Aunt Elmina visits Lewis Masquerier (1884)

 

  • Elmina, “To Friends,” Boston Investigator 54 no. 23 (September 17, 1884): 6.
  • Elmina, “Greenwood Cemetery,” Boston Investigator 54 no. 24 (September 24, 1884): 1.
  • Elmina, “Elmina Attends a Seance,” Boston Investigator 54 no. 26 (October 8, 1884): 2.
  • Elmina, “A Clairvoyant Medium,” Boston Investigator 54 no. 26 (October 8, 1884): 2.
  • Elmina, “Reconstruction of Society,” Boston Investigator 55 no. 4 (May 6, 1885): 1.
  • Elmina D. Slenker, “Patience,” Boston Investigator 56 no. 24 (September 22, 1886): 2.
  • Lewis Masquerier, “Nerves and the Nervous,” Sociology (New York: Published by the author, 1877): 1-7. [separately paginated]

Lewis Masquerier (1802–1888)

TO FRIENDS.

Here I am, at Mr. Masquerier’s, 99 Java Street, Green Point, Brooklyn. The old man and a single sister, aged 83, keep house all by themselves. They are more than kind, and met me with a welcome as hearty and sincere as if I had been an old friend. I feel as much at home as it I was at my father’s house. The old lady is strong, active, and healthy, and is a perfect embodiment of her name, Patience.

Mr. M. has written for the Investigator, and therefore you all know him. He is an enthusiast upon “Land Reform.” He has worked for many years trying to prevent “Land Monolopy.” His desire is, to have all the land divided up into small sections, and to have the homestead of each individual inalienable; to have the whole earth dotted with rural homes, where peace, happiness, and plenty shall reign, and no one ever know want or starvation any more; to do away with great cities and great kingdoms and great rulers, and have perfect equality everywhere.

These good visionaries always do good work, though the whole scheme they have in view is never realized. They sow good seed that will in the future bring forth fruit for generations to come. It is sad to think that such a mind as Mr. Masquerier should ever be extinct. What a good thing it would be, if it could be so that the work begun in his life might, as our Spiritual friends believe, be continued “over there!”

Here we call our great saviours “cranks,” and do not appreciate them till they are crucified and gone. “Over there” we should have time to learn their true value.

I have none nothing as yet but live and rest. It is too warm with the mercury in the nineties to even call on a “medium.” Mr. M. kindly says, “Wait and take it easy;” so I am content to let things drift, though not by any means idle, as I’ve penned three letters this morning before breakfast.

Affectionately,

Elmina.

Greenpoint, (N. Y.,) Sept. 11, 284.


For the Boston Investigator.

GREENWOOD CEMETERY.

Mr. Editor:—Yesterday, Mr. Masquerier, Patience, and I, went to the great city of the silent sleepers—Greenwood. I had never been there, and none of us had seen the beautiful monument “erected by one thousand friends” of the beloved and lamented editor, D. M. Bennett. We found the grand old cemetery as lovely as a picture. Flower, birds, and squirrels enlivened the scene, and the hills, slopes, and lakes, the fountains, trees, and green grass, all in the most exquisite order, made it seem a Paradise.

True, now and then a black-robed mourner was watering flowers over the grave of one loved and lost, but the thought that she could do this, and could feel her dead slept in this lovely place, was much. We had no guide, but strolled around the winding paths and roads, looking at the hundreds and thousands of stones marking the graves of rich and poor, famed and unfamed, till we reached the beautiful monument where sleeps the farmer’s friend and the N. Y. Tribune’s father, Horace Greeley. We sat upon the stone coping and looked at the noble old face, and thought of the kind, benevolent man, whom so many had love and revered. On a plate below the medallion was another with Greeley as a young lad setting type. The plow and pen were also engraved upon it, while in front upon the grass were the letter “H. G.” growing in the foliage of colens and under them the name “Ada,” in the same bright colors.

