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Doris Hammack underwent controversial memory recovery hypnotherapy in an attempt to recall events from her childhood

On her own volition, Doris Hammack arranged to undergo hypnotherapy in an attempt to recover memories from her childhood, despite warnings from Detective Nelson and others that recovered‑memory techniques are controversial, and the results are not necessarily reliable.

She subsequently provided recordings and transcripts of those sessions to Detective Nelson and the YCSD.

The pre-hypnosis interview between the subject, Doris Hammack, and Dr. Sykas has been omitted for space. In summary, Doris stated she suffered from dreams and nightmares since childhood, most often producing images of fear and blood.

Beyond dreams, she carries a vague recollection of a male authority figure prior to her entry into the foster care system in Detroit. She is unable to recall a face or name, but believes this person to be a key figure in her life.

Dr. Sykas performed a series of tests that determined the subject's psychological state and her susceptibility to hypnosis, which registered high.

Listen to an excerpt from the second session

The hypnosis sessions transpired as follows.

Participants:

  • Dr. Sykas, hypnotist
  • Doris Hammack

Session One: 6/1/98

Dr. Sykas: Doris, I want to review with you a bit about hypnosis. Essentially, it's a procedure that will make you totally relax. Once you're relaxed, you will be able to listen better, hear better, to focus. Upon hearing better, whatever I say to you or whatever you say to yourself will sink in more and you will remember it when we are finished. This is simply a means of creating greater awareness. Since you will be more fully aware, you won't be asleep. You'll actually be in a super alert state, that is, in tune with your subconscious thoughts and memories while your body will be relaxed.

Doris Hammack: OK.

Dr. Sykas: You can interrupt the session at any time. You can do anything in hypnosis that you can do out of it, only you're less distracted. You won't do anything that goes against your will. We will try to find those memories you have that will help answer your questions, but you will watch anything unpleasant as if it were in a movie. Nothing can harm you physically. You will be safe. Is all this clear?

Doris Hammack: Yes.

Dr. Sykas: Now, it's time to concentrate and relax. I'd like you to focus on the bright silver dot on the wall. Look at that dot and relax.

[Dr. Sykas then proceeded to elicit a deep hypnotic state. After 10 minutes, the subject was sufficiently relaxed. Pinprick tests verified the depth of the hypnotic trance, and interrogatory proceeded.]

Dr. Sykas: Doris, you are very relaxed now, very safe, ready to peruse the vault of memories. We're venturing into your subconscious where all of those old thoughts are hanging around. You probably haven't called on these memories in a long, long time. Don't be frightened or startled by what you run into. Remember that the memories you have forgotten and are attempting to rediscover cannot hurt you. They are only the records of events that have long since passed. You are safe here today. Trust your subconscious mind to tell the truth. Feel free to let it narrate and tell me what it is saying.

Doris Hammack: [FACE CONTORTS]

Dr. Sykas: Doris, I want you to imagine you are five years old, sitting in the audience of a movie theater. The large screen is in front of you. It is blank. It's warm and safe, comfortable here. You will see the things you recall on the movie screen in front of you as if you were watching a movie. It cannot hurt you. You can be free to capture the images with all your senses: sight, touch, sound, smell. Every sensation experienced is forever recorded and locked away inside your mind. Coerce these experiences. I want you to tell me anything you see, taste, smell or feel of your childhood before you went to Immaculata. Now, Doris. What do you see and hear?

Doris Hammack: Fuzzy. A bottle. I see a bottle. It's a glass bottle. A beer bottle. Cars.

Dr. Sykas: Do you hear a car?

Doris Hammack: I hear a dog … somewhere further away. Below me.

Dr. Sykas: Where are you?

Doris Hammack: In a metal cage. No … I can stomp around and make it rattle. The sun is shining in. It's white and yellow. It's my place.

Dr. Sykas: Are you outside?

Doris Hammack: Yes. And high up. I'm on a building … beer bottle again. It's smashed.

Dr. Sykas: Can you see the dog?

Doris Hammack: I see the dog. He's running. … Down on the ground … he's running from the glass. … The dog is hurt.

Dr. Sykas: Did the dog get hit by a bottle?

Doris Hammack: It barked and lied down on the ground.

Dr. Sykas: Where does the glass come from?

Doris Hammack: From up high. The bottle comes down.

Dr. Sykas: Did you drop the bottle?

Doris Hammack: No.

Dr. Sykas: Is there someone there?

Doris Hammack: [WINCES]

Dr. Sykas: Doris, can you see if anyone is throwing the bottle?

Doris Hammack: And there's music…

Dr. Sykas: What kind of music do you hear?

Doris Hammack: Country music … it's playing in the back … in the background. … I like it out there alone.

Dr. Sykas: Are you alone?

Doris Hammack: I'm outside, high up. A fire escape.

Dr. Sykas: Can you tell who is listening to the music?

Doris Hammack: [WHIMPERS] Oh, I knew it…

Dr. Sykas: Everything's OK, Doris. Just relax. You're safe here today. You're just seeing a portion of your past on the movie screen. Can you describe who's there?

Doris Hammack: [SIGHS] Oh, it's him. The man.

