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Jekylls and Hydes in Real Life

This article was probably published on January 10th 1906, the day after the death of Dr. Steger.



"For twelve years I have been living the life of a Jekyll and trying to subdue my Hyde. Fearing my evil genius, I have at last decided to end the struggle by killing myself." Such was the strange and tragic message left behind him a short time ago by Dr. Steger, a well known doctor, who was found dead in a New York hotel. The problem suggested by this farewell message is one which is a sore puzzle to the cleverest man of our time. Is it possible for the human body to be tennanted by two different spirits antagonists to each other and which dominates the body in turns? On this point some most interesting evidence is available which seems to confirm the theory that this is possible.

Dr. Morton Prince tells a remarkable story of a girl patient, a Miss Christine L. Beauchamp, of Boston, who at different times completely changed her personality. Normally she is a diligent college student, a great lover of books, and of a very retiring disposition. This was the Miss Beauchamp who first consulted Dr. Prince in the spring of 1898. Later her character completely changed and she became animated by an impish spirit which, calling itself "Sally," played sad havoc with Miss Beauchamp's normal habits of life. The demure student, we are told, "would awake to herself, dusty with a long country walk - Sally loved walking - and having a lighted cigarette in her hand - Sally loved cigarettes. Her purse would be empty, for Sally had lunched royally at her expense."

Sally would write letters to Miss Beauchamp, taunting her for her studious habits, abusing her as a "chump" and a "sneak," and generally showing the greatest contempt for her; and these missives Mism Beauchamp would find in her possession when she came to her natural self. Sally, moreover, was an ignoramus, spelled badly, wasshaky in her grammer, knew no foreign languages, and found her chief pleasure in playing foolish pranks and squandering her money. No wonder Miss Beauchamp wrote to Dr. Prince: "No onehas the slighest control over this spirit that possesses me save you. You won't leave me to its mercy!"

In 1899 Miss Beauchamp developed still another personality - "that of an average woman of good health, selfish and self-concentrated, ambitious and ill-tempered, and sworn enemy to Sally, each being aware of the other's existence and struggling for supremacy." Thus for some years the poor girl has been the victim of these three seperate spirits, each dominating her in turn and each trying to oust the others, until in her distress and despair she wrote to the doctor," I do really think that, like those poor people of old, I must be possessed of devils."

Almost more remarkable still is the story told by Dr. Albert Wilson of a girl patient who passed through ten distinct changes of personality. In one she was a child, ignorant of all she had learnt, and requiring to be educated afresh; a few months later all her old knowledge returned, but she developed a dangerous mania, was very passionate, and tore her clothes. In the succeeding phase she lost both speech and hearing, and conversed fluently on her fingers, although in her normal condition she was ignorant of the deaf and dumb language; then she became possessed by the idea that she was an infant, spelled backwards, and revered things generally, calling black white, and so on. Next followed a phase in which she was a "sweet, amiable child," who had to be taught to read and write ; later she lost all memory except of small events in her early childhood, and in succeeding changes she was unable to recognise faces, declaring that she had been born the night before; talked French, a language she had never learned; and became a blind imbecile with a wonderful gift for drawing.

These are by no means all the changes of personality through which this unfortunate girl went before her final restoration to health.

Dr. Forbes Winslow tells a story of a clergyman who underwent a remarkable change of personality in which he forgot everything he had ever learnt, and industriously began to re-learn the lessons of childhood. One day, after he had made some progress, he placed his hand to his bead and said, "I feel a perculiar sensation and now it appears to me that I knew all this before"; and within a short time his faculties were completely restored to him. And to give but one more example out of many, a young lady, Miss B-, in her natural condition, was a clever linguist and musician; in abnormal conditions she could neither read nor write; and had to be taught as a child; and her life was spent in passing from one personality to the other.

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