collecting in London's East End became the victim of of a life-long 'persecution' by crooks, even as he travelled round the world - persecution by muttering and whispering, staring, gassing, obscenities and 'Ventriloquial Terrorism.' The writer believed that his tormentors possessed a "stethoscope apparatus that enable[d] them to hear [his] thoughts". The subtitle of the book gives something of its flavour : "They are the most powerful, terrible and pitiless killers, cunning, amazingly and enormously treacherous."  Bizarre Books (Lake and Ash) describes it thus:

"...Crook Frightfulness is the autobiography of a hunted man who believes himself to be continually hounded and molested by evil men, or 'crooks'. 'How was I to know that I had of my own violation opened the doors of Hell- to turn me from a cheery, care-free youth of 18 to a prematurely aged man, terrified by horrible men, threatening my sanity and life?' ...He also provides a detailed account of what he describes as 'ventriloquial terrorism', whereby '...a molester using ventriloquism may be in a house or building or walking along in a tram or bus or in a car, yet he can throw his voice anywhere undetected by those who are near them.' This technique gives rise to various embarrassing experiences, including one where 'I had just bidden adieu to a friend on the Aberystwyth Marine Parade and had just turned away from him when I heard the words-"The old sod"- said in my voice tones too!'

The book is listed at the site First-Person Narratives of Madness.

Contemporary reviews of the book (to be found in the 1936 reprint) mostly took the book at face value, believing that gangs of criminals followed the man round the world muttering insults. A brief reading reveals that the writer is suffering from paranoia, with many sane interludes in which he describes his travels in New Zealand, the West Indies etc., One giveaway is that wherever he is in the world the threats (uttered by passers by, people on roofs, passing taxis) are almost all the same e.g.'English sod' 'bum shit' 'sod him out' 'pooped out of England' 'the British skunk' 'the white dude' 'the beast' etc.,

A review in the Hampshire Telegraph in 1935 notes 'Students of criminal methods should obtain this book...exciting reading..." Far more is known about mental conditions now, medication is available and  police might now be more sympathetic to his complaints--in the book he is continually being ejected from police stations or pointedly ignored.

The first edition (not seen and valuable) according to a review in the reprint, has a 4 page leaflet accompanying it 'Ventriloquial Terrorism in 1932'. The author suggests a counter active 'detector' is needed that 'will give the direction and distance that the ventriloquial voice derives from...' The book is anonymous and the real author's name is so far unknown. A quote from the preface:

"Should the information herein be fresh to the police of this country, attention to it should be immediate, as at present the freedom of all is at the mercy of the underworld. This mind torture holds you continually in real torture, in horror of dread and in real agitation and anxiety and tends to make you lose all balance of mind.

If ever crooks worked hard and continuously and audaciously, they have in my case been hellishly so. Their object would whack the wits of the most astute. Probably they have had some successful and large and astounding coups by this ceaseless scientific assault and torture of the intended victim's brain.

They are so clever they give no clue, so that any you approach scorn its reality. The victim alone has the actual knowledge of it. There was no one to whom I could go for help. Eleven years of perpetual molesting and mental agony with no rest and without any protection under the British flag!!"

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