Dr. Sykas: Is this the male authority figure we discussed earlier?

Doris Hammack: Yes. Yes, it's him. He is the one throwing bottles. He smells … like sick. Like he's sick. He is not clean.

Dr. Sykas: Can you tell me anything else about this person?

Doris Hammack: [PAUSE] He's loud. … He's shouting, angry.

Dr. Sykas: Do you know this man, Doris?

Doris Hammack: Yes.

Dr. Sykas: What is his name?

Doris Hammack: He's— he's Howard. [WHIMPERS]

Dr. Sykas: Doris, do you feel OK? Do you want to continue?

Doris Hammack: [TREMBLES] Yes.

Dr. Sykas: Who is Howard, Doris?

Doris Hammack: He's— I think he's— he says he's my father. I don't know.

Dr. Sykas: Has he spoken to you?

Doris Hammack: He speaks…

Dr. Sykas: Can you understand what he's saying?

Doris Hammack: Dog…

Dr. Sykas: Is he talking about the dog?

Doris Hammack: No. I see the dog. … I can look down and see it. It's very still.

Dr. Sykas: Does the dog belong to you?

Doris Hammack: I don't know. … I— I don't want the dog. He's far away. … He's talking to someone. And yelling.

Dr. Sykas: The man, Howard, is yelling?

Doris Hammack: Yes. [TREMBLES] He yells. I know his yell. I remember it now. He always yells.

Dr. Sykas: Is he yelling at you?

Doris Hammack: He always yells.

Dr. Sykas: Is he angry at you for something?

Doris Hammack: He's telling someone else. … He's moving about wildly and clapping his hands. Oh. … He breaks the bottle and grabs somebody.

Dr. Sykas: Do you know who he's grabbing?

Doris Hammack: A man. Another man. They're kind of laughing. Oh no, he sees me! He wants to throw me in! [WHIMPERS] I think he might come outside and throw me at the dog! I'm crying. No, hush! Hush! He gets me when I cry! … He gets me. Do you know what happens to kids who cry?

Dr. Sykas: What happens to kids who cry?

Doris Hammack: The water, they go in. He puts them in. [CRYING]

Doris Hammack: [EYES WIDEN] Can we take a break?

Dr. Sykas: Certainly. We'll stop this session and try again later. I want you to just relax and take this time to go over what you've recalled. You can wait in the next room, have a Coke, collect yourself.

NOTE: Doris decided she was too tired to continue this day. The second hypnosis session was held the next day. Dr. Sykas took the subject into a deeper state of hypnosis and worked with Doris on age regression back to the time of her first dreams.

Session Two: 6/2/98

Dr. Sykas: OK, Doris, you're seeing yourself as a little girl now. Can you remember waking up from a nap? Can you remember the bad dream you had?

Doris Hammack: I remember the first time I had the dream and remembered it. At the home. I'm five. There was blood on it.

Dr. Sykas: Where did the blood come from?

Doris Hammack: It's on me.

Dr. Sykas: Did you touch it?

Doris Hammack: It gets bigger. It expands! It smells like something. I don't know, I can feel it in my stomach. … It gets bigger every time.

Dr. Sykas: Do you remember the first time you ever saw blood?

Doris Hammack: [PAUSE] I sat in it. … It was on my leg, and I cried to get it off. … I cried to her to move it.

Dr. Sykas: Is this in the dream?

Doris Hammack: No, no … in the old house. I'm in the old house.

Dr. Sykas: Do you know where the old house is, Doris?

Doris Hammack: Hope Road, the one with the well.

Dr. Sykas: Doris, who did you cry to?

Doris Hammack: [VOICE HIGHER, CHILD-LIKE] Off me, off me, Bit! Off me!

Dr. Sykas: Who is Bit?

Doris Hammack: She's … she's just there. She's Howard's friend. I don't— no, she protects me.

Dr. Sykas: What does she say?

Doris Hammack: [TREMBLES] He's gonna get me! What happens to kids? Float 'em, float 'em. Don't pick me!

Dr. Sykas: It's OK, Doris. You're safe here. Just relax.

Doris Hammack: [PAUES] Get it off. Blood on my leg. I sat in it on the floor. … She pulled my arm hard.

Dr. Sykas: Do you know this woman?

Doris Hammack: I stay with her. She holds me. … Sometimes she hits. … I can't hear them. Nothing to say.

[LONG PAUSE]

Dr. Sykas: Do you remember how the blood came off?

Doris Hammack: Water. … wipe it off. Water from a pond. It's white and yellow again. And it's too hot to breathe. [VOICE HIGHER] Wanna go inside. Where him go? … Where him go? [TREMBLES] Why does he yell so? Why does he hit?

Dr. Sykas: Doris, is the man there?

Doris Hammack: Yes. … He makes us go away. He yells and he hits. … I don't want to go away. I'm scared of blood.

Dr. Sykas: Is this part of the dream?

Doris Hammack: I don't know. I never remembered this part.

Dr. Sykas: You mentioned floating. Is someone floating?

Doris Hammack: He said it. I don't know. He went down to the water when we leave.

Dr. Sykas: Where did you go?