We passed on, and after a long search we reach the spot where lay “our dead,”—the good, the true, and the honest D. M. Bennett,—the man whose readers so worshipped, that he was brother, friend, and well-beloved of them all. His good and thoughtful face looked so kind, grand, and benevolent! The stirring words, terse and strong, from his own utterances, were once more read, and as they were spoken one by one, we almost fancied they fell from his own lips.

The shattered sword pierced by his pen—how emblematic of the good, kind, and loving heart, and the industrious, patient worker! We gathered some ivy leaves from his grave, and cones from the pine tree within the precious enclosure, to take away as souvenirs. We gave one more look at the dear face, a glance at the flowers, the grass, and the ivy, and then silently passed out of the enclosure, feeling that it was good to have had this sweet communion with one of the greatest and most indefatigable workers in the fields of Liberal thought.

I well remember how, when I was a Quaker girl, I used to rejoice in repeating the lines—

“Bury me, bury me, wherever you will,
Raise me tall monuments your coffers to fill.
While the poor are crying and sighing for bread,
Send to them aid, and think not of the dead.”

But I am older and wiser now. When friends are able to raise these memorial shafts in honor of their respect, love, or admiration for the dead, who would deem it wrong? The poor can get cheap and pretty stones, or none at all, as they choose. But money thus spent, if not needed more for other things, is not wasted, but helps to make beautiful the earth and tender the heart. Not a man to-day is any nearer starvation because of the monuments erected for Greeley and Bennett, but the world is richer because of these beautiful token—these tributes to good and noble men.

Yours, &c.

Elmina.

Address, Snowville, (Va.)


For the Boston Investigator.

ELMINA ATTENDS A SEANCE.

To Friends:—September 16th I had my first introduction to Spiritual phenomena. A friend invited me to his house, his daughter being a table-tipping medium. The table a light—very light—stand. It tipped out the sentence, “You will believe in time,” while she and he father sat to it with their hands resting upon it, but gave not names or tests. We all tried it—Mr. Masquerier, Patience, and others. It finally tipped when I sat alone with the medium, and gave the sentence, “Will you believe your mother?” I said, “Yes, it will be a test if it will rap her name with the initial of her maiden name as a middle letter.”

But it failed. I found I could, by pressing a trifle, and drawing on the table toward me with the palm of my hand, easily start it to tipping; and as we closed I remarked this, and the medium frankly said she could do so likewise, and also stop it on any letter, or between two letters, just as I could. They seemed honest, true, and fair. They only experiment at home for themselves and friends, so have no motive to deceive—perhaps may be self-deceived.

We tried a very heavy table that had been once said to have been raised from the floor by invisible agency, but it didn’t move a muscle.

I was, on the whole, not disappointed. I learned the modus operandi, and am promised a rapping seance soon. So I patiently bide my time.

—–

A CLAIRVOYANT MEDIUM.

Mr. Editor:—Though it was raining, I did not like to lose time, so Mr. Masquerier and I started out to see a clairvoyant and M. D. After talking a few moment and telling him I wanted a sitting, I said I was seeking for facts concerning Spiritualism, and that I was skeptical upon the subject, and that I intended to write for the press what I got. He said his position was too well assured for him to care for press notices. I said I was from the South. He asked what papers I wrote for? I said, “Doctor, I want all you can give me, and then I will tell you all you ask.” He took me into his office and sat facing me, and soon began describing spirits he saw near me. I said, I could not recognize living persons by description, and it was of no use for me to try to identify spirits in that way; that I wanted names and events, and he guessed at a number of given names, but no surnames, and finally he said I was writing a book that would cause much confusion; that I would go to Europe in 1885, suddenly and unexpectedly; that I had a child in the spirit land. Then he said he saw a large S on my forehead, and asked me if it was not the initial of my first or last name?

