By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Fasting Girls - Their Physiology and Pathology
Author: Hammond, William Alexander, 1828-1900
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fasting Girls - Their Physiology and Pathology" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

book was produced from scanned images of public domain

                            BY THE SAME AUTHOR.


    "Under the disguise of these hard words, Dr. Hammond presents a
    variety of admirable counsels, with regard to an excess of blood in
    the head, pointing out its causes, its symptoms, the mode of its
    medical treatment, and the means of its prevention."--_N. Y. Tribune._

    "The work is not only of interest to the medical man, but also is
    one easily understood and to be read with profit by brain-workers of
    all classes, whether in profession, in literature or business. It
    treats of the cause of headaches, the wakefulness, the illusions or
    delusions, and feelings of tightness in the head, which so many of
    our American writers and thinkers experience, and it gives valuable
    information available by laymen as to the prevention and remedy for
    this affection, which later on leads to insanity or death."--_Boston

                              G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK.

                       FASTING GIRLS;



                  WILLIAM A. HAMMOND, M.D.


           "There is no new thing under the Sun."
                                         --_Eccl._ I, 9.

        "Nil spernat auris, nec tamen credat statim."

                          NEW YORK
                     G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
                      182 FIFTH AVENUE



In issuing this little book I have been actuated by a desire to do
something towards the removal of a lamentable degree of popular

It seems that no proposition that can be made is so absurd or impossible
but that many people, ordinarily regarded as intelligent, will be found
to accept it and to aid in its propagation. And hence, when it is
asserted that a young lady has lived for fourteen years without food of
any kind, hundreds and thousands of persons throughout the length and
breadth of a civilized land at once yield their belief to the monstrous

I have confined my remarks entirely to the question of abstinence from
food. The other supernatural gifts, the possession of which is claimed,
would, if considered, have extended the limits of this little volume
beyond the bounds which were deemed expedient. At some future time I may
be tempted to discuss them. In the meantime it is well to call to mind
that a proposition (_see_ Appendix) which I made solely in the interest
of truth was disregarded, ostensibly with the desire to avoid publicity,
when in fact the daily press had for weeks been filled with reports in
detail, furnished by the friends of the young lady in question, of the
marvellous powers she was said to possess.

A portion of this essay, which bore upon the matter discussed, has been
taken from another volume by the author, published several years ago,
and now out of print.

                                                   WILLIAM A. HAMMOND.

  MARCH _1st, 1879_.



   I  ABSTINENCE IN THE MIDDLE AGES                   1

  II  ABSTINENCE IN MODERN TIMES                      6


  IV  THE BROOKLYN CASE                              48





Among the many remarkable manifestations by which hysteria exhibits
itself, for the astonishment of the credulous and uneducated portion of
the public, and--alas, that it should have to be said,--for the
delectation of an occasional weak-minded and ignorant physician, the
assumption of the ability to live without food may be assigned a
prominent place. I am not aware that this power has been claimed in its
fullest development for the male of the human species. When he is
deprived of food he dies in a few days, more or less, according to his
physical condition as regards adipose tissue and strength of
constitution; but if a weak emaciated girl asserts that she is able to
exist for years without eating, there are at once certificates and
letters from clergymen, professors, and even physicians, in support of
the truth of her story. The element of impossibility goes for nothing
against the bare word of such a woman, and her statements are accepted
with a degree of confidence which is lamentable to witness in this era
of the world's progress.

The class of deceptions occasionally induced by hysteria, and embracing
these "fasting girls," has been known for many years, though it is only
in comparatively recent times that the instances have been taken at
their proper value. Görres[1] gives a number of examples occurring among
male and female saints and other holy persons, in which partial or total
abstinence from food was said to have existed for long periods.

Thus Liduine of Schiedam fell ill in 1395, and remained in that state
till her death, thirty-three years subsequently. During the first
nineteen years she ate every day nothing but a little piece of apple the
size of a holy wafer, and drank a little water and a swallow of beer, or
sometimes a little sweet milk. Subsequently, being unable to digest beer
and milk, she restricted herself to a little wine and water, and still
later she was obliged to confine herself to water alone, which served
her both as food and drink. But after nineteen years she took nothing
whatever, according to her own statement made to some friars in 1422,
she averring that for eight years nothing in the way of nourishment had
passed her lips, and that for twenty years she had seen neither the sun
nor the moon, nor had touched the earth with her feet.

Saint Joseph of Copertino remained for five years without eating bread,
and ten years without drinking wine, contenting himself with dried
fruits, which he mixed with various bitter herbs. The herb which he used
for Fridays had such an atrocious taste, that one of the brethren, by
simply putting his tongue to it, was seized with vomiting, and for
several days thereafter everything he ate excited nausea. He fasted for
forty days seven times every year, and during these periods ate nothing
at all except on Sundays and Thursdays.

Nicolas of Flue, as soon as he embraced the monastic life, subsisted
altogether on the holy eucharist. The pious Görres in explanation of
this miracle says:

"In ordinary nourishment he who eats being superior to that which is
eaten, assimilates the aliments which he takes, and communicates to them
his own nature. But in the eucharist the aliment is more powerful than
he who eats. It is no longer therefore the nourishment which is
assimilated, but on the contrary, it assimilates the man, and introduces
him into a superior sphere. An entire change is produced. The
supernatural life in some way or other absorbs the natural life, and the
man instead of living on earth, lives henceforth by grace and by

This is about on a par, as regards lucidity and logic, with the
explanations which we are given of the alleged case of prolonged fasting
in Brooklyn.

Doubts arose in regard to Nicolas, and the bishop had him watched, but
without detecting him in fraud. Finally he ordered him to eat a piece of
bread in his presence. Nicolas did as he was commanded, but at the first
mouthful he was seized with violent vomiting. The bishop inquired of him
how he thus managed to live without eating, to which the brother
answered that when he assisted at mass, and when he took the holy
eucharist, he felt a degree of strength and suppleness like that derived
from the most nutritious food.

Still the doubters continued, and the inhabitants of Underwold, where
Nicolas lived, appear to have been at first very much inclined to
suspect him of deceit. But they were finally converted, for having
during a whole month guarded every approach to his cabin, and having
during that time detected no one in taking food to him, they were
convinced that for that time at least he had lived without food. The
sceptical reasoner of the present day would probably regard the test as

In 1225, Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, having heard that there was at
Leicester a nun who had taken no nourishment for seven years, and who
lived only on the eucharist, which she took every Sunday, gave at first
no faith to the story. He sent to her, however, fifteen clerks, with
directions to watch her assiduously for fifteen days, never for an
instant losing sight of her. The clerks reported to him that they had
strictly obeyed his commands; that she had taken no nourishment, and
that yet she nevertheless preserved her full strength and health.
Whereupon the Bishop declared himself convinced, "as," adds Görres, "it
was proper for a sensible man to do."

Among others of the holy persons who acquired the power of living on the
sacramental bread, may be mentioned St. Catharine of Sienna, Saint Rose
of Lima, Saint Collete, Saint Peter of Alcantara, and many others.

But if saints and other holy people were able, through miraculous power,
to live without food, the same ability was claimed for those who were
under the influence of demons and devils. Görres[2] states that a person
possessed by a devil often loses all taste for food of any kind, and can
retain no nourishment in his body. Another symptom is a disgust which
is formed for the companionship of other persons. Thus a man was
tormented by a demon, who forced him to fly into the forests, where he
hid himself from mankind. One night he quit his house, and concealed
himself in a cavern, remaining there entirely without food for sixteen
days. Again he remained in the woods twenty-four days, neither eating
nor drinking during this period. Finally his children found him, and
taking him to a priest, had the devil exorcised, and he was cured.

Saint Prosper, of Aquitaine, speaks of a young girl possessed by a
devil, and who went seventy days without eating. Notwithstanding this
long fast, she did not become emaciated, because every night at twelve
o'clock a bird sent by the devil took a mysterious nourishment to her.

An astonishing feature in the cases of the diabolical abstaining from
food, is that, as in the holy instances, they exhibit various
manifestations of hysteria. Görres, with a charming degree of
simplicity, details these symptoms and failing, under the influence of
the predominant idea which fills him, to recognize their real character,
ascribes them without hesitation to devilish agency. Thus he says:

"The functions of the organs of nutrition are sometimes profoundly
altered in the possessed, and these alterations are manifested by
violent cramps, which show the extent to which the muscular system is
affected. The hysterical lump in the throat is a frequent phenomenon in
possession. A young girl in the Valley of Calepino had all her limbs
twisted and contracted, and had in the œsophagus a sensation as if a
ball was sometimes rising in her throat, and again falling to her
stomach. Her countenance was of an ashen hue, and she had a constant
sense of weight and pain in the head. All the remedies of physicians had
failed, and as evidences of possession were discovered in her, she was
brought to Brignoli (a priest) who had recourse to supernatural means,
and cured her."

Strange to say, the ability to live on the eucharist, and to resist
starvation by diabolical power, died out with the middle ages, and was
replaced by the "fasting girls," who still continue to amuse us with
their vagaries. To the consideration of some of the more striking
instances of more recent times the attention of the reader is invited,
in the confidence that much of interest in the study of the "History of
Human Folly" will be adduced.


[1] La Mystique Divine, Naturelle et Diabolique. Paris, 1861. t. I., p.
194, _et seq._

[2] Op. cit. t. IV., p. 446.



Among the more striking cases under this head, is that of Margaret
Weiss, a young girl ten years of age, who lived at Rode, a small village
near Spires, and whose history has come down to us through various
channels, but principally from Gerardus Bucoldianus,[3] who had the
medical charge of her, and who wrote a little book describing his
patient. Margaret is said to have abstained from all food and drink for
three years, in the meantime growing, walking about, laughing, and
talking like other children of her age. During the first year, however,
she suffered greatly from pains in her head and abdomen, and, a common
condition in hysteria--all four of her limbs were contracted. She passed
neither urine nor fæces. Margaret, though only ten years old--hysteria
develops the secretive faculties--played her part so well that, after
being watched by the priest of the parish and Dr. Bucoldianus, she was
considered free from all juggling, and was sent home to her friends by
order of the King, "not," the doctor adds, "without great admiration and
princely gifts." Although fully accepting the fact of Margaret's
abstinence, Dr. Bucoldianus appears to have been somewhat staggered, for
he asks very pertinently: "Whence comes the animal heat, since she
neither eats nor drinks, and why does the body grow when nothing goes
into it?"

Schenckius[4] quotes from Paulus Lentulus the "Wonderful History of the
Fasting of Appolonia Schreira, a virgin in Berne." Lentulus states that
he was with this maid on three occasions, and that, by order of the
magistrate of Berne, she was taken to that city and a strict guard kept
upon her. All kinds of means were set in operation to detect imposture
if any existed, but none was discovered, and she was set at liberty as a
genuine case of ability to live without food. In the first year of her
fasting she scarcely slept, and in the second year never closed her eyes
in sleep; and so she continued for a long while after.

Schenckius also advances the case of Katharine Binder, of the
Palatinate, who was closely watched by a clergyman, a statesman, and two
doctors of medicine, without the detection of fraud on her part. She was
said to have taken nothing but air into her system for nine years and
more, as Lentulus reported on the authority of Fabricius. This
last-named physician told Lentulus of another case, that of a girl
fourteen years old, who certainly had taken neither food nor drink for
at least three years.

"But," says Dr. Hakewel,[5] "the strangest that I have met with of this
kind, is the history of Eve Fliegen, out of Dutch translated into
English, and printed at London, _anno_ 1611, who, being born at Meurs,
is said to have taken no kind of sustenance for the space of fourteen
years together; that is, from the year of her age, twenty-two to
thirty-six, and from the year of our Lord 1597 to 1611; and this we have
confirmed by the testimony of the magistrates of the town of Meurs, as
also by the minister who made trial of her in his house thirteen days
together by all the means he could devise, but could detect no
imposture." Over the picture of this maid, set in front of the Dutch
copy, stand these Latin verses:

    "Meursæ hæc quam cernis decies ter, sexque peregit,
    Annos, bis septem prorsus non viscitur annis
    Nec potat, sic sola sedet, sic pallida vitam
    Ducit, et exigui se oblectat floribus horti."

Thus rendered in the English copy:

    "This maid of Meurs thirty and six years spent,
    Fourteen of which she took no nourishment;
    Thus pale and wan she sits sad and alone,
    A garden's all she loves to look upon."

Franciscus Citesius,[6] physician to the King of France and to Cardinal
Richelieu, devotes a good deal of space and attention to the case of
Joan Balaam, a native of the city of Constance. She was well grown, but
of bad manners. About the eleventh year of her age she was attacked with
a fever, and among other symptoms vomited for twenty days. Then she
became speechless and so continued for twenty-four days. Then she
talked, but her speech was raving and incoherent. Finally she lost all
power of motion and of sensibility in the parts below the head and could
not swallow. From thenceforth she could not be persuaded to take food.
Six months afterwards she regained the use of her limbs, but the
inability to swallow remained and she acquired a great loathing for all
kinds of meat and drink. The secretions and excretions appeared to be
arrested. Nevertheless she was very industrious, employing her time in
running errands, sweeping the house, spinning, and such like. This maid
continued thus fasting for the space of nearly three years, and then by
degrees took to eating and drinking again.

