The sun is out;
The sky is blue;
There's not a cloud to spoil the view;
But it's raining;
Raining in my heart.
Buddy Holly (1957)
Time magazine wrote on November 18, 1957: 'Died. Wilhelm Reich, 60, once-famed psychoanalyst, associate and follower of Sigmund Freud, founder of the Wilhelm Reich Foundation, lately better known for unorthodox sex and energy theories; of a heart attack; in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary, Pa; where he was serving a two-year term for distributing his invention, the "orgone energy accumulator" (in violation of the Food and Drug Act), a telephone-booth-size device that supposedly gathered energy from the atmosphere, and could cure, while the patient sat inside, common colds, cancer, and impotence.' A postmortem FBI chemical analysis report documents formaldehyde poisoning, but lists the cause of death as unknown.'
The study of Reich's work has been hampered by the instruction he left that his unpublished papers were to be stored for 50 years after his death, "to secure their safety from destruction and falsification ...," which has meant that researchers, even scholars, were not able to access them until 2007. New research journals devoted to his work began to appear in the 1960s.
Robert Anton Wilson, Norman Mailer, William S. Burroughs and J. D. Salinger have all undergone Reich's orgone therapy. In Jack Kerouac's On the Road, written in 1951, Old Bull Lee extols the benefits of his orgone accumulator and considers improving it by using 'more organic' wood. Burroughs makes several references to Orgone Energy in his own novels and essays. Robert Anton Wilson wrote a play, Wilhelm Reich in Hell, partly based on Reich's life; it was also published as a book in 1987. Wilson frequently referred to Reich and Reich's works in both his fiction and non-fiction. Notably, one character in Wilson's Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy is a witness to the 1957 book-burning.
Reich was a pioneer of several body- and emotions-based psychotherapies, influencing Fritz Perls's Gestalt Therapy and Arthur Janov's Primal Therapy. Reich's Character Analysis (1933, enlarged 1949) is well-respected by practising psychoanalysts. Nearly all Reich's publications have been reprinted, although first editions are not available as Reich amended his books throughout his life and the owners of Reich's copyright have taken the decision to reprint only the latest revised versions. In the late 1960s, Farrar, Straus & Giroux republished all Reich's major works. Reich's research journals are available as photocopies from the Wilhelm Reich Museum.
A film about Reich's teachings called W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism was made in 1971 by Yugoslavian director Dušan Makavejev and was listed by film critic Roger Ebert in his Great Movie Series in 2007. A short drama film about Reich by Jon East, called It can be done, was nominated for a Silver Lion at the 1999 Venice Film Festival. The superhero Orgone Lad, a member of the League of Infinity is Wilhelm Reich in Supreme by Alan Moore(2000). In the short film accompanying Cloudbusting by Kate Bush (1985) conceived by Terry Gilliam and Kate Bush, Donald Sutherland plays Reich. Kate Bush's song describes Reich's arrest and incarceration through the eyes of his son Peter who wrote his father's story in A Book of Dreams (1973).
Coming shortly: Strange Happenings in Rangeley Maine in 1951.