Dear Congressman,

I wish you would send me some proof that you return part of your pay back to the treasurer. Some people I know don't believe you, but I do. If you're honest, they still think you're a crook or a liar. They also say that you people in office in Washington don't read the letters sent to you. You file them in the waste basket. I hope this is not true. If so, that is why people don't write you more.

P.S. Why don't you cut this session short?

They arrive by the thousands, postmarked from every district of every state, often scribbled on dime-store paper. They are humorous, poignant, disturbing, sometimes obscene (but mostly harmless) letters written by constituents -- some of whom sound as if they could be on another planet.

Although the intended senator or congressman rarely reads them, letters like these are filed -- not in the waste basket -- but in carefully typed manila folders labeled "Crack Pots," "Cranks" or as one Capitol Hill office put it, "Nut File."

"Every office has one," said one legislative assistant."I guess it's the old thing, write your congressman." And they do. According to the Senate postmaster, legislators on Capitol Hill receive nearly 5 million letters a month, dumped on office desks during seven daily deliveries. Most of the mail is legislative correspondence. But a growing portion of it, staffers say, is not.

Dear Congressman,

What I'm getting at is I thought since my childhood was so turbulent that this was the cause of some terrifying dreams I've had -- always dreams extremely realistic about war -- always planes (war planes) flying all around. In one dream I saw a white kind of gaseous cloud on the ground that made raw sores on people and caused death. However, in this one particular dream I was wearing a shiny silver suit which protected me from this gas. . . . Those dreams just scare me right into the Arms of Jesus. Could you please see what you could do about shelters for this state?

"I like to think ours is the creme de la creme of nut files," said Signy Ellerton, press secretary to Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr. (R-Calif.)."We received a letter recently from a man who was obviously a very intelligent person. The letter was a very long treatise on the government. Usually you can tell a crank letter right off, but this guy had me going. It wasn't until the very last paragraph that I caught on. The man said . . ."

Ellerton began to giggle. "He said he couldn't stop thinking those thoughts unless he put an icepack on his genitals."

The normally unflappable press secretary said it took her several hours to get out from under her desk, "I was laughing so hard."

Did she write back"

"Are you kidding? The poor man would have had to get his ice pack out again."

Dear Congressman,

One of God's commandments not taught today is that man not eat the blood of the animals for blood is the life of the flesh. We find men and women in restaurants eating steaks from which blood gushes. As they cut into it, they smack their lips with gusto. If you and your wife enjoy the God given pleasure of pure and unadulturated romance, stay away from eating the pink, adulturated salt pork.

Legislators occasionally receive threatening mail which is immediately turned over to the FBI. Lurking in the "nut files" are paranoidal pennings, religious ramblings, chain letters and disturbing dispatches from the deep recesses of psychotic minds.

"Are they dangerous? Generally, no," said Dr. Donald W. Hammersley, deputy medical director of the American Psychiatric Association. For years, Hammersley has been answering crank letters sent to the association, often copies of ones the legislators receive.

"We're a bit of a lightning rod in Washington for drawing that kind of attention. In part, it's an exercise in democracy. Each congressman has a range of constituents, including those who are, as you say, off the wall."

The letters are kept, staffers said, for security reasons. "In case someone later threatened the congressman. We'd have some record of that in the office," one press secretary said.

The loony ones (the ones with little animal decals pasted over heads or quotes from the Bible scratched in newspaper margins) are usually tossed away, several staffers said. Still more are passed around the office or thumbtacked to the staff bulletin board.

"Most of our nut letters come from California," said Dawn Gifford, legislative aide to Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.).

Following close behind in the screwball sweepstakes, Hill staffers say, are letters posted from Florida, Texas and New York. "If the guy's obviously wacko, we don't answer," Gifford said, adding that the office has seen a sharp increase in "nut" letters recently. "But we do answer everything from our district, even if it's cuckoo."

Often, the staffers become legislative Miss Lonelyhearts.

"We've got a guy in our office who's earning $52,000 a year and a lot of his time is spent writing to nuts," said another congressman's legislative aide.

Hammersley said that may be the best response.

"What helps most is to write back in a matter-of-fact way, saying that you agree with them or disagree with them, thank them for expressing their thoughts. It's best to reflect a real person back to them, maybe just by saying, 'Frankly, I don't understand what you're talking about.'"

Dear Congressman,

1. I was strung up.

2. I have been deathly sick . . . nose bleeds and vomited blood.

3. I have blacked out many times.

The disruption via bugging and harassment is getting into full swing in Colorado. . . When the Navy found out (via their bugging and tracking device) that I was sleeping in the back seat of my car, they would catch up with me while out shopping and put drugs in my car so that I couldn't sleep in my car either. In view of the above, I'll ask again -- What is washington waiting for? I don't know how much longer I can take these drugs.

"Today, all kinds of people who used to be hospitalized are now on the streets, Hammersley said. "They can be quite disorganized in their mind, but get along very well."

