A HOTSHOT HAUNTED AND 'HUNTED'
By TRACY CONNOR New York Post 6/21/1998
The goblins of schizophrenia invaded Michael Laudor's life without
Sheepskin from Yale in hand, Laudor was a rising young hotshot at the
Boston management-consulting firm Bain and Company.
The paranoia that would eventually take over his existence crept into
his mind with such stealth, the cocky associate didn't suspect what was
All he knew was that for some reason, bosses and co-workers he once
liked and trusted were spying on him, tracking his movements, bugging his
Even a competent and devoted secretary, Abby, appeared to be a devious
enemy with crimson fangs in one early delusion.
"One minute we were standing in a well-lit room, and in another second,
like a candle flickering, we were in darkness flashing on and off and there
was blood dripping from her teeth as her clawed hands reached for me," he
That terrifying episode and others like it are chronicled in a riveting
80-page proposal for a book Laudor, 35, was writing when he was arrested
last week for murdering pregnant fiancée Caroline Costello.
In disturbing detail, the manuscript, which was being made into a movie,
tells how a brilliant young man was torn apart by mental illness and
overcame the torment of a mind filled with imaginary Nazis, infernos and
Before the schizophrenia set in, Laudor's life held nothing but promise.
The son of a college professor and a homemaker, with two talented older
brothers, Laudor grew up in suburban New Rochelle in the 1960s and
Bored by his classes, he nevertheless breezed through high school with
honors - a popular kid, an accomplished athlete, a talented jazz
It was the same story at Yale, where his photographic memory helped him
ace classes with little effort, giving him plenty of time to down beers with
friends and court beautiful coeds.
When he graduated in 1984 in just three years, he had a raft of honors
to his name: summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and a prestigious philosophy
His brash plan was to make enough money in the business world to retire
in 10 years and write fiction.
But after the hallucinations started at Bain, he quit and moved back
home to spend two years writing short stories, doing freelance consulting and
jamming with jazz musicians at a nearby bookstore.
During this period, he ran into an old high-school crush, Joann, a
raven-haired clarinetist. Their whirlwind romance was his emotional
awakening, and their heart-wrenching breakup his undoing.
So smitten was Laudor he followed Joann to Europe, where he spent months
working on a novel. When he ran out of money, he returned to New
Rochelle, and she fell in love with another man.
The romantic rejection was one trigger for the next psychotic break. In
Laudor's unraveling mind, his life began to look like the plot of his
own novel - a tale of terrorists, Holocaust survivors, ex-Nazis and
"The jam sessions that I went to on Monday nights in Hastings at the
Riverrun Bookstore now seemed to be the meeting of a cult, some sort of
Moonie or neo-Nazi group intent on kidnapping me," he recalled.
The delusions were so convincing, Laudor asked a cop friend to check out
his pals. With the help of his trusting parents, Charles and Ruth, he put
anti-bugging devices on his phone and contacted a cult expert.
Anyone who had tried to help him was now seen as an evil force. He even
made a book critic who was reading his short stories return the writings.
The mental meltdown had physical ramifications: vomiting, bloody noses,
skyrocketing blood pressure, a racing heart, uncontrollable shaking and
"I would be walking through Wykagyl in New Rochelle when suddenly I
would see Nazis in trench coats with their hands dipping into their pockets,
reaching for guns as I would dive for cover. I was terrified," he wrote.
The assailants were the characters from his novel, so he burned it in a
desperate attempt to keep them at bay. He immersed himself in Judaism to
ward off the Nazi cultists.
None of it worked. The panic attacks escalated. At the synagogue, time
would stand still for what seemed like an eternity. The hallucinations got
much, much worse.
"I soon burst in at 3 in the morning to accuse my parents of being
impostors, of having killed my real parents while they themselves were
neo-Nazi agents altered by special surgery and trained to mimic my
parents," the manuscript says.
When his father tried to console him, he screamed: "I don't know why you
killed my father or who you are," and ran to the attic to fling open
closet doors and trunks.
"I was searching for the bodies of my dead parents," he remembered.
Another night, Laudor lay awake in bed, chanting Jewish prayers to scare
off members of the bookstore cult he believed were marching toward his home.
Help came in the form of a hallucination. He saw his next-door neighbor,
Holocaust survivor Harry Gingold, float before his second-floor window
in religious garb.
"In his hand, he held a bell and he smiled at me as he rang it. I
realized the old Jews of my neighborhood were keeping a night watch to keep me
safe... I waved at old Harry from my bed and his old eyes smiled at me as he
nodded. But I still couldn't sleep."
Friends and family did what they could to help Laudor, but they were no
match for the torment inside him, which governed his every action.
When a med-student pal got him to take a mild anti-anxiety pill, he had
no way of knowing Laudor did it only because he believed the tablet was
poison his friend would swallow if he didn't.
Finally, another family friend convinced him to see a psychiatrist. The
first two candidates lasted only a few sessions; Laudor realized they
couldn't comprehend his brilliant ravings.
