The Author’s Story

The following is the author’s personal account of spending one year in a now defunct experimental drug treatment program that operated in south Florida. The program was called, The Seed, which was founded by a convicted felon, and admitted alcoholic, who was dishonorably discharged from military service. His name is Art Barker, the self-proclaimed “father” of, The Seed, and the “Seedlings” who where helplessly trapped in a disturbing for-profit scheme that left those children in a perpetual state of helplessness, manipulation, and fear, all of which Barker thrived upon.

More than forty-five years after The Seed’s operational license was revoked by government officials, the tragedy and injustice continues. Countless children had their lives destroyed, after being subjected to Barker and his ilks pathology. Too many have committed suicide, with no one being held accountable.

I was fourteen-years-old boy on the day I was taken to The Seed, under false pretenses by my mother, who had been deceived by the program’s propaganda, that a heroin epidemic was on its way to south Florida. Ironically, I had never done drugs.

I participated in team sports, football, basketball and baseball. I was an adamant surfer and award winning fisherman, as my father, who was divorced from my mother was a professional sports fisherman. On  the day I was tricked into The Seed, I was on my way to the beach to surf. My mother volunteered to give me a ride. She had never given me a ride to the ocean prior to that day, as I always had to resort to hitchhiking, which she was entirely aware of.

Hitchhiking in south Florida is quite dangerous, and risky. It was during that time that Todd Peyton and Mark Wilson had gone missing and would remain an open file until they were dug up under John Wayne Gacey’s basement. While cruising the streets of south Florida, the infamous serial killer had picked the boys up hitchhiking from the same beach that I often got rides to and from. Gacey received a lethal injection on May 9th, 1999, after confessing to the murders of Todd and Mark, and many other children he had murdered. Todd’s three brothers would eventually be forced into The Seed.

Florida is a haven for criminal opportunists, fleeing felons, sexual predators, pedophiles, and convicted felons. If I wanted to get to the ocean, the only choices available were to ride a bike, with a surfboard under one arm as the south east wind wailed, or walk along the railroad tracks to the intersection of 167th st., and Biscayne Blvd., and  thumb a ride. More than once I was picked up by a sexual predator. Fortunately for me, nothing ever came of it. A ride from my mother meant at least that one time, I didn’t have to be subjected to that.

I loaded my board into my mom’s old station wagon, and soon we were on our way to the beach. So I thought! My mother took a detour, and I ended up at an abandoned blimp hangar in Opa Locka, which is where Hulon Mitchell Jr., aka Yahweh ben Yahweh, the founder and leader of the hate group, Nation of Yahweh, had ordered the murders of former members. Opa Locka is a black ghetto. It certainly isn’t a place where a mother should be dropping off Caucasian children to remain with strangers for an indefinite period of time.

I spent about three months at the blimp hangar, which is the location that The Seed called home until the program’s owner was evicted by the city.

The unannounced initial stop with my mother, under the pretense of paying a visit to my two sisters, (13 and 16) who had disappeared a few days earlier. I was concerned about what had happened to my sisters, and was relieved to know that I was going to see them. My mother pulled her car up to a guarded gate, and stopped at the barricaded entrance. The barricade was removed by young men who appeared to be barely out of their teens. I thought the entire circumstance odd, and was extremely suspicious from that point on. Why was my mother driving in a ghetto? A place she often avoided; and who were those young white men, and why were they in an area of Miami that was unsafe for them to be in? The young men waved my mother’s car into the compound.

Once inside, the entrance was barricaded, and the gate locked. Where was I? Is this where my sisters were? If so, why? Many thoughts ran through my mind. In a state of curiosity, I was led inside the dilapidating structure. Once inside, I was notified where I was. I was told that I wasn’t going to the beach. I was told, I wasn’t going anywhere. My mother left. I was forced into a chair in a closed off area, and held down until my mother was gone. I could hear her start the car, drive away, the gate open, and the sound of her car fade into the distance.

Immediately I was inundated with questions as to what drugs I had done. Where was my “stash” hidden at home? The same questions were asked again and again. Each truthful response was met with, “You’re a liar.” What are the names of your friends, and what drugs did you friends do? According to The Seed staff, all my friends were drug addicts, and if they weren’t doing drugs, then no doubt they had a druggie attitude, and it wouldn’t be long before they were doing drugs and would end up dead, in prison, or in an insane asylum. The staff wanted to contact each of my friends parents, and state that I had ratted them out. Welcome to The Seed.

After being stripped searched, and having everything taken from me, (which I never saw again) and in a state of shock, I was led toward a large group. I was brought in front of this group, and introduced. The entire group shouted, “I Love You.” There was an empty seat in the front row, and I was put in it. I was told I was not allowed to speak, and if I needed to use the restroom I had to seek permission, as using the restroom was a privilege reserved to those that cooperated. This was the initiation to what would be one of the most disturbing periods of my life.

I would spend more than twelve hours each day confined to a straight back metal chair, forced to listen to The Seed’s version of what god was, and the insidious indoctrination into the program’s founder’s concept of what a child was supposed to behave like. From 10-10 every day, seven days a week I observed countless tortured souls, doing whatever  it took for them to be able to go home. At the end of each day, around 10:15 p.m., I was turned over to complete strangers, some quite hostile, abusive and belligerent. For the first week I was moved about from place to place. I felt like I had been kidnapped, and as anyone who had been held hostage would feel, it was disorientating.

At the end of each day, exhausted from the stifling heat, the moldy indoor air, endless speeches, and program oriented propaganda, I was subjected to sleep deprivation, and forced to face endless scrutiny sessions, and interrogations, that demanded me to disclose as much information about myself, and friends as possible. Until early morning hours I had been forced to write what the program founder called a, “Moral Inventory.” These interrogations sessions required me to exhaustively detail what I had done during that day, what my thoughts were, and how much I had participated in the daily “rap” rituals. I was subjected to an endless Q&A, which required me to answer questions until there was no questions left to respond to.

