. Multiple Personality Disorder . Foreign Accent Syndrome . Munchausen Syndrome . And More!

F oreword by J oe N ickell , S enior R esearch F ellow , C ommittee for S keptical I nquiry B y D on R auf



The Series

Consciousness Faith Healing Life After Death Mysterious Places Personality Psychic Abilities The Senses


Don Rauf

Foreword by Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry


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F oreword …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 6 I ntroduction to L ife A fter D eath …….…….…….…….… 8 1 M ultiple P ersonality D isorder …….…….…….…….…….…… 10 2 F oreign A ccent S yndrome … .…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 18 3 C otard D elusion …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 24 4 C apgras S yndrome …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 30 5 M unchausen S yndrome …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 36 S eries G lossary …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….……. 44 F urther R esources …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 47 A bout the A uthor …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 47 I ndex …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….……. 48 C ontents

F oreword

Advice From a Full-Time Professional Investigator of Strange Mysteries

I wish I’d had books like this when I was young. Like other boys and girls, I was intrigued by ghosts, monsters, and other freaky things. I grew up to become a stage magician and private detective, as well as (among other things) a literary and folklore scholar and a forensic-sci- ence writer. By 1995, I was using my varied background as the world’s only full-time professional investigator of strange mysteries. As I travel around the world, lured by its enigmas, I avoid both uncritical belief and outright dismissal. I insist mysteries should be investigated with the intent of solving them.That requires critical thinking , which begins by asking useful questions. I share three such questions here, applied to brief cases from my own files: Is a particular story really true? Consider Louisiana’s Myrtles Plantation, supposedly haunted by the ghost of a murderous slave, Chloe.We are told that, as revenge against a cruel master, she poisoned three mem- bers of his family. Phenomena that ghost hunters attributed to her spirit included a mysteri- ously swinging door and unexplained banging noises. The DiscoveryTV Channel arranged for me to spend a night there alone. I learned from the local historical society that Chloe never existed and her three alleged victims actually died in a yellow fever epidemic. I prowled the house, discovering that the spooky door was simply hung off center, and that banging noises were easily explained by a loose shutter.

Does a claim involve unnecessary assumptions? In Flatwoods,WV, in 1952, some boys saw a fiery UFO streak across the evening sky and

freaky phenomena


apparently land on a hill. They went looking for it, joined by others. A flashlight soon re- vealed a tall creature with shining eyes and a face shaped like the ace of spades. Suddenly, it swooped at them with “terrible claws,” making a high-pitched hissing sound.The witnesses fled for their lives. Half a century later, I talked with elderly residents, examined old newspaper accounts, and did other research. I learned the UFO had been a meteor. Descriptions of the creature almost perfectly matched a barn owl—seemingly tall because it had perched on a tree limb. In contrast, numerous incredible assumptions would be required to argue for a flying saucer and an alien being. Is the proof as great as the claim? A Canadian woman sometimes exhibited the crucifixion wounds of Jesus—allegedly pro- duced supernaturally. In 2002, I watched blood stream from her hands and feet and from tiny scalp wounds like those from a crown of thorns. However, because her wounds were already bleeding, they could have been self-inflict- ed.The lance wound that pierced Jesus’ side was absent, and the supposed nail wounds did not pass through the hands and feet, being only on one side of each. Getting a closer look, I saw that one hand wound was only a small slit, not a large puncture wound.Therefore, this extraordinary claim lacked the extraordinary proof required. These three questions should prove helpful in approaching claims and tales in Freaky Phe- nomena. I view the progress of science as a continuing series of solved mysteries. Perhaps you too might consider a career as a science detective.You can get started right here.

Joe Nickell Senior Research Fellow, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Amherst, NY



I ntroduction to P ersonality

S trange B rains

O f all the unexplained locations in the universe, the most mysterious place of all may be one that’s very near to you: the human brain.The organ inside the cranium can take people down some twisty passageways where they end up acting in puzzling ways. One very mystifying neurological disorder makes people see objects as much, much smaller than they are in real life. People with Alice in Wonderland syndrome, as it’s called, live life as if they’re looking through the wrong end of a microscope.They have micropsia , which causes things to appear small, and sometimes they might have macropsia , which makes items appear big. In the NewYork Times in 2014, a woman with the syndrome wrote how furniture a few feet away often looked as if it could fit in a dollhouse. The ailment is most likely brought on by a change in the brain—possibly linked to migraines, stress, schizophrenia, psychoactive drugs, brain tumors, or infections. Most cases have been reported in children between 5 and 10 years old. If you’ve ever had the urge to eat yourself up, you might have autosarcophagy . It can result from Lesch-Nyan syndrome, a condition that spurs people to mutilate themselves.Young children mostly get the disease.They cannot control their muscles, and they develop an irresistible urge to be self-destructive, often chewing fingertips and lips. Imagine if your hand had a mind of its own and did things without you wanting it to, such as pinching someone, touching a stranger’s face, tearing off clothes, or even strangling yourself.That’s exactly what can happen if you have alien hand syndrome, or anarchic hand, as it’s sometimes called.With this neurological disorder, a person’s hand functions involuntarily. In rare cases, the hand might try to force-feed the individual. New Jersey resident Karen Byrne, who has such a rogue limb, described the difficulties on CBS News in 2013. She said, “I would make a telephone call

freaky phenomena


and this hand would hang up the phone … I would light a cigarette and this one would put it out. I would be drinking cof- fee and this hand would dump it.” This ailment is different from typical involun- tary limb movement in that the hand is goal oriented—its motion has a purpose. It can occur after brain surgery, stroke, infection, tumor, aneurysm, or specific degenerative brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Ja- kob disease. When it comes to freaky phenom- ena, these disorders of the mind are very unusual. This volume takes a more in-depth look at a few prominent men- tal infirmities—multiple personality dis- order, foreign accent syndrome, Cotard delusion (the delusion of being dead), Capgras syndrome (face blindness), and Munchausen syndrome. At one point in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures inWonderland Alice doubles in size and sees objects much, much, smaller than they are in real life.The neurological disorder, micropsia, causes things to appear small, similar to Alice’s experience.



