Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Delusions & Grandeur

Descent into Madness

Between the mid to late 1860s, Minor worked at several hospitals in Virginia and New York as an assistant surgeon under contract for the Army. He immersed himself in his job and began working long hours, earning the rank of captain.

<em>The Professor and the Madman</em>
The Professor and the Madman
Although Minor was excelling professionally, his mental health began to show signs of deterioration. He became increasingly anxious, constantly fearful of hooligans attacking him. According to Simon Winchesters The Professor and the Madman, he even began to carry a gun illegally, when out of uniform. Moreover, Winchester suggested that Minor, embarked on a career of startling promiscuity, which led to his needing treatment for a variety of venereal infections. Minors friends and colleagues began to notice that he was becoming increasingly agitated and aggressive.

Fort Barrancas, Florida
Fort Barrancas, Florida

Minors behavior became more bizarre   and unpredictable over time. It was so severe that it caught the attention of his superiors, who became concerned for his welfare. In 1868, Minor was transferred to an isolated Army base named Fort Barrancas in Florida. His superiors hoped that a reduction in workload would diminish his strange behavior. However, his mental state degenerated even more and he began to suffer from delusions. 

That same year, Minor was admitted to a U.S. government hospital for the insane, known then as St. Elizabeths Hospital, where he remained for a year and a half. Upon his release, he was formally retired from the Army and granted full pay and pension for having served honorably. In the fall of 1871, Minor boarded a steamer for London in the search of rest and relaxation.

Minor took up temporary residence at a hotel in Londons West End before settling into a rental flat in Lambeth. Although many considered Lambeth sleazy, it served his purpose well. He had easy access to brothels, which he frequented continuously. His sexual urges became compulsions and he spent a majority of his time seeking female companionship, as well as cures for the sexually transmitted diseases he often contracted. His compulsive behavior was yet another sign of his deteriorating mental state. 

During this time, Minor began to hallucinate almost daily. He believed that Irish militants were hiding under his bed, coming through his windows and from the ceilings during the night. He complained to people that they would attack him and make him perform vulgar sexual acts. He also claimed that they would threaten to kill him before disappearing into the night.

Although Minors complaints were initially alarming, most dismissed his experiences as delusions and the ranting of a mad man. However, he seemed harmless, so few paid attention to him or his unusual behavior. It was only after the death of George Merrett that they took Minors mental illness seriously.

Minors murder trial took place in April 1872 at Kingston Assizes court in Surrey. During the proceedings, the jury learned of Minors history of mental illness. It was clear that during the time of the murder he was not in control of his behavior and after a brief trial he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. On April 6, he was judged a certified criminal lunatic and sentenced to the Broadmoor mental hospital, then called a criminal lunatic asylum to be held in custody until Her Majestys Pleasure be known. He would later become Broadmoors longest resident.

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