I said, “Of course you know that, for Mr. Masquerier called me Mrs. Slenker when you entered the door with him.” He said, “Mrs. Slenker, are you there?” He denied hearing my name, but owned he heard the rest, and then flew up and said, “Madam, I refuse to sit with you; you have insulted me by thinking I resorted to fraud!” I laughed and said I only meant to be honest with him; that the English were apt to get angry and feel insulted when we Americans would feel nothing of the sort. I tried to persuade him to continue, but he refused utterly.

From all I gathered I think it was evident to him he could get no clue to who or what I was more than I had told him, (for he had spoken a moment before of giving it up, though he went on again.) He reminded me of the actions of a real believing Christian when he talks with an Infidel; you take away his God and Bible, and he has nothing to say.

I took the ground from under him by not letting him describe the spirits, and them claiming them as relations and friends, and thus giving him some clue. I may do him injustice, but I felt that way. He charged me nothing, and so I withhold his name. His fee was $2. I had been told it would probably be 25 cents, so I accepted the situation with no great regret. Yet had he given me real satisfaction I should have deemed two dollars well spent.

Elmina.

Brooklyn, (N. Y.,) Sept. 30, 1884.


For the Boston Investigator.

RECONSTRUCTION OF SOCIETY.

Mr. Editor:—While I was North on my trip to see something of the phenomena of Spiritualism, I made it my home at Lewis Masquerier’s, and was there off and on for several weeks. He and his noble sister-in-law, Patience Tabor, both over eighty years of age, seemed so young in heart, and fresh and tender in feelings, that one could hardly realize that they were beyond the hopeful, enthusiastic, cheery season of youth-time, which always sees reforms as possible of almost immediate realization. While at Greenpoint, I was deeply impressed with Mr. Masquerier’s earnestness and efforts for helping the poor, the homeless, and landless ones.

You who have read his articles in the Investigator for many years, know something of his aims, desires, and wishes, and how he has spent the major part of his long and useful life in trying to get his views before the world, so that some day in the future all may have pleasant homes, gardens, and groves, and the whole earth “blossom like the rose.” I do not ask or expect you to endorse or accept his plans as completed,—only to consider them as worthy of study, and if possible, modification, according to the needs and exigencies of the future.

I merely write not to ask the Liberals to read something about this good man and his good works, so that they may appreciate his labors, and given him a kindly recognition before he sleeps the last long sleep which knows no waking. I wish to tell you that I have some of his books describing his toils, plans, and wishes, and giving short, trenchant biographies of numerous land reformers and socialists. These books have essays on temperance, religion, and reforms of all kinds. They contain songs and poems, and a great variety of other matter interesting to us all. His principle book is a large and handsome volume, cloth-bound, price, $1,50. But to aid in the work of bringing the author into more prominent and affectionate nearness to Liberals, I will sell it for 50 cts., postage included.

If you had seen him in his little home earnestly and patiently devoting himself to his studies for the benefit of humanity, and himself nearly blind, you would think it an honor to have his book upon your centre tables and in your libraries. No one can read this book and not be made wiser and better by it.

Hoping to receive many orders for it, I am truly yours,

Elmina.

Snowville, (Va.,) April 21, 1885.


For the Boston Investigator.

PATIENCE.

“Why should we tremble or deplore,
Or dread that we at last should sleep?
Our work once done, earth needs no more
That we should smile, or speak, or weep.”

Mr. Editor:—When I saw in the Investigator of Aug. 25th that dear, good, motherly “Patience,” the friend who was more than a friend to me while I was making my home at Mr. Masquerier’s during my hunt for ghosts, was gone from us forever, I felt sad and lonely, and a great void was in my heart.

I am no hand to fall in love with new friends, but a person who could have been with Patience Tabor half an hour and not have loved her, would be almost void of human affections. I never was more drawn to any woman as the impersonation of pure motherly kindness, and an almost perfect morality, combined with a good, strong intellect and true womanly instincts, than I was to Patience. She seemed mother, sister, and friend, all in one. And though in the eighties, she was a cheerful, lively, sympathetic, and romantic as a girl. She loved poetry, novels, flowers, and friends, and was a companion of whom none could ever tire.