I would come to learn that a few days prior to being brought to The Seed, my thirteen-year-old sister was removed by force from a junior high school class, by complete strangers, and dragged to an awaiting car where she was rolled up in an old rug, and thrown into the trunk. Thereafter, she was ushered to what would become a nightmare that stole a full year from her life as well. My older sister was sixteen at the time. She had also been duped into the program under similar circumstances. The relationship we had with our mother would never be the same after this traumatic experience.

I was a popular kid in school and I loved to surf, play sports, run track, play guitar, and take long bike rides to the beach. Having never used drugs or alcohol, I was forced to spend every day, day after day, after day, listening to “druggies” tell stories of how drugs had turned them into sex slaves, burglars, and conmen. The girls claimed they would resort to anything to obtain the cash they needed to get their next high, which generally meant prostitution. Considering the girls were age 9-18, even after hearing this pattern repeat itself over, and over again, I did not believe any of what I was hearing. And the vast majority of it wasn’t true. The operators of the program used these communications as fodder to obtain local, state and federal financing to fund their sham. My father had no idea what was happening to his children, as he was out-of-town in the northeast where he was working as a boat captain. To make matters worse my parents were in the throes of a nasty divorce.

During the entire year I was forced to remain at The Seed, I wasn’t allowed to attend school, or to socialize with any of my “druggy” friends. If I did, it was to my own peril, as this meant starting the entire program over again from day one.

Hollywood writers of psychological horrors couldn’t create a fiction as terribly demonic as The Seed. It’s absolutely true when they say truth is more terrible than fiction. The kids in that farce were subjected to physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse by a monstrous for-profit regime. Legal authorities, prosecutors, and judges from Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach and other jurisdictions, violated the most fundamental of rights, and constitutional laws pertaining to minor children. During that time, if a minor had any kind of run-in with the law, be it shop lifting, truancy, an argument with a parent, they were court ordered into The Seed.

The Seed staffers used twisted logic in an attempt to get a child to conform to their demands. Identity theft and removing individuality was one such technique. For example, if you were a musician, you were no longer allowed to be a musician. If you were a surfer, you were no longer permitted to go to the beach. If you were into sports, you were not allowed to be an athlete. In fact, “Seedlings” weren’t even allowed to go to school. Constant spying, snitching, and outright making up lies about other “Seedlings“, was proof in and of itself that one had conformed to The Seed’s sick doctrine of fraud. This occurred on a daily basis as every child suspected of any infraction faced starting over at any moment. With no rationale whatsoever, when one faced such wrath, they ultimately returned to the front row, and started the program all over again, from day one.

If one had any property like record albums, or fashionable clothing, Seed staff stole them, and kept the items for themselves. One former victim stated that a Seed staffer had taken his entire album collection, and was told that the albums would be destroyed because they were “memories of his druggie past.” When that staffer was transferred to a new Seed located in Ohio, the staffer filled the trunk of his car with those albums. This was standard conduct on the part of Seed staff, and why not, those that ran the program were all convicted felons, who chose to go to The Seed, instead of prison. In the above  stolen records incident the victim confronted the staffer about his albums being druggie items and questioned why they hadn’t been destroyed, the staffer said, “Those records were druggie items for you, not for me.” The staffer drove off with hundreds of dollars worth of recordings that didn’t belong to him. Having your property stolen from an “old comer“, “old timer”, or staff member was a frequent injustice imposed upon the program’s victims. The victims were forced to face the injustice silently, for fear of showing, a “druggie attitude“, which resulted in a forced start over. A heightened level of fear, and intimidation permeated every aspect of the indoctrination techniques that never ceased at any stage of the program.

Seedlings is what those poor misfortunate children were called once they entered the program. A Seedling wasn’t allowed to talk, or go to the bathroom unattended. They weren’t allowed to live at home. They were forced to spend the night with complete strangers who had no professional training or experience. All were convicted felons with convictions that included robbery, attempted murder, assault, drug possession, prostitution and rape. There were no criminal background checks performed on those that often became predators, and even if there were, nearly all of the staffers were convicted felons anyway, who had been given a choice by the judiciary, enter The Seed through a court mandate, or face long stints in penitentiaries, such as Raiford Prison. The staff at The Seed were criminal elements, and outcasts from society. These people lacked any moral capacity, and were generally deviant, and uneducated. The revealed in the power provided to them, as they had always been the weakest elements of society.

Initially, local, state, and federal government funded The Seed without having first initiated any investigation into the programs activities. There was no government oversight, or the utilization of any checks, and balances. Day after, day after day, the “newcomers” were forced to sit in metal chairs for twelve hours or longer. They were forced to listen to endless banter called, “rap sessions.” Those sessions covered a limited amount of topics. The language used sounded like that of a low budget 60s cult film. It was absurd, unprofessional, and wasn’t the kind of slang that was used during that period, or from south Florida. Most of the topics were related to how newcomers were the absolute dregs of society. Young girls, some pre-teen, and as young as nine, were called dick sucking whores, and much worse. Young girls were forced to “admit” that they would do anything for a “fix.” A more factual reality is that most of the girls, generally ranging from fourteen to seventeen years of age had never even kissed a boy.

Newcomers were not allowed to talk. Newcomers were not allowed to look at other newcomers, especially members of the opposite sex. Males, and females sat in large groups opposite each other, in rows of about twenty long, and perhaps one hundred or more deep. There was a wide corridor that ran between the boys, and girls, who were segregated from each other. Bitter, and hateful staff walked up, and down that corridor, glaring at the children with fierce, deriding, and intimidating glances. Newcomers couldn’t use the restroom without permission, and when they were finally permitted, usually after extensive pleadings that it was urgent, would be escorted by guards, with hands on shoulders, who would watched over them while they urinated, or defecated. Often children pissed themselves and were forced to remain in their own waste as they were derided.

