Lee Harvey Oswald – Youth House NY – Psychiatry Test 1953

Lee Harvey Oswald – Youth House NY – Psychiatry Tests 1953


One aspect of this case I wanted to include was Oswald’s Youth House psychiatry tests in 1953. He stayed at Youth House due to his increased absence from school late 1952 to the beginning of 1953, in New York, while being a young teenager. Youth House was a remand centre for delinquent boys who had gotten into trouble with the court and were remanded to Youth House for a brief period of diagnostic study. These psychiatry tests could be giving us some sort of insight into who Lee Harvey Oswald was. And do these tests have any relation to his behaviour while being incarcerated on Nov. 22nd – 24th 1963?

Oswald is admitted on April 16th 1953 and his psychiatry test was taken and reported upon on April 21st 1953 by John Carro, Some of the pages of the above linked document are very hard to read due to the terrible reproductive quality. The first 4/5 pages (of the 33) is the report that has been made up by Carro. Pages one & two start with Oswald’s background and then on that second page it states that Lee is a boy of average height and weight and the boy impressed the P.O. of a boy of normal mental and physical development. Lee was pleasant and friendly though withdrawn to himself. During the interview the boy’s expression was one of indifference. He more or less of’ a blank expression, registered little enthusiasm nor emotions. When questioned, he generally answers affirmatively by saying “I guess so”. He tried to evade an impression of unconcern as to what had taken place. The P.O. observed that the boy is somewhat shallow and seems to be immature to have little capacity for comprehension.

On page three Marguerite Oswald describes Lee as an introvert who has difficulty making friends after moving to NY in the midst of different nationalities and move into a crowded apartment and has retreated into a shell. On page four it is stated that the boy, the P.O.’s observed, is a friendly, likeable boy who portrays very little emotions. Rendition to the present situation (absence from school-BK) was one of indifference. The P.O. feels that we are dealing with a boy who feels a great deal of insecurity and the need for acceptance. As it does not seem that this can be done with the boy remaining at home, but it was felt that perhaps placement in an institution where these needs can be met would be beneficial at this time. However, recommendation is being held in acceptance pending the receipt of the psychiatric examination.

John Carro is called up by the Warren Commission and in his testimony  he does not relay much valuable info as to Oswald’s personality but there is an exchange as to what was in the planning for Oswald.

Mr. LIEBELER – You mentioned that the boy was going to go to your own psychiatric clinic. That is a different proposition from the Youth House, is it not?

Mr. CARRO – Yes. This is the psychiatric court clinic, that is on 22nd Street, which in some instances, where we are not able to effect the kind of placing we need or so, we will utilize that as a last resort, and the boy would go there periodically and be seen by the psychiatrist.

Mr. LIEBELER – It would be an outpatient-type situation?

Mr. CARRO – An outpatient-type of situation, yes.


Mr. LIEBELER – Would you say that Oswald was more mentally disturbed than most of the boys that you had under your supervision at that time?

Mr. CARRO – Not at all, actually. I have handled cases of boys who committed murders, burglaries, and I have had some extremely disturbed boys, and this was one of the problems, this was just initially a truancy situation, not one of real disruptive or acting out delinquent behavior.

Back to the psychiatric reports document and on that same page four Dr Renatus Hartogs continues with his summary on May 1st 1953. This 13 year old well built boy has superior mental resources and functions only slightly below his capacity level in spite of chronic truancy from school which brought him into Youth House. No finding of neurological impairment or psychotic mental changes could be made. Lee had to be diagnosed as a personality pattern disturbance with schizoid features and passive aggressive tendencies. Lee has to be seen as an emotionally, quite disturbed youngster who suffers the impact of really existing emotional isolation and deprivation, lack of affection, absence of family life and rejection by a self involved and conflicted mother. Although she denies that he is in need of any other form help other than “remedial” one, we gained the definite impression that Lee can be reached through contact with an understanding and very patient psychotherapist and if he could be drawn at the same time into group psychotherapy. We arrive therefore at the recommendation that he shouldnbe placed on probation under the condition that he seek help and guidance through contact with a child guidance clinic, where he should be treated preferably by a male psychiatrist who coud substitute, to a certain degree at least for the lack of a father figure. At the same time, his mother should be urged to seek psycho therapeutic guidance through contact with a family agency. If this plan does not work out favourably and Lee cannot cooperate in his treatment plan on an out-patient basis, removal from the home and placement could be resorted to at a later date, but it is our definite impression that treatment on probation should be tried out before the stricter and therefore more harmful placement approach is applied to the case of this boy.

Renatus Hartogs. Photo by Martha Holmes.

On May 7th (page nine) Hartogs writes another report: He is a tense, withdrawn and evasive boy who dislikes intensely talking about himself and his feelings. He likes to give the impression that he doesn’t care about others and rather likes to keep to himself so that he is not bothered and does not have to make the effort of communicating. It was difficult penetrate the emotional wall behind which this boy hides and he provided us with sufficient clues, permitting us to see increase anxiety, shyness, feelings of awkwardness and insecurity as the main reasons as the main reasons for the withdrawal tendencies and solitary habits. Lee told us: “I don’t want a friend and I don’t like to talk to people.” He describes himself as stubborn and according to his own saying likes to say “no.” Strongly resistive and negativistic features were also noticed but psychotic mental content was denied and no indication of psychotic mental changes was arrived at.