Indeed, with the advent of major tranquilizers in the 1950s and the current trend toward "mainstreaming" patients into society, the resident population of mental institutions has been reduced by two-thirds in 20 years, according to nationwide surveys. In 1955, there were 559,000 resident mental patients. By 1975, the figure had dropped to 193,000.

"They like to write letters," Hammersley said. "It could be a plea for help. They're pleading for someone to redress their grievances. They presume we can influence the system in some way. Above all, they hope that someone will listen to them."

Dear Sir,

I just want to be somebody in life I don't know my mother or father or my sisters or brother. This is very bad. The days that I was sad, I have nobody that really care for me. Everybody all do thing to make me mad. I just don't know what to do I'm a man not a child. Just don't let someone like me is doing good go down. Let me come up.

"It's sad. It's extremely sad," said Jan Mueller, administrative aide to Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) "They're mostly lonely people. I'm not sure they're really crazy.

"People joke about California but I don't think we get any more [crank letters] than anyone else."

Because Cranston represents the most populated state in the country, his office receives more mail than any other on the Hill -- 10,000 letters a week. As for the nut mail, Mueller said, "We don't answer them. It's difficult to know how to deal with someone who has no grasp on reality. Then they'd get to be pen pals."

(One congressman's office estimated that it had written over 100 responses to one habitual letter writer last year alone.)

If Cranston gets the most mail, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) receives the most bizarre. I wrote to Queen Elizabeth today, one letter read. It is by her hand that I will become Canada's king. If she agrees it will be so. If she does not, then I am a king within a country that does not accept me . . . If I become king, I will need a queen. She must be Catholic. I have chosen Caroline Kennedy . . . Love & Stuff, King Joseph of Canada

Some writers claim they see President John F. Kennedy, were married to him, are still married to him with several of his children. "We had one man, he was incredibly paranoid," said a staffer from another legislator's office. "He was convinced that Jackie Kennedy comes and stays at the Holiday Inn near his home to spy on him through binoculars."

I suffer sometimes from the effect of nuclear power (Radiant Energy) what I believe to be electric current. Am I a P.O.W. in some type of warfare?

A large percentage of the letter writers are paranoid: constituents who feel the country has been raped and pillaged by pinkos or invaded by beings from outer space. They claim to have been zapped by laser beams from China, harrassed by talking stop lights. They find a conspiracy around every corner, a "commie" under every rock.

"They're angry," said the APA's Hammersley. "But they're angry at a class of people."

Hill staffers said the volume of mail increases during any wiretap hearings, if the congressman is in the news, when chairmanships change hands or if the moon is full.

"It's paranoia," said Hammersley. "People are plotting against them."

Sometimes that feeling is not unusual, as in the case of one letter which might describe a normal day in America. My parents during this period and before, had been undergoing strange events, the letter read, such as frequent and unexplained hikes in their water and utilities bills, absurd telephone calls and the like.

Sometimes it's expressed in a foreign language: No Gulag here? Poor Serpistay (Serpico went!) Washington in the form of a Cross. Stacked deck. It's 1980 and it's every man for himself. Schlemiel Marked a fool and a tool. World of Candide. S.W.A.T. Operation "Chaos." Russians and Chicoms.

Sometimes, it's poetry.

Leonid Breshnev likes sable coats for women. All the poor should have them. He might be a Catholic, I believe. Turning towards Islam to find an autumn leave. My ex husband was a nice guy anyway. He won a purple heart and a Navy cross, and he bought the baby a new color t.v. for Christmas anyway and Joan Bennett offered to sing my songs and has won the same awards I've won anyway and Caroline Onassis calls me mother and Jacqueline's friendly, anyway.

I guess the war's over.

Sometimes constituents send in helpful hints:

Dear Congressman, I have several ideas I thought would improve our country

DEATH RISK PUNISHMENT

A criminal would make a choice between taking a chance on death or going to jail for so many years.For example, a bank robber might have to choose between 10 years in jail or having a 50/50 chance on death. If he chose to take a chance, then two hypodermics (one deadly and one harmless) would be presented to him. If he is lucky, he would go free (and) the lifespan of criminals would be much less than that of non-criminals It would also reduce the population of criminals, thereby reducing crime.

The writer even planned what to do with all that empty jail space.

They could be used as waiting rooms for the jobless. All of the job less in jail would get their necessities taken care of . . . In other words, they would be kept alive while they are waiting for a job . . . free to come and go on weekends.

P.s. My hobby is creating ideas.

One of the more disturbing pieces of correspondence received by one Capitol Hill office was a cassette tape recording from a retired military officer who said he shared his house "with a criminal, a man who shares my bread and asists me in all ways. Let me make it abundantly clear. I am not, repeat not, a homosexual. However, I am an alcoholic."

The reason for the communique was his distress over "the way our country is going." The man rambled on for 30 minutes, railing against the government, dope, sex, foreigners and finally ended with the plea, "Let's go back to grand dad's time and the overhead fans."

Finally spent, he ended with, "Retired -- but not from life."