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Westchester‘s Fountain of Stolen Youth
By Tucker Burns
NYACK, N.Y. — Five hundred years ago, Ponce de Leon searched for a fountain of youth in what is today known as Florida. Little would he have suspected that such a place would be found a half-millennium later in Westchester County, New York.
That’s where, until last week, Dr. Suzanne Gorham ran the Gorham Longevity Institute, a high-rent retirement home and laboratory for her unorthodox research into senility. Dr. Gorham, a world-renowned brain researcher, perfected a procedure that enabled her to transfer her elderly residents’ consciousnesses from their own aged, frail bodies into those of young, healthy people. Reluctant to grow old gracefully, her wealthy reprobate retirees paid fees of up to $5 million each to escape from their aging bodies and move into newer models — even though those newer models were already occupied by new members of the Institute’s staff.
“They got you in the door by paying you buckets of money” said Rachell, a former personal care technician at the Institute. “But they declined to mention that they were going to trap me in the body of an old white woman.” Indeed, Dr. Gorham forcefully switched Rachell’s consciousness with that of Pricilla Norman, an 80-year-old grandmother from Long Island. “I worked hard for my body, and there’s no way I was going to give it up.”
Rachell was just one of dozens of young employees who found themselves stuck in the skin of crusty centigenarians. And after the switch, these time-traumatized young adults were kept in isolation, where they were left to die in the aging bodies.
Mark Griffin, a 21-year-old with a criminal history, finally broke the wall of secrecy last week. He escaped, but only after his mind was switched into the doddering frame of Howard Copeland, a retired surgeon. While attempting to expose the Institute’s secret to the world, Griffin was captured and dragged back to the Institute, where he soon died under mysterious circumstances. His capture and abduction from a Westchester convenience store was caught on videotape that subsequently was delivered to The Chronicle.
Later, this reporter became one of Dr. Gorham’s victims after being caught while conducting undercover research for this story. Luckily, fellow Chronicle staffers were informed of the situation, and were able to force Dr. Gorham to reverse the procedure on many of her victims.
For Mark Griffin, it was too late. However, his body lives on, inhabited by the mind of Dr. Copeland. “I know I’ve been given a second chance, and I’m not going to waste it,” Copeland told The Chronicle. “Age is just a state of mind… although it’s nice knowing I have 30 years before my next prostate exam.”
“Only the Young Die Good”
Written by Peter Hume
Directed by Adam Davidson
NORA DUNN . . . . . . . . as Dr. Gorham