He is a youngster with superior mental endowment functioning presently on the bright range of mental efficiency. His abstract thinking capacity and his vocabulary are well developed. No retardation in school subjects could be found in spite of his truancy from school.

An excerpt of Hartog’s WC testimony.

Mr. LIEBELER. In your capacity as chief psychiatrist for the Youth House did you have occasion at any time to interview Lee Harvey Oswald?


Mr. LIEBELER. Would you tell us when that was and all that you can remember about that interview in your own words?

Dr. HARTOGS. That is tough. I remember that-actually I reconstructed this from what I remembered from the seminar. We gave a seminar on this boy in which we discussed him, because he came to us on a charge of truancy from school, and yet when I examined him, I found him to have definite traits of dangerousness. In other words, this child had a potential for explosive, aggressive, assaultive acting out which was rather unusual to find in a child who was sent to Youth House on such a mild charge as truancy from school. This is the reason why I remember this particular child, and that is the reason why we discussed him in the seminar. I found him to be a medium-sized, slender, curly haired youngster, pale-faced, who was not very talkative, he was not spontaneous. He had to be prompted. He was polite. He answered in a somewhat monotonous fashion. His sentences were well structured. He was in full contact with reality.

Mr. LIEBELER. He was?

Dr. HARTOGS. He was in full contact with reality. I found his reasoning to be intensely self-centered, his judgment also centering around his own needs, and the way he looked at life and his relationships with people. This was mostly in the foreground. So this is what I remember actually.

Hartog’s recollection is not based on the documentation made in 1953/54 but on a seminar in which he and colleagues discussed the case in an informal non-documented manner. What is not explained is why he did not use his original report?

During the same testimony Hartogs claims Oswald was recommended to be sent to an institution. But the paperwork signed by Hartogs in 1953 does not support this at all, it was all on a probationary basis!

Mr. LIEBELER. Do you recall what recommendation you made to the court in respect of Oswald?

Dr. HARTOGS. If I can recall correctly, I recommended that this youngster should be committed to an institution.

Mr. LIEBELER. What type of institution, do you recall?

Dr. HARTOGS. No; that I don’t recall.

Mr. LIEBELER. But you are quite clear in your recollection that you recommended that he be institutionalized immediately because of the personality pattern disturbance; is that correct?

Dr. HARTOGS. Yes; that is right. That I remember; yes.

And a little later.

Mr. LIEBELER. Can you recall what kind of institution you recommended that Oswald he committed to?

Dr. HARTOGS. I never make a recommendation as to the name, the specific institution. This is a prerogative of the court.

Mr. LIEBELER. Do you make a recommendation as to the type of institution which you recommend a child?

Dr. HARTOGS. Yes; I do that, either a mental hospital or training school or residential treatment center, but I do not recall in this case what I recommended.

Mr. LIEBELER. But you do recall quite clearly that you did recommend, because of this boy’s personality pattern, disturbance?

Dr. HABTOGS. Yes; that he should not be placed in the community.

Mr. LIEBELER. Or placed on probation?

Dr. HARTOGS. Yes; that is right.

Mr. LIEBELER. Do you recall being interviewed on this question by the FBI?


Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember approximately when they interviewed you?

Dr. HARTOGS. No; I don’t know the date.

Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember that you told them the same thing, that is, that you recommended institutionalizing Oswald as a result of his psychiatric examination which indicated that he was potentially dangerous?


Dr Renatus Hartogs is exposed and criticised for his contradictory remarks in the New York Post in Nov. 1964.

Hartogs himself gets convicted of having sexual relations with a patient of his in 1975,

Renatus Hartogs in 1975.

Evelyn Strickman, a social worker questions Lee as well and writes a report on May 7th (pages 19-24).

Lee Oswald is a seriously detached, withdrawn youngster of thirteen years, but volunteered almost nothing by himself spontaneously. Despite the fact that he is very hard to reach, Lee seems to have some ability to relate which in view of the solitary existence he has been leading, is somewhat surprising. There is a rather pleasant, appealing quality about this emotionally starved, affectionless youngster which grows as one speaks to him, and it seems fairly clear that he has detached himself from the world around him because no one in it ever met any of his needs for love.

Laconic and taciturn, Lee answered questions, but volunteered almost nothing about himself spontaneously. Despite the fact that he is very hard to reach, Lee seems to have some ability to relate which in view of the solitary existence he has been leading, is somewhat surprising. There is a rather pleasant, appealing quality about this emotionally starved, affectionless youngster which grows as one speaks to him, and it seems fairly clear that he has detached himself from the world around him because no one in it ever met any of his needs for love.

