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Dan: the Aftermath (Part 5)

December 25, 2012

Why did Dan lose his mind? Why did a friend turn into my worst enemy, acting self-righteous while spewing mindless rage, falsehood, hatred, malice, sneering contempt, and sadism? How did evil come to dominate his being? Why did he go over to the dark side? I certainly never experienced anything or anyone like this my lifetime. I hope I never do again. The contradictions of his life and character just grew more and more bizarre and extreme over the years.

When did he beocme so openly psychopathic and sadistic, devoid of a conscience?

Two of his father’s several brothers were schizophrenic, a third (another wrestler) committed suicide, and the Old Grifter himself wasn’t so sane either. So there’s a family history of severe mental illness, possibly hereditary. Was he afflicted with a mental illness he couldn’t help having? If so, how much choice did he have in the way he acted? To what degree was he responsible for his own behavior?

Dan’s earlier style could be described a ‘hypomanic personality’, a condition you won’t find in the DSM but will find in the clinical literature. Such people seem stably hypomanic, without it being part of a cycle. They never get depressed or manic. Did he finally destabilize into a full-blown manic episode? Perhaps, but I think stimulant drugs (crack/cocaine, meth/amphetamines) are a more likely factor.

These events had a huge impact on me (it’s called ‘traumatic shock’). My recovery would take months. I threw myself into the remaining four months it took to complete the house. I moved in the second week of July and made it a point to lock my doors and my car. I was hypervigilant. I felt terribly alone and isolated–yet I self-isolated even more, avoiding people. I didn’t want to take the emotional risk of meeting new people. I was only comfortable around old, familiar people—many of whom couldn’t stand Dan.

I wondered if I’d ever be able to enjoy the house, since it was already tainted and filled with vivid memories of Dan’s evil, ugly behaviors. This is the room where I was standing when Dan shoved me and screamed “I’ll kick your ass!” I had just left this area when Dan slyly threatened to burn down the house. This other room is where he threw that big tantrum, breaking my power tools through anger and carelessness as he ranted and raved about what a superior genius he was. it would take many months for me to host a series of positive, happy events to create a new series of memories and associations connected to the house, which was and is, despite Dan, beautiful with a marvelous view, by the way.

For months I obsessively relived all the events, all the crazy episodes in my mind and recounted them to anyone who listened, testing their patience. Then I went through a phase of being very angry at myself for having tolerated his abuse and insanity for as long as I did. “Why didn’t I stand up for myself right from the start,” I asked myself. “Why was I such a wimp for so long? I never should’ve let this go on as long as it did! I should’ve fired his ass months before! I never should have let him get away with that shit!”

(Part of the answer: for some crazy reason I believed I “needed” Dan around to finish the house since I’d started it with him; we’d been a good friends for many years and I am loyal, especially to old friends; and I kept hoping this was a temporary phase and he’d “snap out of it” and come to his senses.)

Some of his former wives were asking themselves the same question: why they tolerated him as long as they did. Once people learned I was no longer allied with Dan, they came forward to tell me their stories of his outrageous behavior, stories they’d kept silent about until then. A local restaurant manager told of Dan stalking a 19-year-old waitress after dark, after making sexually suggestive remarks about her anatomy. He also had a habit of striking up conversations with strangers in the restaurant, soliciting their opinions, then denouncing them as idiots and fools. (“I’m surprised someone hasn’t cleaned his clock,” Russell the carpenter said). I learned that former wives #5, #6, and #7 had each called the police on him because of his enormously belligerent, bellicose, raging, threatening, intimidating behavior. The wife he’d been living with immediately before calling on me to take him in explained her timing: it was right after their third anniversary and after three years she was tired of financially supporting him while he stood around and snarled at her he was “doing her a favor” by sponging off her. “He never loved me. I was just a meal ticket to him. He would’ve lived off my income for the rest of my life if I’d let him.” So she told him it was over and he should move out. That’s when he called on me to take him in.