At night after 10:00 p.m. “oldtimers” arrived to pick-up newcomers who would then be taken to their homes, where they would be interrogated throughout the night. These sessions generally lasted until dawn. Newcomers weren’t given a chance to rest, instead they were forced to begin writing their moral evaluation statement, which thereafter was scrutinized, and ridiculed. The cruelest part of the interrogation was when a newcomer would be asked the question, why? Why they had done this, or why they had done that during the day, or why they had written down a certain passage. It was ridiculous, as the newcomer hadn’t done anything but sit in a chair the entire day, unable to even speak. The program however, wasn’t after deeds. They were after thoughts. They wanted to know what you were thinking. When a question was answered, the question “why” would be invoked again. This went on until there was no way the question could be answered with a why response. At the end of it all the newcomer was told that they were totally full of shit, and had better start being honest with themselves, as they weren’t fooling anyone. The irony is that there wasn’t a single person in that program that was honest. Every aspect of the program was a facade. Everyone hated being at The Seed, including the staff. When staff “graduated” from the program, and courts lifted their sentence, they were the first to run. Everyone wished for nothing more than to be as far away from that nightmarish hell as possible.

Deprived of food, drink, showers, and sleep, newcomers would be taken back to The Seed on the next morning to begin the same pattern of intimidation, and subjected to the same fears, and isolationism. Rows, and rows of unhappy, and bewildered children, exhausted, and lonely were forced to put their arms around each other as they sat in metal chairs, and sing songs that were devoted to worshipping Art Barker, the founder of The Seed. The songs that the children had to sing were well-known tunes that had the words changed.

Art Barker father of the seed, he’s my best friend. Whenever he goes out, the people always shout, there goes Art Barker, father of, The Seed. La la la la la la la” Personally, I prefer the lyrics of the original tune, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.

The children were forced to sing Christmas songs everyday, because “being straight” was equivalent to Christmas morning. Even the Christmas song lyrics were changed to Barker worship lyrics.

The Seed’s theme song was to the tune, Greensleeves. “The Seed indeed is all you need, to stay off the junk and the pills and the weed. You come each day from 10 to 10, and if you screw up then you start again. Junkies and thieves throughout the land, join our family hand-in-hand, working together from morning to night, to help each other see the light.” Any “Seedling” subjected to  having to sing those words find it impossible to listen to the music of Greensleeves any longer.

Often a child would snap, and try to make a run for the exits. Regardless, they were always caught and dragged back to the front row by force.

Many children were court ordered into the program. This was far worse than being placed in the program “voluntarily” by parents. If a child was court ordered, this meant they had to successfully complete the program, or face a probation violation, and be sentenced to a juvenile facility, or prison. Often after a few days, or a few weeks, those sentenced by the court would demand to be taken to prison instead of having to face yet another day of The Seed. Psychological trauma, emotional outbreaks, rage, and self mutilation were the general results of being subjected to the same mindless routine, day after day, after day, and for months on end, with no break in the cycle of metal chair, near starvation, sleep deprivation, raps sessions, and ridicule. For the pretty young girls it also meant sexual harassment, and Barker had an apartment building that was reserved for the. Barker sexually harassed, assaulted, and raped several young women, whose parents entrusted with the care of their child.

Try sitting in a chair like this every day from 10:00 am. to 10:00 pm.

The blimp hanger was tightly monitored, and under lock and key. There was no hope of escaping. Dread, and despair was the reality of every child that was unfortunate to have found themselves imprisoned in that program. Parents, ignorant of the facts took no time to investigate the phony 99.9% success rate. The reality was that everyone silently plotted their escape, but even if they could, where would they go? After all, it was their parents that put them in that program. That, or the court. As a result of having no one to turn to, the children pretended to go along with what was demanded of them. Unfortunately, being mere children, a few ended up brainwashed into believing that cruel farce was to be the salvation of their souls, and that Art Barker was to be their higher power. The only alternative to successfully completing the program was of course, prison, insanity, or death as was told the the children on a daily basis. Prison for certain, to those who were court ordered into the program.

Seedlings were forced to sing, Jingle Bells everyday, because “being off drugs” made it feel like Christmas everyday. We sang “God Bless America“, and “On A Clear Day” every single day. The Seed “anthem” was often sung several times a day.

If someone was clever, or brave enough to escape, they would be tracked down like a fox chased by a pack of wild dogs. when they returned, it was after being violently assaulted, and after being thrown, and duct taped inside. While nearly suffocating, they would be thrown into the trunk of a car, and driven back to the program. Being dragged back was one of the worst nightmares imaginable. The “escapee” would be stood up in front of the entire group, and screamed at until late into the night. Scores of pretender zealots, with hands flailing over their heads, and leaning as far forward on their seat as possible, begged for a chance to stand, and spew as much venom as possible, and earn points towards advancement, all at the expense of the poor weeping child that stood before them. No foul words were spared on those helpless children. No matter the age, they would be called every name in the book, and reviled in every manner. Words that would break down the hardest adult soldier were not spared on these kids. Once the child was completely destroyed they were ushered to an open seat in the front row, and forced to start the program all over again, from day one, only this time under much tighter, and much tougher scrutiny. As they sat weeping, the entire place would erupt into the synchronized, and maniacal shout of “I Love You.” I Love You, was the most constant phrase heard at The Seed. The author of this writing, until having his own child, found it entirely impossible to say those words throughout his life.

When somebody couldn’t take it any longer, they’d dart from their seat, and bolt towards the nearest exit. On the face of every wide eyed child who didn’t have the courage to attempt what they were now witnessing, there would be a strong desire, an urging that the fleeing child, who by then was screaming in an animal rage, would somehow succeed. Regardless, soon enough the running rabbit would be tackled, and beaten down by the “guards“, children, or young adults themselves, and shortly forced back to the front of the group, and raged at for hours, and of course begin the program anew. One of the cruelest things at the blimp hanger were large metal doors that remained open at the far end, giving the confined children a constant view of trees that blew in the wind, and of cars that passed by, unsuspecting of the hell that was going on inside that “abandoned” facility.

It wouldn’t be long before Barker was forcefully evicted from the blimp hanger. The Seed then moved to the dilapidating Tropical Park facility in south Hialeah. Tropical Park had once been a horse racing, and gambling location. After that it was turned into an open air swap meet, when that venture failed, it sat empty for years until The Seed came along.

