Back-to-Back Fires Damage Analyst’s Primal Institute

Times Staff Writer

The Primal Institute, the West Los Angeles headquarters of psychologist Arthur Janov, who attracted national attention in the 1970s with his theory that “primal screaming” can cure childhood neuroses, was ravaged Sunday by back-to-back fires, one of which has been ruled arson.

Los Angeles Fire Department officials said the blazes, which caused an estimated $475,000 in damage and injured a firefighter who was struck by a broken hose, began in different parts of the building at 2215 S. Colby Ave. They were unrelated, firefighters said.

“The other fire was out,” said Battalion Chief Chuck Merriman, whose firefighters fought the second blaze. “We don’t leave them before they’re out. It’s very suspicious.”

Authorities said the first blaze, which broke out at about 12:30 a.m. and was brought under control within half an hour, was deliberately set by an arsonist.


The second fire, reported at 6:55 a.m. and put out shortly before 8 a.m., has been labeled “suspicious,” and arson investigators said Sunday that they found flammable liquids, indicating that fire may have also been deliberately set.

Officials said they know of no motive for the fires, and no one from the Primal Institute would comment Sunday.

A woman who firefighters identified as Janov’s wife declined to be interviewed.

Janov, himself, could not be reached. The psychologist developed primal therapy in 1967 and his book, “The Primal Scream,” gained acclaim four years later when hundreds of people, including former Beatle John Lennon and actor James Earl Jones, adopted his theories in an attempt to unearth their childhood neuroses by venting their rage through screaming.