To Mr. Masquerier she was as a second mother, for all women, and especially the celibates who are good and true, are full of the mother-instinct, the care-taking watchfulness and love, that is so abundant in womankind.

Mr. M., having been for years too nearly blind to be able to see more than a few inches from him, will miss her guiding hand and all-enduring sisterly attentions, as only helpless and lonely can miss such things.—Patience was a good reader, and Mr. M. and I enjoyed hearing her read from Burns, her favorite poet, and from Dr. Hollick’s book, “The Nerves and the Nervous,” of which the good doctor had present us each a copy. We were especially interested in this book on nerves, for we had been ghost-hunting together, and in Dr. Hollick’s descriptions of cases of nervous phenomena, we found a solution of a great part of what is called Spiritual phenomena. We also read and enjoyed together all the prominent Liberal papers.

She was very radical on the reforms of the day, and understood and appreciated the grand efforts of all the workers for mental freedom. She was strongly practical, too. Mr. Masquerier and I had visited Dr. Foote, and Mr. M. while there exchanged his work on “Sociology” with the Doctor, for his “Plain Home Talk.” Mr. M. was earnestly reading the book, which strongly opposes the use of pork as an article of food. Patience was her own cook, and had boiled some pork and cabbage for our dinners, and was about to help MR. M. to a plate full, when the old gentle men said he guessed he would not take any as Dr. Foote said it was so unhealthy. Patience look at him a moment, and the said, in a dry, humorous sort of way, “We have been eating pork for over eighty year, and we are not dead yet, and I guess it will not harm us the few years that are left.” Mr. M. said no more, but allowed her to give him his plate full as usual.

Now I don’t doubt that pork is just as injurious as Dr. Foote shows it to be; still, where the animal is in good health, and the meat in good condition, it is probably as harmless as much else one eats, and especially the decaying fruits and vegetables found in the cheaper city markets.

Patience and her brother-in-law were well fitted as companions. He is what may be called a dreamer—one whose mind is every planning, thinking, and contriving for the higher and better. Patience, though having full enough of these good things, and being glad and willing to do her share towards helping them along, had a vein of practicability that was just the balance needed to keep up a true equilibrium and make the every-day affairs of life run smoothly.

All who knew her will miss her. I was shocked at seeing her death in the paper, for in her last letter she was speaking of her sister’s advanced age, and the longevity of the family, and seemed to count on many years of life yet to come for herself—and I have many times thought she would outlive me.

I was at Mr. Masquerier’s plot in the cemetery at Cypress Hills, so I can, in my mind’s eye, see just where Patience sleeps. One day, while Mr. M. was explaining to me the inscriptions on his monument, Patience gathered a handful of wild flowers and laid them on the grave of her sister Annie, (his wife.)

His book on “Sociology” has a unique epitaph on Mr. Masquerier, (about putting up the head-stone so long before his death,) written by his wife. It has also other poems to Annie, and by her. One by her brother, Walter Tabor, is a riddle, which I will copy for the Children’s Corner. Friends who wish to know more of this interesting family, may learn much from the book. I will send it for 50 cents, though it is really worth $2. It is bound in cloth, and is full of interesting poems, essays, and short biographies of reformers. Dr. Hollick’s “Nerves and the Nervous” I will send for $1. Good books are the best instructors, for they can be read and re-read, and referred to again and again, and when tired of them can be laid aside at will.

You see that I have wandered from Patience, but never for one moment forgotten her, for she is linked in memory with these books and all they represent.

Yours,

Elmina D. Slenker.

Snowville, (Va.,) Sept., 10, 1886.


THE NERVES AND THE NERVOUS.