While at Tropical Park, on one particular day, a young man who had only been at The Seed a short while, suddenly rose from his front row seat, and dashed toward the giant plate glass windows, which were located on the third floor of the former race track. The teenager threw himself through the plate glass, and fell to the ground below. He fell at least two full stories, along with giant fragments of glass, was completely bloodied, and unconscious. An ambulance arrived, and carried him away. To what extent the young man was  injured, I do not know to this day as he never returned. No one dared inquire into the matter. The topic was off limits to anyone in the program. No doubt this raised red flags, and initiated an investigation into the program, and its founder. Barker, and his staff were soon evicted from Tropical Park as well.

Those that joined the program voluntarily, were led to believe they could leave at any time they wanted, only to learn that if they did choose to leave, there was no way the staff was going to allow that to happen. If an adult that entered the program tried to voluntarily leave, they would be forcibly held down, tied up, and turned over to a more secure “home” environment. Literally, they were kidnapped. I recall a newcomer who was in the program for approximately one month, stood up, and politely proclaimed he had enough, and was leaving. As he started to move toward the stairs to leave, he was grabbed by several staff members, and forced back into his seat. I remember that example because he was not only a law student at the University of Miami, but his younger brother was my oldcomer. He had entered The Seed program voluntarily due to family duress, as he was refused contact with his younger brother. This young man had entered the program so he could retain a relationship with his younger brother. This event took place at the Tropical Park facility, in the very same room the young man had jumped through the large plate glass window, which had once been the viewing room for the races that took place on the race track that was still visible from the room.

The Mayor of Hialeah was one of the first government officials to see through Barker’s facade. The mayor evicted The Seed from Tropical Park, calling Barker a dangerous Hitler. The program was forced to leave the city of Miami as well. Newspaper writers began to write negatively about the controversial program. One journalist wrote that Barker was more dangerous than Adolf Hitler. Parents began to pull their children from the program. Barker, who had dreamed of being the mayor of his own “Seed City” was forced to return to the broken down facility near the Everglades in Fort Lauderdale where the south Florida project had begun. I especially hated the Fort Lauderdale location as the road to get there was the route my father would take we he, and I would bass fish out on Alligator Alley in the Everglades.

At The Seed’s peak, Barker tried to get the state of Florida to give him a huge tract of land in central Florida to build his own city, Seed City. All of this was happening around the same time Jim Jones forced The People’s Temple cult members to ingest a volatile cocktail of strychnine, and Kool Aid. Kool Aid, and stale peanut butter, and jelly sandwiches on white bread is what Seedlings had to endure for “lunch” on a daily basis.

The media attacked Barker as a delusional lunatic who lived in fear. They continued to call him more dangerous than Hitler, and constantly questioned his lack of qualifications, and phony credentials. Barker became extremely paranoid, and began to make public claims that the government had hired hit men to murder him. He even stooped so low as to use staffers to phone in fake bomb threats aimed at The Seed facility. There are two incidents I personally can recall where we were ushered out of the facility, for our own safety. Barker found his cult falling apart after returning to the abandoned facility in Fort Lauderdale. Eventually, infighting within Barker’s core group would begin the spiral downward. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late for the hundreds of youths whose lives were destroyed, and who never received any form of compensation for the cruel, and unusual treatment they suffered at the hands of Barker, his staff, and that insane criminal experiment. Both the courts, and the prosecutors now distanced themselves from Art Barker. The “heroin epidemic” that Barker prophesied would destroy America’s youth never arrived in Miami. Barker’s claim to have a “mail order” degree in psychology never materialized either. This reminds me of a line from John Steinbeck’s Grapes Of Wrath, “Send us your ten dollars, we’ll send you a certificate, and you’re a radio expert.”

It is well-known that Barker was a sexual predator, and had been molesting teenage girls that were in his program. Barker had an apartment complex where he specifically housed teenage girls that he fancied. He’d rape them, and warn them that they weren’t going to return home until he permitted them. It was most cruel for the teenage girls that were unfortunate to have been both attractive, and court ordered. For the young women who rebelled in any way, they would receive unattractive haircuts that were intentionally humiliating. If those young women had fashionable clothing, or other desirable personal property, it would be confiscated (stolen) by Barker’s untrained, unskilled, unlicensed, and immoral female staff who would keep it as their own.

Congress finally formed a subcommittee, and did a full investigation into The Seed. This resulted in congress blocking federal funding, and the state of Florida permanently revoking Barker’s license to operate any drug treatment program. Congress’ final report determined The Seed used the same brainwashing tactics on American teenagers that North Korea had used on adult American prisoners of war who were held captive during the U.S. Korean War. Both, the United Nations, and the Geneva Convention condemned those tactics as war crimes.

Barker destroyed countless lives. As a result of being psychologically destroyed, some teenagers resorted to murdering their parents. There are former Seedlings that are currently on Raiford’s death row. Others committed suicide. Many that left The Seed never maintained any kind of relationship with their families again, especially their parents.

Unlike most misfortunate children who were warehoused at The Seed, I refused to conform to Art Barker’s brand of peer pressure, spying, and indoctrination of fear. I never participated in any of the mandatory “rap sessions.” I remained silent, and oppositional at all times. If they sat facing North, I sat facing South. If they stood up, I sat down. When staff forced children to put their arms around each other, embrace, and sing ridiculous songs that praised Barker, I would push their arms off of me. When the brainwashed followers shouted,  “I love you.” I shook my head in disgust. When they kicked me, ridiculed me, and yelled at me, showing how much they truly loved me, I refused to show any sign of emotion. And to think, I was merely fourteen-years-old at the time.

I spent countless hours watching spiders make webs in the rafters at the three different locations that I had to endure. First, in the blimp hanger in Opa Locka, then at Tropical Park, and Ft. Lauderdale as well. After about six months of being in that abysmal environment, The Seed staff decided to send me to a psychiatrist to find out how they could “reach” me. After being screamed at constantly, kicked, starved, deprived of sleep, school, family, and friends, they somehow couldn’t seem to figure it out. They were never going to “reach” me. Ever!

