Neurologist Walter Freeman strapped 29-year-old Ellen Ionesco to the operating table and delivered coma-inducing jolts of electroshock to her brain. Depressed, manic, violently suicidal, Ionesco was just the sort that was thought to benefit from traditional shock therapy—only Freeman wanted to do more than just shock her.1
Holding an ice pick to Ionesco’s tear duct, the doctor began chiseling into her eye socket. With an audible crack the thin layer of bone separating Ionesco’s brain gave way, and the ice pick sunk deep into her frontal lobe. Freeman then swished the metal rod back and forth, severing the neural pathways he believed were the root of Ionesco’s illness.1
This was in 1946 people. “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chicken’s” was tearing up the jukebox charts. Future sitcom legend Ed O’Neil was born amid thunderous hooting and canned applause. And Walter Freeman, who would go on to perform thousands of similar operations in the coming years, was well on his way to garnering one of the more sinister nicknames in modern medicine—The Ice Pick Lobotomist. Continue reading
[Note: This article was republished with permission from the April 2015 edition of The Fortean Times. You can view a PDF of the original here. Or get a subscription…it’s the best!]
Most amputated limbs wind up in the hospital incinerator, but Dr Pierre Barbet had other ideas. Having recently lopped off the arm of a “vigorous man,” the Parisian surgeon squared a large nail in the center of its palm and mounted it as one might the prized head of a slain beast.1
Barbet then tied a 100lb (45kg) weight to the elbow, causing the palm’s flesh to buckle and tear under its pull. After about 10 minutes, the initial wound had stretched into a gaping hole, and Barbet felt it was time to give the whole thing a good shake. What was left of the cadaverous palm burst open and fell to the floor, raising the question: was Jesus Christ really crucified with nails driven through the palms of his hand? Continue reading
Okay, so you’ve got the job interview of your life tomorrow, just one small problem: your kidney is failing. Also your spleen has ruptured. You’re experiencing necrosis of the liver, critical hyperkalemia, and, why not, septic shock. In short, you’re dying…or are you?
With your last ounce of strength you set out and grab the sturdiest, most passed-out homeless man you can find and drag him to the nearest experimental surgery clinic that’s open late. Plunking his rum-soaked body on the counter so as to startle the triage nurse you yell, “I need a full body transplant! Stat!” Continue reading