What might be the most crucial in considering Doc Humes’ life, activities, and projects is the role of his mental health and his use of drugs. One of Doc’s psychologists diagnosed him as “a classic paranoid schizophrenic,” as he had breakdowns that impaired his work, home, and family relations. However, these symptoms remain largely undocumented aside from some doctors’ diagnoses and a few brief letters to or from a London psychiatric hospital. He feared that agents of the American government and secret international organizations were following him, and he believed that they had zapped his brain with microwaves. Nevertheless, as FBI records in the collection reveal—again adding more layers of complexity to what might otherwise seem to be the easy classification of his overt “craziness”—Doc had reason to be paranoid. The FBI had indeed tracked him across his international travels for about twenty-nine years, a fact discovered after his death via a FOIA request by his daughter, Immy Humes, a filmmaker who originally collected the items in the archive for Doc, her independent documentary about her father.
While Doc’s belief in governmental microwaves to the brain could seem like a hyperbolized fabrication, it may be more sympathetically understandable when considering the electric shock treatments he likely did not consent to. (In fact, I discovered a medication envelope in the archives with an unswallowed pill, perhaps evidencing some resistance to treatment). However, the additional question of his drug experimentation might place him in the “crazy” category: in 1965, annotated “crazy year” on an index card Doc used to order his own biography, Timothy Leary brought him a large dosage of LSD on a visit to London. Doc’s LSD experimentation may have aggravated his mental instability to a point of destruction (placing him in the psychiatric hospital), harming his abilities and his writing career thereafter. Another of Doc’s more “trippy” interests can be seen through his obsessive photographs of and writings on “lenticular clouds.” These “lens-shaped” clouds might even relate somehow to his early notebook doodles of faces, that, in their randomized yet somewhat systematized line strokes, suggest faces perceived in clouds—a familiar condition known as pareidolia.