Upon entering the psychiatrist’s office I noticed he had a sofa. I thought that was very stereotypical. I pointed to a sofa, and told the psychiatrist to “Lay down, and tell me your problems.” This surprised him, and he immediately asked me why I didn’t like The Seed. I said, “They try to force me to lie, and say I used drugs, when I haven’t. They told me if I don’t admit to using drugs, I’d never be allowed to go home, or to school again.” I told the doctor, “I wanted to return to school, but mostly, I wanted to return to the ocean, and go surfing, but the staff wouldn’t allow it.” Ironically, I left the psychiatric session with a “prescription” to give to The Seed staff, which gave me “life-long” permission to go surfing!

On birthdays Seedlings were forced to stand, hold hands, and sing happy birthday to whoever had a birthday. On my fifteenth birthday, the Seedlings sang, “Hit the road Jack, and don’t you come back no more, no more. Hit the road Jack, and don’t you come back no more.” I stood, and defiantly proclaimed that I was never going to go return. They had a good laugh about that, but, I had already decided that I was never going to return to Barker’s brand of hell. I didn’t! At 10:00 p.m., on my fifteenth birthday I walked out of the facility, and that was that. There were no hounds. Apparently, they too had enough of me. That was the best birthday gift I ever received, and I gave it to myself. In reality, my mother probably couldn’t afford the long drives to Fort Lauderdale, and south Florida, and began losing interest in the program. That, of the fact that she didn’t have deep pockets to donate proceeds. I’m sure the staff was equally tired of the belligerant little red-headed kid that they knew they was not going to conform.

I stayed true to my word, and like nearly ever other child that left, The Seed either voluntarily, or through the “graduation” process, they never returned either. Like many of the children that left The Seed, I never returned to live with my family either.

I will never stop hating that pedophile Art Barker, and his demonic staff of convicted felons who thrived on causing as much pain, and anguish as possible to countless of helpless, and exploited children. To this day, I can still see several of those helpless children, with tears streaming down their faces, out of sheer hopelessness, panic, and fear.

Ironically, Debbie Del Bueno, a staffer that had been extremely cruel to my two sisters, was one of Barker’s most proud “success stories.” Del Bueno was court ordered into the program, and had been a prostitute, thief, and apparently a hardcore drug addict. She was one of the 99% success rates that Barker often boasted about. Del Bueno was a program graduate, and one of Barker’s most trusted, and seemingly devoted staff members. Looking back much of the jargon children were forced to emulate was in reality banter that originated from addicts like Del Bueno, who the program was originally designed for. Ironically, Del Bueno left The Seed as fast as the court lifted her sentence. It wouldn’t be long before I personally witnessed Del Bueno at the former Castaways docks on Miami Beach, where my father docked his boat, and where I washed boats for pocket-money. I was still fifteen years old. Del Bueno, was stoned out of her mind. I had never witnessed someone so completely out of it. She was trying to sell herself to get money for drugs. In the state that she was in, she was entirely revolting. Del Bueno was slithering down the docks with another degenerate lowlife, who was equally as wasted. They tried to talk to me. I wanted no part of her, and doused them both with the hose. The Del Bueno who hid behind the power provided to her at The Seed would have torn me apart. Here, she stumbled to the ground, and was then chased off of the docks by boat captains, and their mates. Sadly, Del Bueno didn’t heed her own words – words forced into the minds of so many susceptible children. Del Bueno was found dead of a drug overdose shortly thereafter. Seems a fitting end to one of the worst crimes ever committed in south Florida.

In my opinion, Barker should have been tried, convicted, and given a life sentence for the crimes that he committed under the guise of treatment against so many young children. Unfortunately, it never happened. Barker died on May 9th, 2010. Barker lived until his last days in a Fort Lauderdale waterfront condo, paid for by his victim’s, and the taxpayers he defrauded. As much as Barker thought he was a man of great importance, there wasn’t a single article written about his death, in any of the myriad of south Florida newspapers, and magazines. Not a one! For a tiny little man who had a tumor for an ego that was the size of the state of his adopted residency, he was unable to manipulate the media for one final publication. The media wasn’t interested in him any longer, except enough to write one final entry into an obit column.

Arthur R. Barker

Probate Case No.: PRC 100002513

Date of death 5/9/10.

If Dante’s Inferno was a reality, no doubt Barker would face the gallows one day, a firing squad, lethal injection, and the electric chair in following succession. In a more humane hell, Barker should be beaten to death, again, and again by the scores of children that he physically, psychologically, and emotionally traumatized, and raped in the botched social experiment both the state of Florida, and U.S. government officials are responsible for. But, then again… who am I to judge a man who relied on prosecutors, and judges throughout the state to fester in his fraudulent scheme? It’s not like after 40+ years that my time spent in that grotesque experiment had any long-lasting, and lingering effect on me. Right? Right, right!

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38 Responses to The Author’s Story

  1. J. Symmes says:

    Chicks rap, freezing cold nights, hellishly hot days. Sleep deprivation. Being “called out” and verbally abused by the group until you broke down and wept. Unwanted or unwarranted bad hair cuts as punishments. Being a virtual slave while forced to live with complete strangers as a newcomer. Starting over, again. Listening to endless ‘I can do better than that’ drug abuse stories that the majority of the children never had heard of before. Descriptions of drugs and the various methods on how to use them accompanied by visual aids. Being so happy when chosen for food prep or disribution because you could escape rap sessions and constantly feeling scared and vulnerable every moment of your life while subjected to unbelievable abuse while your mom and dad donated thousands of bucks to that sick bastard, Art Barker and a 13 yr old wondering why….

    Yep, I do remember going into The Seed because virtually all my friends and half my class were there and the outrageous lies I was forced to make up and acting out so badly. And of course how betrayed I felt by those very same friends when they would come down on me in group.

    It was only because they loved me. Right?

    Trust issues have plagued me till today. ML said it beautifully when being processed, “You use our friends and family as bait for us younger ones to voluntarily join this place, huh?” Lies, deception and outright abuse were the policies instituted by The Seed and these polices were allowed to remain in place by judges, politicians and the state. Shame on them….oh, by the way, I don’t love you.

