thewolfman.jpg

I Shuddered At Every Other Page

By gp | Books | July 19, 2010 | Comments ()

By gp | Books | July 19, 2010 |


thewolfman.jpg

Real life cases of rare mental illnesses? Yes, please.

Richard Noll, a clinical psychologist, has completely creeped me out. The case histories of the extremely delusional people he writes about are horrifying and I may not sleep ever again. While true that these stories follow a relatively easy-to-read narrative, the disorders themselves are nightmarish.

Sick people with exotic conditions (erotomania, possession, multiple personality disorders, lycanthrophy, even necrophilia) do not make for good bedtime reading, but I had a difficult time putting this down. Noll uses several clinical research reports found in professional journals and the fact that these people actually inhabit the world I live in is a scary thought indeed.

The first couple of chapters weren't too frightening. Multiple Personality Disorder and amnesia are the concepts of bad soap opera storylines. But, then he hits with possession. Stories of priests trying to exorcise demons from children? Roman Catholics are not afraid to get their hands dirty, believe you me.

And the "insanity is contagious"-ness of mass delusions? Don't get me started. Entire congregations of people who gather at points in time to celebrate the end of the world are one thing. But this disorder is turned on its head when you consider that people who are institutionalized together "more often than not" start sharing their conditions.

There is also a fascinating chapter on erotomania that begins with John Hinkley's letter to Jodie Foster. It's strange to know that he had spoken to her on the phone a couple of times. What could she have said to make him think she wanted him to kill President Reagan? And the way he goes about trying to convince her he loves her is unnerving, knowing what we now know of how that turned out.

And then, Noll decides to utterly freak me out with his discourse on somnabulistic homicide. I now have to worry that I will either kill in my sleep or be killed by a sleep-walker.

If you are looking for a good read on Satanism, idiot savants, people with stigmata, and real life vampirism, you could do a lot worse. I shuddered at every other page.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of gp's reviews, check out his blog, Never Passing This Way Again.


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