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.
I was fourteen-years-old boy on the day I was deceived by my mother, and forced into the program. I had never done drugs. I loved sports, and surfed. On that day I was on my way to the beach. To my utter surprise, 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 was quite dangerous, and often risky. Florida is a haven for sexual predators, pedophiles, and convicted felons. Despite the fact that it was approximately a ten minute drive to Haulover Beach, if I wanted to get to the ocean, the only choice available was to ride the bike, with a surfboard under one arm, or to 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. Luckily, for me, nothing ever came of it. Ironically, a life-long friend, who was also put into The Seed by his parents, had a younger brother who, along with a friend was picked up hitchhiking by the serial killer named John Wayne Gacey. Years later those young boys bodies would be identified through dental records after being dug up from under Gacey’s basement, along with thirty other boys, and young men. Gacey received a lethal injection on May 9t, 1999 after being confessing, and being convicted of multiple murders.
I loaded my board into my mom’s old station wagon, and soon we were on our way to the beach. My mother took a detour, and we ended up at an abandoned blimp hangar in Opa Locka, which was in the middle of a ghetto. This was the location that The Seed called home until the program’s owner was evicted by the city shortly thereafter. The unannounced initial stop was 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 them, and was relieved to know that I was going to see them. My mother pulled her car up to a well guarded gate, and stopped at what appeared to be a barricade, which was removed by by young men that appeared to be barely out of their teens. I thought this was odd. First, why was my mother driving in a ghetto, in Opa Locka, and who were these young white men? There were no white people that lived in that area of Miami. It was a ghetto! The young men waved my mother’s car into the compound.
Once inside, the gate was shut, locked, and remained under guard. 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 taken inside. Once inside this towering, and dilapidating facility, I was notified where I was, and 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 she was gone. I could hear her start the car, the gate open, and her driving away. Immediately I was inundated with questions as to what drugs I had done, what were the names of my closest friends. According to The Seed, staffers, all of 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 ended up dead. The staff wanted to contact each of my friends parents, and state that I had ratted them out. Where was my “stash” hidden at home, etc. After being stripped searched, and in a state of near shock, I was led toward a large group. I was brought in front of the group, and introduced. The entire group then shouted at me, “I Love You Jack.” There was an empty seat in the front row, and I was put in it. This began one of the most disturbing periods of my life. This began a period of indoctrination, which was a living hell. It soon felt like a combination of prison, and concentration camp. 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 their insidious indoctrination into their concept of what a child was supposed to behave like in a social setting. At the end of each evening, after 10:00 p.m., I was turned over to complete strangers, some very hostile, and belligerent. For the first week I was moved about from place to place. I felt like I had been kidnapped, and like anyone that was held hostage would feel, it was disorientating.
At the end of each day, exhausted from the heat, the stifling hot, and moldy indoor air, endless speeches, and program oriented propaganda, I was subjected to sleep deprivation, and forced to face endless scrutiny, and interrogations, that demanded me to disclose as much information about myself, and friends as possible. Until early morning hours I was forced to write what they called a “Moral Inventory”, which required me to exhaustively detail what I had done during previous day. Thereafter, I was subjected to an endless Q&A, which required me to answer all questions until there was no questions left to respond to.
Earlier that initial week my thirteen-year-old sister was removed by force from her junior high class by complete strangers, 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. My older sister was sixteen at the time. She had also been duped into the program.
Having never used drugs or alcohol, I was a popular kid that loved to surf, play sports, run track, play guitar, and take long bike rides to the beach. Suddenly I was forced to spend every day, day after day, after day, listening to “druggies” tell horror stories of how drugs had turned them into sex slaves, burglars, and conmen, and woman who would resort to anything to obtain the cash they needed to get their next high. 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 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 both Dade, and Broward County, as well as Palm Beach and others violated children’s civil rights, and constitutionally protecting proceedings on a near daily basis. During that time, if you were a minor, and had any kind of run-in with the law, shop lifting, an argument with your parent, you were court order, placed in The Seed.
The Seed staffers used twisted logic in an attempt to get a child to conform to their demands. Identity theft 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, we weren’t even allowed to go to school. Constant spying, snitching, and outright making up lies about other “Seedlings”, which was proof in and of itself that one had conformed to The Seeds sick mindset was a daily occurrence every child suspected of any infraction faced. When one faced such wrath, they ultimately ended up having to return to the front row, and start the program all over again.