Before coming to more recent cases, there is one other to which I desire
to refer for the reason mainly that in it there was probably organic
disease in addition to fraud and hysteria. It is cited by Fabricius[7]
and by Wanley. _Anno Dom._, 1595, a maid of about thirteen years was
brought out of the dukedom of Juliers to Cologne, and there in a broad
street at the sign of the White Horse exposed to the sight of as many as
desired to see her. The parents of this maid affirmed that she had lived
without any kind of food or drink for the space of three whole years;
and this they confirmed by the testimony of divers persons, such as are
worthy of credit. Fabricius observed her with great care. She was of a
sad and melancholy countenance; her whole body was sufficiently fleshy
except only her belly, which was compressed so as that it seemed to
cleave to her back-bone. Her liver and the rest of her bowels were
perceived to be hard by laying the hand on the belly. As for excrements,
she voided none; and did so far abhor all kinds of food, that when one,
who came to see her privately, put a little sugar in her mouth she
immediately swooned away. But what was most wonderful was, that this
maid walked up and down, played with other girls, danced, and did all
other things that were done by girls of her age; neither had she any
difficulty of breathing, speaking or crying out. Her parents declared
that she had been in this condition for three years.

A great many more to the same effect might be adduced, but the foregoing
are sufficient to indicate the fact that belief in the possibility of
such occurrences was quite general, and that if doubt did exist in
regard to their real nature, it was not so strong as not readily to be
overcome by the tricks and devices of hysterical women.

In the following instances of more modern date the reader will perceive
the view which is taken of them by physicians of the present day, and
will doubtless discover their real nature.

About sixty-five years ago, a woman of Sudbury, in Staffordshire,
England, named Ann Moore, declared that she did not eat, and a number of
persons volunteered to watch her, in order to ascertain whether or not
she was speaking the truth. The watch was continued for three weeks and
then the watchers, as in other instances, reported that Ann Moore was a
real case of abstinence from food of all kinds. The Bible was always
kept open on Ann's bed. Her emaciation was so extreme that it was said
her vertebral column could be felt through the abdominal walls. This sad
condition was asserted to have been caused by her washing the linen of a
person affected with ulcers. From that time she experienced a dislike
for food, and even nausea at the sight or mention of it.

As soon as the watchers reported in favor of the genuineness of Ann's
pretensions her notoriety increased, and visitors came from all parts of
the country, leaving donations to the extent of two hundred and fifty
pounds in the course of two years. Doubts, however, again arose, and,
bold from the immunity she had experienced from the first investigation,
Ann in an evil moment, for the continuance of her fraud, consented to a
second watching. This committee was composed of notable persons, among
them being Sir Oswald Mosley, Bart., Rev. Legh Richmond, Dr. Fox, and
his son, and many other gentlemen of the country. Two of them were
always in her room night and day. At the suggestion of Mr. Francis Fox,
the bedstead, bedding, and the woman in it were placed on a weighing
machine, and thus it was ascertained that she regularly lost weight
daily. At the expiration of the ninth day of this strict watching, Dr.
Fox found her evidently sinking and told her she would soon die unless
she took food. After a little prevarication, the woman signed a written
confession that she was an impostor, and had "occasionally taken
sustenance for the last six years." She also stated that during the
first watch of three weeks her daughter had contrived, when washing her
face, to feed her every morning, by using towels made very wet with
gravy, milk, or strong arrowroot gruel, and had also conveyed food from
mouth to mouth in kissing her, which it is presumed she did very

In a clinical lecture delivered at St. George's Hospital,[9] Dr. John W.
Ogle calls attention to the simulation of fasting as a manifestation of
hysteria, and relates the following amusing case:

"A girl strongly hysterical, aged twenty, in spite of all persuasion and
medical treatment, refused every kind of food, or if made to eat, soon
vomited the contents of the stomach. On November 6th, 1869, whilst the
girl was apparently suffering in the same manner, the Queen passed the
hospital on her way to open Blackfriars Bridge. She arose in bed so as
to look out of the window, although up to this time declaring that every
movement of her body caused intense pain. On December 29, the following
letter in the girl's handwriting, addressed to another patient in the
same ward, was picked up from the floor: 'My Dear Mrs. Evens,--I was
very sorry you should take the trouble of cutting me such a nice piece
of bread and butter, yesterday. I would of taken it but all of them saw
you send it, and then they would have made enough to have talked about.
But I should be very glad if you would cut me a nice piece of crust and
put it in a piece of paper and send it, or else bring it, so that they
do not see it, for they all watch me very much, and I should like to be
your friend and you to be mine. Mrs. Winslow, (the nurse) is going to
chapel. I will make it up with you when I can go as far. Do not send it
if you cannot spare it. Good bye, and God bless you.' Although she
prevaricated about this letter, she appears to have gradually improved
from this time on, and one day walked out of the hospital and left it
altogether. She subsequently wrote a letter to the authorities
expressing her regret at having gone on as she did."

One of the most remarkable instances of the kind, is that of Sarah
Jacob, known as the "Welsh Fasting Girl," and whose history and tragical
death excited a great deal of comment in the medical and lay press in
Great Britain a few years ago. The following account of the case is
mainly derived from Dr. Fowler's[10] interesting work.

Sarah Jacob was born May 12th, 1857. Her parents were farmers and were
uneducated, simple-minded, and ignorant persons. In her earlier years
she had been healthy, was intelligent, given to religious reading, and
was said to have written poetry of her own composition. She was a very
pretty child and was, according to the testimony of the vicar, the Rev.
Evan Jones, a "good girl."

About February 15th, 1867, when she was not quite ten years of age, she
complained of pain in the pit of the stomach, and one morning on getting
up, she told her mother that she had found her mouth full of bloody
froth. The pain continued, and medical attendance was obtained. Soon
afterwards she had strong convulsions of an epileptiform character and
then other spasms of a clearly hysterical form, during which her body
was bent in the form of a bow as in tetanus, the head and heels only
touching the bed. Then the muscular spasm ceased and she fell at full
length on the bed. For a whole month she continued in a state of
unconsciousness, suffering from frequent repetitions of severe
convulsive attacks, during which time she took little food. Mr. Davies,
the surgeon, said in his evidence, that she was for a whole month, in a
kind of permanent fit, lying on her back, with rigidity of all the
muscles. For some time her life was despaired of, then her fits ceased
to be convulsive and consisted of short periods of loss of consciousness
with sudden awakings. For the next two or three months (till August,
1867) she took daily, from six, gradually decreasing to four, teacupfuls
of rice and milk, or oatmeal and milk, which according to her father's
account, was cast up again immediately and blood and froth with it.
During this time the bowels were only acted on once in six or nine days.
"Up to this time," said her father, "she could move both arms and one
leg, but the other leg was rigid."

By the beginning of October, 1867, her quantity of daily food had, it
was affirmed, dwindled down to nothing but a little apple about the size
of a pill, which she took from a tea-spoon. At this time she made water
about every other day; she looked very bad in the face, but was not
thin. On the tenth day of October, it was solemnly declared that she
ceased to take any food whatever, and so continued till the day of her
death, December 17th, 1869, a period of two years, two months, and one

"Of the veracity of the assertion in respect of _the one week_," says
Dr. Fowler, "there is unfortunately plenty of evidence. To the absurdity
of believing in the barest possibility of twenty-six months absolute
abstinence, it is sufficient to reply that when to our knowledge, she
was completely deprived of food, the girl died! The parents most
persistently impressed upon every private as well as official visitor,
both before and during the last fatal watching, that the girl did not
take food; that she could not swallow; that whenever food was mentioned
to her she became as it were, excited; that when it was offered to her
she would have a fit, or the offer would make her ill. The sworn
testimony of the vicar, the Rev. Wm. Thomas, Sister Clinch, Ann Jones,
and the other nurses, is sufficiently confirmative on this point.
Furthermore, the parents went so far as to expressly forbid the mere
mention of food in the girl's presence."

Towards the end of October, 1867, the case had attracted so much
attention that the inhabitants in the neighborhood first began visiting
the marvellous little girl.

"In the beginning of November of the same year, the Rev. Evan Jones,
B.D., the vicar of the parish, was sent for by the parents to visit
Sarah Jacob. He was at once--by the mother--told of the girl's wonderful
fasting powers; it was admitted she took water occasionally. He was also
informed of the extraordinary perversion of her natural functions (the
suppression of urine and fæcal evacuations.) He found her lying on her
back in bed, which was covered with books. There was nothing then
remarkable about her dress. The girl looked weak and delicate, though
not pale, and answered only in monosyllables. 'The mother said her child
was very anxious about the state of her soul, that it had such an effect
upon her mind that she could not sleep.' I asked her myself if she had a
desire to become a member of the Church of England? She said, 'Yes!' She
continued to express that wish until July, 1869. At this time the
reverend gentleman did not believe in the statements relative to the
girl's abstinence. 'Every time,' he says, 'that I had a conversation
with her up to the end of 1868, the parents both persisted that she
lived without food, and continued their statements in January and
February, 1869. I remonstrated with them and dwelt upon the apparent
impossibility of the thing. They still persisted that it was a fact.'

"Even as late as September, 1869, the vicar reiterated his ministerial
remonstrances. When, in the beginning of the spring of 1869, he observed
the fantastical changes the parents made in the girl's daily attire, he
told them about the remarks made in the papers about this dressing and
dwelt upon the impropriety of it. They replied, 'She had no other
pleasure--they did not like denying it to her.' During the following
summer, finding that the girl looked more plump in the face and that her
general improvement was more conspicuous, he said, 'Sarah is evidently
improving and gaining, and you say she takes no food; you are certainly
imposing on the public.' I then dwelt on the sinfulness of continuing
the fraud on the public. I said there were on record several cases of
alleged fasting, some of which had been put to the test and had been
discovered to be impositions; that those families would ever be held in
execration by posterity, and such would be the case with them whenever
this imposture was found out. The mother then assured me no imposition
would be discovered in that house, because there was none."

The father and mother both said that the Lord provided for her in a most
natural way, and that it was a miracle. The father always talked about
the "Doctor Mawr," meaning God Almighty; that she was supported by that
"Big Doctor."

Then soon began the custom of leaving money or other presents with the
child, till at last every one who visited her, was expected to give
something. Open house was kept and pilgrims came from near and far to
see the wonderful girl who lived without food.

When money was not forthcoming, presents of clothes, finery, books, or
flowers, appear to have been substituted. Advantage was taken of these
presents to bedeck the child in every variety of smartness. At one time
she had a victorine about her neck and a wreath about her hair, then
again, ornaments and a jacket on, and her hair neatly dressed with
ribbons. At another time she had a silk shawl, a victorine around her
neck, a small crucifix attached to a necklace, and little ribbons above
the wrists. She had drab gloves on and her bed was nearly covered with

Notwithstanding the alleged fasting, Sarah Jacob continued to improve in

And now comes an astounding feature of this most remarkable case. The
vicar became convinced that the instance was one of real abstinence. A
little hysterical girl twelve years of age, by her perseverance in
lying, had actually succeeded in inducing an educated gentleman to
accept the truth of her statements! The following letter which was
published on the 19th of February, 1869, speaks for itself:--

                              "A STRANGE CASE.

    "To the Editor of the _Welshman_.

    "Sir: Allow me to invite the attention of your readers to a most
    extraordinary case. Sarah Jacob, a little girl twelve years of age,
    and daughter of Mr. Evan Jacob, Lletherneuadd, in this parish, has
    not partaken of a single grain of any kind of food whatever, during
    the last sixteen months. She did occasionally swallow a few drops of
    water during the first few months of this period; but now she does
    not even do that. She still looks pretty well in the face and
    continues in the possession of all her mental faculties. She is in
    this and several other respects, a wonderful little girl.

    "Medical men persist in saying that the thing is quite impossible,
    but all the nearest neighbors, who are thoroughly acquainted with
    the circumstances of the case, entertain no doubt whatever of the
    subject, and I am myself of the same opinion.

    "Would it not be worth their while for medical men to make an
    investigation into the nature of this strange case? Mr. Evan Jacob
    would readily admit into his house any respectable person who might
    be anxious to watch it and to see for himself.

    "I may add, that Lletherneuadd is a farm-house about a mile from New
    Inn, in this parish.

                          "Yours faithfully,

                                  "THE VICAR OF LLANFIHANGEL-AR-ARTH."

The suggestions of the vicar relative to an investigation, were soon
after afterwards acted upon by certain gentlemen of the neighborhood. A
public meeting was called and a committee of watchers was appointed to
be constantly in attendance in the room with Sarah Jacob, and to observe
to the best of their ability, whether or not she took any food during
the investigation. It was agreed that the watching was to continue for a

Prior to the beginning of this watching, no precautions were taken
against food being conveyed into the room and concealed there. The
parents actually debarred the watchers from touching the child's bed.
The very first element of success was therefore denied, and no wonder
that the whole affair was subsequently regarded as an absurdity. The
watching consisted in two different men taking alternate watches from
eight till eight. The watching to see whether the child partook of food,
commenced on March 22d, and ended April 5th, 1869--a period of fourteen

During the above fortnight, one of the watchers, in turn, was always
close to her bed, and in her sight day and night, and at the time the
bed was being made, which was generally every other morning, the four
persons were always present and had every article thoroughly examined.
The parents were allowed to go near the bed, as also was the little
sister, six years old, who had been Sarah's constant companion and

On Wednesday, April 7th, 1869, a public meeting was held at the Eagle
Inn, Llandyfeil, to hear the statements of the parents and of the
several persons who had watched the child during the fourteen days. The
parents briefly detailed the condition and symptoms of their daughter
from the commencement of her illness. At no time during the whole
fourteen days did the pulse ever reach above ninety per minute, although
exceedingly changeable, as it always had been. The following evidence
was received from the watchers, and it is _said_ that their statements
were duly verified on oath before a magistrate:--

Watcher No. 1 said: I, Evan Edward Smith, watched Sarah Jacob for two
consecutive nights, (_i. e._, nights 22d and 23d of March) at the
request of Mr. H. H. Davies, surgeon. The parents gave every facility to
investigate the matter. I watched her with all possible care, and found
nothing to suspect that food or drink was given her by foul means. I am
quite sure she had nothing during my watch. I was dismissed on account
of being suspected to doze on the second night.

