News of the weird: Obsessed with justifying lobotomies

  • Updated: January 3, 2014 - 1:44 PM

America’s foremost advocate for frontal lobotomies as “treatment” for mental disorder, the late Dr. Walter Freeman, performed an estimated 3,500 lobotomies during the 1940s and 1950s before opposition finally solidified against him, according to a December 2013 investigation by the Wall Street Journal.

At the peak of his influence, he was so confident that he demonstrated the procedure to skeptics by hammering an icepick (“from his own kitchen,” the Journal reported) into both eye sockets of an electrical-shocked patient and “toggling” the picks around the brain tissue, certain that he was severing “correctly.”

For years, Freeman (a neurologist untrained in surgery) marshaled positive feedback from enough patients and families for the procedure to survive criticism, and he spent his final years (until his death in 1972) securing patient testimonials to “prove” the validity of lobotomies.

Cultural diversity

Since the 13th century, sheepherders in Spain have had the right (still honored) to use 78,000 miles of paths for seasonal flock migrations — even some streets of Madrid, including a crossing of Puerta del Sol, described as Madrid’s Times Square. The shepherds pay a customary, token duty, which, according to an October Associated Press dispatch, the government proudly accepts, given the prominence of Spain’s native Merino sheep breed in the world’s wool market.

Postal worker Umakant Mishra, of Kanpur city in Uttar Pradesh, India, was freed by a criminal court in December — 29 years after he was charged when a money-order account turned up 92 cents short. Mishra was called to judicial hearings 348 times over the years, but it was not until recently that the government admitted it had no witnesses. A December BBC News dispatch reported, citing “official” figures, that more than 30 million cases are pending in Indian courts.

Questionable judgments

Coughlan elementary school in Langley, British Columbia, announced to parents in November that henceforth it would not just prohibit abusive or unwanted physical contact among its kindergartners, but all contact. Officials said they were responding to parents who objected to “rough play,” but, said another parent, incredulous, “No tag, no hugging, no touching at all. ... I am not going to tell my daughter she can’t touch her friends at school. I am going to teach her boundaries.”

Clichés come to life

In criminal cases, DNA is usually a smoking gun for the prosecution — except, of course, if there is an “evil twin.” In November a judge in Colorado Springs ruled that a suspect, Army Lt. Aaron Lucas, should have the opportunity to blame his brother Brian for a string of sexual assaults because the DNA might be Brian’s. Brian has not been charged and denies any involvement, but Aaron said Brian was in two crime-scene states that Aaron was never in. Said a Denver defense lawyer, “The only time I have seen [the evil-twin defense] was on ‘Law and Order: SVU.’ ”

Least competent criminals

Johnny Deleon, 20, was arrested in Houston in October, caught in the act of removing wheel caps from a Cadillac Escalade in a deli’s parking lot. Even in the daylight, Deleon apparently failed to notice the many police cars in the lot. Officers, from among 30 inside, dashed out and arrested Deleon.

Read News of the Weird daily at www.weirduniverse.net. Send items to weirdnews@earthlink.net.

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