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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.
Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS (continued)
Q. How did you know the difference between yourself and other people? A. When Dr. O. was there Thursday night, then I knew that there were others, but I did not know of myself. It was Sunday before I really could see persons, but I always thought I was something different, because people were always either standing or walking, and they were always dressed up, and I was not. I did not think I was a person at all until Mr. Sh. told me.
Q. Did you find any difference between yourself and other people? A. Yes, and that was why I began to think about it.
Q. Did you speak about it? A. Yes, I could speak several words then.
Q. How did you ask? Did you ask by words or signs or gestures? A. I said “people”; that meant them all. Mr. Sh. told me that I was “people,” and he told me I was a man same as he was; and I did not believe that. I began to ask him why I could not have clothes on like other people. That was after I had learned to talk a good deal.
Q. Were you afraid when someone put his hand on your face? A. Yes; I did not like it very much. That was what Dr. O. did first of all-put his hand right outside of my face, and I did not like it. Dr. O. was a big, heavy man; and of course it was not very nice for him to hit me that way.
Q. It was not because you were not afraid of the hand itself? A. Only that I did not want to have others do what Dr. O. did.
Q. When you saw your own hand, did you know that it belonged to yourself? A. Yes; because I could move this; I could control this.
Q. But you could not control the hand of others? A. I could move it a little.
Q. But others could move your hand, too? A. Not if I did not want them to. I could take it away and move it the way I would like. That was very easy to tell.
Q. You could tell simply by the control of the movements? A. Yes; my being able to move.
Q. But at the beginning did you know the difference between your hands and the hands of other people? A. No; there were not any other people in the beginning. But really there were so many things; it was really when I began to look at all these different colors separately, that I saw so much. It is now seven weeks, and sometimes I get a little doubtful about the order; that is, my mind is doubtful.1 Next day, after the apple, I learned about the watch I was just lying there very quiet, and Miss A. was sitting in the chair, and we were both very still, and she was watching me. My watch was up on the chiffonier, and she made that sound—tick, tick, tick, tick, tick—and I noticed it was just like the sound of the watch, and I said it afterward. I saw that that was what she wanted. She took the watch down and put it to my ear. Then she told me, “Watch, watch”—like that, as plain as she could say it. And then the next was to teach me that it was my own. She taught me that it belonged to me.
Q. Did you understand it? How did she say it? A. She said “Watch”; put it in my hand; made me take it. Then she taught me to say it was mine. That was very hard—the difference between mine and yours. She had a pin, and she said, “This is mine.” She said, “This is mine.” Q. How did she show you it was hers? A. She said it three times, and then pointed to the watch in my hand and said it eight or ten times. She pointed to the watch in my hand and said, “That is yours,” and she took my hand and made me point at her pin—some pin that she wears—and made me say, “That is yours”—her pin, the same as she had said about my watch. And then, after that, she went and told the others that I could learn words―any words that they would teach me. And so they all, at any time they were in the room, wanted to teach me something.
Q. What was the hardest for you to express? A. The hardest of all was to get them to understand that I wanted something that was very much like something I knew. For instance: I was very hungry then, because they were afraid to give me anything, and I wanted to eat some thing, and the only thing I knew was “apple.” But I did not want apple. It was hard for me to tell them. I had to say “apple,” and said it many times, and when they would bring it and offer me a little piece, I did not want it. I had taken other things; they had given me toast and milk, but I did not know the names of them. After they had given me three or four things I began to think there were other things to eat, too, and I wanted to know the names of all those things. If I had only known the word “food” or “dinner” or “eat” or any of those words.
Q. How did you learn other words? A. The first I learned was, “be careful.” I asked them what that meant—“be careful”—and they tried to tell me, but they had to give it up. They could not make it clear to me, until at last Miss A. was setting down a vase of flowers, which was very full of water, and Mrs. C. told her to be careful, and I could see myself that it was in danger of tipping, and I could see what it meant.
(Father.) I made a special effort to get him to understand the idea of the pronoun. That was a hard thing. I had a good deal of an effort to teach him the meaning of pronouns. Instead of saying “Thomas” or “Tom,” as most of the attendants and visitors did, I tried to work into his mind the idea of the “I” or “you,” and succeeded at last. (Mr. Hanna up to this time, imitating others, spoke of himself as “Tom,” not understanding the use of pronouns.)