Watcher No. 2. This watcher watched Sarah Jacob for a whole fortnight,
and found no indications that the child had anything to eat or drink. He
was a college student, Daniel Harris Davies.

Watcher No. 3. John Jones, a shopkeeper, gave similar evidence. He was a
decided sceptic before he began watching, but after twelve days was
thoroughly convinced of the fact that nothing in the shape of
nourishment was given to the poor child. He watched every movement of
all the inmates, and found nothing that would lead him to suspect that
any nourishment was given to the little girl.

Watcher No. 4. James Harris Davies, a medical student, spoke in like
manner, and was perfectly positive that nothing had been given to her
during the fortnight he had watched there, with the exception of three
drops of water, once, to moisten her lips with. He was as great a
sceptic as any one before he began watching, but as he saw nothing to
confirm his suspicions, he could conscientiously say that nothing had
been given her during his watch.

Watcher No. 5. Evan Davies, of Powel Castle, who only watched her for
one day, gave similar evidence, but as he was a neighbour he was
dismissed for a stranger.

Watcher No. 6. Herbert Jones, watched only one day, and spoke in a
similar manner, and was dismissed on account of his credulity.

Watcher No. 7. Thomas Davies, who had been the greatest sceptic of all,
was strongly convinced. He watched Sarah Jacob twelve days, and was
quite positive that nothing could have been given her during his watch.
He watched her with all possible care, and was very cautious to be in a
prominent place, where Sarah Jacob's mouth was always in sight.

Evidence, however, was given which went to show that the watching was
very imperfectly performed; that occasionally the watchers left before
their time had expired; that intoxicating liquors were taken by them to
the house, and that one of them was drunk while there. It was also shown
that the father and mother had free access to the bed, while the
watchers were absolutely prohibited from examining it. It is therefore
with entire justification that Dr. Fowler states that the watching "was
the greatest possible farce and mockery."

After the report of the watchers the notoriety of Sarah Jacob of course
became still greater; crowds came to visit her, and among others the
Rev. Frederic Rowland Young went to see her, and made an unsuccessful
effort to cure her by laying on of hands. When Dr. Fowler visited her,
August 30th, 1869, on getting out at the nearest railway station, he was
met by little boys bearing placards with the words "Fasting Girl," and
"This is the shortest way to Llethernoryadd-ucha," on them. In his
letter to the _Times_, giving an account of his visit, Dr. Fowler

"The first impression was most unfavorable, and to a medical man the
appearances were most suspicious. The child was lying on a bed decorated
as a bride, having around her head a wreath of flowers, from which was
suspended a smart ribbon, the ends of which were joined by a small bunch
of flowers, after the present fashion of ladies' bonnet strings. Before
her, at proper reading distance, was an open Welsh book, supported by
two other books on her body. The blanket covering was clean, tidy, and
perfectly smooth. Across the fire-place, which was nearly opposite the
foot of her bed, was an arrangement of shelves, well stocked with
English and Welsh books, the gifts of various visitors to the house. The
child is thirteen years of age, and is undoubtedly very pretty. Her face
was plump, and her cheeks and lips of a beautiful rosy color. Her eyes
were bright and sparkling, the pupils were very dilated, in a measure
explicable by the fact of the child's head and face being shaded from
the window-light by the projecting side of the cupboard bedstead. There
was that restless movement and frequent looking out at the corners of
the eyes so characteristic of simulative disease. Considering the
lengthened inactivity of the girl, her muscular development was very
good, and the amount of fat layer not inconsiderable. My friend stated
that she looked even better than she did about a twelvemonth ago. There
was a slight perspiration over the surface of the body. The pulse was
perfectly natural, as were also the sounds of the lungs and heart, so
far as I was enabled to make a stethoscopic examination. Having received
permission to do this, I proceeded to make the necessary derangement of
dress, when the girl went off into what the mother called a fainting
fit. This consisted of nothing but a little and momentary hysterical
crying and sobbing. The color never left the lips or cheeks. The pulse
remained of the same power. Consciousness could have been but slightly
diminished, inasmuch as on my then opening the eyelids I perceived a
distinct upward and other movement of the eyeballs. Each percussion
stroke of my examination, and even the pressure of the stethoscope,
produced an expression of pain, which elicited a natural sympathy from
the mother, and an assertion that a continuance of such examination
would bring on further fits. On percussing the region of the stomach, I
most distinctly perceived the sound of gurgling, which we know to be
caused by the admixture of air and fluid in motion. The most positive
assertion of the parents was subsequently made that saving a fortnightly
moistening of her lips with cold water, the child had neither ate nor
drank anything for the last twenty-three months. The whole region of the
belly was tympanitic, and the muscular walls of this cavity were tense
and drum-like--a condition not infrequently concomitant of a well-known
class of nervous disorders. The child's intellectual faculties and
special senses were perfectly healthy. Before her illness she was very
much devoted to religious reading. This devotion has lately considerably
increased. She is a member of the Church of England, and has been

Dr. Fowler then adds some other interesting particulars, all going to
show the impossibility of the girl's being the subject of any exhausting
disease, or of even having been continuously in bed, as her parents
asserted, for nearly two years; and then says:--

"The whole case is in fact one of simulative hysteria, in a young girl
having the propensity to deceive very strongly developed. Therewith may
be probably associated the power or habit of prolonged fasting. Both
patient and mother admitted the occasional occurrence of the choking
sensation called _globus hystericus_."

This letter excited renewed discussion in the newspapers, and a second
public meeting was called to make arrangements for a second watching. At
this meeting it was decided to bring down from Guy's Hospital, London,
several trained nurses, who were to conduct the watching; and the
following resolutions were adopted, as expressing the terms under which
the inquiry was to be conducted:--

1. It would be advisable, before taking any steps in the matter, to
obtain a written legal guarantee from the father of Sarah Jacob
sanctioning the necessary proceedings. 2. That the duty of the nurses
shall be to watch Sarah Jacob with a view to ascertain whether she
partakes of any kind of food, and at the end of a fortnight to report
upon the case before the local committee in Carmarthenshire, and, if
required, at Guy's Hospital. 3. That two nurses shall be constantly
awake and on the watch in the girl's room, night and day. 4. It would be
advisable for the nearest medical practitioner to watch the progress of
the case; and it will be absolutely necessary for him to _be prepared
against any serious symptoms of exhaustion, supervening on the strict
enforcement of the watching, and to act according to his judgment_. 5.
That the room in which the girl sleeps shall be bared of all unnecessary
furniture, and all possible places in the room for the concealment of
food shall be closed and kept under the continual scrutiny of the
watchers. 6. That if considered desirable by the local medical
practitioner, or by the nurses, the bedstead on which the girl now lies
shall be replaced by a single iron one. 7. That the bed on which the
parents now sleep, in Sarah Jacob's room, shall be given up absolutely
to the nurses. 8. That the parents be not allowed to sleep in the same
room as the girl; that if they cannot at all times be prevented from
approaching her, they should be previously searched (their pockets and
other recesses of clothing as well as the interior of their mouths); and
that no wetted towels or other such articles be allowed to be used about
the girl by the parents, or any other person save the nurses; that the
children of the family, and in fact every other person whatever (except
the nurses), have similar restraints put upon them. 9. That the nurses
have the sole management of preparing the room, bed, and patient, prior
to the commencement of the watching. 10. That, as it is asserted the
action of the bowels and bladder is entirely suspended, special
attention must be directed to these organs.

Four experienced women nurses were accordingly deputed from Guy's
Hospital to take the entire charge of Sarah Jacob, and to watch her for
fourteen days. They were instructed not to prevent her having food if
she asked for it, but they were to see that she got none without their
knowledge. On the 9th of December, 1869, at 4 P.M., the room was cleared
of people and the watching began.

In the first place it was ascertained that the girl had repeated
evacuations of urine, and once, at least, of fæces.

Gradually evidences of mental and physical disturbance began to appear.
The watch was so closely kept that no food or drink reached the child,
and she did not ask for any.

"At 10 P.M.," to quote the language of the journal kept by the sister
nurse, "she was restless and threw her arms about. She was very cold,
and the nurses put warm flannels on her. This was the last day on which
she passed urine."

Thursday, December 16, 3 A.M.--She was rolling from one side of the bed
to the other. At half-past three she wished the bed made, and they made
it. She was looking very pale and anxious. Her eyes were sunk and her
nose pinched, and the cheek bones were prominent. Her arms and hands
were cold, her feet and legs were the same. Ann Jones, one of the
nurses, says in her memoranda, "She was very restless and appeared to me
to be sinking. Her lips were very dry, and her mouth seemed parched."
The peculiar smell (the starvation smell) about the bed was so strong as
to make the sister nurse quite ill.

At 11 A.M., the vicar saw her and told the parents that the child was
gradually failing, and suggested to them the propriety of sending the
nurses away and giving her a chance to obtain food, but they refused,
saying that there was nothing to do but what the nurses were doing, and
that they had seen her quite as weak before. The parents were urged by
others to give up the fight by sending the nurses away, but they refused
on the ground that want of food had nothing to do with the symptoms, and
that she would not eat whether the nurses were there or not.

Ann Jones subsequently testified before the coroner: "Before one and two
o'clock on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 16), she kept talking to herself. I
could not understand whether she was speaking Welsh or English. Up to
that time I could understand her. She pointed her fingers at some books;
I gave her one, but she took no notice of it; she was not able to read
it. _Both parents were then told the girl was dying._"

Repeatedly they were begged to withdraw the nurses, and again and again
they refused, saying there was no occasion--that she had often been in
that way, that it was not from want of food, etc. The girl became weaker
and weaker; low, muttering delirium ensued, and on the 17th of December,
1869, at about half-past three o'clock, P.M., the "Welsh Fasting Girl"
died, actually starved to death, in the middle of the nineteenth century
and in one of the most Christian and civilized countries of the world!

But this was not the end. Public opinion was much excited both against
those who had sanctioned and conducted what appeared to have been a
senseless and cruel experiment, and against the father and mother who
had wilfully and persistently refused to allow food to be given to the
dying child. A coroner's inquest was held, and the coroner appears to
have made a very satisfactory charge to the jury after the rendition of
the testimony. He said there could be no doubt of the child having died
of starvation, and that the responsibility rested with the father, who
had knowingly and designedly failed to cause his child to take food. The
mother was not responsible unless it could be shown that she had been
given food for the child by the father, and had withheld it from her. It
was marvellous, he said, how the father could have made out such a
story--such a hideous mass of nonsense, as he had under oath attempted
to impose on the jury.

The jury deliberated for a quarter of an hour, and then returned a
verdict of "Died from starvation, caused by negligence to induce the
child to take food on the part of the father;" which constituted

Evan Jacob was therefore arrested. But the Secretary of State for the
Home Department took the matter up and determined that the proceedings
should go farther than the local authorities intended. At first it was
contemplated to indict the members of the General Committee for
conspiracy, but it was finally concluded to include only the medical
gentlemen who had accepted the responsibility of superintending the
watching, as well as both parents of the deceased child.

The initial proceeding took place before a full bench of magistrates,
and continued eight days. The Crown and the accused had eminent counsel,
and many witnesses were examined. At the conclusion of the inquiry the
presiding magistrate announced that it had been determined by the court
that no case had been made out against the physicians, who had not been
shown to have undertaken any other duty than that of advising the
nurses, and that it did not appear that their advice had been asked. As
to the father and mother the court had decided to send them both for
trial for manslaughter, at the next assizes. In due time they were
arraigned, they pleaded not guilty, but after being defended by able
counsel, the jury, after an absence of about half an hour, returned with
a verdict of guilty against both the prisoners, but with a
recommendation of the mother to the merciful consideration of the court,
on the ground that she was under the control of her husband. The man
protested his innocence, and the woman "buried her face in her shawl and
wept bitterly."

His Lordship, in passing sentence, said: "Prisoners at the bar, you have
been found guilty of a most aggravated offence. I entirely concur with
the verdict which the jury have given, and I shall act upon the
recommendation which they have presented in favor of the female
prisoner, the mother, though, I must say, that I cannot but feel that it
is a greater crime in the mother than the father, since it is more
contrary to the common nature of mothers, to neglect their children in
the manner in which you have treated this unfortunate child. It is
contrary to the nature, even, of a father. But I shall act upon the
recommendation of the jury, upon the ground they have put forward, that
you have been subject to the control of your husband more than has
appeared from the evidence of the case. But the offence is, as I have
said, a serious one, on this ground; that there can be no doubt that
both of you have persisted in this fraudulent deception, upon your
neighbors, and upon the public, and that in order to carry out that
fraudulent deception and to preserve yourselves from detection you were
willing to risk the life of that child. The life of that child has been
lost in that wicked experiment which you tried. Therefore, the sentence
that I shall inflict on you, Evan Jacob, is, that you be imprisoned and
kept at hard labor for twelve calendar months; and that upon you, Hannah
Jacob, will be more lenient in consideration of the recommendation of
the jury, and it is, that you be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for
the period of six calendar months."