She also revealed they had once taken a guided tour of a house in Arizona designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Dan was fascinated. He kept saying “Oh, I see how he did that. That’s not so difficult.” This apparently led to Dan believing that since he appreciated Wright’s genius, he now had appropriated it. I recognized this as a pattern. “I’ve talked to an airline pilot who explained the basics of flight to me. Pitch, roll, yaw, stall warnings, all that. So I guess I’m qualified to fly a 747. It’s not rocket science.” That was Dan’s “logic,” how his mind worked. If he worked around doctors, that made him a medical expert in his own mind. If he consulted a lawyer, that made him a legal expert. If he once knew an electrician socially, he himself became, by that association, a master electrician himself. One of the many perversely fascinating quirks in his thoguht processes.

He would brag at the top of his lungs about being an “architect,” “builder,”, “designer,” “carpenter,” “general contractor,” “developer,” and “project administrator.” In fact he never was any of those things. He might also tell you he was a “psychologist,” or a “doctor,” “lawyer, “or for that matter, “Indian chief.” All false assertions, all lies. It is amazing to finally step back and realize he never qualified for, much less held, any occupational or professional license in any field from any state of the union at any time in his life.

Did Dan, the glib talker “who could sell refrigerators to Eskimos” find someone else to support him in Florida? I wonder. It’s hard to believe he could right himself, regain some measure of sanity, enough to be productive in some way, earn an honest living, and financially support himself.

Did he ever change? It would be nice to think so. But if he had begun living a more real life, developed a conscience, and began treating people as more than things to use and abuse, I believe he would have at least contacted me and some of the other people he so savagely abused, exploited and victimized, to apologize and to make at least some token effort to repay the debt or at least acknowledge the injuries done.

He never did.

No, I suspect he died as he lived, inventing tall tales about all the unselfish “favors” he had done to help people, and how they all betrayed him and were so mysteriously “ungrateful” after all he had done for them.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Marquez permalink
    January 14, 2013 9:09 AM

    What a saga! This man sounds like he was “The Great Pretender” all his life. A person like that can be impossible to deal with since they don’t believe they have a problem and will refuse anyon’e attempt to intervene. I have not known anyone like Dan but I have met odd people who spout nonsense and become enraged when you wont’ confirm their delusions as gospel truth. They act like they not only have a right to lie but a right to demand to be believed while they are lying.

  2. January 27, 2013 2:22 PM

    Yes, the pretentiousness is unbelievable. This was brought home to me again by hearing that just before he died, Dan finsihed a manuscript entitled ” A Seeker’s Guide to Finding Your Soulmate”. Authored by a man with at least eight (8) failed marriages, some of them marred by domestic violence and police involvement. The best advice about how to deal with such people begins with the reality that we cannot change them and shouldn’t try. We can only limit (or elminate) our involvement with them. We should never let sadistic, dishonest, or vicious behavior “slide” or make excuses for it. Confront it on the spot and if it happens again, the relationship is over.

    • July 18, 2014 1:03 PM

      I also knew Dr. Dan Detton personally, which means we have much to discuss. Admittedly, I’m very open yet cautious of some of what you’re sharing. He was definitely an extraordinary person in many regards. Rationally!

      • donegaldescendant permalink*
        July 31, 2014 1:39 PM

        I’d be happy to hear more from you, especially if you have any insight into his behavior after early 2006. Do you have an email address I can use?
        I saw Dan as an extraordinary bundle of contradictory traits, some good and some bad (that was the theme of my 5 posts), and as a person withh great verbal fluency and persuasiveness, or as some would say, “a gift of gab.”

        But why do you refer to him as “Dr. Detton”? What do you believe he was a doctor of? Hint: it was not psychology.

  3. Kellie Clement permalink
    August 1, 2014 1:51 AM

    I stumbled across your writings about Dan Detton and would love to talk with you more, if possible. My mother almost became wife #5 in 1975, when she packed up her four children and traveled with Dan around the western US looking for a place that would be safe in the ‘Post Apocalypse,” a concern he’d picked up from his father, who we also met. Our ‘adventure’ with Dan took us through 5 western states and left us stranded more than once. If you would like to talk more, we should get in touch.