Q. How did you succeed? A. (Father.) There was no particular plan except to persist, and keep at it.
Q. How did you learn the meaning of the words “good,” “bad,” for instance? A. At first, when I would eat an apple, I would eat the whole of it—the core and the stem. The next time when I would try to eat the core, they would make a face and take it away. And then they gave me a cake of soap. I thought that was to eat and put that to my mouth; and they took that away, and said, “Bad, bad,” and made a face, and that was how I learned the meaning of bad and good. The first adjectives I learned were the color of flowers. It was very hard for me to learn about “pink pink.” I had to learn that pink was a color, and there was a flower called a pink. I could not understand how it could be a name and color, both.
Q. What was it you told me of the “white black-hen”? A. A hen of a black color was pointed out to me and called a black hen, and I thought that “black hen” was the name of the animal. At last they let the other chickens out later, and there happened to be a white hen, and as I knew the color white, I said “white black-hen.” Then they told me that the name of the animal was hen, and black was the color.
Q. How did you learn the meaning of the word “color”? A. That was many days after. I had been walking around in the other rooms a good while, and then they asked me what color a flower was they had cut. It was a pansy, a very strange color. I had asked them what color meant. I said, “What do you mean by color?” And then they explained to me, “Red is color, pink, white, blue is color.”
Q. How did you learn the meaning of the word “God”? A. Papa asked me if I knew about “God,” and I told him “No,” and about “Christ,” and he named several of those names, and I told him “No”; and he could not explain it to me.
Q. (To father.) When did you first begin to speak to him of religion? A. (Father.) That was several days after the accident; I tried to find out whether the name “God,” “Jesus,” or “Christ” awakened in him any recognition, or were in any way familiar to him, but I found they did not awaken the least sense of familiarity.
(Mr. Hanna.) The greatest trouble in my understanding was, that I thought papa was talking about some person that I could see, hear, or feel. I did not have that idea clearly, and that was why I could not understand what he meant.3
Q. How did you go on with your learning of the words? A. That was very fast. Everyone would tell me words, and as soon as I had known some words I could begin to guess other words that they would use, and they would use the words I knew, and put them in sentences, and I used to enjoy more than anything else to listen, to hear them talking. Whenever there would be any word I would not understand I would try to think of any word just before it, or after it.
Q. When you saw for the first time your father, or mother, or Miss C., or others of your friends and acquaintances, did you have any feeling of ever having seen them before? A. No; I had to learn to know them all over again.
Q. Did you have any feeling of liking or attraction for your parents or Miss C. different than you had for others? A. No; the only thing I knew about father when he came was that everyone was waiting.
Q. How long after the accident was that? A. (By father.) Just about thirteen hours.
Q. You say you noticed the anxiety of people around you? A. People were coming in and going out all the time, but they had been just people they had not looked for, or expected or waited for. I saw that by the way they acted that papa was someone that I ought to think a great deal about. This was the first feeling I had for papa. Everything that I did was what I learned from them was imitation.
Q. How have you learned to read? A. Just by asking every word. Papa told me first. Jud. taught me the alphabet as far as Q, then he stopped for some reason. I don’t know the alphabet now in order, except as far as Q.
Q. (To father.) How long did it take him to learn to read? A. A very short time. The first words were taken from Scripture and were mostly words of one syllable and two syllables, from passages that happened to be in the scrolls—that hung on the wall. I hung up one of the scrolls where he could easily see it. And then he looked over the scroll and recognized a few words that somebody had taught him. And I read it over to him, and he cut out one or two of the words that were familiar to him, and that gave him an interest in it at once, when he saw that I by looking at this printed page could repeat certain words from it which he had heard in conversation. That seemed to awaken a good deal of interest in him, and so he wished at once to read it. Then I pointed out the word to him and pronounced it for him, and he pronounced it after me, and then he seemed to memorize it instantaneously—almost as if it were photographed on his mind. As soon as I had read over the phrase once to him, and he had read it over once himself, he had that verse as a complete and permanent possession. So he learned what was on the page. I thought that would be enough for one day. We were very careful then to avoid crowding him. The next day we turned over the page and took the next, and thus went on very fast. He learned so rapidly in those days that it was almost miraculous. In about a week he could read tolerably well; make out the sense of plain language; while he would sometimes stop with a very simple word-a word so simple that he would think he must surely have had it already, and we would stop him a little. But it was about a week before we began to be able to say he could read a little.
Q. Did he learn long words as easily as the short ones? A. Just about as easily.
Q. As to writing? A. He did not write in those days, except by way of copying, and he was inclined to print. He formed printed letters. Just imitated the letters he studied.