Thus ended one of the most remarkable and interesting histories of human
folly, credulity, and criminality which the present day has produced.
Comment upon its teaching is scarcely necessary; but the thoughtful
reader will not fail to perceive how important a bearing it has upon the
whole subject of belief without full and free inquiry, and that how all
the facts which science has gathered during ages of painful labor, go
for naught, even with educated persons, when brought face to face with
the false assertions of a hysterical girl, and of two ignorant and
deceitful peasants. If there is any one thing we know, it is that there
can be no force without the metamorphosis of matter of some kind. Here
was a girl maintaining her weight--actually growing--her animal heat
kept at its due standard, her mind active, her heart beating, her lungs
respiring, her skin exhaling, her limbs moving whenever she wished them
to move, and all, as very many persons supposed, without the ingestion
of the material by which alone such things could be. And yet such is the
tendency of the average human mind to be deceived, that it would be
perfectly possible to re-enact in the city of New York the whole tragedy
of Sarah Jacob, should ever a hysterical girl take it into head to do
so; and there would not be wanting, even from among those who might read
this history, individuals who would credit any monstrous declarations
she might make. Even now in a little town in Belgium, an ecstatic girl
is going through the same performance with extraordinary additions, and
books are written by learned physicians and theologians, with the object
of establishing the truth of her pretensions. To this most remarkable
instance, and one other of similar though perhaps even more remarkable
characteristic, the attention of the reader will presently be invited.
But in view of these things one is almost tempted to say with Cardinal
Carafa, "_Quandoquidem populus decipi vult, decipiatur_."


[3] "De puella quæ sine cibo et potu vitam transigit." Parisiis Ann.

[4] "Παρατηρήσεων sive observationum medicarum, rararum, novarum,
admirabilium, et monstrosarum. Volumen, tomis septem de toto homine
institutum." Lugduni 1606, p. 306.

These cases are cited by Wanley in his "Wonders of the Little World,"
but I have taken care in most instances to refer to the originals,
several of which are in my library.

[5] "Wonders of the Little World." London, 1806, p. 375.

[6] Opuscula Medica. Parisiis, 1639, pp. 64, 65, 66.

[7] Observationum et curationum chirurgicarum, centuria secunda. Genevæ,
1611, p. 116.

[8] Wonderful Characters: By Henry Wilson and James Caulfield. London.

[9] British Medical Journal, July 16, 1870.

[10] A complete History of the Welsh Fasting Girl (Sarah Jacob,) with
Comments thereon, and Observations on Death from Starvation. London,



One hundred and fifty-three persons have at one time or another,
according to Dr. Imbert-Gourbeyre,[11] received the stigmata; that is,
been marked in a miraculous manner with the wounds received by Christ at
the crucifixion. Of these, eight, are according to the same authority
now living, and two assert that they do not eat. I propose to consider
at some length the main points in the histories of these two, Palma
d'Oria and Louise Lateau, and in so doing I shall avail myself of the
works of those, who are firm believers in the miraculous interposition
of God to produce the effects, of which they are said to be the
subjects. These cases are very little known in this country. Instances
of the kind are extremely rare among practical common sense nations,
like those inhabiting the British Isles, and their descendants in
America. Of the whole one hundred and fifty-three cases recorded by Dr.
Imbert-Gourbeyre, but one--Jane Gray--was British, and hers is the most
doubtful case in the list, for the fact rests only on the testimony of
one Thomas Bourchier, an English minor brother, who asserts that she had
the stigmata in the feet. Of the remainder, the very large majority are
of Italy, and as Dr. Imbert-Gourbeyre says:

"Quel pays fut jamais si fertile en miracles?"[12]

To the account of a visit made to Oria for the purpose of studying the
phenomena exhibited by Palma, made by Dr. Imbert-Gourbeyre, I am
indebted for the following details:

Palma, at the time of the visit in 1871, was sixty-six years old,
hump-backed, thin, small, and with light, expressive eyes. For several
years she had not left the house, and was, on account of her sufferings,
scarcely able to walk. Occasionally, when she felt particularly well,
she took a few steps about the room supported by a cane. In her youth
she had been very strong and active.

At the first interview, after some conversation in the course of which
Palma declared that she had often seen Louise Lateau while in ecstasy,
the doctor directed the conversation towards the subject of
hallucination. While thus engaged and seated close to Palma, he felt her
strike him gently on the arm, and at the same time saw the abbé, who had
come with him, fall on his knees. He turned toward Palma; her eyes were
closed, her hands clasped, her mouth wide open, and on her tongue he saw
the host--the body of Christ. Immediately, he fell on his knees also,
and worshipped it. Palma protruded her tongue still farther, as if she
wanted to give him every opportunity of seeing that the host was really
there; then she ate it, closed her mouth and remained perfectly quiet on
the sofa upon which she was reclining. It was then almost four o'clock
in the afternoon, the day was fading, the room was badly lit by a little
window, high from the floor. The miraculous host appeared to him to be
as white as wax, and somewhat thick. On account of the little light, and
the short time that this extraordinary communion lasted, he was unable
to determine whether or not it was marked according to the custom of the

In regard to this wonderful event--that is, if it be not a fact viewed
unequally--it is further to be said that Palma disclosed to Dr.
Imbert-Gourbeyre, that two or three times, the holy element, which be it
remembered is believed by the great majority of Christians to be the
real body of Christ, was brought to her by the devil, and that then she
refused it. Sometimes he had the figure of an angel, but she knew him by
the sign of reprobation which he wore on his forehead--a little horn.
Moreover she saw that the wicked creature hesitated, and was a little
embarrassed. She intoned the _Gloria Patri_, and made the sign of the
cross, and he instantly took flight and disappeared. In order to
ascertain what it all meant, her confessor forbade her to receive the
miraculous communion for eight days. Hardly had that period expired when
Jesus Christ himself brought her the communion. Before giving it to her
he made her recite the _Gloria Patri_ three times. Then he said to her,
"Have I fled as the demon did? No. Therefore reassure yourself. It is
really I."

These miraculous circumstances had been going on for about two years
when Dr. Imbert-Gourbeyre made his visit to Palma. Sometimes it was
brought to her by Christ, as in the instance specified, or by some
saint, as St. Peter, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Francis d'Assisi, in the
company of her guardian angel, and other saints and angels. At other
times it was brought by priests and confessors of the olden time, long
since dead.

An Italian bishop stated, that at the moment of the miraculous sacrament
on one occasion, he had seen the host flying through the air before
entering Palma's mouth, but the doctor questioned her attendant on this
point, and she declared that she had not seen that, and she assured him
that the host was never seen by any one till it rested on Palma's
tongue. The doctor inclines to the belief that the attendant was right,
but he states that nevertheless a French apostolic missionary had
asserted that he had seen the same thing.

Well, if the consecrated bread be really the body of Christ that was
given for the salvation of the world, what horrible blasphemy to state
such things of it, what vileness to believe them, what a barefaced
imputation on the reason of man to spread these shocking details before
him and ask him to accept them as true of the God he worships!

After witnessing the communion, Dr. Imbert-Gourbeyre was requested to
withdraw into the adjoining room, while Palma got ready for her other
performances. In a few minutes he was informed that all was in order.
One of the women went in first and returning immediately, the others
were invited to enter. The stigmatization had already begun on the
forehead. He saw a stream of blood flowing from the left frontal
eminence along the side of the nose. A handkerchief was given to Palma;
she held it to her nose for a moment and the hæmorrhage soon stopped. He
examined the blood and found that it did not differ in appearance, color
or temperature from ordinary blood. He then examined the handkerchief,
and besides numerous rotund spots he perceived other figures resembling
hearts, with stains of blood proceeding from them, indicating the flames
of love. All this appeared to him to be very extraordinary, for though
he had often seen people bleed from the nose, he had never seen them
bleed like that.

After this incident Palma continued the performances--_actions de grace_
he calls them--her hands clasped and her eyes closed. In the lower
limbs, especially the left, there was a tremor like a nervous trembling
which was soon quieted. After a few minutes she rubbed her hands
together, made the sign of the cross and returned naturally to the
conversation. He then examined her forehead and endeavored to ascertain
where the blood had come from. The skin was intact without the least
opening. She showed him above the right frontal eminence a hole in the
cranium, from which at a former period, five little pieces of bone had
been discharged. The opening was entirely covered over by the scalp, and
he was surprised to find that there was no cicatrix. It was round, the
end of his index finger entered it readily, and it was just such an
opening as would have been produced by the crown of a trephine. At the
time it was made, the skin opened to allow of the exit of the pieces of
bone; then it closed without leaving the trace of a scar. It was the
same with the stigmata. They closed at once without there being any
marks to indicate the place whence the blood had flowed. This hole in
the skull had been caused by some particular circumstances that no one
was willing to reveal to him, but which he says are reported in the
journal of the directors of this woman, and which will soon be
published. Most medical men will come to the conclusion that it was due
to caries and necrosis of the bone, of syphilitic origin.

During another visit Palma told Dr. Imbert-Gourbeyre that she had eaten
nothing for seven years, but that she was obliged to drink frequently on
account of the great internal heat, which like a fire consumed her. She
then drank in his presence two carafes of water at one time, and the
doctor states that "this water became so hot in her stomach that it was
vomited boiling. She also had often ejected from her mouth oil, and
another fluid of a balsamic character, in which, on standing for some
time, bodies resembling the consecrated host were formed."

The doctor then relates the following details, which I give in his own
words, in further illustration of the character of his mental
organization and of the pretensions put forth by the woman, whose word
seems to have been sufficient to convince him of anything at all, no
matter how preposterous. Four years previously he had been so
unfortunate as to lose by death his eldest child:

"A year after his death, I had met a woman of great renown for piety,
and who was even regarded as a receiver of celestial communications. I
had commended my poor Joseph to her. Some time after she assured me that
my son was saved, and that he was in paradise. She declared that in a
vision she had seen him near our Lord; he was happy. Various
circumstances, which it is useless to mention here, had caused me to
believe in the truth of this asserted revelation. Being in Oria, I
wished to have as much certainty as possible in regard to the matter,
and as I knew that Palma was in spiritual communication with many pious
souls scattered over the earth, I said to her in the course of our
conversation, 'tell me, Palma, do you know M. ---- de X----,' giving her
the baptismal name of the woman in question. 'No sir,' she answered. I
then related to her my history in detail, taking care not to ask her
opinion in advance, although I felt sure that she would explain the
thing to me. She listened with the utmost attention to the superioress
who translated my words, and when Mother Becaud came to say that the
woman had had a vision of my son, and that he was in paradise, Palma
stretched out her arm in a solemn manner as a sign of negative, and said
to me, 'He is saved, but he is still in purgatory.'

"'Is it possible? Palma,' I cried, profoundly moved: 'Since you tell me
this, you are in conscience bound to get him out of that place of
expiation as soon as possible, and I commend him immediately to your

"'Yes, sir,' she said, 'I will pray for him, and when I am sure of his
deliverance, I will send you word by Father de Pace.'

"The following morning at my visit I again commended my poor child to
Palma, and on the following Friday evening on taking leave of her, I
asked if she had prayed that morning for my son, 'No sir,' she answered.
'I will only do so on the day of All Saints.' 'Then,' said I to Palma,
'will you allow madame the superioress to take the answer?' 'Very
willingly,' said the seeress. On the 7th of November, I received at Nice
the following letter:


    "'I have fulfilled the promise which I made to you in accordance
    with your wish to go to Palma on All Saints Day, in order to
    ascertain whether or not your wishes in regard to your son had been
    granted. That good soul assured me twice that he had gone to heaven
    that very morning, God be praised a thousand times!

    "'Thus sir, I have done what I could for your consolation.

                          "'I have the honor to be, etc.

                                               "'Sister Marie Becaud.'

"This letter was post marked at Oria, November 2d."

I should not venture to insult the intelligence of the reader with these
idiotic details but for the reasons stated, and additionally, that they
carry conviction with them to thousands of minds, honest doubtless, but
which are accustomed to grovel in superstition, and falsehood, which
they are unable to test by right standards.

A phase in Palma's spiritual pathology has been alluded to cursorily,
but has not yet been considered with the fulness proper in connection
with stigmatization, and that is the occurrence of hæmorrhagic spots on
various parts of her body, and which she so managed as to convey the
idea that they were symbolical of various holy things. On the back of
her hand she convinced Dr. Imbert-Gourbeyre that she bled in the shape
of the cross, and he gives a wood-cut representing a cross on the dorsum
of the hand, a little above the space between the first and second
fingers. This is surrounded by other rectilinear figures. On her breast
and back, other figures were obtained by placing handkerchiefs on the
parts. The doctor thus procured several mementoes of his visit, in the
shape of pieces of linen stained with spots of blood somewhat resembling
hearts, with flames coming out of them, suns, roses, crosses, etc. He
gives several plates in his book representing these figures, of the
reality of the miraculous formation of which he has not the slightest

Another phenomenon has also been mentioned incidentally, and that is the
intense heat which Palma declared she felt, and which the doctor refers
to as the "divine fire." He had brought with him from Paris, a
thermometer to use in determining the extraordinary temperature of this
fire. He examined her with this instrument while she felt this divine
fire, but failed to find any abnormal increase; her pulse at the time
was 72. "I made this experiment," he says, "to satisfy my scientific
conscience, [God save the mark!] but I ought to say that I was ashamed
of myself for presuming to measure this divine fire by such an
instrument." He is right, science is not for him, or those like him.

