Saturday, September 24, 2011

Acid, Trance and Fusion

It's become a bit of a cliche to say that the worst nightmare for any parent is that their child dies before them but even under such a tragic circumstance I can't imagine swallowing carbolic acid to kill myself. Though that's just what Marie Schasta did in 1907, 3 years after her child passed away and 6 years after a stint at Eloise supposedly cured her of insanity. Such is grief I suppose.

I couldn't find a death certificate for her on the Michigan Million Record March site but did find an Agnes Schasta who died in 1899 of spinal meningitis and may have been another daughter. The mother's name is Mary so it's quite possible but the fact that it's listed that there are 0 other children living it's unlikely, save for a clerical error.

As an aside: I did a Find-A-Grave search for her and this little bug showed up. Obviously not the person I was looking for but man, what a sad little story that is. It's made me re-think the never drinking carbolic acid statement from earlier!


I'm not well-acquainted with the name of Dr. Martin H. Hoffman but am aware of him via the Shirley Tapp story that I wrote about on my Weird Detroit blog. If you're not privy to the details of her religious trances, they began during the winter of 1936 and went on through at least 1937. During them she was rendered incapable of most functions except for religious prayer and fervor (and occasional sustenance!). After several days of her initial trance the local media caught wind of her predicament and her face was plastered upon newspapers across the country.

The family physician was called upon and rendered her healthy despite her assume temporary catatonic state. The doctors at Eloise also became interested in the case with Hoffman performing a check up of his own at the Tapp family residence. Though he suggested that she was perfectly healthy, he insisted that she be taken to a hospital for further observations to rule out the possibility of neurological problems.

When the family resisted he encouraged her removal from the living room couch to the comfort of a bedroom. He also concluded that since the congregation at large, which had been keeping vigil at her side along with the family, predicted that her trance would last a week that psychologically she was bound to come out of the "twilight state" within 7 days. He was off by a day in his prediction but not the diagnosis and Tapp returned to a mostly normal life outside of the occasionally pop-up religious trance.

He also served to help promote a program of patient parole at Eloise which allowed those mentally ill individuals who weren't an outward risk to society to be released earlier than expected. This not only saved the strapped hospital money but also made room for more the mentally incapacitated to get treatment more readily in the already over-crowded institution.

Finally, here's a call for nurses! I suppose that the opening isn't for nurses at Eloise per se but may have led to a stint there seeing as it's for the Out-County program. For a career that pays roughly 9 grand per year all you need is some nursing experience and a time machine to take you back 42 years.

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