Doctor Joseph Wanless is the Doctor of Psychology for The Shop in the novel Firestarter and the 1984 film adaptation.

Firestarter (novel)

In the novel, Doctor Wanless is the Doctor of Psychology for the Shop.

One day, Wanless's nephew Freddy wanted to play with matches, so his father - Wanless's brother - told him that the heads of the matches were sulfur and would rot his teeth, and to teach him a lesson, he burned Freddy with a match.

Wanless's brother died from smoking.

In May 1969, Wanless went to Harrison State College, and explained about a chemical compound called Lot Six to 12 students in the lecture hall of the Sociology/Psychology building. These 12 students would be recieve injections; half of which would be distilled water, and the other half would be water mixed with Lot Six. The injections would be administered in a double-blind method, so that neither the doctors nor the students know who recieves what. After the injections, the students would be kept under supervision for 48 hours.

One of the students who applied for the injection was Andrew McGee, soon joined by fellow student Victoria Tomlinson and 10 other students.

The injections began on May 11, 1969, in Room 70 of the Jason Gearneigh Hall. Although the injections were claimed to be divided into water and water mixed with Lot Six, it was soon revealed that all of the injections were water mixed Lot Six, and when the 12 students got injected, the results were mostly catastrophic:

  • 1 died during the test.
  • 1 died shortly after the test.
  • 1 went insane, clawed his eyes out, and was confined to a compound in Maui.
  • 1 went insane, suffered from psychotic paralysis, and was confined to a compound in Maui.
  • 1 died in a car crash in 1972.
  • 1 jumped from the roof of the Cleveland Post Office in 1973.
  • 3 commited suicide between 1974 and 1977.

James Richardson had relocated west to Los Angeles, California, and Andy and Vicky married, stayed in Harrison, and had a daughter: Charlene McGee.

On August 8, 1974 - the same day that President Richard Nixon announced he would resigned - Wanless had a stroke, which he never fully recovered from. After his stroke, he became obsessed with the Lot Six experiment and those involved. In August 1980, the McGee family were hunted down by the Shop to use as weapons; Vicky was tortured and killed, and Charlie was abducted, although she would later be saved by her father, who made 1 agent go blind and another go comatose. Despite the Shop's intent to use Charlie's power as a weapon, Wanless wanted both Andy and Charlie to be killed, as he saw a threat in Charlie; a threat that her power, as well as those involved in Lot Six, might destroy the planet. Captain James Hollister - the head of the shop - thought Wanless's idea was insane, and told Wanless that he would "consider everything very carefully". At Hollister's suggestion, Wanless stays in Room 1217 at the Mayflower Hotel, in Washington, D.C. Hollister, wanting to completely disregard Wanless, sends John Rainbird to kill Wanless. That night, Rainbird sneaks into Wanless's bedroom while Wanless is asleep, and, after getting information about Charlie out of him, suffocates him to death with his bare hands.

Firestarter (film)

In the film, Wanless is played by Freddie Jones.

The number of students are changed from 12 to 10, and except for Andy and Vicky, everyone else commits suicide.

Unlike in the book, Hollister reveals to Wanless what he wants to do with Charlie, and Wanless ceases all experiments and threatens to shut down the Shop, so Hollister sends Rainbird to kill him.

Also unlike in the book, Rainbird doesn't suffocate Wanless; instead, he wakes Wanless up, and then hits him on the bridge of the nose, sending bone fragments into the brain, killing him instantly.


Firestarter (novel)

Wanless is described as being fat and balding, with small pink fingers.

He wears little, thick, rimless glasses and a white lab coat, and has a habit of shredding his cigarettes.

After his stroke, the left side of his mouth fell into a sneer, his left hand became a claw, he spoke in a soft, croaking voice, and he walked with a cane.

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