Lee was able to respond to expressions of understanding for his lonely situation, but he denied that he really felt lonely. Questioning elicited the information that he feels almost as if there is a veil between him and other people through which they cannot reach him, but he prefers this veil to remain intact. He admitted, however, the tearing aside of the veil is talking to a social worker was not as painful as he would have anticipated. He was not comfortable in talking but he was not as disturbed in talking about his feelings as he thought he might be. When this was used as an opportunity to inquire into his fantasy life, he responded with a reminder that “This is my own business”. He agreed to answer questions if he wanted to, rejecting those which upset him and acknowledged fantasies about being powerful, and sometimes hurting or killing people, but refused to elaborate on this. None of these fantasies involved his mother, incidentally. He also acknowledged dreaming but refused to talk about the dreams other than to admit that they sometimes contained violence, but he insisted that they were pleasant.

Observation of Lee’s relationship with other boys during his stay at Youth House showed that he detached himself completely, and repulsed any efforts at friendship by others. Although he reacted favourably to supervision and did whatever was asked of him without comment when on his floor he sat by himself and read. At 8:15 every evening he asked to be excused so that he could go to bed. The other boys appeared to respect his seclusion and didn’t force themselves on him. He did not encourage conversation with anyone, and when asked questions was very terse in his replies. He was very neat and clean and always finished his work before going out to the floor.

In the recreation area he was usually quiet and withdrawn sitting by himself. If he did become involved in any minor altercation he was very hostile and belligerent and somewhat defiant of supervision. He seemed to be respected by group members who left him alone.

This pattern was some very minimal movement in his relationship with his social worker, although it was so small as to be almost not noticeable. Ordinarily when approached he remained polite but uncommunicative but when he was shown some special attention and concern when he had an earache, he responded somewhat. He never sought his caseworker out, and asked for nothing, nor did he volunteer anything further about himself.

Lee Oswald is a seriously withdrawn, detached and emotionally isolated boy of 13, who is at Youth House for the first time on a charge of truancy.

Lee became a reclusive child who was thrown upon himself and his own resources and he never made friends with other children. His mother who worked and who, when he was an infant, demonstrated her need to shift responsibility for him by leaving him with her sister and then placing him for a while in a Home, appears to be a rigid, self-involved woman with strong ideas and she has little understanding of this boy’s behaviour nor of the protective shell he has drawn around himself in his effort to avoid contact with people which may result in hurt for him. It is possible that her own negative attitude about casework help and probation officers may communicate itself to Lee, interfering with his chances for help. On the other hand there would be little accomplished by placing him in the impersonal setting afforded by an institution without seeing, first, if he can be reached in therapy. Despite his withdrawal, he gives the impression that he is not so difficult to reach as he appears and patient, prolonged effort in a sustained relationship with one therapist might bring results. There are indications that he has suffered serious personality damage but if he can receive help quickly this might be repaired to some extent.

Strickman also appears in front of the Warren Commission, but she does not elaborate anything further during that short session on Oswald’s personality.


The FBI requested the test become part of the evidence and New York judge Florence Kelley grants the FBI their request due to extraordinary circumstances.

Judge Florence M. Kelley. Click to enlarge.

There is another FBI document, although released in full, it has no online appearance at all. Then there is this hefty 143 pager “Oswald Youth” document of which I only have the RIF sheet, the other pages are nowhere to be seen elsewhere online.

The psychiatric report from Apr 17 1953 by Irving Sokolow states: “All his scores are above the average for his age group, appreciably so in the verbalization of abstract concepts and in the assembly of commonly recognizable objects. His method of approach was generally an easy, facile and a highly perceptive one. Although presumably disinterested in school subjects he operates on a much higher than average level.”

This FBI report quotes from Evelyn Strickman on Apr. 30 (pages 2 & 3): “This is a seriously detached withdrawn youngster who has preserved some ability to relate, but is very hard to reach, He is laconic and taciturn and while he answered questions he volunteered almost nothing about himself. Toward the end of the interview he occasionally would say something gratuitously without my asking him but on the whole everything had to be pulled from him. What is really surprising is that this boy has not lost entirely his ability to communicate with other people because he has been leading such a detached, solitary existence for most of his life.” The full assessment can be read on pages 11-14 of the Youth House report.

Edgar A. Buttle of the law firm Finch & Schaefler writes to Melvin Roman of the Domestic Relations Court on Dec 14th 1953 (page 25) It is my thought that some serious consideration should be given to having the boy receive private clinical treatment if it is really necessary. It has been my impression that the boy has the feeling he is being kept under surveillance so extensively that he is beginning to feel abnormal. While I am highly in favour of psychiatric treatment and its accomplishments, I feel in this case it is being overdone.

Three days later Bessie Ford (page 26), a chief psychiatric social worker of the Domestic Relations Court states that the family has moved to New Jersey.

On Dec 30th 1963 the FBI writes a report about Buttle and his then contact with the Domestic Relations Court about the handling of Oswald and states that “it was conceivable that the problem of the boy in question could be the result of too close supervision of the boy by the court or school officers, resulting in a psychiatric condition being forced upon the youth.”


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