A practical treatise on the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system, with the nature and causes of all kinds of nervous diseases; showing how they may often be prevented, and how they should be treated, including also an explanation of the new practice of Neuropathy, or the nerve cure. Intended for popular instruction and use. By Dr. F. Hollick, the author and lecturer. Illustrated by forty engravings and numerous remarkable cases. 500 pp. The American News Co., publisher’s agents. New York: 1873.

Dr. F. Hollick’s books have won for him a deserved reputation in a department of science heretofore but little cultivated; and he is now publishing “The Nerves and the Nervous,” a new work, and the sixth of his series. He publishes all his books in a small 12mo. size, for convenience, as guides for practical use.

Here is an author who has been led by his specialty and philanthropic emotions into the investigation of a department of knowledge of the first importance to his fellow men, and from which he has never strayed. He saw them suffering and deteriorating not only from their ignorance of their mental, but physical nature and constitution. He saw medical authors declining to treat fully upon the anatomy of the body, fearing that the squeamish people would not attend their lectures, or that their books would not sell. But he resolved to instruct the people upon a matter that was either life or death to them. He formed his plan, from which he has never swerved. He procured the most complete papier-mache model of man’s body from France, and lectured upon it in all the cities to appreciating audiences. But he did not escape the usual bigotry, meanness, and malice that opposes the efforts of all reformers. A few self-styled doctors in Philadelphia, through falsehood and forgery, got him indicted for exhibiting a model of the human body as obscene. But he took it, with his books, before the court, whose jury felt ashamed and insulted that such agroundless indictment should be brought before them. He then turned upon his accusers, who had forged some documents, and they had a tight squeeze to escape the State prison. But it greatly increased his success afterwards in his lectures, practice, and sale of books.

He has now, during the last twenty-five years, created an immense business, in giving private advice and the sale of his books. He receives through the New York city post-office box 3,606, about fifty letters daily. Before reviewing his new book, we will first give the title and character of

his first series of books.

His “Marriage Guide, or Natural History of Generation,” illustrated with numerous engravings and colored plates, designed especially for it, gives new discoveries and matter of the most interesting kind, that cannot be found in any other work. Such works are of the most urgent necessity for the improvement of the race of man. For if the present practices among our race are not reformed, we may look for man’s degeneracy back into a savage or monkey, or of becoming extinct. See with what recklessness illy-paired marriages are contracted between beings not half made up, valetudinarians from birth, lanky, pale, sunken-breasted, going it blind, and bringing puny children into the world to populate grave-yards. See capital combining with railroads, now driving the agricultural population into overgrowing cities, jammed and rammed into six-story buildings, with one and two families on a floor, to become crushed with rack-rentage, smothered with bad ventilation, and cursed with disease and crime. See the puny children swarming like bees on the sidewalks, without buoyant joy enough to holloa or to fancy their toy images to be living beings. It should be made a felony to build such tenements or for human beings to live in them. Instead of packing in among such a concretion of houses, they should be dispersed into a rural city with soil enough around them to raise every eatable, and their children in health. With everyone upon equal and inalienable homesteads, subject to no liability to alienate by any debt, sale. tax, mortgage, bill of credit, etc., but only to be exchanged for each other, with boot for the difference in value, every family could be kept in possession of a home to the latest posterity and at last find something like a paradise on earth. Thus with dwelling, shop, and barn upon every forty or ten acres as the minimum, the buildings would be far enough apart to constitute a rural city over nearly all the earth, and soon let the present concreted cities and towns fall into ruins. Then let each six mile square township be organized, with the proportionate number to produce the leading necessaries of a living, for equitable exchange in town mart, and to meet in town hall to vote in proper person for their laws, without divine, hereditary, so-called representative Or other form of officer. With these arrangements, and Dr. Hollick’s “Marriage Guide,” all the present institutions of society and government would become reformed, and men made angels on earth, instead of the groundless hope of becoming such in an after life.