The third was a keeper, and he told Laudor's family that Laudor needed
to be hospitalized. They took him to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center,
where he reluctantly admitted himself, and imagined seeing a sign on the wall
that said: "Experimental Surgical Unit."
His stay in the hospital was agonizing. He tried speaking to his parents
in a secret language and became infuriated when their answers didn't match
"The Nazi agents pretending to be my parents came every day," he said,
recounting how he would assume tae kwon do positions whenever the
impostors entered the room.
He thought books and television shows were sending him bizarre, private
messages. An exercise program that showed people balancing on their
hands and heads fed his paranoia about being dismembered alive.
"I was sure the show was being broadcast directly to me from the heads
of the medical unit. They were going to start removing limbs from me,
without anesthetic, any minute.
"They were going to ask me to balance and laugh as I rolled around on
Laudor was cooperative with the doctors as they tried to find the right
combination of drugs to bring him back to reality. He assumed that if he
didn't put up a struggle he'd be one of the last killed.
As smiling "Nazis" in white coats gave him injections, he prayed for the
"allies" to come and liberate him, fantasized about how he could let the
Red Cross know about the torture without being killed.
In February 1987, he decided to escape. Barefoot and without a coat, he
walked out a fire door, past a security desk and into the street.
He wanted to go to Iowa, where he had once hoped to attend a prestigious
writing institute. He couldn't find a friend he thought would help him,
then got cold and returned to the hospital.
Before being admitted, Laudor had applied to law schools, and while he
was in the hospital he was accepted by all seven. His brother Danny asked
him what he should do.
"The monkeys are eating my brains!" Laudor yelled before managing to
tell his brother to tell Yale yes and defer for a year. "Stop them, Danny.
The monkeys are eating my brains!"
Eight months after he was brought to Columbia-Presbyterian, doctors
decided to discharge him. He was sent to a halfway house where he clashed with
staffers who expected him to be docile and unopinionated.
The director, he said, feared his strength and didn't know what to do
with him. Finally, despite a "child-like" romance with another patient,
Laudor quit and moved in with a friend.
His caretakers insisted he wouldn't be able to hack law school and
thought he should get a simpler job - like a cashier at Macy's.
But after spending an afternoon at Macy's watching customers abuse
clerks at the department store, Laudor's father said Yale would be less stressful.
The transition was rocky. Laudor wept the first time he met the dean and
threw a fit when he saw that his dorm room didn't have a bed.
The dean, Guido Calabresi, his associate Steven Yandle, and Laudor's
father carried in a bed from another room and used a brick to pound it
The incident was symbolic of how Yale accepted and treated Laudor.
Calabresi told him when the law school accepted a student in a wheelchair, it
built ramps to accommodate him.
Michael, he said, was in an "invisible wheelchair."
The young man with the fractured psyche excelled with the help of a
small group of friends who got him out of bed when he was depressed, helped
him type his papers when the drugs made his joints stiff, helped him while
he wept at night.
There were still many frightening episodes. The drugs couldn't make the
paranoia and delusions disappear; they only made them more manageable.
Laudor was sitting in a torts class with a hundreds other students when
he imagined the room was on fire. Tears streaming down his face, he ran to
the front of the room and fled out the door.
>From the moment Laudor's schizophrenia appeared, his father had been his
biggest ally, convinced his youngest son could beat the awful disease.
The retired professor learned how to coax his son out of an episode.
"I can't move. The room's on fire," Michael told him over the phone one
morning, when he imagined his dorm room was being engulfed in flames.
"I was inside the fire, surrounded by the fire, but somehow untouched,"
he wrote of the three-hour terror attack. "I had somehow stumbled into bed
and awakened in Dante's Inferno."
Charles Laudor talked his petrified son through it, recounting a day
long ago when he pulled the petrified little boy out of the cold water at the
Just touch the fire, the father gently told his son, and I promise you
won't get burned.
After graduating from law school with honors, Laudor was given a
research fellowship at Yale and spent two years in the warm cradle of New Haven.
By the time he left in the spring of 1994, his father was dying of
prostate cancer, and he was unable to find a teaching job. Depression grabbed
hold, but once again, Laudor emerged triumphant.
By the time Charles Laudor died in 1995, a new chapter of his son's life
had started. A newspaper profile about his battle with schizophrenia had
generated considerable interest in the publishing world.
Scribner's signed a $600,000 contract for his life story. Imagine
Entertainment bid more than $1 million for the movie rights. He moved to
an apartment in picturesque Hastings-on-Hudson and got engaged.
He was, one friend noted, the very "model" for the successful
Despite the trappings of success, Michael Laudor was still a very sick
man, and the drugs that had allowed him to slip from the shackles of mental
illness apparently stopped working about a year ago.
The hallucinations came back with a vengeance.
Paranoia consumed him.
The blanket of depression was suffocating.
In the last two months, he couldn't sleep, stopped eating, didn't return
phone calls, and couldn't get out of bed in the morning.
The old horrors were haunting him, the very same demons he had tackled
and beat into submission a decade ago.
But this time, Michael Laudor lost the battle.
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