Late Years of Shimber Beris


After deportation from Mexico in 1972 the school regrouped at the Duveneck's Hidden Villa ranch near Los Altos, California located just south of San Francisco. They remained there for a short time and then drove up to the town of Keddie, located in Plumas County, where they camped at a dilapidated summer resort until the end of winter. Less than ten years later the site would be the scene of a hideous multiple murder but Shimber Beris was long gone and now once again relocated to points south of the Mexican border.

By September, with over a dozen students in tow, Dr. Burden relocated the school to a ranch near Tecate in Baja Norte. Rancho Espiga de Oro had arroyos and oasis with ample space to set up separate boy’s and girl’s camps. Shimber Beris remained there almost a year and then in 1974 moved to Belize, Central America. They remained in Belize for nearly six months.

In October 1972 Daphne Burden began College in England but was forced to return six months later after her father stopped sending money. Soon after reluctantly rejoining the school at its new location in March 1973, she married a former Shimber Beris student, David Coates, from Pasadena California. Dr. Burden meanwhile began developing a parcel of rainforest property in Guatemala at the top of San Gil Mountain in the Micos Montes rain forest. He had a helicopter pad cleared, banana and pineapple crops planted, and set up separate camps for boys and girls. Some structures were designed to contain "unruly" students in need of "special attention." In her memoirs Daphne wrote:

Because I was in disagreement with much of what was going on, I seldom attended staff meetings. I would like to have communicated honestly with some of the staff, but my father put me on an enforced silence with the older female staff members who might have listened to me.

My father maintained that by keeping young people close to him, he “polarized” them, and fostered their highest aspirations. To a degree, I thought he even influenced my mother in this way. I seemed to be the only person who knew him well enough to be able to interpret the machinations of his mind for what they were, so he never gained the same degree of personal influence over me. 

From my perspective, fuel for dark humor was everywhere. One of my most absurd arguments with my father concerned his private gun collection, which neither my mother nor many of the staff would have believed he was compiling had I tried to inform them. Yet he allotted the job of continually cleaning and oiling them to prevent them from rusting in the humid climate, to me. He actually tried to persuade me to fear rebellious students and directed me to wear an automatic Berretta handgun on my belt the way he claimed to do, whenever I walked through the main camp. I never witnessed his doing this though, and believe he was attempting to get me to do something foolish that would not only make me instantly unpopular with the students and most of the staff, but make me seem deranged.

In my mind, I not only had nothing to fear from any of the students, but all anyone who was bigger than I was would need to have done would have been to overpower me and take the firearm away. I would always unload the gun as soon as I was out of my father’s sight and hide it in the cave where I kept the horse feed so no one would ever see it. The only time I wore it was the night I ran away from the camp, intent on escaping both my father and the country.

By 1979 Daphne plotted and executed her own departure from the school with the help of her mother and a staff member. Seven years later the school would be investigated by agents in the employ of parents as well as the San Francisco Chronicle which published an unflattering report (lacking significant details) prominently featured on the front page of the Sunday edition of September 14, 1986.

David Burden had already planned a successor institution he called ASHGLO. Although this plan was foiled by a hurricane, no setback dampened his intention to continue convoluted goals that today might be described with a definition found in the DSM standard manual for diagnosis of mental disorders.

Dr Burden’s extraordinary ability to convince those around him that his own intentions reflected either altruism or that of a higher power, allowed him to pioneer his dreams in the face of ludicrous practical difficulties.

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