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Unraveling the Meaning of Marilyn Manson's New Teaser Video

Marilyn Manson's new teaser video, by which he announced his new record label Nuclear Blast and introduced us to new music after nearly four years, is also rich with imagery and symbolism in its brief one minute and ten second duration. It's not clear if this teaser is complete in itself or just a portion of something else to come, nonetheless I observed a possible explanation as to what we may be looking at, and I wanted to share my thoughts and open it up to criticism so we can arrive at the truth. From what we have gathered so far, we know that Manson is bringing back the imagery of the Tryptich ( Antichrist Superstar , Mechanical Animals , Holy Wood ), with a special emphasis on the revolutionary theme of Holy Wood , since a parallel is being drawn to what inspired its creation (Manson being blamed for inspiring the Columbine shooters, the cancelation of his tour that ensued and his ultimate comeback) with Manson's current troubles of accusations against him and his s

'Session 9', Repressed Memories and the Marilyn Manson Cases

In the summer of 1995 my mother was working the morning shift in a Honey Dew Donuts in a small section of a convenience store in Framingham, Massachusetts. It was a short term job as she was transitioning back into a career as a hair stylist, which she had stopped for about 6 years due to my family owning a few restaurants mainly while I was in High School. It was typical donut shop work, making coffee and serving donuts for customers.

My mother had a frequent customer that came for his coffee almost daily. He was, as she describes him, a very nice man, pleasant to serve, a professional look. I was in college at the time, and not up on the local news, so one day my mother calls me and tells me how a frequent customer of hers that she saw almost daily and was friendly with, was on the news and had been arrested for the murder of his wife. The name of this man was Richard Rosenthal, a 40-something year old financial officer at John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance.

Then my mother told me the horrific details. On August 29, 1995, Richard Rosenthal strangled his wife Laura to death, carried her out to their backyard in Framingham, and dissected her body. With a rock, he smashed her face beyond recognition, and placed her heart and lungs on a stake as a symbolic gesture or trophy. There was so much blood in the backyard that the fire department decided to hose down the lawn and wash it away. It was reported that she was referred to as "Jane Doe" on the arrest report because she could not be visually identified.

Richard Rosenthal did not have a criminal record. He was a highly paid executive in a prominent insurance company. One would not believe him capable of such a crime, but the shocking murder was committed. The reason? Well, after partially concealing his wife's mutilated body in the mulch, he took his 4-month old baby girl and drove off to nearby Marlboro, where he was apprehended by police after there were complaints he was talking crazy about gun control with random strangers. When the officer asked what was on his clothes, he replied: "That is blood. I had an argument...I overcooked the ziti." Apparently he had burnt some ziti, his wife must have yelled at him, so he brutally murdered her.

The Burnt Ziti Murder Case is one of the most grotesque crimes in the history of the state. One officer dealing with the case who interviewed my mom told her that it was the most horrific murder he had ever seen. On November 7, 1996, the jury rejected Rosenthal's insanity defense, and he was found criminally responsible and given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

On August 10, 2001, a low budget horror movie was released inspired by the Richard Rosenthal murder case, directed by a Boston native named Brad Anderson, and the movie was called Session 9. Anderson had previously only directed romantic comedies, and this was his first film in a different genre. The film took place almost entirely on location at the Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts. In an interview with About Film, Anderson talked about the inspiration behind the story, even though he gets some of the details wrong:

"The actual story itself, the story about Gordon's journey, was kind of inspired by a murder that occurred in Boston in the mid-Nineties, '94 I think it was. This guy Richard Rosenthal, who was an insurance guy, just a regular guy… lived in the suburbs. I guess his wife had just had a miscarriage or something, and he was starting to become somewhat unhinged. He came in one day, and his wife had burned the ziti on the stove--his evening meal--and something in him snapped. He killed his wife, and then he proceeded to cut out her heart and lungs, and stick them in the backyard on a stake. He left it there for a couple days, and he went to work… back to John Hancock in downtown Boston, like it never happened. When he was finally caught, they asked him why he'd done it, and he truly couldn't remember the act or even why he had done it. It was something that had been so buried in him, and then again after he had done it he had buried it back down there so deep that it was just… It was the monster side of him that had somehow reared its ugly head. And there's something about that--this was a big story back in Boston in the mid-Nineties--and there's something awful about that notion of a seemingly normal everyday young family man who leads a fairly banal normal life and then just cracks, and just becomes, you know, the monster. That is, I think, something that everyone in a 9-to-5 job can relate to potentially, to becoming unhinged. That was a weird little anecdote that fertilized some of our story."

Speaking about settling on a location for the film, the director said in an interview with Fangoria, "I lived in Boston for a number of years, and I would drive by Danvers all the time. When Steve [Gevedon] and I were first brainstorming, we didn't have the framework of what we wanted to hang our horror film on. But then I remembered Danvers, and we thought it'd be cool to set a story there."

Danvers State Hospital, or the Danvers State Insane Asylum, is a well-known landmark to Bostonians who travel north on Rt. 95, since it is a huge spooky structure situated high up on a hill overlooking the highway. One of the interesting things about the town it is located in is that Danvers used to be known as Salem Village until 1752 when it changed its name, and Salem Village is where many settings associated with the Salem Witch Trials took place. Danvers State Hospital was a psychiatric hospital built in 1874 on Hathorne Hill, where the main Salem Witch Trials judge John Hathorne once lived. Reports were made that various inhumane shock therapies, lobotomies, drugs, and straitjackets were being used to keep the crowded hospital under control. This sparked controversy. During the 1960s as a result of increased emphasis on alternative methods of treatment, deinstitutionalization, and community-based mental health care, the inpatient population started to decrease. In 1992 it officially closed, after years of decline. In 2006, most of the hospital was demolished, keeping only a few areas of the original ornate building, and the property was turned into expensive apartment buildings.

Before Session 9 came out, I was always fascinated by the Danvers Insane Asylum, especially because of it being located on the hill where the main judge of the Salem Witch Trials lived. One of John Hathorne's grandsons was American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, who added a "w" in his last name to not be associated with the atrocities of his grandfather. When I heard the movie Session 9 was coming out and that it was filmed at the Danvers Mental Hospital, I went to go see it opening night with my wife at the time, my sister and her husband. After the movie, at around 10:00pm, because we all loved it, we were curious and decided to drive up to the Danvers Mental Hospital to try to get a good look at it up close, even though we knew it would be very dark. However, when we arrived and went a little passed the entrance, a police officer pulled us over and asked all of us for our identification. Apparently it was private state property for years and therefore illegal for anyone to trespass, though some locals would manage from time to time to climb the hill on foot. You certainly wouldn't want to walk inside the building at night, cause not only is it very spooky and eerie, but very dangerous structurally and also due to the asbestos. We explained to the officer that we had just seen a horror movie about the place and were curious to see what it looked like up close. He had no idea what we were talking about. The officer let us go with a warning, but he confirmed for us that we were the first of I'm sure dozens of people who would later make the same type of pilgrimage there after watching Session 9. In fact, it became such a demand to go there, that once a year a contest was held for a dozen or so people to be allowed to go on a guided tour and a screening of the film on the property. Unfortunately, I never heard about this till well after the apartment buildings were built, and now you can walk the property freely. That night, as me and my companions were escorted off the property by the police officer, he did drive us by the closest road near to the asylum which allowed us to get a pretty close up look of it, and it was amazing.

As for the movie itself, it is about Gordon Fleming, the owner of an asbestos abatement company in Massachusetts, who makes a bid to remove asbestos from Danvers State Hospital. Desperate for money, he promises to complete the job with his crew in only one week, despite requiring two to three weeks. While surveying the job site, Gordon hears a disembodied voice that greets him by name. The men begin their job, and crew member Mike discovers a box containing nine audio-taped therapy sessions that were recorded with Mary Hobbes, a patient who suffered from dissociative identity disorder. Mike begins listening to the tapes in the ensuing days. In the nine sessions, Mary's psychologist attempts to unveil details surrounding a crime she committed at her home two decades prior. Mary exhibits numerous personalities who have unique voices and demeanors.

