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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/790

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

menter. We could cite several acts, to say the least unseemly, committed by hysterical patients, which were crimes in miniature, performed by an unconscious subject, and instigated by one who was really guilty, and who remained unknown. At the Salpêtrière a paper-knife has often been placed in the hands of an hypnotic subject, who is told that it is a dagger, with which she is ordered to murder one of the persons present. On awaking, the patient hovers round her victim, and suddenly strikes him with such violence that I think it well to refrain from such experiments. It has also been suggested to the subject to steal various objects, such as photographs, etc.

To give an idea of the mathematical precision with which the suggested act is executed on awaking, one of the present writers performed the following experiment: We showed to the somnambulist an imaginary spot on a smooth surface, which we could only afterward ascertain by means of careful measurement, and we ordered her to stick a penknife into this spot when she awoke. She executed the order without hesitation and with absolute correctness: a criminal act would have been as punctually executed.

It is interesting to ascertain whether the subject who is actuated by an irresistible impulse behaves like an automaton subsisting on a basis of the past, on his memory and habits, or if, on the contrary, the subject is capable of reflection and of reasoning like a normal individual. This latter is more frequently the case. When care is taken to suggest a somewhat complex act, for the performance of which some combination is necessary, we may observe that the subject invents such combined expedients although they had not been suggested to him, and this inventive process shows that everything is not explained by comparing him to an automaton. For instance, it was suggested to a subject that she should poison X—— with a glass of pure water which was said to contain poison. The suggestion did not indicate in what way the crime was to be committed. The subject offered the glass to X——, and invited him to drink by saying, "Is it not a hot day?" (It was in summer.) We ordered another subject to steal a pocket-handkerchief from one of the persons present. The subject was hardly awake when she feigned dizziness, and staggering toward X——, she fell against him and hastily snatched his handkerchief. When a similar theft was suggested to a third subject, she approached X——, and abruptly asked him what he had on his hand. While X——, somewhat startled, looked at his hand, his handkerchief disappeared.

These facts show that the hypnotic subject may become the instrument of a terrible crime, the more terrible since, immediately after the act is accomplished, all may be forgotten—the crime, the impulse, and its instigator.

Some of the more dangerous characteristics of these suggested acts should be noted. These impulses may give rise to crimes or offenses of which the nature is infinitely varied, but which retain the almost