    • J. Simpson says:

      Thank you to all the brave people that were willing to share their story…

      My younger sibling went to a Chuck Berry concert in the fall of 1972 and overdosed after consuming copious amounts of street drugs (pot, uppers/downer, LSD, glue, etc…) After having her stomach pumped and being defibrillated 3 times to restart her heart, the “authorities” gave my mother the choice of going to juvenile court or voluntarily taking her to The Seed at Opa Locka airport. Mom made me drive her and left me in the car as sister was physically abducted with our emotionally unstable mother’s blessing. The ramifications of that has haunted our dysfunctional family since.

      I drove our mother to the family meeting one night in my VW Beetle. The sibling had “graduated” from the group to speak with our mother after the meeting. I did not realize that Mom probably had arranged for me to be physically abducted by the robot Seedlings that would do anything their jailers demanded. When I figured out what was going down, I cursed my Mother and fled to my car. Several young male Seedlings chased me out of the hanger and attempted to physically restrain me. Unbeknownst to them, I had been studying Karate and was a gymnast/athlete. I dropped down into a low Horseback stance and encouraged the bravest to step forward with “Come and get me.” Even though I was only a beginning white belt student, I imagine my intensity was formidable to these broken down spirits as they all but one took a step back. Fortunately, my Beetle was not locked as I opened the door to make my escape. The one brave, confident kid hooked his arm on the door frame prohibiting me from closing the door, exclaiming he wasn’t going to let me leave. I told him “Move your arm or I will break it.” He didn’t and I quickly opened and closed the door slamming into his body and crushing his arm into the frame. As I sped away looking in the rear view mirror, all I saw was him writhing on the ground in excruitating pain, his cohorts in a panic. So, if you ever read this…I am sorry. But you were threatening my life plans with an abduction.

      I was not a druggie. I was a good student with a job and plans to go to college. Thank God I resisted with my “bad attitude” or not only would I still be suffering the loss of my sibling and Mother (to this day) but I would be traumatized by what so many innocent young psyches are still attempting to renegotiate.

      Did the sibling continue being scared straight? No…she was a sex addict, alcoholic, free basing, drug mule until she had children whom she abandoned.

      In 2009, she falsely accused me of Elder Abuse in order to gain control of our demented mother and her Estate. I haven’t spoken to her in years nor do I intend to. Her wounds and dysfunction are her cross to bear. The Seed indeed has made her life hell and completely divided what semblance of family we might have had.

      Hang in there to those who were there and cut some slack to those that escaped bruised and traumatized with their lives unscathed by the horrific abuse you endured. We still share your pain because we know it could have been us.

      My sister was a beautiful young 13 year old with long blonde pigtails. Her name was Claudia. Who knows what that monster did to her?

  2. A. Lester says:

    Two of my children were long-term members of The Seed. They were sent there because their mother couldn’t stand rearing a child, after she kicked me out. Both children (as adults) committed suicide.

    I suggest that any of you who have those thought, please find someone who understands and loves – sincerely- your struggles.

    It does go away, and it does get better (off and on). That IS life!

  3. K. McDonald says:

    OMG!!!

    I was in the seed with my brother, and a few friends at Tropical Park. Everything you wrote about is so so true!!!! I definitely remember Debbie Del Bueno, Rose and Harold, the two big black heroin addict counselors; the kid who ran through the plate glass window.

    It was the worst 2 years of all of our lives!

    I talked with my brother, the counselors were Debbie, Rose, Arthur and there was a fourth one we can’t recall besides Art! We remember like it was yesterday! My brother was a rebel with Arthur, and suffered the consequences. I was too afraid and kept quiet.

    I remember when I got to go back to school, not being able to talk to any of my old friends, it was just horrifying. Thanks for writing this article I’m going to forward it to my brother, and my other friends that went to that horrible horrific place!

  4. John says:

    The Seed in St. Pete was a horrible human experiment. It turned out robots. A bad memory, glad you wrote about it. This was a precursor to Scientology by the way, as far as the money backing it. The Seed destroyed a lot of lives.

  5. D. Fitz says:

    I helped bring The Seed down! I was in the Ft. Lauderdale, then it moved to Dade County, at both the Goodyear Blimp hanger (I had my hair hacked off by Debbie DelBueno there). Then when The Seed moved to the horse racing track, off season. It was at the track building when Barker was looking for Federal funding and important people were there and we were told to be “happy” and not cuss when “coming down” on other kids.

    They stood my brother up and I raised my hand to speak in defense of him; they chose me as they liked to turn siblings against each other. Instead of taking him down, I told the crowd of parents and VIP political figures the abominations that were taking place there, and how no 7 year old child could relate to 28 year old junkies and prostitutes. My continued oration of truth brought screaming and cusing from DelBueno, and other “staff” to the point that many of them turned red with anger. It was just a short time later The Seed was kicked out of the race track building and barred from Dade County, Florida.

    I ran into some of the staff later on, and they told me they were forced in the program by courts and thanked me for saying what they could not but wanted to say.

    I was also one of the ones who kept escaping. After my exposure to the scam, I was let go. I left home almost immediately and carry the scars to this day!

  6. B. Nanrinker says:

    I was in The Seed for three years. I was only able to get out because I turned 18. It destroyed my relationship with my family. I became incapable of emotions or trust in relationships of any kind thereafter. I couldn’t trust my own feelings or judgement. All of it’s forced cheer, “love” and vicious “honesty” left me disgusted and ashamed. There was lots of time and effort put into tearing us down. No one was ever built back up except to become sadistic old-timers and staff, programmed to torture newcomers into submission both psychologically and physically.

    After it was all exposed as a cruel fraud, why didn’t anyone reach out to us, the victims? We needed help then, and many still do.

  7. T. Koross says:

    And then came Straight Inc. Well written! Thanks.

  8. R. Zadnik says:

    Liars are found everywhere especially the Seed was bad. The Seed saved no one. Art Barker and his brainwashed fodder were, and are evil liars.

  9. K. Hill says:

    I too would like to see Barker in jail. I was 11 years old at that time, and was at the first Seed on Andrew’s Ave. It moved to SR84. I was there for 3 years recycled back to newcomer several times. That place caused me the worst pain that still affects me.

    I am certainly glad to read your story. Can we sue the government for what they did to us?