On one occasion while Palma was in ecstasy, Antonietta, who was near
her, laid bare her chest a little, and cried with enthusiasm, "she is
burning!" Dr. Imbert-Gourbeyre approached and smelt something like the
burning of linen. The dress was opened and her chemise was found to be
burnt on the left side just over the collar bone, and immediately below
this, scorched in the shape of "a magnificent emblem representing a
monstrance. The fire was invisible, but its traces were very evident."

In a note he states that it was affirmed that Palma's temperature on
similar occasions had reached 100° centigrade, (212° Fahrenheit) a fact
which he does not doubt, although his thermometer did not show it. "That
her chemise," he says, "burnt by invisible fire, which escaped the
thermometer, was more extraordinary than if the instrument had indicated
a temperature of 100°."

I shall not stop now to comment further on the circumstances detailed by
Dr. Imbert-Gourbeyre, and of which I have cited but a small part. I will
only say at present that science and common sense would conclude in
regard to Palma d'Oria,

1st. That she had probably at a former period contracted syphilis.

2d. That she was strongly hysterical.

3d. That she was the subject of purpura hæmorrhagica.

4th. That she was a most unmitigated humbug and liar.

And now we come to the consideration of a case of stigmatization which
has greatly stirred both the theological and the scientific world of
Europe--that of Louise Lateau--and here again I shall draw largely,
though by no means exclusively, from the works of the believers in the
miraculous production of the phenomena manifested.[13]

Louise Lateau was born at Bois-d'Haine, a small village in Belgium, on
the 30th of January, 1850. She was reared in the utmost poverty, was
chlorotic, and did not menstruate till she was eighteen years old. She
loved solitude and silence, and when not engaged in work--and she does
not appear to have labored much--she spent her time in meditation and
prayer. She was subject to paroxysms of ecstasy, during which, as many
other ecstasies, she spoke very edifying things, of charity, poverty,
and the priesthood. She saw St. Ursula, St. Roch, St. Theresa, and the
Holy Virgin. Persons who saw her in these states declared that, while
lying on the bed, her whole body was raised up more than a foot high,
the heels alone being in contact with the bed.

The stigmatization ensued very soon after these seizures. On a Friday
she bled from the left side of her chest. On the following Friday this
flow was renewed, and in addition, blood escaped from the dorsal
surfaces of both feet; and on the third Friday, not only did she bleed
from the side and feet, but also from the dorsal and palmar surface of
both hands. Every succeeding Friday the blood flowed from these places,
and finally other points of exit were established on the forehead and
between the shoulders.

At first these bleedings only took place at night, but after two or
three months they occurred in the daytime, and were accompanied by
paroxysms of ecstasy, during which she was insensible to all external
impressions, and acted the passion of Jesus and the crucifixion.

M. Warlomont, being commissioned by the Royal Academy of Medicine of
Belgium to examine Louise Lateau, went to her house, accompanied by
several friends, and made a careful examination of her person. At that
time, Friday morning at six o'clock, the blood was flowing freely from
all the stigmata. In a few moments the sacrament would be brought to
her, and then the second act of the drama would begin. The scene that
followed can be best described in M. Warlomont's own words:

"It is a quarter-past six. 'Here comes the communion,' said M. Niels [a
priest], 'kneel down.' Louise fell on her knees on the floor, closed her
eyes and crossed her hands, on which the communion-cloth was extended. A
priest, followed by several acolytes, entered; the penitent put out her
tongue, received the holy wafer, and then remained immovable in the
attitude of prayer.

"We observed her with more care than seemed to have been hitherto given
to her at similar periods. Some thought that she was simply in a state
of meditation, from which she would emerge in the course of half an hour
or so. But it was a mistake. Having taken the communion, the penitent
went into a special state. Her immobility was that of a statue, her eyes
were closed; on raising the eyelids the pupils were seen to be largely
dilated, immovable, and apparently insensible to light. Strong pressure
made upon the parts in the vicinity of the stigmata caused no sensation
of pain, although a few moments before they were exquisitely tender.
Pricking the skin gave no evidence of the slightest sensibility. A limb,
on being raised, offered no resistance, and sank slowly back to its
former position. Anæsthesia was complete, unless the cornea remained
still impressionable. The pulse had fallen from 120 to 100 pulsations.
At a given moment I raised one of the eyelids, and M. Verriest quickly
touched the cornea. Louise at once seemed to recover herself from a
sound sleep, arose and walked to a chair, upon which she seated herself.
'This time,' I said, 'we have wakened her.' 'No,' said M. Niels, looking
at his watch, 'it was time for her to awake.'"

She remained conscious; the blood still continued to flow; the
anæsthesia had ceased, her pulse rose to 120, and at the end of half an
hour she was herself. "Our first visit ended here. At half-past eleven
we made another. The poor child had resumed her attitude of extreme
suffering, against which she contended with all the energy that remained
to her. The wounds in the hands still continued to bleed. M. Verriest
auscultated with care the lungs, heart, and great vessels, and found the
_bruit de souffle_, which he had detected in the morning at the apex of
the heart and over the carotids. The handle of a spoon pressed against
the velum, the base of the tongue, and the pharynx, provoked no effort
at vomiting. The glasses of our spectacles, as they came in contact with
the air expired, were covered with vapor. As the patient appeared to
suffer from our presence, we went away.

"We made our third visit at two o'clock. There were still fifteen
minutes before the beginning of the ecstatic crisis, which always took
place punctually at a quarter past two and ended at about half past
four. The pupils at this time were slightly contracted, the eyelids were
almost entirely closed; the eyes, looking at nothing, were veiled from
our view. We tried in vain to attract her attention; her mind was
otherwise engaged, and her pains were evidently becoming more intense.
At exactly a quarter past two her eyes became fixed in a direction above
and to the right. The ecstasy had begun.

"The time had now come to introduce those who were prompted by
curiosity. This could now be done without inconvenience, for the
ecstatic, for the ensuing two hours, would be lost to the appreciation
of what might be passing around her. The room crowded, could hold about
ten persons, but enough were allowed to enter to make the total
twenty-five. These placed themselves in two ranks, of which the front
one kneeling, allowed the rear ones to see all that was going on. All
this was done under the direction of M. le Curé, who took every pains to
give us a good view of what was going to happen.

"Louise was seated on the edge of her chair; her body, inclined forward,
seemed to wish to follow the direction of her eyes, which did not look,
but were fixed on vacancy. Her eyes were opened to their fullest
extent, of a dull, lustreless appearance, turned above and to the right,
and of an absolute immobility. A few workings of the lids were now
observed and became more frequent if the eyelids were touched. The
pupils, largely dilated, showed very little sensibility to light, and
all that remained of vision was shown by slight winking when the hand
was suddenly brought close to the eyes. The whole face lacked
expression. At certain moments, either spontaneously or as a consequence
of divers provocations, a light smile, to which the muscles of the face
generally did not contribute, wandered over her lips. Then the face
resumed its primitive expression, and thus she remained for the
half-hour which constituted the 'first station.'

"The 'second station' was that of genuflection. It had failed at one
time, but had again appeared. The young girl fell on her knees, clasped
her hands, and remained for about a quarter of an hour in the attitude
of contemplation. Then she arose and again resumed her sitting posture.

"The 'third station' began at three o'clock. Louise inclined herself a
little forward, raised her body slowly, and then extended herself at
full length, face downward, on the floor. There was neither rigidity nor
extreme precipitation; nothing in fact, calculated to produce injuries.
The knees first supported her body, then it rested on these and the
elbows, and finally her face was brought in actual close contact with
the tiled floor. At first the head rested on the left arm, but very soon
the patient made a quick and sudden movement, and the arms were extended
from the body in the form of a cross. At the same time the feet were
brought together so that the dorsum of the right was in contact with
the sole of the left foot. This position did not vary for an hour and a
half. When the end of the crisis approached, the arms were brought close
to the sides of the body, then suddenly the poor girl rose to her knees,
her face turns to the wall, her cheeks become colored, her eyes have
regained their expression, her countenance expands, and the ecstasy is
at an end."

Further particulars are given, and an apparatus was constructed and
applied to Louise's hand and arm so as to prevent any external
excitation of the hæmorrhage. It was apparently shown that there was no
such interference, for the blood began to flow at the usual time on

In addition to the stigmata and the paroxysms of ecstasy, Louise
declared that she did not sleep, had eaten or drank nothing for four
years, had had no fæcal evacuation for three years and a half, and that
the urine was entirely suppressed.

M. Warlomont examined the blood and products of respiration chemically,
and satisfied himself of their normal character, except that the former
contained an excessive amount of white corpuscles.

When being closely interrogated, Louise admitted that, though she did
not sleep, she had short periods of forgetfulness at night. On M.
Warlomont suddenly opening a cupboard in her room, he found it to
contain fruit and bread, and her chamber communicated directly with a
yard at the back of the house. It was therefore perfectly possible for
her to have slept, eaten, defecated, and urinated, without any one
knowing that she did so.

The conclusions arrived at by M. Warlomont were, that the
stigmatizations and ecstasies of Louise Lateau were real and to be
explained upon well-known physiological and pathological principles,
that she "worked, and dispensed heat, that she lost every Friday a
certain quantity of blood by the stigmata, that the air she expired
contained the vapor of water and carbonic acid, that her weight had not
materially altered since she had come under observation. She consumes
carbon and it is not from her own body that she gets it. Where does she
get it from? Physiology answers, 'She eats.'"

Relative to the assumed abstinence in the cases of Palma d'Oria, Louise
Lateau and other subjects of ecstasy and stigmata, it is not necessary,
in view of the remarks already made on this subject in a previous
chapter, to devote further consideration to it here. The conclusion
arrived at by M. Warlomont is the only one which science can tolerate.
Should Louise Lateau or Palma d'Oria ever be subjected to as close
watching as was the poor little Welsh Fasting Girl, Sarah Jacob, it will
certainly terminate as badly for them as for her, unless they yield to
the demands of nature and take the food which the organism requires.


[11] Les Stigmatisées; Palma d'Oria, etc. 2d Edition, Paris, 1873, p.

[12] Op. cit., t. ii.

[13] For the theological view of this remarkable case the reader is
referred to the following works, a part only of those written in support
of her pretensions. "Louise Lateau de Bois-d'Haine, sa vie, ses extases,
ses stigmates: étude Médicale," par le Dr. Lefebvre, Louvain, 1873. "Les
stigmatisées; Louise Lateau, etc.," par le Docteur A. Imbert-Gourbeyre,
Paris, 1873. "Biographie de Louise Lateau," par H. Van Looy, Tournai,
Paris and Leipzig, 1874. "Louise Lateau de Bois-d'Haine etc.," par le
Dr. A. Rohling, Paris, 1874. "Louise Lateau, ihr Wunderleben u.s.w.,"
Von Paul Majunke, Berlin, 1875.

Among the treatises in which the miracle is denied, and the phenomena
attributed to either disease or fraud are; "Louise Lateau; Rapport
Médical sur la stigmatisée de Bois-d'Haine, fait à l'académie royale de
médecine de Belgique," par le Dr. Warlomont, Bruxelles and Paris, 1875.
"Science et miracle, Louise Lateau, ou la stigmatisée Belge," par le Dr.
Bourneville, Paris, 1875. "Les Miracles," par M. Virchow, Revue des
cours scientifiques, January 23rd 1875.



For several years past there have been rumors more or less definite in
character that a young lady in Brooklyn was not only living without
food, but was possessed of some mysterious faculty by which she could
foretell events, read communications without the aid of the eyes, and
accurately describe occurrences in distant places, through clairvoyance
or whatever other name may be applied to the influence.

Finally, in the _New York Herald_ of October 20th, 1878, appeared an
account, headed "Life without Food. An Invalid Lady who for fourteen
years has lived without nourishment." As this account is apparently
authentic, and as the statements made have never been contradicted, I do
not hesitate to quote from it. Some of the letters which have appeared
in response to a proposition I offered, and to which fuller reference
will presently be made, have accused me of dragging the young lady
before the public. It will be seen, however, that her friends and
physicians are responsible for all the publicity given to the case.

Leaving out of consideration for the present the alleged marvellous
endowments of this young lady, as regards seeing without her eyes,
second sight, etc., I quote from the _Herald_ the essential points
relative to her clinical history and abstinence from food:

"In a modest, secluded house at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Downing
Street, Brooklyn, lives an invalid lady afflicted with paralysis, with a
history so remarkable and extraordinary that, notwithstanding it is
vouched for by physicians of standing, it is almost incredible. It is
claimed that for a period of nearly fourteen years she has lived
absolutely without food or nourishment of any kind. The case has been
kept by the family of the patient a well guarded secret, it having led
them to a strict seclusion as the only means of protection against the
visits of the curious and incredulous.

