From the Files of Dr. Sax

(Dr. Oliver Hardy Sax is a well-known psychologist and behaviorist specializing in mental disorders of a hallucinatory nature which often occur in the brains of artists and other goofy creative types).

Some years ago, I noticed a strange affliction which occurred in some of my patients. They were tormented by images, occasionally accompanied by snippets of conversation, which appeared, unbidden, in their brains.


A Few Case-Histories:

Gahan W. came to my office complaining of hallucinations. While fully awake, he would repeatedly experience dreamlike images of garishly colored, rubbery-skinned beasts with bulging eyes. On many occasions the creatures in his “Daymares”, as I call them, would have multiple eyes, arms, legs, or other body parts and were quite hideous to observe. They would speak in perfectly normal sentences and phrases, often in a humorous way. He was powerless to control the appearance of these creatures. Although he must have suffered horribly, his personal demeanor was quite calm and even cheerful.

George B., a gentleman farmer from Long Island, New York came to me with complaints similar to those of my other patients. In his case, however, his brain seemed full of small, deranged domestic animals. These included cats, dogs, and occasionally, small horses, all constantly on the verge of or engaged in agitated twitching and scratching or sudden, unexplained fits involving spinning about and leaping into the air for no apparent reason. As time went on, images of equally deranged human beings also entered Mr. B’s waking dreams.

In a more recent case, Drew D. came to me. He presented with the same symptoms as those patients previously discussed, but in his case, his dreams were of the woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, a German artist whose work appeared in Europe in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The images appeared in his mind in a constant mental slideshow. Mr. D was at a loss as to why this occurred.

In most cases, my patients described their hallucinations as frequent but very brief episodes, lasting only a few moments.

There might be a picture in the patient’s mind’s eye of two people, for instance, in ragged clothing, crawling in an enormous, empty desert. One of the figures might say something amusing, or at least intended to be amusing, to the other person.

The image might be that of a man, a woman, or an animal sitting at a desk in an office somewhere, speaking or being spoken to by another person or animal. Occasionally, inanimate objects will also talk.

Often, the scene will be a desert island, a living-room, a doctor’s office, and so on.

One of my patients, whom I’ll call Charles B., reported to me that he often saw the same images repeated in almost identical ways, with the figures speaking completely different lines of dialog.

For some time I was at a loss as to how to help these poor souls. I tried many different approaches to therapy and prescribed a variety of drugs, none of which seemed to help. Then another form of therapy occurred to me. I thought it might be helpful to have my patients record their hallucinations on paper. I discovered that they all seemed to have in common some artistic ability. The resulting drawings brought some relief to them, which I found encouraging.

It was during this period, while attending a social event, that I chanced to meet an editor from the famous New Yorker Magazine. When I explained the work I had been doing, he was quite interested and asked to see some of my patient’s sketches. As a result, he published a few of them. This had a miraculous effect on my patients’ states of mind. Although not a cure, it appears to briefly alleviate the terrible anxiety common to the victims of this malady.



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