C hapter 1

M ultiple P ersonality D isorder

Dissociative identity disorder is a mental health problem that affects about 2 percent of the population.

freaky phenomena


H aving “multiple personalities” is a mental health problem that is often associated with villains in the movies and on TV. In 2017, the director M. Night Shyamalan, who is known for his twist endings, released the film Split . The picture stars James MacAvoy as a murderer with two dozen personalities who kidnaps three girls.The hostages must negotiate and interact with each one to try and escape the deadliest identity within their captor’s mind. The fact is, most people with this chronic emotional illness are not murderous at all, and many in the medical field criticize such a depiction because it paints these patients in a negative light. Research has shown that they are far more likely to hurt themselves than other people. Today, the condition is called dissociative identity disorder (DID) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that about 2% of the population experience dissociative disorders. In a 2016 article in the Charlotte Observer, reporter Amanda Harris described the interesting case of Amelia Joubert, an 18-year-old high school student who in many ways acted like a typical teen. Like most other DID patients, Joubert was a functional, responsible person. Many with the condition hold steady jobs, complete college degrees, and succeed as spouses and parents. One part of her life wasn’t normal, however—she was often troubled by voices she heard in her head. At first, Joubert thought the voices were coming from ghosts. In the article, she says, “For the longest time, I had no idea what was going on with me.” The voices then grew in strength until they were taking control of her mind, which NAMI says is typ-



ical of the disease.The voices take on distinct personalities called alters . In Joubert’s case, she would sometimes talk in different voices. She would adopt a Southern accent and become a four-year-old who loved kittens and horses. Or she’d turn into a five-year-old who wanted everyone to be happy. Sometimes, an older teen would appear to take care of the young- er ones, or in a social situation, the voice of an extroverted personality would step forward. When she went to psychotherapy to ad- dress her continuing problem, Joubert was di-

Childhood trauma can often be directly linked with DID.

agnosed with DID. Conversations with medical professionals revealed that she had experienced childhood trauma , which most likely led her to develop 12 main alternate personalities inside her mind. She thinks of these distinct characters as individuals who contribute to her whole being.

Therapy can be extremely helpful for those suffering with mental disorders.

Meet a mother with 20 personalities.

freaky phenomena


When one of her alters takes over, she later has no recollection of what happened during that time.Through therapy, she has learned to communicate with these other identities to learn what happened when a period of her life seems to have been erased. By embracing the voices within, Joubert has learned to function better and move forward in her everyday life.

ScientificTake: Dividing and Conquering the ProblemsWithin

Dissociative disorders are survivor mechanisms that most often form in children who have been exposed to long-term physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Natural disasters and combat can also cause dissociative disorders. In some cases in which a young person is in a desperate situation with no hope for a relief, the mind reconfigures itself into different personalities to deal with the stressful situation or dissociates from reality in order to cope. Often these identities

Related Conditions

LosingYourself: Dissociative Amnesia With this condition, a person forgets major life details. Like DID, it is also triggered by traumatic events.At age 32, Naomi Lewis of England woke up one day in 2009 believing she was 15 again.All memory of the 17 years in between had evaporated. Doctors determined that severe stress had led to a dramatic memory loss. She couldn’t even remember her 10-year-old son. Unplugged from Reality: Depersonalization Disorder With a continuing sense of being disconnected from reality, people with this disorder feel unplugged from normal thoughts, emotions, and actions. Rather than feeling engaged like an average person, they feel like they are watching a movie.Adam Duritz, singer in the group The Counting Crows, has grappled with this type of condition. In an interview in Men’s Health in 2008, he said,“I have a form of dissociative disorder that makes the world seem like it’s not real, as if things aren’t taking place. It’s hard to explain, but you feel untethered.”



may have unique names, characteristics, mannerisms, and voices. Women are more likely to experience dissociative identity disorder than men.Various medications and therapies can help patients live with the disorder.To help patients move forward, a therapist may deal directly with each individual personality, helping that identity come to terms with what happened in the past.

TheWoman with 100 Personalities

Kim Noble of South London may hold the not-so-welcome title of having the most multiple personalities ever. Mental health specialists discovered that she has more than 100 personalities, of all different ages, some female and some male, jockeying for position in her mind. As reported in the Guardian in 2011, Noble says she goes through about three or four switches a day from one personality to another. There is 15-year-old Judy who is bulimic, thinks she is fat, and appears only at mealtimes. Ken wears his hair up and keeps his shoulders back in a cocky stance. Spirit of Water is an entity that arrives only at bath time. In her autobiography, All of Me , Noble reveals sev- eral traumas that led to her split personality, including repeated abuse as a child and an arson attack. Ongoing therapy helps Noble

At times, severe stress can lead to mental deterioration.

freaky phenomena


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