"The name of the remarkable person is Miss Mollie Fancher. To the half
dozen medical gentlemen who have seen and attended her, her case is
inexplicable. To learn the history of the strange case a _Herald_
reporter yesterday called on several persons familiar with the facts.
The first person seen was Dr. Ormiston, of No. 74 Hanson Place,
Brooklyn, who attended her. He said:--'It seems incredible, but from
everything I can learn Mollie Fancher never eats. The elder Miss
Fancher, her aunt, who takes care of her, is a lady of the highest
intelligence. She was at one time quite wealthy, and she has at present
a comfortable income. I have every reason to believe that her statements
are in every detail reliable. During a dozen visits to the sick chamber
I have never detected evidence of the patient having eaten a morsel.'"

After interviewing a lady intimate with the family, the reporter sought
out Dr. Speir, the attending physician of the patient, and thus details
his experience with that gentleman:

"Dr. Speir was found in his comfortable little office, and the errand of
the writer made known:--

"'Is it true, Doctor, that a patient of yours has lived for fourteen
years without taking food?'

"'If you refer to Miss Fancher, yes. She became my patient in 1864. Her
case is a most remarkable one.'

"'But has she eaten nothing during all these years?'

"'I can safely say she has not.'

"'Are the family also willing to vouch for the truth of this
extraordinary statement?'

"'You will find them very reticent to newspaper men and to strangers
generally. I do not believe any food--that is, solids--ever passed the
woman's lips since her attack of paralysis, consequent upon her mishap.
As for an occasional teaspoonful of water or milk, I sometimes force her
to take it by using an instrument to pry open her mouth, but that is
painful to her. As early as 1865 I endeavored to sustain life in this
way, for I feared that, in obedience to the universal law of nature, she
would die of gradual inanition or exhaustion, which I thought would
sooner or later ensue; but I was mistaken. The case knocks the bottom
out of all existing medical theories, and is, in a word, miraculous.'

"'Did you ever,' asked the reporter, 'make an experiment to satisfy your
professional accuracy in regard to her abstinence?'

"'Several times I have given her emetics on purpose to discover the
truth; but the result always confirmed the statement that she had taken
no food. It sounds strangely, but it is so. I have taken every
precaution against deception, sometimes going into the house at eleven
or twelve o'clock at night, without being announced, but have always
found her the same, and lying in the same position occupied by her for
the entire period of her invalidity. The springs of her bedstead are
actually worn out with the constant pressure. My brethren in the medical
profession at first were inclined to laugh at me, and call me a fool and
spiritualist when I told them of the long abstinence and keen mental
powers of my interesting patient. But such as have been admitted to see
her are convinced. These are Dr. Ormiston, Dr. Elliott and Dr.
Hutchison, some of the best talent in the city, who have seen and

And then the following account is given of the accident from which the
young lady suffered, and to which the remarkable phenomena she is said
to exhibit are ascribed:

"The story of Miss Fancher's accident and its melancholy consequences is
quite affecting. It is collected from the various statements given by
half a dozen friends of the family to the _Herald_ reporter. Interwoven
with it is a thread of romance, a tale of early love and courtship, of a
life embittered by a cruel accident, of patient waiting, and a final
release of the suitor from his engagement to marry another.

"Mary's parents live in a sumptuous dwelling on Washington Avenue,
Brooklyn, and were reported to be wealthy. Their favorite daughter
Mollie, as she was called, was sent to Prof. West's High School in
Brooklyn at an early age, and here developed many brilliant qualities of
mind and heart, which augured well for her future. At seventeen she was
pretty, petite and well cultivated. As a member of the Washington Avenue
Baptist Sunday School, she met and learned to love a classmate, named
John Taylor. An engagement followed the intimacy of the Sunday School
class, and the young people looked forward with buoyant spirits to the
bright life so soon to dawn upon them.

"But fate decreed differently. While getting off a Fulton Street car one
day in 1864, on her return from school, the young lady slipped and fell
backward. Her skirt caught on the step unseen by the conductor, who
started the car on its way again. The poor girl was dragged some ten or
fifteen yards before her cries were heard and the brake applied. When
picked up she was insensible and was carried, suffering intense agony
from an injured spine, to her home near by. Forty-eight hours afterward
she was seized with a violent spasm which lasted for over two days. Then
came a trance, when the sufferer grew cold and rigid, with no evidence
of life beyond a warm spot under the left breast, where feeble
pulsations of her heart were detected by Dr. Speir. Only this gentleman
believed she was alive, and it was due to his constant assertion of the
girl's ultimate recovery that Miss Fancher was not buried. Despite the
best medical help and the application of restoratives, no change was
brought about in the patient's condition until the tenth week, when the
strange suspension of life ceased and breath was once more inhaled and
breathed forth from her lungs.

"To their dismay the doctors then found that Mollie had lost her sight
and the power of deglutition, the latter affliction rendering it
impossible for her to swallow food or even articulate by the use of
tongue or lip. Previous to her trance a moderate quantity of food had
been given her each day; but since then she has not taken a mouthful of
life-sustaining food. Spasms and trances alternated with alarming
frequency since Miss Fancher was first attacked. First her limbs only
became rigid and disturbed at the caprice of her strange malady; but as
time passed her whole frame writhed as if in great pain, requiring to be
held by main force in order to remain in the bed. She could swallow
nothing, and lay utterly helpless until moved."

In the _Sun_, of November 24th, 1878, a fuller account of this young
lady was given, mainly however, in regard to her "clairvoyant," or
"second-sight" power. Relative to her abstinence from food, I quote the
following conversation between the reporter and Dr. Speir.

"'Is it true that she has not partaken of food in all these thirteen

"'No: I cannot say that she has not; I have not been constantly with her
for thirteen years; she may have taken food in my absence. Her friends
have used every device to make her take nourishment. Food has been
forced upon her, and artificial means have been resorted to that it
might be carried to her stomach. Nevertheless, the amount in the
aggregate must have been very small in all these years.'

"'You have considered the case of such extraordinary importance as to
take many physicians to see it?'

"'I have, and it has excited very much of attention. I have letters
about it from far and near, and the medical journals have asked for

And this with Dr. Ormiston:

"Dr. Robert Ormiston, who has been one of Miss Fancher's physicians from
the first, who has seen her constantly in all the different conditions
of her system, said yesterday that he was convinced that there could be
no deception. He could find no motive for it, and he did not believe
that she had attempted it. As to her not partaking of food, he had with
Dr. Speir made tests that satisfied him that she ate no more than she
pretended to, and in the aggregate it had not, in all these years,
amounted to more than the amount eaten at a single meal by a healthy
man. Dr. Ormiston narrated many curious incidents of the girl's illness,
and verified the facts of her physical condition as narrated elsewhere."

In order that no injustice may be done to these gentlemen, I quote the
following from the _Sun_ of November 26th:

"Dr. R. Fleet Speir, one of Miss Fancher's physicians, smiled last
evening when the _Sun_ reporter asked him what he thought of Dr.
Hammond's opinions on the case. 'I probably have just as high an opinion
of Dr. Hammond's opinions as Dr. Hammond has of mine,' he said. 'My
opinion on the case of Miss Fancher I have always refused to give to any
one. When I first took the case, years ago, I told the family that I
would not give them an opinion on it; that I would do what I could with
it, and that I hoped to bring about a cure. I do not believe in
clairvoyance or second sight, or anything of the kind. I think I stand
with the most rigid school on that subject.'

"'But do you think Miss Fancher deceives or endeavors to?'

"The Doctor smiled again. 'Now I do not want you to interview me on
that. My theory has along been to do nothing to irritate my patient; I
humored her, and have endeavored in that way to get her confidence, to
get complete control of her, if possible. In that way I may get her
mind diverted, and by and by get her out of bed. I have hoped to see her
cured. I do not see what earthly good a scientific investigation would
do her. On the contrary, it would harm her. Put a relay of physicians to
watch her, and she would undoubtedly do her best to beat them. She would
hold out against them, and likely as not die.'

"Dr. Robert Ormiston said that he thought that the Brooklyn physicians
knew quite as much about the case as their New York brethren, and that
their opinions were of as much weight. 'It has become a most interesting
case from a medical standpoint, because during her long illness, she has
gone through all the different phases of hysteria that have heretofore
been observed in many different cases. I think I am correct in this

From all that can be ascertained therefore, it appears that the young
lady in question received a severe injury to the spinal cord, in
consequence of which she became paralyzed in the lower extremities, in
which members contractions also took place. It is probable also that the
great sympathetic nerve and brain were involved in the injury.

Confined to her bed, her bodily temperature being low, and passing a
good of her time in trances or periods of insensibility, the
requirements of the system as regarded food would necessarily be
limited. But this is the most that can be said. She _did_ breathe, her
heart _did_ beat, she required _some_ bodily heat, and the various other
functions of her organism could not have been maintained without the
expenditure of matter of some kind. During abstinence from food the body
itself is consumed for these purposes, and there being no renovation,
no supplies from without, it loses weight with every instant of time
until death finally ensues. An emaciated person can withstand this drain
less effectually than one who is stout and fat.

Again, it is said that the food taken by Miss Fancher was at once
rejected. That it was _all_ rejected, is in the highest degree
improbable; a portion remained, and this portion, small as it was, did
good service when very little was required.

Another point: that Miss Fancher was hysterical admits of no doubt.
Hysteria is a disease as much in some cases beyond the control of the
patient as inflammation of the brain or any other disease. A proclivity
to simulation and deception is just as much a symptom of hysteria as
pain is of pleurisy. To say, therefore, that she simulated abstinence
and deceived us to the quantity of food she took, is no imputation on
her honesty, or questioning her possession of as high a degree of honor
and trust, as can be claimed by any one. Other women naturally as moral
as she, have under the influence of hysteria perpetrated the grossest
deceptions, and they are not unfrequently manifested in the very same
way that hers apparently are. Her case is by no means an isolated one;
it is not such as has never been seen before; it does not "knock the
bottom out of all existing medical theories, and is in a word
miraculous," as one of the physicians is reported to have said. On the
contrary, similar ones are often met with as we have seen, and the
following which I quote from Millingen,[14] is so like it in many
respects, that the two might have been formed after a common model, as
in fact they were, just as two or more cases of pneumonia follow a well
defined type.

"Another wonderful instance of the same kind is that of Janet McLeod,
published by Dr. McKenzie. She was at the time thirty-three years of
age, unmarried, and from the age of fifteen had had various attacks of
epilepsy, which had produced so rigid a lock-jaw that her mouth could
rarely be forced open by any contrivance; she had lost very nearly the
power of speech and deglutition, and with this all desire to eat or
drink. Her lower limbs were contracted towards her body; she was
entirely confined to her bed, and had periodical discharges of blood
from the lungs, which were chiefly thrown out by the nostrils. During a
few intervals of relaxation she was prevailed upon with great difficulty
to put a few crumbs of bread comminuted in the hand, into her mouth,
together with a little water sucked from her one hand, and, in one or
two instances, a little gruel, but even in these attempts almost the
whole was rejected. On two occasions also, after a total abstinence of
many months, she made signs of wishing to drink some water, which was
immediately procured for her. On the first trial the whole seemed to be
returned from the mouth, but she was greatly refreshed in having it
rubbed upon the throat. On the second occasion she drank off a pint at
once, but could not be prevailed upon to drink any more, although her
father had now fixed a wedge between her teeth. With these exceptions,
however, she seemed to have passed upwards of four years without either
liquids or solids of any kind, or even an appearance of swallowing; she
lay for the most part like a log of wood, with a pulse scarcely
perceptible for feebleness, but distinct and regular. Her countenance
was clear and pretty fresh; her features neither disfigured nor sunk;
her bosom round and prominent, and her limbs not emaciated. Dr. McKenzie
watched her, with occasional visits, for eight or nine years, at the
close of which period she seemed to be a little improved."

This account, like that given of Miss Fancher, tells us nothing definite
in regard to the fasting abilities of the young woman. It simply, with
the other, may be accepted as indicating that hysterical women are able
to go for comparatively long periods without food, and that fact we
already knew. It will be observed that it is stated that she "_seemed_"
to go four years without food or drink.

In regard to Miss Fancher, the evidence is a little conflicting. First
we have Dr. Speir reported as saying, in answer to a question as to her
having lived fourteen years without food:

"'Yes, she became my patient in 1864. Her case is a most remarkable

"'But has she eaten nothing during all these years?'

"'I can safely say she has not.'"

This in the _Herald_.

But about a month afterward we find the following conversation, reported
as taking place between the same physician and another reporter, this
time of the _Sun_:

"'Is it true that she has not partaken of food in all these thirteen

"'No, I cannot say that she has not; I have not been constantly with her
for thirteen years. She may have taken food in my absence.'"

In which opinion all physiologists will join.

As I have said, hysterical women certainly do exhibit a marked ability
to go without both food and drink. I have had patients abstain from
sometimes one, sometimes the other, and sometimes both, for periods
varying from one day to eleven, and this without much, if any,
suffering, for as soon as the suffering came they did not hesitate to
signify their desire to break their voluntary fasts. Real suffering is a
condition which the hysterical woman avoids with the most assiduous


[14] Curiosities of Medical Experience. London, 1837, Vol. I., page 269,
article, _Abstinence_.



