Charles Fleming

My Lobotomy

In 1960, at the age of 12, Howard Dully became one of the youngest children ever to undergo a transorbital or "icepick" lobotomy. This is the harrowing story, told in his own words, using documents from the period, of his survival.

October 5, 1960. "Howard objects to going to bed, but then sleeps well. He scowls and growls if the TV is turned on to some other program than he likes. He does a good deal of daydreaming. He turns the room lights on when there's broad sunlight outside. He hates to wash ...
—from the notes of Dr. Walter J. Freeman

Howard Dully was just a typical, difficult kid – oversized and ungainly in his movements, messy in his habits, rambunctious with his brothers, a misbehaving clown at school, and in constant conflict with his parents. But Howard wasn’t grounded or sent to private school. Howard was sent to see Dr. Walter Freeman, the neurologist who invented the “ice-pick” lobotomy. Two weeks after his 12th birthday, Howard became one of Freeman’s youngest patients. Abandoned by his family after the surgery, Howard spent his teen years in mental institutions, his twenties in jail, and his thirties in the bottle. It wasn’t until he was in his forties that Howard began to pull his life together. But even as he began to live the “normal” life he had been denied, Howard struggled with one question: Why?

October 8, 1960. "I gather that Mrs. Dully is perpetually talking, admonishing, correcting and getting worked up into a spasm, whereas her husband is impatient, explosive, rather brutal, won't let the boy speak for himself and calls him numbskull, dimwit and other uncomplimentary names."

What had they done to him? Only three people knew: Freeman, the surgeon who performed the lobotomy; Lou, the cold-hearted stepmother who sent him to Freeman; and Howard’s father Rod. The stepmother and the surgeon were dead. Rod was in poor health. Time was running out. When Howard was contacted by a radio producer making a documentary about the lobotomist, Howard started asking questions of his own.

Dec. 3, 1960: "Mr. and Mrs. Dully have apparently decided to have Howard operated on. I suggested they not tell Howard anything about it."

Today, at 58, Howard is a husband, father and grandfather, a school bus and tour bus driver, and a bus driving instructor. He lives in San Jose, California. With My Lobotomy he becomes the first lobotomy patient in history to come forward and tell the tale of his remarkable survival.

Selected Works

Non-fiction, biography
The heart-breaking, award-winning National Public Radio story of childhood lobotomy survivor Howard Dully, now grippingly told in book form.
Explosive story of 1950s Las Vegas; "Impressive, sure-bet thriller,"
Pre-Castro Cuba catches fire in this sequel to The Ivory Coast.
Nicky Deuce returns with more meatballs and mayhem.
Thrilling young adult adventure story for boys and girls aged 8 to 18.
Riveting autobiographical story of the chief who caught the DC snipers
How to live like a guy from the neighborhood ...
How to make amore like a guy from the neighborhood ...
The fast life and ugly death of Hollywood's most notorious film producer
Travel Essay
Ten damp days in Havana