Without going into all the details, eventually what happens in the film is Gordan begins to mentally unravel and his crew gets picked apart one by one. The reason for this is because of a tragedy that took place at home on the night Gordan got the job at the asylum. He had come home with a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but when he leaned in to kiss his wife hello, a pot of boiling water on the stove fell on him, severely burning his leg. In a rage, he says he slapped his wife, but we later learn that he does far more than that.

In one of the film's most disconcerting scenes, Mike (played by co-writer Stephen Gevedon) tells the story of Patricia Willard, one of the hospital's former patients. As he narrates, the camera shows first images of the inside of the ruined hospital, and then sequences of insects crawling on the grass. Director Brad Anderson says that he showed Peter Mullan, the actor who plays Gordon, the sequence of a spider attacking an insect and said that it "defined his character's path."

Test audiences suggested that the scene be shortened, but "happily Anderson ignored their requests," stating, "We had a mind from the get-go this movie was gonna be a movie that took its time." The resulting scene remains one of the most unsettling in the film.

The story of Patricia Willard, who recovered repressed memories of elaborate Satanic ritual abuse by her parents, turns out to have been essentially a hoax. While Patricia Willard's story isn't real, like many aspects of the film, it was based on real events - in this case, the "Satanic Panic" of the '80s, which included many accusations of Satanic ritual abuse that mirror what is described in Mike's recounting of Patricia's story, though the real cases were more likely to target daycare centers than the child's own family.

The fact that these stories proved to have been every bit as false and fabricated as the one Mike tells, often the result of "coercive and suggestive interrogation by therapists and prosecutors," hasn't stopped many people from serving long jail times over the years as a result of false accusations of this kind of ritual abuse.

And so we ultimately come to the reason I am writing about this movie in relation to the Marilyn Manson cases. Session 9 from beginning to end deals with the retrieval of repressed memories, and the questionable credibility surrounding such stories and practices.

In Session 9, we learn that Gordan Fleming has repressed his memories of various horrific incidents and eventually throughout the course of the film his memories recover and we the audience together with Gordan come to a realization of these repressed memories. Then we have Mary Hobbes, who also throughout the course of the movie in nine session recordings we come to a realization of the horrible things she has done that are deeply embedded or repressed in her memory through various personalities and mirror Gordan's realization. Finally, we have the hoax where the movie begins that sets us up for what is to come, the story of Patricia Willard, who claimed repressed memories of Satanic ritual abuse. You can also couple this with the location of the asylum being where the the Salem Witch Trials judge lived and the false accusations and verdicts associated with that. It is therefore a movie about the realization of repressed memories, but it is also an ambiguous film, for which even upon multiple viewings you can come to various conclusions.

Anyone familiar with the Marilyn Manson cases will be fascinated with how repressed memories and their ambiguous realization play a role in this film, and I highly recommend it for that reason, and also because it is a great psychological thriller which came out at a time when movies like this were rare, feeding off of the psychological horror of the Blair Witch Project, but in the spirit of slow self-realization horror films like The Shining, The Others and The Haunting.

The accusations against Marilyn Manson are often based on multiple accusers coming to a realization of the abuse they claim to have suffered by him many years after the incidents and usually after attending therapy. The claim of repressed memories on the part of his accusers has been one of the major red flags in his case, because there has never been a case recorded that confirms repressed memories to be true and corroborated by evidence; in fact just the opposite. For one accuser to base their claims on realization techniques stemming from repressed memories is at best highly unlikely, but for multiple accusers to base their claims on such a myth as repressed memories in regard to one man is inconceivable and impossible, and though such stories may serve well in horror movies, in reality they have no basis in fact.