The opinion that food and drink are necessary to life is so generally
accepted by mankind, that few venture to dispute the dictum of Virchow
relative to Louise Lateau, "Fraud or miracle." But although it is
impossible so far as we know for individuals to continue to exist for
months and years without the ingestion of nutriment into the system, it
is undoubtedly true that under certain circumstances life can be
prolonged for days and weeks without any food of any kind going into the

The body is a machine constructed for the purpose of working. The kinds
of work which the body of a man or woman does are many. Every act of
perception or sensation, is an act of work; so is every thought, every
emotion, every volition. The action of the heart or lungs in the
circulation and respiration, the evolution of the animal heat, the
various functions of secretion and excretion, digestion, motion,
speech, etc., are all so many kinds of work. Now as regards work, it is
well known that for its due performance force is required, and it is
equally well known that for the development of force, matter that can be
metamorphosed is necessary. The engine may be perfect, the water may be
in the boiler, but unless there be force in the form of heat there will
be no steam; and there will be no heat unless there be fuel in a state
of combustion.

The human body differs from any other machine in the fact that it uses
its fuel in great part indirectly; only in fact after it has been
assimilated and converted into tissues of various kinds. Thus when a
muscle contracts, it is the muscle itself which is consumed; when a
thought is conceived it is the brain which provides the force; when an
emotion is experienced, it is again the brain which is decomposed. The
body, therefore, lives by the death of its own substance. It is true,
some kinds of food such as alcohol, tea and coffee, and perhaps some
others do not require to go farther than the blood to be burned, but
these are mainly heat-producing, and not tissue-producing substances.
But whether matter be consumed directly or indirectly, all bodily force
results from its decomposition, and without this destruction of matter
the body would be absolutely incapable of a single functional action of
any kind whatever, and its temperature like that of the so-called
cold-blooded animals would be that of the surrounding medium, the

The quantity of food required by the system varies like the demands of
other machines in accordance with the amount of work which is to be
performed. A plowman, other things being equal, consumes more than a
watchmaker; just as a locomotive burns more fuel than the little engine
that runs a sewing machine; the strong able-bodied active man, one who
works his brains and muscles up to their full power, eats more than the
weak, emaciated and inactive girl, who passes all her time in the
recumbent position in bed; and the latter will, other things being
equal, endure for a longer period entire abstinence from food. A little
food with such a one goes a great way, the demands of the system are at
their minimum, and hence a mouthful of bread, or a little tea and toast
taken at long intervals, suffices for the supply of all, or a great
portion of the waste of the body. With such a person there is not much
intense thought, there is little or no muscular action, the pulsations
of the heart do not require to be of much force, the respiration is
feeble, digestion is at its lowest point, there are no great demands for
animal heat, and in fact if the temperature of the atmosphere of the
room in which such a person lies, be kept high, the function of
calorification may be almost nothing. Still there must be some food
taken. The body, can to a certain extent, be used up in supplying the
force required for the several functions without the necessity for an
immediate restoration of its tissues, but there is a limit to this,
beyond which it is certain death to go.

Chossat[15] has determined this point very accurately by many
experiments performed upon doves, pigeons, Guinea pigs, rabbits, etc. He
found that as a mean result, death ensued when the body lost four-tenths
of its original weight. For instance, a body weighing one hundred
pounds, could endure the loss of forty pounds without death necessarily
following. Five-tenths or one-half appeared to be the extreme loss of
weight in inanition which the body could endure without death resulting.

In addition to the loss of weight the temperature fell rapidly, the
action of the heart was lessened, the number and depth of the
respirations was diminished, and the excretions gradually became smaller
in amount.

Experiments such as those of Chossat on the lower animals, cannot of
course be instituted on the human subject, nevertheless nature sometimes
performs experiments for us which are not without valuable results; and
accidents of various kinds, have also given us important data.

On the 19th of March, 1755, twenty-two persons living in the Alpine
village of Bergemoletto, in Piedmont, were buried in their houses by an
avalanche or whirlwind of snow. The space covered was about two hundred
and seventy feet in length, sixty in breadth, and the snow was over
forty-two feet in depth. Notwithstanding all the efforts made by the
survivors it was impossible to extricate the buried persons till the
18th of April following. All were dead except three women, who, having
found some hay, fed a goat with it, and thus obtained from this animal a
pint of milk daily, on which they had managed to sustain life for a

In Belgium in the year 1683, four colliers were confined in a coal pit
for twenty-four days without anything to eat. On the twenty-fifth day
they were taken out. In all that time they had lived on nothing but a
little water, which flowed from the walls of the prison in which they
were immured.[17]

A case is mentioned by Foderé[18] on the authority of M. Chaussier, in
which some workmen were taken out alive after having been confined for
fourteen days in a cold damp vault. When released at the end of the time
mentioned, their pulses were slow and weak, their animal heat greatly
reduced, and respiration barely perceptible. Foderé ascribes their long
existence without either food or drink, to the fact that the atmosphere
of the vault was exceedingly humid, and that the moisture was absorbed
into their bodies, taking the place of water ingested into the stomach.

In another case reported by Dr. Straus,[19] a man sixty-five years of
age, was extracted alive from a coal mine, in which he had been
imprisoned for twenty-three days. During the first ten days he had a
little dirty water, but for the last thirteen days nothing whatever.
When taken out he was in a condition of great weakness and emaciation
and died after three days, notwithstanding all efforts made to preserve
his life.

Cases of prolonged abstinence often occur among the insane, who, under
the influence of delusions, or in order to destroy their lives refuse
all food. Dr. Willan relates the case of a young man, who, through
delusions, refused all food but a little orange juice, and who lived for
sixty days on this alone.

Of course such persons, if under the observation of a physician, could
be fed forcibly, but through the ignorance of friends or relatives it
not unfrequently happens that medical aid is not invoked in time, and
serious symptoms, or even death itself, may result. The time at which
this last termination ensues varies according to the kind of insanity
with which the patient is affected. A general paralytic deprived of all
food dies sooner than a healthy person. An insane person suffering from
acute mania also resists inanition badly, but one the subject of
melancholia often endures the total deprivation of aliment for a long
time. Esquirol[20] cites the case of a melancholic who did not succumb
till after eighteen days of complete abstinence, and Desbarreaux-Bernard
another in which life was prolonged for sixty-one days, but in this case
a little broth was taken once. Desportes[21] refers to the case of a
woman subject to melancholia who continued to exist during two months of
abstinence, during which she took nothing into the stomach but a little

It would be easy to go on and quote other instances occurring among
prisoners, shipwrecked persons, those suffering from diseases which
prevented food entering the stomach, others lost in deserts, forests,
etc., in which life has been prolonged for considerable periods. Such
cases are, however, quite exceptional. An interesting instance occurring
under one of these heads may, however, be cited as an example.

M. Lépine[22] reports the case of a young girl nineteen years of age who
swallowed a quantity of sulphuric acid. As a consequence a stricture of
the œsophagus was produced. Three months after the act, liquids alone
passed into the stomach; emaciation was extreme and the countenance
pallid. Four months subsequently, that is, seven months after swallowing
the acid, the obliteration of the œsophagus was complete, and nothing
whatever could be swallowed. The patient lived for sixteen days after
all food or drink was prevented reaching the stomach. During the last
days of her starvation she complained only of thirst and not of hunger.
The prostration was extreme and the temperature greatly lessened. A
tendency to sleep was present, and there was a subdued delirium. On the
last day of life there was more excitement; the conjunctivæ were red,
the pulse thread-like, and the skin cold. It is not stated whether or
not attempts were made to feed this patient by injections into the
rectum of nutritious substances, or by the use of baths containing such
matters in solution. It may, however, safely be taken for granted that
efforts of these kinds were made, and if so, the unusually long period
during which life was sustained is explained.

In all the cases in which life was extraordinarily prolonged there was
either not a total deprivation of food and drink, or there was a state
of muscular inaction present particularly favorable to retardation of
the destructive changes in the body which abstinence produces. It may be
asserted that in ordinary cases absolute deprivation of food and drink
cannot be endured by a healthy adult longer than ten days, and death
generally ensues before the end of the eighth day. It is said that women
sustain abstinence better than men. Young persons and the aged certainly
resist with less power than those of the middle period of life. Dante
was aware of this fact when he made the children of Ugolino die before
their father, the youngest first, the oldest last.

Even though there be a total deprivation of what may strictly be called
food, some of the cases already cited show that if water be taken life
is preserved for a much longer period than would otherwise be the case.
Thus a negro woman, according to Dr. J. W. Francis,[23] believing
herself to be bewitched, abstained from food for three weeks, but during
this period took two small cups of water, to which a very little wine
had been added.

In a case reported by Dr. McNaughton[24] a longer resistance was

"The subject of this case was a young man, aged twenty-seven, who for
three years immediately preceding his death almost constantly kept his
room, apparently engaged in meditation, a Bible his only companion. At
the latter end of May, 1829, his appetite began to fail; he ate very
little, and on the 2d of July he declined eating altogether. For the
first six weeks of his fast he went regularly to the well, washed
himself, and took a bowl full of water with him into the house. With
this he occasionally washed his mouth and drank a little; the quantity
taken during the twenty-four hours did not exceed a pint. On one
occasion he went three days without taking water, but on the fourth
morning he was observed to go to the well and drink copiously and
greedily. For the first six weeks he walked out every day, and sometimes
spent the greater part of the day in the woods. He retained his strength
until a short time before his death. During the first three weeks he
emaciated rapidly; afterwards he did not seem to waste so sensibly.
Prof. Willoughby visited him a few days before he died. He found the
skin very cold, the respiration feeble and slow, but otherwise natural;
but the effluvia from the breath, and perhaps the skin, were extremely
offensive. During the greater part of the latter week of his life the
parents say there was a considerable discharge of foul reddish matter
from the lungs. To this perhaps the offensive smell referred to may be
chiefly attributed. The pulse was regular, but slow and feeble, and the
arteries extremely contracted. The radial artery, for example, could be
distinctly felt like a small, hard thread, communicating almost a wiry

"The alvine evacuations were rare; it is believed that he passed several
weeks without any, but the secretion of urine seemed more regular. He
died after fasting fifty-three days. On dissection the stomach was found
loose and flabby. The gall bladder was distended with a dark,
muddy-looking bile. The mesentery, stomach and intestines were
excessively thin and transparent. There was no fat in the omentum."

In cases of complete abstinence, the phenomena--to several of which
attention has already been called--are very striking. The respiration
becomes slow until just before death, when, as Chossat observes, there
is often a quickening of the respiratory movements. The exhaled breath
has a peculiarly sickening and fetid odor. The pulse loses in force and

The blood becomes reduced in quantity to such an extent sometimes that,
as observed by Collard and Martigny,[25] incisions may be made in
various parts of the bodies of animals suffering from inanition without
there being any hæmorrhage.

The animal temperature falls, according to Chossat, 8° per day until the
day of death, when it reaches 14°; and at the moment life departs, the
loss suddenly becomes 30°.

All the secretions are diminished in quantity. This is especially shown
as regards the saliva and urine. Even open sores cease to secrete pus.

At first there is pain, the seat of which is referred to the stomach,
and which pain in the beginning, being simply a feeling of emptiness,
rapidly assumes a gnawing or tearing character. But before long this
fades away and it does not appear that in the middle and final stages of
inanition there is any suffering which can be called a pain, or which
can be fixed in any definite part of the body.

The mental faculties are profoundly affected. A high state of delirium
supervenes, and there are often hallucinations. These sometimes relate
to food, which appears to the sufferer to be spread out before him in
the most seducing manner. All nobility of character disappears, and
selfishness and brutality govern. Finally the delirium becomes low and
muttering, the bodily weakness becomes excessive, walking, or even
standing, is impossible, the sufferer loses all sensation, and death

But probably no part of the subject is of more interest than that which
relates to the association of inanition with hysteria. As is well known
by physicians, the existence of this latter condition enables many to
bear partial, or even complete deprivation of food longer and with less
apparent suffering than would be possible with individuals in good

That Miss Fancher is subject to hysteria is very evident from a
consideration of the clinical history of her case, and hence it is to
be expected that she can endure long fasts without much inconvenience.
It is just possible that she might, by remaining quietly in bed in a
state of partial or complete trance--a hysterical condition in which the
waste of the tissues is greatly reduced--exist for a month without
either food or drink, and therefore the proposition which I made to her
friends contains no exacting condition. But when it is gravely said that
"for a period of nearly fourteen years she has lived absolutely without
food or nourishment of any kind," we are forced to declare, in the
interest of science, that the statement is necessarily absolutely devoid
of truth. Subsequent statements, as we have seen, modify this fourteen
years' claim very materially, and really leave it in doubt whether there
was any abstinence at all.

But I think it may safely be believed that Miss Fancher has indulged in
frequent long fasts. Hysteria is very frequently marked, not only by the
ability to endure lengthened periods of abstinence, but by the abolition
of all desire for food, to such an extent that the sight or even idea of
aliment of any kind excites loathing and disgust. M. Lasègue,[26] in a
very interesting memoir, has discussed this part of the subject with
great precision, and has shown that though such patients take very
little food they do take some, and that eventually they experience all
the symptoms of inanition. He has never seen death result from the
abstinence, for as soon as the condition becomes decidedly unpleasant
the patient resumes gradually her normal alimentation.

In a case recently under my care, a young lady twenty-three years of
age became hysterical in consequence of domestic troubles, and losing
all desire for food, took nothing daily but a single cup of chocolate.
She persevered in this restricted diet for twenty-nine days, although
during the last eight or ten she gave decided evidences of starvation.
She became emaciated, her temperature fell, especially in the
extremities, her breath was offensive, her menstruation ceased, and
there was such a marked sense of discomfort that she began to crave
food, not, as she said, because her appetite had returned, but because
she was afraid she would die. Still she resisted till, on the thirtieth
day, she begged for a little beef tea, and from that moment her appetite
returned to her, and by the end of another week, she was eating her
ordinary quantity and variety of food.

