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Category Archives: Hysteria

smell test 1Washington Post, October 20, 1912. This is the kind of science I can get behind. I’ve never understood the perfume thing. None of them smell good to me, and the urge to colonize other folks’ olfactories with a cocktail of floral essence, whale puke and volatile biological substances extracted from the buttholes of rodents strikes me as passive-aggressive or sociopathic, depending on the intensity of the pong. Never in my life have I gotten out of bed and said to myself, “Yes indeed, everybody’s gonna smell me coming and going today!” Maybe the notion made slightly better sense before the democratization of soap, hot water, flush toilets and other techno-hygienic blessings, but there’s just no excuse for it now. Anyway, it’s been shown to cause hysteria and neurasthenia. Read More »

jazz drugAThe New York Amsterdam News, April 1, 1925. The Amsterdam News was another influential black newspaper, somewhat stodgier than the Chicago Defender.
Like anyone else concerned about “respectability,” middle-class black people in the 1920s were not warmly receptive to jazz, which at the time was signified as the equivalent of gangsta rap, punk rock and death metal rolled into one. It was simply the most depraved thing to happen to music since ragtime. So here’s the paper’s medical columnist warning his public about the addictive and soul-destroying properties of this dangerous music. Read More »

needle menAChicago Tribune, January 21, 1917. Voyons, donc: what credulous rubbish! But give it up to the French for knowing how to generate a quality hysteria. The German spy angle here is especially choice. Anyone can see why afflicting French schoolchildren with boils would top the Kaiser’s espionage priorities. And how in hell did the guy with the gloves “prove his innocence of maltreating children”?