Recent research by the WHO has revealed that worldwide, over a quarter of places in long-term psychiatric institutions are now occupied by former travelling ice-cream salesman. In over 90% of cases, their trauma has been caused by long-term exposure to tinny renditions of ‘Camptown Races’ and ’Turkey in the Straw’.
And many of these unfortunates are still without a formal diagnosis, as psychiatrists, at their wits’ end, simply label them ‘broken’.
A visit to one of these wards reveals the grim horror of the effects of this harmless-sounding profession. “This is Graham”, says Wanda James, our guide on our visit to a psychiatric facility in Nantwich, pointing to the man in the corner of a brightly-lit room.
Graham, who worked for 28 years selling Mr. Whippy in Crewe, sits facing the wall, crouched down on his haunches. He rocks back and forth almost constantly, and with each forward motion, his head bangs gently against the wall.
“His is a particularly severe case, what with being subjected to the ruthless torment of the chimes for so long.”
Treating these patients gives the staff unique challenges. “We’ve had to remove a lot of the equipment from the ward” says Mrs James. “Anything that makes a high-pitched noise, really. Alarm clocks, radios, they’ve all had to go. One of the visitors forgot to turn off their mobile phone last year, and we very quickly had a small riot on our hands.”
The problem is not a new one. In the first draft of Dante’s seminal work, Inferno, there was an tenth layer of hell which consisted solely of the little music machines from ice-cream vans. But even though we have known about this problem for many years now, action has only recently being taken against this soft-serve epidemic.
Ervine Hollander, a Psychiatrist at the University of East Anglia says that things are starting to change. ‘In 2004 we set up the Center for Ongoing Neurological Evaluation at the university, and we now feel we’re starting to make some progress.
His breakthrough started when he was treating one of his most severe cases. “Patient K, was a tough one, literally.” He served for 11 years in the special forces, seeing tough tours of duty in some of the most gruesome conflicts of recent years. But we now know that his previous experiences would count for nothing in the face of the jingles. “For the first few months, we couldn’t get near him. He used to pace the ward, in full cammo gear, trying to dole out flakes to anyone who would take them. This caused a lot of problems with the other residents of course, and eventually we had to segregate him”.
But the military background of his patient led Dr Hollander to his theory. “Patient K used to have friends visit him – old military pals, and they would remark how he had degenerated even further than some of their most severely shell-shocked colleagues. It was then that I began to see parallels with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD”. However, as he combed the literature, he began to realize that the symptoms his patients were exhibiting far more chilling than those shown by former soldiers.
Now he had a lead, he went about searching for the correct treatment. “Many of the traditional techniques just weren’t working. In the early years, we thought it might be some sort of phobia, so we tried immersion therapy with some of our patients. We wanted to reintroduce them to the vans, thinking that this might help them confront their demons. We didn’t even turn on the music” he says grimly, before going on to explain how after the fires were extinguished, and the incident was cleared up, he had to set about restaffing most of his operation. He is now trying alternative techniques.
Dr Hollander is quick to warn any potential recruits to the trade of the potential dangers they face. “Many people come into the profession with high hopes and good intentions. They just want to make kids happy”. But they’re taking on more than just an old transit van and a freezer. “It’s all about the noise machines really. I’ve heard that they were originally developed as an experimental means of social engineering by Mussolini, hence their nickname in the trade ‘Gelato gargoyles’, but I’m not sure how much truth there is in that. What we do know, is that we need them banned, so we’re putting a case to the Ministry of health to ban them”.
After a trip to see some of these shells of former men, lives sliding away like the melted mush of one of their products, it seems a ban can’t come soon enough.
The dark side of Mr Whippy
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Recent research by the WHO has revealed that worldwide, over a quarter of places in long-term psychiatric institutions are now occupied by former travelling ice-cream salesman. In over 90% of cases, their trauma has been caused by long-term exposure to tinny renditions of ‘Camptown Races’ and ’Turkey in the Straw’.Posted 5 years ago #
It's always good to chat.Posted 5 years ago #
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