His work on the “Male Generative Organs,” illustrated by engravings and colored plates, is a practical treatise on the anatomy and physiology of the said organs and gives a full description of the causes and cure of all the diseases and derangements to which they are liable—adapted to every man’s private use. It gives an epitome of the new discoveries respecting the female system and generation.

His “Matron’s Manual of Midwifery and the diseases of women during pregnancy and child-birth”; is also illustrated with over sixty engravings and colored plates, giving directions in delivery, cases of emergency and the management of new born infants.

His “Diseases of Women, their Causes and Cure familiarly explained;” is illustrated with colored plates and engravings. In this work everything relating to female health is treated upon from infancy to old age, with valuable recipes and practical directions. He has been highly complimented for it by many public audiences of ladies. None should be without it.

His popular “Treatise on Venereal Diseases in all their forms,” is illustrated by wood cuts and colored plates. It embraces their history and probable origin, and their consequences both to individuals and to society. When we contemplate the pernicious effects of the appetite for strong drinks, tobacco, together with gaming, speculating and other swindling lusts, how great must be the self-abuse and other excesses arising from the still more powerful venereal appetite! We now come to Dr. Hollick’s.

new book: the nerves and the nervous.

Which is now published and illustrated with wood cuts specially engraved for it, with colored plates. It gives a full explanation of the anatomy of the organs of the body, their functions and diseases. The nervous, next to the reproductive organs, demand the most urgent investigation into the nature of their properties and diseases. This he has done with great care and research into all the latest developments of his contemporaries. He has investigated industriously to verify his own theories, assumes nothing without the best proof he can get, and candidly confesses what he and others do not know.

His style is perspicuous, every word is carefully selected and every sentence is terse and well-turned. He makes no exhibition of fireworks, by throwing up skyrockets of figurative language to irradiate the darkness of his subject, but looks at it by the sunlight of fact and reason. We will here quote a paragraph as a sample of his style.

“The vegetative functions in man are analogous to the ordinary functions of plants and comprise all the processes of nutrition, by which the body is nourished. Digestion, assimilation, the circulation of the blood and breathing, are all stages in the process of nutrition. And just as the plant absorbs the material for its growth and sustenance from the air, water and soil, so does man absorb them from his food and drink and from the air he breathes.

“The human body from the moment of its birth, is in a constant state of change, no part remaining long composed of the same material. A special set of organs are constantly occupied in taking up and carrying away the particles of the body that have served their turn; while the nutritive organs are equally busy in putting new particles in the place of the old ones thus removed.

Both these processes — waste and repair—must go on uninterruptedly, or life cannot be maintained. If the old matter is retained too long, the body is poisoned by its own refuse, for the rejected master becomes truly a poison. If on the contrary the process of renewal does not take place as rapidly as that destruction, the body wastes away.”

classification.

Dr. Hollick like all great scientific investigators, first gives a general exposition of the nervous class or system of the organs of the human body, then a particular description of the divisions and subdivisions into which it divides, and then of its diseases to which they are subject in a parallel classification. Thus he divides and treats upon the great nervous system to which his work is confined, under the divisions and orders of the spinal cord or marrow, the ganglions, and the brain, with their respective functions or properties of consciousness, emotions and mind. To complete the classification of the human body, the great vascular vital or nutritive system of organs divides into the lungs, stomach and veins, with their respective functions of respiration, digestion and assimilation; and with still more divisions of oxygenation, secretion and generation. The great locomotive system, divides into the bones, ligaments and muscles, with their respective functions of support, connection and motion, and still it divides into different kinds of bones and supports, of ligaments and connections and of muscles and motions. The diseases of all these organs, of course, classify parallel along with them as done by Cullen. Thus, it appears, that while the immense number of the individuals in the vegetable and animal worldoms, may be classed into classes, orders, genera and species in accordance with the modifications of their form, structure and characteristics, we may still class their organs and properties in a similar way.