    • Christopher McKinney permalink
      August 25, 2014 1:32 PM

      Do you mind sharing your story with me, too? I met him during the last year and a half of his life. He was a very fascinating character, but things just always seemed to puzzle me and even bug me in some ways. He wrote several books and I was/am also a writer working on book projects. He was greatly inspirational, yet I began to suspect a split personality and some other issues. Honestly, I’m fascinated to talk with anybody that knows him well, to begin piecing together a more complete picture of him.

  4. donegaldescendant permalink*
    August 1, 2014 6:15 AM

    Kellie, I sent yo an email.

  5. Curiosity permalink
    October 16, 2014 1:43 AM

    A curious tale. Please send me an email as I have a question regarding this story

    • donegaldescendant permalink*
      November 14, 2014 11:13 AM

      Forgeot your request. I will send an email address.

  6. October 31, 2014 4:43 AM

    I was glad to read your story about Dan. He and I were friends while undergraduates in 1965 and 1966 at Weber College in Ogden. I was doing an internet search to see what had become of him since college when I stumbled across your tale.

    While some of the contradictions and inconsistencies in his personality were apparent then, he was probably more competent and being younger potential counted for more than accomplishments. We often skied and had lengthy intellectual conversations that were enjoyable at that time. I also knew his dad and he too was a more capable fellow in the mid 60s then you described later.

    Like you, I am a psychologist and have an abiding interest in what happens to people over the course of their lives. Neither I nor others that I know well have followed a predictable course and the things that move and effect us remain mysterious but interesting.

    Sometime if you find your way to Boise, it would be fun to talk at length about our mutual friend. He was one of the unique people in my life even in his mid 20s.

    • donegaldescendant permalink*
      November 14, 2014 11:19 AM

      DAn was certainly unique and memorable. I have many good memories of him. If you read the entire 5-part account I posted, you will see how confused and tormented I was by htis contraditions. I have concluded that “Good Dan” and “Bad Dan” were both real and part sof a greater whole. AFter communciating with someone who saw his contradicitons the last 18 months fo his life, I am more inclined to believe he was suffering from a form of dementia beyodn uis contorl his last 7 to 10 years.

  7. Plato Socrates permalink
    July 18, 2016 6:12 AM

    I knew Dan from approximately 1989 to 1994 during my life on the western slope of Colorado.. He was a mentor who provided me with an introduction to the intellectual pursuit of exploring the wonderment of life. I’ve been a successful psychotherapist for the past 20 years and it was Dan who started me on this career because he adamantly suggested that I was appropriate to be in the profession. I read all the books her referenced in our lengthy conversations. His teachings surpassed those who taught me in graduate school. Above all, I value that he taught me how to think critically…a dying art in this age of living for instant gratification. I came to learn that he had “issues” and when I showed an understanding of this matter, he responded with the expectation that I, as the student, was ready to move on from him as my mentor.

  8. July 25, 2016 4:31 AM

    Good for you! You managed top to have the best Dan had to share, then “get out while the getting was good.” Dan did you a favor by telling you to move on once he realized you were starting to see through the façade to the darker side of his personality. I, too, enjoyed a kind of mentoring relationship with him in 1982-86 in which he encouraged me to get into the counseling and psychotherapy field, which I did. I learned a lot with him, especially bout psychodynamic psychology and the ongoing relevance of Freud’s work. Having come of f age at San Francisco State University in the 1960s in the middle of the Civic Rights movement and the anti-war movement, I like to think I taught him some things about critical thinking, seeing through conventional wisdom and wishful thinking about politics and society, race, ethnicity, and international relations. I my relationship with him had ended in 1986 I would have much less conflicted memories of him The whole theme of these postings is the dramatic range of contradictions he displayed—he could be an entertaining and stimulating companion, enlivening and enlightening; he could also be dishonest, manipulative, grandiose, cynical, and virtually psychopathic at other times. As I said at the beginning he was a man of many contradictions.
    I believe we knew each other in Montrose and on camping trips to Cedar Mesa. If o, I have good memories of you and am glad your career has blossomed. I wish you well.

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