Q. How long did it take you to learn to write? A. I did not learn to write until Saturday, the 15th of May.
Q. Do you write now without help? A. Not all the letters. I have a copy. I have the alphabet written out so that I can look for any letter I do not know. I think I know about all of the small letters and about half the capital letters.
Q. How did you learn your relationship to your parents? A. Mr. Sh. explained to me that everything must have parents, and I could understand that Mr. and Mrs. C. were very different to their daughter and to their son from what they were to other people; and the best I had to explain it to me was when I went out of doors and saw little chickens with the hen. I could understand a great deal better what was meant. They told me it was a mother-hen.
Q. Have you no special feeling of love for your own mother? A. No. I had not seen my mother, in fact, for a long time after. And I could see mothers going by with little children and taking such good care of them.
Q. Did you learn to play the organ or piano? A. Yes; Mr. Sh, taught me first to play one hymn, and J. taught me and W. did.
Q. How long did it take you to learn to play? A. I could play from the keys just the way Mr. Sh. did, very soon. After he had played it half a dozen times he would put my fingers on the keys and I played.
Q. Did you play it from ear? A. By watching.
Q. You repeated it once or twice, and then afterward it was correct? A. Yes; after a while I got it right.
Q. How long did it take you to correctly repeat the first air? A. Jud. taught me one or two chords. Then I said I wanted to learn to play; to learn the regular way. Then I sent W. for a hymn-book—it was in church. I began at the beginning and learned all about the notes. He told me all about the names of the notes, and staff, and I used to work sometimes several hours every day. I didn’t get three sharps nor four sharps, so even now I can hardly play with those.
Q. They taught you the time? A. Yes; I think almost everything they taught me.
Q. What other instrument do you play? A. The banjo. They say I never touched the banjo before.
Q. How long did it take you to learn to play the banjo? A. Mr. C. said he could have taught me all he knew in one afternoon. He taught me in about an hour to play on the banjo; and this surprised me, because I have had to work so hard with the piano and the organ, and even now they say I do not play as well as I did before, without mistakes
Q. How about the hymns? Did you find some of the hymns familiar when you heard them sung? A. I remember a good many of them now, but they were all new then. I do not know what you mean when you say “familiar.”
Q. Have you heard them before, some time before the accident? A. No. They tell me there were some I did not care for before, but which I like very much now. I think that is very strange. They tell me also that I like to eat things I did not care for before.
Q. You think your taste for food has changed? A. A. Yes; they tell me in some things it has changed; not in everything. I do not care much for meat now—only a very little meat. I used to eat meat three times a day, and large quantities of meat, too, and they say I used to eat a great deal of cake, and now I never eat a piece of cake except gingerbread.
Q. How did you feel when you first came out and saw the trees and grass? A. I wanted to reach out and feel the trees. I could not step off the veranda at all; I put my foot down; I did not know how far to put it down to reach the ground.
Q. Did you try to reach the distant tree with your hand? A. Yes. I stretched out my hand to touch the three, which was far off.
Q. How did the heavens strike you in general? A. How did it strike me? (The patient did not understand the question. He associated the word “strike” with “hitting.”)
Q. How did it impress you? A. I thought the heavens were hard, like anything else, like a wall or ceiling. I saw only different colors overhead. The sky looked like a ceiling. I could see when I was moved from one room to another that the sky would stay the same; it did not move.
Q. How did the stars impress you? A. They told me what a star was before I saw one.
Q. How did the sun impress you? A. It seemed like a lamp.
Q. You saw the train; how did that impress you? A. I had seen the electric cars before.
Q. And the engine on the train—did it frighten you at all? A. No; it surprised me very much.
Q. You didn’t think it was alive? A. No. The strangest thing was bicycles. I thought a bicycle with a man on was a different kind of man; different kind of people, because I never saw a bicycle without a person on it. (Mr. H. meant by “never” the time since the accident.)
Q. How did you notice the difference between a thing alive and not alive? A. Because they move. It was hard for me to understand about trees. The branches and leaves were moving. I thought they were alive.
Q. What did you think of horses and carriages? A. I thought it was all the same animal. Then when I got out into the other rooms I saw wagons alone. I saw they were different. It surprised me a great deal to see trees and grass change so. People do not change so.
Q. How many people do you know now? A. I think about a hundred. I do not think I would know a hundred to know their names, but there are some I would see and speak to, when I would not know the names. (It was most interesting yet pathetic to see Mr. Hanna move about the streets of the small town among those whom he formerly knew and whom he used to greet cordially, now go along showing absolutely no recognition, no sense of familiarity of his former friends and acquaintances.)