Now, in this case, though the amount of nutriment taken daily was small,
it was of such a character as to be well able to sustain life. The half
pint of chocolate contained milk and sugar, besides the highly
nutritious chocolate, with its carbonaceous and nitrogenous matters, and
yet a month was the extreme limit of endurance.

That a state of inanition exists in Miss Fancher is not to be doubted.
The extreme emaciation, the reduced bodily temperature, the contracted
stomach and intestines, the great bodily weakness, all show that she is
not sufficiently nourished. In her case there is apparently not only an
absence of appetite but a positive disgust for food; and another symptom
often present in inanition--vomiting when nutriment is taken into the
stomach--appears also to be a prominent feature. It is probable that
there is likewise a notable diminution in the amount of urine excreted,
as this is a common accompaniment of hysterical manifestations such as
hers. In some instances the function appears to be almost entirely
arrested, as was the fact in a case described by M. Charcot,[27] and in
two which have come under my own observation.

There is nothing remarkable in the admitted fact that Miss Fancher eats
very little. We have seen how existence can be kept up on greatly
reduced quantities of food, and under circumstances such as those
governing her case, for periods which would be impossible in healthy
persons. No one yet under any conditions, whether of hysteria or trance
or assumed miraculous interference, has, to the satisfaction of
competent and disinterested investigators, lived even two months without
the ingestion of any food whatever. As to going nearly fourteen years in
a state of abstinence--a statement in her behalf which many persons
believe to be true--I can only say that all the teachings of science and
of experience are against the claim. No one who had the most superficial
idea of what knowledge is and how facts can be proven, would for a
moment accept such a preposterous story, no matter by whom asserted.

The whole subject is one which is to be examined into and determined
like any other matter, and yet, when a proposition is made to
investigate by skilled observers the remarkable claim put forward, it is
met with abuse and misrepresentation, as if these people thought that
all they had to do was to make an assertion of a phenomenon which,
according to what we know of nature, is absurd and impossible, to have
it at once accepted by those who know, by painful experience, how
doubtful all things are till they are proven, and how difficult it is
to get satisfactory evidence of the most simple event in physiology or
pathology. No one doubts the abstract possibility of a human being
living without food, for, bearing in mind the discoveries that are
constantly being made, nothing can be regarded as absolutely impossible
outside the domain of mathematics. Two and two cannot make six, neither
can two distinct bodies occupy the same space at the same time, nor the
square of the hypothenuse be otherwise than equal to the sum of the
squares of the other two sides of a right-angled triangle.

Our knowledge of natural science is, however, founded on experience.
Looking at a bear, for instance, for the first time, and with no
knowledge of its habits and capacities we would not be apt to believe
that the animal could go into retirement at the beginning of winter and
remain till spring in a condition of semi-existence and without food.
But experience teaches us that the bear when it begins to hibernate is
fat; that during hibernation it is in a perfectly quiescent state; that
when it emerges into active life again it is emaciated, and that during
the whole period of retirement it has taken nothing into its stomach. We
then know by observing that all bears go through the same process, that
it is a law of their organism to do so, and that their reduced
functional actions are maintained by the consumption of the fat with
which in the beginning their bodies were loaded. Even here, then, there
is no exception to the law that there is no force without the
decomposition of matter. Now, it is just possible that by some hitherto
unknown or unrecognized condition of the system a man or woman may
obtain the force necessary to carry on life for fourteen years without
getting it through food taken into the stomach. But a possibility and a
fact are two very different things, and the admitted possibility has not
yet been shown to be a fact. It is easier--to use the argument of
Hume--for the mind to accept the view that there is deception or error
somewhere, than to believe that a woman, contrary to all human
experience, should live fourteen years without food. Turtles, we know,
will live for months while entirely deprived of nutriment. Many others
of the cold-blooded animals will do the same thing. It is their nature
to do so, and we have experience of the fact, but it is not the nature
of women, so far as we know, and therefore we refuse to accept as true
the stories which are told of their powers in this direction. And our
knowledge is based not only on our daily experience of the wants of
their systems and the examples of starvation which have come to our
knowledge, but also upon the fact that in the many cases of alleged long
abstinence from food that have been investigated, error or deception has
been discovered. Therefore, when it is said that Miss Fancher lives
without food, and has so done for fourteen years, we simply say, "give
us the proofs." Of course the proofs are not given.

How far Miss Fancher is responsible for the assertions that have been
made in regard to her long-continued abstinence I do not know. A
tendency to deception is a notable phenomenon of hysteria, and if she
has led those about her to accept the view that she has existed without
food for years, the circumstance would be in no way remarkable. Other
hysterical women have deceived in the same or in still more astonishing
ways. Or it may be that the amount of food taken being very small,
carelessness or want of exactness has led to the expression that she
lived upon "absolutely nothing," just as we hear the words used every
day by those who have little or no appetite, but who nevertheless do eat
something. Again, a love for the marvellous is so deeply rooted in the
average human mind that it willingly, and to a certain extent
unconsciously, adds to any statement of a remarkable circumstance, till
the latter grows, whilst being repeated, to fabulous dimensions.

But however this may be, whatever the explanation, it is quite certain
that if Miss Fancher has lived fourteen years without food, or even
fourteen months, or weeks, she is a unique psychological or pathological
individual, whose case is worthy of all the consideration which can be
given to it, not by superstitious or credulous or ignorant persons, but
by those who, trained in the proper methods of scientific research,
would know how to get the whole truth of her case, and nothing but the
truth. It is to be regretted, therefore, that the proposition contained
in the annexed letter (Appendix) was not accepted, and that we are
forced to place Miss Fancher's case among the others which have proved
to be fallacious, till such time as it may suit her and her friends to
allow of such an examination.


[15] Recherches expérimentales sur l'inanition. Paris, 1843, p. 20.

[16] Universal Magazine, Vol. XXXVI, p. 250.

[17] Abridged Philosophical Transaction, Vol. III, p. 111.

[18] Traité de médecine légale et d'hygiène publique. Paris, 1813. t.
II, p. 285.

[19] Medical Gazette, Vol. XVII, p. 389.

[20] Des maladies mentales. Paris, 1838, p. 203.

[21] Du refus de manger chez les aliénés. Thèse de Paris 1864, p.

[22] Nouveau dictionnaire de médecine et de chirurgie pratiques. Paris,
1874. t. XVIII., Art. Inanition, p. 503.

[23] New York Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. II, p. 31.

[24] Quoted from Trans. of the Albany Institute by Dr. Lee in Copland's
Dictionary of Medicine. Vol. I, p. 31.

[25] Recherches expérimentales sur les effets de l'abstinence. _Journal
de Physiologie_ de Magendie, t. VIII, p. 150.

[26] De l'anorexie hystérique. _Archives générales de médecine_, April

[27] Leçons sur les maladies du système nerveux, t. I., 2d edition.
Paris, 1876, p. 178.


The following letter embraces the proposition made to Miss Fancher, to
which allusion is made in the text:


    I have read the letter of Professor Henry M. Parkhurst, published in
    a recent issue of the HERALD, relative to the "mind reading" or
    clairvoyance of Miss Mollie Fancher, of Brooklyn, and it does not
    satisfy me that the young lady in question possesses any such power.
    It would have been very easy for her to have opened the envelope
    without disturbing the seal and to have read the contents. Now,
    there has been a great deal of talk about Miss Fancher's case. I
    have received just fifty-seven letters asking me to investigate it,
    and the press has reiterated the invitation over and over again. I
    have stated very explicitly that I regard the whole matter as a
    humbug of the most decided kind, but I have never asserted the
    impossibility of the young lady's alleged performances. On the
    contrary, I hold nothing to be absolutely impossible outside the
    domain of mathematics. But possibilities and realities are very
    different things, and I certainly will not accept as true any such
    phenomena as those asserted to have been associated with Miss
    Fancher unless they are proven.

    I have already declared my readiness to investigate Miss Fancher,
    and, a few days since, in the _Sun_, proposed a test which will be
    perfectly satisfactory to me and many others who, at present, are in
    accordance with me in my estimation of this young lady. Permit me
    now to state it definitely, specifically, and once for all. I will
    place a certified check for a sum of money exceeding $1,000 inside
    of a single paper envelope. I will lay the package on a table in the
    room in which she is. If she chooses she may take it in her hands
    and place it in contact with any part of her body. I will allow her
    half an hour to describe the check. If she reads it--number, date,
    on whom drawn, amount, signature, etc.--accurately, she may have the
    check as her own property, or I will give the amount expressed in
    the check, in her name to any charitable institution she may
    designate, or otherwise dispose of it in accordance with her

    The only conditions I exact are these:--

    _First_--That the experiment be conducted in my presence and in that
    of two other physicians, members of the New York Neurological
    Society, whom I will bring with me as witness simply, and who will
    not interfere in any way with the test.

    _Second_--That the envelope shall at no time pass out of our sight.

    If Miss Fancher succeeds in this test I will admit that heretofore
    in my denunciations of such performances as hers I have been in
    error, and that there is a force in nature which ought to be
    investigated. I will pay the money not only without chagrin, but
    with great satisfaction, and will consider that I have received full

    If she fails, as I am quite sure she will, I shall not hesitate to
    continue to denounce her as an imposition in this as well as in her
    assumed abstinence from food.

    A word further in regard to this last matter. I know something about
    "fasting girls" and their frauds, not excepting the sad case of poor
    little Sarah Jacob. But I will make this additional proposition:--If
    Miss Fancher will allow herself to be watched, day and night, for
    one month, by relays of members of the New York Neurological
    Society, I will give her $1,000 if at the end of that month she has
    not in the meantime taken food voluntarily or as a forced measure to
    save her from dying of starvation, the danger of this last
    contingency to be judged of by her family physician, Dr. Speir.
    These offers to remain open for acceptance till twelve o'clock M.,
    December 31st. If not taken up by that time, let us hear no more in
    support of Miss Fancher's mind reading or clairvoyance, or living
    for a dozen or more years without food.

                                              WILLIAM A. HAMMOND, M.D.

    _43 West Fifty-Fourth Street, New York, Dec. 12th, 1878._

Transcriber's Note:

    Hyphenation and punctuation have been standardised. Variant
    spellings have been retained. Minor typographical errors have been
    corrected without note, whilst significant amendments have been
    listed below:

      p. 3, 'Nicholas' amended to _Nicolas_
      p. 5, 'Aquaintoin' amended to _Aquitaine_
      p. 5, 'predominent' amended to _predominant_
      p. 6, 'Geraldus Bucoldianus' amended to _Gerardus Bucoldianus_
      p. 7, 'fœces' amended to _fæces_
      p. 7, 'developes' amended to _develops_
      p. 7, fn. 4, 'Παςατηςήσεων' amended to _Παρατηρήσεων_
      p. 7, fn. 4, added _rararum_: 'medicarum, _rararum_, novarum'
      p. 7, fn. 4, 'monstrasarum' amended to _monstrosarum_
      p. 8, '1567' amended to _1597_
      p. 9, fn. 7, 'chirurgicæ' amended to _chirurgicarum_
      p. 15, 'Anne Jones' amended to _Ann Jones_
      p. 16, 'fœcal' amended to _fæcal_
      p. 26, 'fœces' amended to _fæces_
      p. 31, 'Cardinal Carrafa' amended to _Cardinal Carafa_
      p. 40, 'Farenheit' amended to _Fahrenheit_
      p. 41, fn. 13, 'Rapport Médicale' amended to _Rapport Médical_
      p. 41, fn. 13, added _de_: 'médecine _de_ Belgique'
      p. 44, 'ecstacy' amended to _ecstasy_
      p. 44, added _of_: 'direction _of_ M. le Curé'
      p. 46, 'fecal' amended to _fæcal_
      p. 47, 'stigmatisations' amended to _stigmatizations_
      p. 48, 'fortell' amended to _foretell_
      p. 48, 'marvelous' amended to _marvellous_
      p. 58, 'is' amended to _it_: 'that _it_ is stated'
      p. 58, 'Dr. Spier' amended to _Dr. Speir_
      p. 60, 'assimulated' amended to _assimilated_
      p. 60, 'alchohol' amended to _alcohol_
      p. 62, 'Bergemolletta' amended to _Bergemoletto_
      p. 62, 'breath' amended to _breadth_
      p. 62, 'Belguim' amended to _Belgium_
      p. 63, fn. 18, 'médicine' amended to _médecine_
      p. 64, 'palid' amended to _pallid_
      p. 64, fn. 22, 'Nouvreau' amended to _Nouveau_
      p. 64, fn. 22, 'médicine' amended to _médecine_
      p. 67, 'messentery' amended to _mesentery_
      p. 67, 'their' amended to _there_
      p. 67, 'hemorrhage' amended to _hæmorrhage_
      p. 68, 'Chosset' amended to _Chossat_
      p. 69, fn. 26, 'médicine' amended to _médecine_
      p. 71, 'her's' amended to _hers_
      p. 71, 'injestion' amended to _ingestion_
      p. 76, 'Sarah Jacobs' amended to _Sarah Jacob_
      p. 76, 'Dr. Spier' amended to _Dr. Speir_

    The page reference in fn. 21 (p. 64) was omitted in the original text.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fasting Girls - Their Physiology and Pathology" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.