And this classification of the organs of man’s body, while it aids us in grasping the science of anatomy, and the treatment of diseases, is the true substratum or pedestal upon which to erect the science of society and government, and which already becomes a classification of rights with their opposing wrongs. Thus vitality, the property or function of the vascular or vital system, gives rise to the want and right of life; which divides into the security of body, limb, health, peace, etc., with other subdivisions; while their violation, called wrongs, and which, take the place of what is called diseases in anatomy, is called that of homicide, which divides into those of murder, mutilation, nuisance, war, etc. And so another of the great rights arises upon the locomotive organs, and is that of mobility, which divides into that of locomotion, labor, self-owning, self-employment, etc., with other subdivisions, and which is violated by the great wrong of slavery, dividing into false imprisonment, hireage, chattelhood, etc. The third great right is founded upon and arises from the nervous system, and is that of the mind or sovereignty, which divides into those of education, opinion, free speech, consent, reputation, morality, and of government in proper person without officers, and which is violated by the great wrong of the institution of officers in the form of kings, lords, and the so-called representative legislatures, which is subdivided into the wrongs of ignorance, bigotry, slander, religion, or piety, usurpation, tyranny, etc. Thus it appears that rights as well as the organs of man’s body, their properties and wants, can be arranged as similar classes, orders, etc. But authors as yet disagree in their classifications of the different departments of nature. But even an imperfect one greatly enables the mind to grasp at the apparently heterogeneous mass of particulars or individuals in nature. All acknowledge even the aid which the imperfect arrangement of rights and wrongs give in Blackstone’s commentaries. An author, then, that does not arrange his matter in a natural order with nature, cannot teach with so much success.

the animal can live while with torpid nerves and muscles.

Dr. Hollick develops a distinction between the organs which animals have in common with plants, and those that they have in addition. The vascular system of animals are analogous to the sap vessels of plants. Their bony and reproductive organs are also analogous to the wood and seeds of plants. But the animal has in addition a nervous and locomotive system of organs. The animal worldom, therefore, has one-half of its organs in common with the vegetable, and is somewhat akin to it, although man in his pride endeavors to deny even his nearer kinship to his hairy fellow creature, the gorilla. But as plants live and grow without a nervous and locomotive system, so can an animal live for a short time with its brain and muscles torpid or in a manner dead, as its vital or nutritive organs have an involuntary motion of their own, and therefore are sufficiently independent of the brain to retain life. This power of living with the vascular organs only, without the aid of the nervous ones, is exhibited in catalepsy, and its varieties of trance, ecstacy, lethargy, sleep-talking, etc. The author says “one of the principal symptoms in catalepsy, is a stiffening or rigid fixing of the muscles in whatever position the patients may happen to be at the moment when attacked. Stooping, standing, sitting or lying, so they remain, as if they were stone statues.

“It often comes on from fright, from intense emotion, and from absorbing attention to any subject which excites powerfully the feelings. Religious excitement frequently causes catalepsy, or a state nearly resembling it, which is usually followed by hysteria, and then the subject is said to have gotten religion, or to have been converted.

“Trance is a variety of catalepsy, in which the body remains fixed and quiet, but the muscles are relaxed instead of rigid. The state of quiescence is sometimes so perfect that the subject seems really dead, and some have been buried in that state. Sometimes consciousness remains unimpaired, so that the patient knows what is going on, though unable to move; but at other times the trance is complete, and the mind is totally inactive as the body.”

Cases are mentioned of finding the remains of persons, on opening vaults and graves, lying on their sides, showing that they might have been interred when in some form of catalepsy. Some years ago a citizen of New York, who had been deposited in a receiving vault, was found dead crouched in a corner, having burst out of his coffin. These cases, then, that can go on without a visible pulse or breathing, should caution the friends of the dead never to bury until decomposition appears —in certain diseases at least.

Lewis Masquerier.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2009 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.