    No one that is 11, should be exposed to that. I did not use drugs!

  10. Kevin says:

    Wow, this story reflects the horrible suffering that children endured at the hands of Art Barker.

    Sadly, this still occurs in treatment facilities, including those incarcerated in bootcamp style facilities that have resulted in the death of numerous people.

  11. E. Roberts says:

    I was in The Seed in St. Pete in 1975 before it closed. We then made the trip each week to the one in Ft. Lauderdale. I was 15 at the time and 16 when I graduated 9 months later. My older brother Phillip was there too.

    I have read all the comments by others and I remember many bad things — the yelling, the loss of personal property because it was part of our druggie life, the pressure to stand up and relate during rap sessions, having to raise our hand to go to the bathroom, gaining weight because of a poor diet and sitting all day, and the bad haircut when I gave up my ties to the past and consented to a haircut, etc.

    Afterward I too had bad dreams too, a mistrust of peers who might be druggies and a fear of speaking in class for fear of being yelled at or not doing it right. I was never yelled at or stood up.

    I ran away, so to speak, after 9 months and was started over for a week but then I miraculously graduated from the program. I was 16 years old.

    I don’t like many things about those days, but I see good that came from it. I was in a bad place prior to The Seed. My boyfriend had been shot in the stomach robbing a place, my brother was shooting up drugs and I decided that I’d try that next, I was stealing from stores, starting to sell drugs, etc. But more than drugs, I was lonely and empty and hungry for something real and lasting.

    I hope for all of you with pain from those years that you find hope, and to find healing. For me, it was becoming a Christian.

    PS. I’d love to hear what happened to Darlene or Lybbi from the staff. Anyone know?

  12. C. Shook says:

    Both my sister and I were brought by our parents to the Seed from North Carolina in April, 1973.

    I left school in early September, taking a bus to Orlando. I was picked up by police as a missing person.

    I was taken back to the Seed, where I started over on the front row.

    Two weeks later, I turned 18 and proudly walked out the front gate.

  13. Vicky G. says:

    I thought of The Seed briefly after viewing John Morgan / Mel Sembler on the upcoming amendment 2 vote. I was there for less than a weeks in 1974. I believe I was at the one in Fort Lauderdale.

    I recall being on probation for not going to school and violating, by staying out all night. I was informed that I could “volunteer” to go or the judge would send me to state school. I think I agreed, but my parents took me there by surprise. Once there, I tried desperately to leave, but ended up waiting at an oldcomer’s house, for days, for the right minute. When the time came, I ran.

    Eventually I was picked up (several weeks later) and taken to the detention center. I was there about a month before being transferred to Alyce D McPherson school in Ocala. I spent close to a year and a half there.

    My memory of this time is spotty. Many years later I had a major car crash that had lasting effects. Or perhaps it’s a time I’d much rather forget.

    The major thing I learned from my experiences as a juvenile in the State of Florida? To never, ever call the police on my own child or to assist the state in any interactions whatsoever. Once when detectives showed up at the door looking for him, I screamed at them and slammed it on them. In the situation he was eventually arrested anyway and I spent every $ I could get my hands on to conclude the case with no conviction. He ended up with a fine.

    Screw the State of Florida.

  14. Jay G. says:

    I was there a 1971. When they move from Andrews to SR 84. It was so traumatic! I remember my parents being so distressed. I remember it was like a concentration camp and had a profound negative effect on me. I was surprised they didn’t shut it down very early.

    The videos that I have discovered lately are really traumatic to view and have brought out a lot of terrible remembrances. I would like to try to contact others who were at the scene at that time to see what they remember.

    I remember it being a hundred degrees or so and I lived with a family in Miami it was so surreal but a very nightmarish environment.

    • Tracy says:

      I believe I was there at that same time. I was 15 years old and no druggie. Art Barker had conned every school principal and apparently nearly every official in the state of Florida.

      Horrible abuse by “Rap Leaders,” all of whom were, no doubt, hard-core ex-whatevers! I was first at a hell-hole tent place with dirt floors on Andrews Ave., in Ft. Lauderdale. Later we were moved to a compound on State Road 84.

    • S. Kennedy says:

      I was there also, and had never done drugs until after I left The Seed. I was sent there for over four years, that was most of my years as a teen.

      It was a nightmare, and feel that my entire life was stolen from me.

      I had just now decided to look up The Seed, and now I know that what I went through was real.

      I lived in a Seed apartment, more than one in fact.

      I was tied to a bed.

      I know exactly what Barker was like.

      • K. Morsch says:

        Susan, I like you are ones facing this experience for 1971. It was part of the traumatic experiences that I went through.

        I was sent to The Seed, spending one year, as punishment, because I had become pregnant. I have very limited memory of my time there, and need to remember more so I, and my grown daughter can understand more about my personality disorders.

        Thank you for being online!

        • K. Morsch says:

          When I say personality disorder, I mean the effects of this type of mind bending at such a young age, after a traumatic event, as becoming pregnant, at such a young age, and having a forced abortion.

          Being forced into a drug facility for entirely unrelated matters is unjust.

          The Seed was the place where I learned to ‘program’ my emotions.

  15. B. Philipson says:

    I was in the St. Petersburg Seed Nov. 1973/74, private program, walked out after 6 months, and one start over. I finished high school and then went into the military.

    Gotta say the hard chairs and alot of what every one else is saying was true for me as well.

    The highlight for me after one year was getting out of my chair one night, and just walking out. I was usually a guard, so no one questioned me about that move, and after my start over my folks were tired of the drive, and weekly meetings anyways.

    I had nightmares about my 10 to 10 at least 5 years after leaving.

  16. J. Levy says:

    I was at The Seed in Lauderdale back around 1969, or early 1970. While I don’t recall anyone in shackles or being kicked, the rest certainly rings true. At lunch sandwiches were passed hand to dirty hand, no wrappers, in the hot, hot heat! Sitting in those chairs from 10 till 10, singing stupid songs, it was definitely brainwashing! Such a joke, I finally made it out after 3 loooong weeks! Guess I was one of the lucky ones!

