Webcomic about life at the appalling Elan School camp for troubled teens

Elan.school is a webcomic—already 70 chapters long, so kiss your President's Day goodbye—about the years spent by the author at the Elan School. Ostensibly a treatment venue for troubled teens, Elan evolved into a cult after securing legal impunity and privacy from authorities in Maine. Filled with children forced to endure endless screaming abuse, beatings and solitary confinement under the aegis of therapy, it forbade smiling, touching and reading and held its inmates in increasingly squalid conditions despite the enormous pricetags footed by parents and taxpayers.

There are obvious horrors to consider at Elan and the local political context of its success. It was always given ample warning before inspections, it seems clear (if not proven) that local and state law enforcement were complicit in what was going on there, and its founder was easy with money in politics. It was not shut down until discussion on social media made it such a byword for abuse that it simply went out of business. It was operating much as it always had until the 2010s.

If anything, Elan was unique in how open it was about what it did. Denounced and exposed early and often, the impossibility of consequences for Elan meant that media exposés only marketed it to the kind of parents, prosecutors and officials those qualities appeal to.

If you're wondering why parents fall for it—even after their children explain to them what's happening to them—consider that the troubled teen business works like Nigerian Scam emails. The fact that the scam is so obvious, stupid and appalling is a feature, not a bug. It is selecting its targets—narcissists who are desperately ashamed of their children and will pay $50,000 a year to make that shame go away.