Facts of Startling Import, - The Case of Washington Irving Bishop. - Other Instances of Suspended Animation. - Vampirism. - Catalepsy. - East Indian Fakirs buried alive for Months. - Fundamental Errors. - Catalepsy not a Disease. - A Recuperative Agent. - The Law of Suggestion governs the Phenomena. - Subjective Insensibility impossible. - Suggestion of Death deepens the Lethargy. - The Appalling Dangers of Catalepsy. - The Proper Treatment.
THERE is another psychic phenomenon which deserves a passing notice at our hands, not only because it is governed by the same laws which have been discussed, but because it is a matter of transcendent practical interest and importance. I refer to the subject of suspended animation, and consequent premature burial.
I know of but one physician in this country who has given serious attention to this subject. Nothing in authoritative form has yet appeared from his pen, but I am credibly informed that he has collected an array of facts of veritable significance. One assertion of startling import is that in the United States an average of not less than one case a week is discovered and reported. This statement alone attests the importance of the subject, although due allowance must be made for possible exaggeration. Be that as it may, the appalling possibility of premature burial as a result of a condition so common as catalepsy, the psychic aspects of which are so little understood in this country, invests the subject with more than ordinary interest.
The following cases have been personally investigated by the writer, and serve to illustrate the dangers which menace the cataleptic subject. Names are omitted, at the request of the parties interested.
The first case is that of a young lady, near Indianapolis, who came to life after fourteen days of suspended animation. Six doctors had applied the usual tests, and pronounced her dead. Her little brother clung to her, against the opinion of the doctors and the will of the parents, and frantically declared that she was not dead. In the excitement the bandage which held her jaw in place was accidentally pushed aside. The jaw fell, and the brother fancied that he saw his sister's tongue moving slowly.
"What do you want, sister?" cried the little fellow.
"Water," was the faint answer from the supposed corpse.
Water was administered, the patient revived, and is yet living.
A lady who is now at the head of one of the largest orphan asylums of a Western city has been twice pronounced dead by the attending physicians, twice prepared for the grave, and twice resuscitated by her friends. On the last occasion extraordinary precautions were taken, in view of her former experience. All the tests known to her physicians were applied, and all doubts were set at rest. She was a second time professionally declared to be dead, and the physicians left the house. In preparing the body for burial it was accidentally pricked by a pin. Soon afterwards it was discovered that a small drop of blood. marked the spot where the pin entered. This once more roused the hope of the family, and vigorous treatment soon restored her to consciousness. She is living to-day, a vigorous, useful woman. It is proper to note here that upon being restored, the lady declared that she had never for a moment lost consciousness, that she knew all that went on around her, perfectly comprehended the significance of all the tests which were applied, but felt the utmost indifference as to the result, and was neither surprised nor alarmed when it Was decided that she was dead.
A few years ago, a gentleman of Harrisburg, Pa., apparently died after a long period of suffering from inflammatory rheumatism, complicated with heart trouble. Preparations were made for the funeral; but his wife refused to allow the body to be packed in ice, fearing the possibility of a premature burial, and announced her determination to keep it for at least a week. The next day her hopes were realized by finding her husband with his eyes wide open, and one of his arms out of the position in which it had been placed. She called loudly for him to arise, and with assistance he did so, and was placed in a chair. Physicians were summoned, but before their arrival he was so far recovered that their aid was unnecessary, and he soon recovered from his illness. He states that during the time of suspended animation he was perfectly cognizant of all that occurred around him, heard the lamentations of the stricken family and the preparations for burial, but was unable to move a muscle or utter a sound.
The reading public has not forgotten the death of Wash- -ington Irving Bishop, the celebrated mind-reader, which occurred under circumstances that called forth the declaration on the part of his friends and relatives that he was not dead before the surgeon's knife penetrated his brain; that on several previous occasions he had been in a cataleptic state, resembling death, for many hours at a time; and that on one of these occasions his attending physicians had pronounced him dead. The public will not soon forget the thrill of horror which was felt when it was learned with what unseemly haste an autopsy was performed upon that unfortunate man.
These are not exceptional cases, nor is the phenomenon of modern origin. It can be traced back through all the ages of which there are records preserved, until it is lost in the twilight of tradition and fable.
In all human probability the ancient belief in vampirism had its origin in discovered cases of suspended animation. It will be remembered that whenever a corpse was suspected of being a vampire, the grave was opened and the body was examined. If it showed no signs of decomposition, the fact was held to be indubitable evidence of guilt. The punishment was summary, and fully as effective as a modern autopsy; it consisted in driving a stake through the heart. This simple process effectually laid the "vampire ghost," and it no longer possessed the power to "suck the blood of the living," and thus "continue to live on in the grave," to use the language of an ancient official document denning the characteristics of a vampire.