The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf

Gould and Pyle and Günter and Phineas

Every time I think I've scraped the very bottom of this particular barrel, I find a slightly deeper barrel. It seems that Günter is a member of the Sturmabteilung, a Stormtrooper. Being undead will give him a decided advantage if the Gestapo comes after him on the Night of the Long Knives.

Incidentally, I recently got a wonderful old medical textbook that I've wanted for a while, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by Gould and Pyle. It's from 1896 so it's full of stuff they wouldn't waste ink on today, like that one story about the nobleman who had an evil twin growing out of his head that whispered to him and made him insane, and stories about guys who were still out threshing wheat or whatever at age 130. (My mother's family, as I will waste no opportunity to mention, boasts a farmer who died at ninety-two in a calf-roping accident, but that's about the upper limit of credibility, I think.) It's also full of actual medical facts, like descriptions of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva and cyclopia (which I'm not going to link to because if I do my sister might click the link against her better judgment and be grossed out all day). Then there's stuff that for all I know might be true, like "So-and-so reports the case of a girl who menstruated through her elbow" or whatever. (You'd be astonished at the sheer variety of places from which women have menstruated, according to Gould and Pyle.) Walter's grandfather Dr. Keen, one of the leading medical men of his day, makes several appearances.

Given the date of publication of course the book has a mention of our phriend Phineas, whose accident had taken place about fifty years earlier, though I find it interesting that no mention of personality changes is made. There is, however, this:
Mendenhall reports the history of an injury to a laborer nineteen years old. While sitting on a log a few feet from a comrade who was chopping wood, the axe glanced and, slipping from the woodman's grasp, struck him just above the ear, burying the "bit" of the axe in his skull. Two hours afterward he was seen almost pulseless, and his clothing drenched with blood which was still oozing from the wound with mixed brain-substance and fragments of bone. The cut was horizontal on a level with the orbit, 5 1/2 inches long externally, and, owing to the convex shape of the axe, a little less internally. Small spicules of bone were removed, and a cloth was placed on the battered skull to receive the discharges for the inspection of the surgeon, who on his arrival saw at least two tablespoonfuls of cerebral substance on this cloth. Contrary to all expectation this man recovered, but, strangely, he had a marked and peculiar change of voice, and this was permanent. From the time of the reception of the injury his whole mental and moral nature had undergone a pronounced change. Before the injury, the patient was considered a quiet, unassuming, and stupid boy, but universally regarded as honest. Afterward he became noisy, self-asserting, sharp, and seemingly devoid of moral sense or honesty.

That sounds familiar, doesn't it? This makes me wonder if "He was normal before and now he's an asshole" is just a story people liked to tell about guys who got foreign objects in their brains -- or even if this is a story that shifted from the second guy to Phineas.

Here's a guy I particularly like:
Percy saw the famous Tarrare, who died at Versailles, at about twenty-six years of age. At seventeen he weighed 100 pounds. He ate a quarter of beef in twenty-four hours. He was fond of the most revolting things. He particularly relished the flesh of serpents and would quickly devour the largest. In the presence of Lorenze he seized a live cat with his teeth, eventrated it, sucked its blood, and ate it, leaving the bare skeleton only. In about thirty minutes he rejected the hairs in the manner of birds of prey and carnivorous animals. He also ate dogs in the same manner. On one occasion it was said that he swallowed a living eel without chewing it; but he had first bitten off its head. He ate almost instantly a dinner that had been prepared for 15 vigorous workmen and drank the accompanying water and took their aggregate allowance of salt at the same time. After this meal his abdomen was so swollen that it resembled a balloon. He was seen by Courville, a surgeon-major in a military hospital, where he had swallowed a wooden box wrapped in plain white paper. This he passed the next day with the paper intact. The General-in-chief had seen him devour thirty pounds of raw liver and lungs. Nothing seemed to diminish his appetite. He waited around butcher-shops to eat what was discarded for the dogs. He drank the bleedings of the hospital and ate the dead from the dead-houses. He was suspected of eating a child of fourteen months, but no proof could be produced of this. He was of middle height...

Wait, go back. What did you say before "He was of middle height"?
Tags: books, gruesome historical information, phineas gage, stix, w. w. keen
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