If one had any property like record albums, or fashionable clothing they 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. When the victim confronted the staffer about those albums being druggie items, the staffer said, “They 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 “oldcomer”, or staff member was a frequent injustice that one was forced to face silently, for fear of showing, a “druggie attitude”, which of course 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, forced to stay with complete strangers who had no professional training or experience, and who wrote reports to The Seed staffers as to their actions while off the program’s site. There were no criminal background checks, and even if there were, nearly all of the staffers were convicted felons who had been hardcore drug abusers, and was 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, who lacked any moral capacity.
Initially, the U.S. government funded The Seed without having first investigated any of 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, 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 ho 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 pleading that it was urgent, they would be escorted by guards, with hands on shoulders, who would watched over them while they urinated, or defecated.
At night after 10:00 p.m. “oldtimers” arrived to pick-up newcomers who would then be taken to their homes, and 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. 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 there hated being there. 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 would be forced to put their arms around each other as they sat in those metal chairs, and sing songs that were devoted to worshipping Art Barker. More often than one might think someone would snap, and try to run. They would always be dragged back to the front row by force.
Many children were court ordered. This was far worse than being placed in the program “voluntarily” by parents. If they were court ordered, this meant they had to successfully complete the program, or face a probation violation, and be sentenced to prison. Many would demand to be taken to prison instead of having to face yet another day of that program. Psychological breakdowns, rage, and self mutilation were the 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.
The blimp hanger was tightly monitored, and under lock and key. There was no hope of escaping. Only dread, and despair was the reality of every child that was unfortunate to have been put in that program by parents that took no time to investigate the phony 99.9% success rate. Everyone silently plotted their escape, but 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 place to turn to, most children pretended to go along with what was demanded of them. Unfortunately, being mere children, a few ended up being brainwashed into believing this cruel farce was to be the salvation of their souls, and that Art Barker was their higher power. The only alternative to successfully completing the program was of course, prison, insanity, or death. In truth, Barker was never present, regardless The Seedlings were forced every evening to sing songs of praise, and worship to their Seed deity.
“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.
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 sung to the melody of Greensleeves. “The Seed indeed is all you need, to stay off the junk and the pills and the weed. You come each day from ten to ten 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.”
In reality, escape was the only thing that was on everybody’s mind. If someone did manage to escape, they would be tracked down like a fox chased by a pack of wild dogs. If they returned, it was in the trunk of a car, wrapped in an old rug, and dragged back to the front row in chains. One of the staff’s favorite tactics while capturing someone was to tackle them, and roll them up in an old rug, and duct tape them inside of it. While nearly suffocating, they would then be thrown into the trunk of a car, and driven back to the program. Being dragged back to The Seed was one of the worse thing one could have ever imagined. The “escapee” would be stood up in front of the entire group, and screamed at until late into the night. Scores of zealots, with hands flapping over their heads, and leaning as far forward as possible on the edge of their seat, begging 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 security, and much tougher scrutiny. As they sat weeping, the entire place would erupt into the synchronized shout of “I Love You.”
When somebody just 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 be successful. Regardless, soon enough the running rabbit would be tackled, and beaten down by the “guards”, and shortly thereafter forced to the front of the group, and raged upon for hours, and then begin the program anew. One of the cruelest, and oddest 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 Barker was forcefully evicted from the blimp hanger. The Seed then moved to Tropical Park in south Hialeah. Tropical Park had once been a horse racing facility. After that it was turned into an open air swap meet. It sat for years thereafter as an eye sore to the community. On one particular day a young man who had only been at The Seed a few days, suddenly rose from his front row seat, and dashed toward the giant plate glass windows. He crashed through the window, and fell to the ground. He fell at least two full stories, was a bloody mess, and was unconscious. An ambulance arrived, and carried him away. To what extent the young man was injured. I do not know to this day. He was never seen again, and nobody dared ask. The topic was clearly off limits to anyone in the program. No doubt this matter raised red flags, and about an investigation into the program, and its founder. Barker, and his staff were soon evicted from Tropical Park.
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. I remember one such 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 too, 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 guise. The mayor evicted The Seed from Tropical Park. 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!