Q. When you saw a baby the first time, how did it look to you? A. It was very funny to see such little people. I thought everyone became alive as a large man, and I thought I was only a few days old.
Q. You thought you were just born? A. Even when they told me I had lived twenty-four years, I thought I had always ways been of the same size. I thought I would just live a few days. I did not think I would be living after a few days. I was very much surprised when people told me I would live several weeks. I did not think very much about it. Another thing that was very strange was to find out that people lived so far away, and at first I thought that everybody I saw lived near my home, and I used to make them laugh when I would ask someone living at a distance to come in again in a little while, and I could not possibly understand how there could be so much distance. Father told me it would take about a hundred days, he thought, to walk right straight ahead, and even then there would be more distance. I could not understand. He said that to ride over to M. in a wagon would take about sixty minutes. He had taught me the minutes on the watch.
(The following will give an insight into the condition of the patient’s sexual feelings and the emotions to which they gave rise up to the time of the inquiry.)
In the course of our examination, the patient was asked the following questions:
Q. How was it with you shortly after the accident; did you feel more pleasant in the society of young women than in that of young men? A. Not for a good many days. I knew only that they talked differently and acted differently.
Q. Have your emotions since been awakened?2 A. Not for many days.
Q. And now you feel you are in the ordinary way? A. Yes. (Mr. Hanna could not comprehend these questions, and we were obliged to put our questions in a simpler and more direct way.)
Q. Does it please you to see nice-looking women? A. Yes; anybody nice-looking.
Q. Does it make a difference whether you see a nice-looking man or a nice-looking woman? A. Well, of course there is a difference.
Q. Do you enjoy rather to look at a nice-looking woman than at a nice-looking man? A. I do not know; it does not make so much difference. If it is a picture, they must be very nice-looking to enjoy; but if it is a person, I like to hear the voice. The voices of women are softer and more pleasant to hear.
Q. Would you have any desire to kiss or embrace a woman whom you liked very much?4 A. Yes, my mother or sister.
Q. Would you ever desire to kiss any other woman? A. No; I would not have any wish. (We learned later that Mr. Hanna was instructed by his father that it was improper to kiss or caress any woman other than his family.)
Q. Suppose you meet a nice-talking woman—she talks very nicely and has a very sweet and beautiful face; you are told not to kiss her, but do you have a desire to kiss her? A. No.
Q. No desire to embrace her? A. You mean to caress her? (Patient had not yet learned the word “embrace.”) I would be willing, but was told I must not. They taught me that I must be different to Miss C. than to my mother and sister. When I was at Mr. C.’s I wanted to take Miss C.’s hand, but she said it was not proper. (Mr. Hanna, then turning to us, asked:) Do you think it is improper to caress? I should not see any harm in caressing either men or women, but they told me not to do it. Suppose that you did want to, can you think why it would be wrong? What is the difference? (We gave him an evasive answer.)
Q. Have you thought of how people come into the world? A. When I would say anything about how people were born, they would say I would know that some time. I then tried to find out something about that in books.
Q. From what book did you get information? A. Encyclopedia; at home. (Mr. Hanna often used the encyclopedia and dictionary to enlarge his store of knowledge.)
Q. What did you look up? A. I looked up anatomy, reproduction, etc.; anything that people cannot explain to me I look up in the encyclopedia or dictionary.
Q. Do you understand the meaning of the existence of men and women in the world? A. I do not understand that.
Q. Do you know their physical differences? A. There are many differences; I do not know them. I know more about flowers than anything else.
Q. But you say there are differences between men and women? A. Yes.
Q. What are they? A. Men are almost always larger and their faces are stronger, and they are not so gentle, and their strength is more, and they are shaped differently; their hands and feet are larger; but all these differences there might be between two boys, I should think.
Q. You say you read about reproduction; do you know what it is? A. Flowers have blossoms which will turn to seed and these reproduce flowers again.
Q. How is it with men? A. I do not know about that; I imagine it is something like flowers.
Q. You do not see the necessity of there being men and women? A. I do not understand it. I hope I will understand some time.
1 The early
experiences after the accident are vague; it was the infancy of the secondary
2 Even at this time Mr. Hanna did not understand the concepts relating to religion.
3 Mr. Hanna did not understand the question.
4 Mr. H. was engaged to Miss C., whom in his secondary state he did not know. We wanted to find by these questions whether any subconscious feeling of recognition and love could be revealed.
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