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REAL GHOST STORIES (Collected and Edited by William T. Stead) online

REAL GHOST STORIES by William T. Stead

Chapter II. Louis V. and His Two Souls.

"Except this strange fragmentary memory, there is nothing very unusual in this condition, and in many asylums no experiments on it would have been attempted. Fortunately the physicians at Rochefort were familiar with the efficacy of the contact of metals in provoking transfer of hysterical hemiplegia from one side to the other. They tried various metals in turn on Louis V. Lead, silver, and zinc had no effect. Copper produced a slight return of sensibility in the paralysed arm, but steel applied to the right arm transferred the whole insensibility to the left side of the body.

"Inexplicable as such a phenomenon is, it is sufficiently common, as French physicians hold, in hysterical cases to excite little surprise. What puzzled the doctors was the change of character which accompanied the change of sensibility. When Louis V. issued from the crisis of transfer with its minute of anxious expression and panting breath, he might fairly be called a new man. The restless insolence, the savage impulsiveness, have wholly disappeared. The patient is now gentle, respectful, and modest, can speak clearly, but he only speaks when he is spoken to. If he is asked his views on religion and politics, he prefers to leave such matters to wiser heads than his own. It might seem that morally and mentally the patient's cure had been complete.

"But now ask what he thinks of Rochefort; how he liked his regiment of marines. He will blankly answer that he knows nothing of Rochefort, and was never a soldier in his life. 'Where are you then, and what is the date of to-day?' 'I am at Bicetre; it is January 2nd, 1884, and I hope to see M. Voisin, as I did yesterday.'

"It is found, in fact, that he has now the memory of two short periods of life (different from those which he remembers when his right side is paralysed), periods during which, so far as now can be ascertained, his character was of this same decorous type, and his paralysis was on his left side.

"These two conditions are what are called his first and his second, out of a series of six or more through which he can be made to pass. For brevity's sake I will further describe his fifth state only.

"If he is placed in an electric bath, or if a magnet is placed on his head, it looks at first sight as though a complete physical cure had been effected. All paralysis, all defect of sensibility, has disappeared. His movements are light and active, his expression gentle and timid, but ask him where he is, and you will find that he has gone back to a boy of fourteen, that he is at St. Urbain, his first reformatory, and that his memory embraces his years of childhood, and stops short on the very day on which he had the fright from the viper. If he is pressed to recollect the incident of the viper, a violent epileptiform crisis puts a sudden end to this phase of his personality." (Vol. IV. pp. 497, 498, 499, "Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research").

This carries us a good deal further. Here we have not only two distinct personalities, but two distinct characters, if not three, in one body. According to the side which is paralysed, the man is a savage reprobate or a decent modest citizen. The man seems born again when the steel touches his right side. Yet all that has happened has been that the Sub-conscious Personality has superseded his Conscious Personality in the control of Louis V.

_Lucie and Adrienne._

The next case, although not marked by the same violent contrast, is quite as remarkable, because it illustrates the extent to which the Sub-conscious Self can be utilized in curing the Conscious Personality.