I will cite as an example a patient who was twenty years in the asylum. She was always a puzzle to the physicians, for the absurdity of her delusions exceeded anything that the boldest imagination could create.
She was a dressmaker by trade, born in 1845, of very poor family. Her sister early went wrong and was finally lost in the swamp of prostitution. The patient herself led an industrious, respectable, reserved life. She fell ill in 1886 in her 39th year—at the threshold of the age when so many a dream is brought to naught. Her illness consisted in delusions and hallucinations which increased rapidly, and soon became so absurd that no one could understand her wishes and complaints. In 1887 she came to the asylum. In 1888 her statements, so far as the delusions were concerned, were not intelligible. She maintained such monstrous things as that: “At night her spinal marrow had been torn out; pains in the back had been caused by substances that went through the walls and were covered with magnetism.” “The monopoly fixed the sorrows which are not in the body and do not fly about in the air.” “Excursions are made by breathing in chemistry, and by suffocation regions are destroyed.”
In 1892 the patient styled herself the “Bank Note Monopoly, Queen of the Orphans, Proprietress of the Burghölzli Asylum;” she said: “Naples and I must provide the world with macaroni” (Nudel).
In 1896 she became “Germania and Helvetia from exclusively pure butter”; she also said, “I am Noah’s Ark, the boat of salvation and respect.”
Since then the disease has greatly increased; her last creation is the delusion that she is the “lily red sea monster and the blue one.”
These instances will show you how far the incomprehensibility of such pathological formations go. Our patient was for years the classic example of meaningless delusional ideas in dementia praecox; and many hundreds of medical students have received from the demonstration of this case a permanent impression of the sinister power of insanity. But even this