Doris Hammack: I went to sleep. … I'm asleep. Under the bed, on the carpet. It's hot and wet. … There's yelling. But I'm sleeping.... [WEEPING]

Dr. Sykas: Doris, would you like to stop now?

Doris Hammack: [NODS YES.]

NOTE: The subject's condition was one of bewildered silence as she rested for 30 minutes following the session. Dr. Sykas conducted a post-hypnosis interview to determine the effect of the session on the subject. Doris was sent home to rest with plans to resume the following day.

Session Three: 6/3/98

Dr. Sykas: Doris, since you've had a chance to think about these things we've uncovered about your past, do you feel any sense of relief or accomplishment?

Doris Hammack: Relief? Well, no. I don't think it's relief that I'm feeling. I'm questioning why on earth I came here, if you want to know the truth. Well, a part of me thinks that. Oh, I don't know! I'm … I guess I'm more confused than ever.

Dr. Sykas: Tell me about that.

Doris Hammack: I mean, these things, these images. Bit — it must be Ms. Carmichael — but … and that blood and him. … I can retain some of it now. I can see. Kind of fuzzy, but I can see. It's like recalling a dream. You don't get all the details so much as an overall feel about things. And I don't feel good, I can tell you. It's a feeling of fright. What have I stirred up?

Dr. Sykas: Doris, there's no need to rush to any conclusions. You have to give these images time to work themselves out in your mind. Become familiar with them and not afraid. The important thing is that you've grasped this lost childhood.

Doris Hammack: Well, now more than ever, it feels like it has grasped me.

Dr. Sykas: Today we'll see if we can help you gain control over the memories, put them in perspective.

NOTE: Dr. Sykas worked with Doris for an hour an half in this final session. Using the techniques of age regression and viewing events on a movie screen, Doris was able to add some additional detail to her recollections. Dr. Sykas attempted to take Doris to the day of the Izard murders.

Dr. Sykas: Doris, we're back to the day now where you see the blood on you. Remember, you're safe in front of the movie screen, watching events unfold. Nothing can hurt you. Let's start in the morning. Do you remember breakfast?

Doris Hammack: Yes. … I had pancakes, I like it when she makes pancakes.

Dr. Sykas: Who is she, Doris?

Doris Hammack: Mrs. Otts, she's nice. I like her house. I'm happy here. She has kittens.

Dr. Sykas: Do you play with the kittens?

Doris Hammack: Oh, yes. They're fuzzy, funny-looking. They can't walk very well yet. They fall over. [LAUGHTER]

Dr. Sykas: Now let's move on to when you leave the Otts house that day, Doris. Do you remember?

Doris Hammack: Don't want to go home! Stay! … Biddy, I want to stay with the kitties. Not yet.

Dr. Sykas: Biddy? Is this Bit?

Doris Hammack: Yes, Bit is Biddy. She came to get me early. I don't want to leave now.

Dr. Sykas: Do you leave with her?

Doris Hammack: Yes. [TEARFUL] We leave.

Dr. Sykas: Where do you go?

Doris Hammack: Back to the old house. He's home.

Dr. Sykas: Who is there, Doris?

Doris Hammack: It's Howard. He's yelling. He smells bad. He's mean today. … Wanna leave ... [WHIMPERS]

Dr. Sykas: Do you leave, Doris?

Doris Hammack: Not yet. I'm under the bed. They're yelling. … Oh, no, yelling … hitting … she wants to know where they are. She saw, she saw! I'm so scared.

Dr. Sykas: Where who is, Doris?

Doris Hammack: I don't— I don't know. [MOANS] It's bad. I know it's very bad. Who are they talking about?

Dr. Sykas: Who's there, Doris?

Doris Hammack: Just them, Howard and Bit. She's scared too. I can tell. She saw. I want to leave. I want to go to sleep.

Dr. Sykas: What are they saying, Doris?

Doris Hammack: Don't know. … He says he had to get rid of something. … She's yelling at him. I don't know what it is. Little children … she's hitting him. I fall asleep. She grabs my arm. We're leaving. I sat in the blood. … It's on my leg. … Off me, off me, Bit! Off me!

Dr. Sykas: Who is leaving?

Doris Hammack: Bit. She takes me to her house.

[PAUSE]

Dr. Sykas: Doris, what's happening now?

Doris Hammack: I'm in the metal cage again, on the fire escape, in the other place.

Dr. Sykas: What happened after you went to Bit's house, Doris?

Doris Hammack: Don't know, don't remember. I'm on the fire escape.

Dr. Sykas: What's happening, Doris?

Doris Hammack: He's mad at me. Billy was here, and we spilled the beer. He's mad. Don't want to go in. Oh no, he sees me! [TREMBLES] He wants to throw me in! [WHIMPERS] I'm crying. No, hush! Hush! He gets me when I cry! … He gets me. Do you know what happens to kids who cry?

Dr. Sykas: What happens to kids who cry?

Doris Hammack: The water, they go in. He puts them in. [CRYING]

Doris Hammack: [EYES WIDEN] I can't go on anymore today.

NOTE: Dr. Sykas ended the session at this point.

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