  17. S. Preston says:

    I was in that program the same time as you. I remember the same buildings but I was only 10 years old. No, I never loved my parents again, and yes it was kind of abusive but my home was more abusive than they ever dreamed of being there so I thought of it as kind of a vacation. I did nothing they ever asked. I sat on my hands when we were supposed to hold hands, and sing songs. It was horrific, my sister got brain washed, or at least went along with it, but I am very more defiant than her, and had to stay there forever.

    Do you remember the football fields, or maybe a racetrack? I could have sworn it had once raced Greyhound dogs but then again I was only 10 so I don’t recall.

    I remember all the buildings you do, and all the things we had to write, our goals that we have to achieve, our goals we have not received, and what we were going to do to try to achieve them.

    I never thought I would respond, but I remember the place like it was yesterday.

  18. Mark P. says:

    I was their in ’73 at St. Pete. I still have a hard time dealing with the fact that I lost all my friends. It’s like I died.

    I would not even talk to my older brother.

    My sister was in their with me and seems to be OK with it.

    But I will never forget any moment of that hell.

  19. Mark Carnes says:

    Thank you for your article.
    I graduated from Bradenton Fla in 1975. I had moved from the north 73. I was spared the experience, but knew many that were given away by their parents. Guidance councilors from school recommended it. Judges would offer the program. No one would could believe me when I got back to Indiana. I sounded like a conspiracy theary nut. I often wondered how the kids that got thrown into that van that said ” The Seed Loves You”…painted on the side… How did they do in life….
    As you stated….too many political people were involved…too many judges…to many School officials, to many prosecutors…bought into this horrible crime…for anyone to be held accountable.
    May your God bless you.
    Please keep telling your story. Maybe it will shed some light.
    Thank you,
    Mark Carnes

  20. Holly says:

    Seed survivor from the Cleveland Ohio program 1976. I was brought in with 2 black eyes and bruises around my neck where my mother had choked me unconscious. 15 years old and they yelled at me called me a liar and held me hostage for a year. I had smoked pot. Seems a bit extreme. I left that place insecure, confused and a socially retarded mess.

    • D. Anderson says:

      Hi Holly, my name is David, and you stayed at my family’s house in Cleveland.

      I ended up at The Seed for over 20 years until the rift between Art and different staff members in 2002. We were all brainwashed. I stayed because I didn’t want to lose my family, The Seed did that to many people.

      The Seed ended 15 years ago. Thank God! Some real long time staff members may look back at it as “not so bad”

      Life is good now, The Seed was another lifetime ago. I heard the old man died Mother’s Day 2010. My sister’s are doing well. I hope all is well with you Holly.

  21. Alex says:

    This story brought back a lot of memories. I was “inducted” December 10, 1976 and graduated after 13 months. I never went back to visit after that. I did not like going through the events.

  22. B. Middleton says:

    If you dig deep you will find that Charlie Crist was in the Seed. His father was very involved, and when it was shut down they started another rehab just like it under a new name.

    • R. Enix says:

      Sad my mom had to help open it… My father and mother were both in The Seed and what they did to those children was horrible and unforgiving.

  23. Maggie says:

    I was a Seedling too. I need to talk to someone about it. Even 43 years later.

  24. A Thousand Places Not To Be says:

    Stack’s Story (The Seed Indeed blog).
    http://1000placesudontwanttobe.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/120-the-seed/

  25. Ann says:

    Reading this story brought back a lot of things I’ve tried not to think about for many years. Every time I hear Greensleeves over the years those are the words I hear. The seed indeed is all you need…

  26. Sandy says:

    I and my sister were in Tampa. St Pete Seed and can relate to the feelings of fear, imprisonment, living with complete strangers verbal abuse and implicit directives to treat newcomers in the same fashion; it was a nightmare. They told my parents we (my sister and I), never loved them as “druggies” always lied.

    Newcomers with obvious psychological conditions were ignored. Kids in abusive, alcoholic and neglectful homes were taken straight back there after graduating and at 14 and 15 we sat in a dark warehouse 12 hours a day in wooden chairs, no heat or air and were told “we were full of shit” if we didn’t mimic the old comers.

    To please them,(I thought) I lied and told them I had previously done heroin as I knew my lack of true experience with drugs was wanting.

    The seed was a horrible agenda and detrimental life altering experience. And these “straight” and “scared straight” treatment programs breed straight out of hell like The Seed.

  27. Bill says:

    Art Barker was a sick bastard.

    Parents were so eager to find a solution for something that didn’t really exist, a drug problem that they would even pay to have there own children tortured.

    • Bob says:

      Hey,
      It’s still going on.
      Melvin Sembler still tortures children right up to this very instant. And he receives praise from our government for “all the work helping children get off drugs.” Charlie Crist recently presented an award to Melvin, and Betty Sembler, you can find it on YouTube.

      • Tracy says:

        As a former “seedling” myself and still suffering the after-effects of Art Barker’s sick, twisted, agenda, all these years later – makes me ill. Just knowing that some sick bastard is continuing to abuse children and use parents the way they used mine and dozens of others who innocently thought they were doing the “right thing” is absolutely criminal. Art Barker and The Seed RUINED my high school years and I NEVER HAD A DRUG PROBLEM! He ate filet mignon while we seedlings were subjected to verbal/psychological abuse, moldy bologna sandwiches and were forced to clean out toilets that would not flush!. Disgusting and still, to this day, makes me ill. That bastard, Art Barker, may he rot in hell (if there is a hell worse than his “The Seed”), To all of those poor fellow “Seedlings” who went through the ridiculous hell that I did — thank goodness we survived those bastards!

      • Dora says:

        I just read about Sembler, (He is against medical marijuana, yet financially supports its opposition.) Why? Legal narcotics and alcohol are so much more debilitating. I had to read up on him. He co-founded Straight, Inc. His rehab does not accept patients dependent on narcotics. I was thinking, it’s not rehab, it’s taking advantage of the non-addict…. somethings wrong here. The article mentioned he founded this company after the closing of the Seed. And has questionable methods…. I am from Ft.Lauderdale, and remember Seed rumors.

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