In my reading about The Frozen Pirate, back in 2010, I discovered that Edgar Allan Poe’s The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar was possibly the first account of suspended animation.
I normally mention The Case Of M. Valdemar as part of a set lecture I give, explaining to my students why root words are important. I start by asking them if they’ve read any Harry Potter. They usually have, and that’s when I point out that they know, just from the sound of his name, that Voledemort is a bad guy. I point out that J.K. Rowling chose this name carefully, even pointing out that “Voldemort is pronounced with a silent ‘t’ at the end, as is common in French.” I point out that Draco Malfoy’s name too, is just as connotatively powerful. Then I point out that J.K. Rowling didn’t invent these names in a vacuum. I point to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar.
Hypnosis itself is a somewhat mysterious psychological phenomenon. It arose from the proto-psychological work of the 18th century physician Franz Mesmer. For those in the know “mesmerism” and “animal magnetism” had, by the time of Poe, lost most of their occult mystique. But for the general public, even today, there is a left-over supernatural feel – to the phenomenon – owing in part to the the strangeness of the phenomenon itself, and in part to Poe’s stories about it.
Etymologically the word itself, “hypnosis”, takes its name from Greek – “Hypnos” meaning “sleep” and the suffix “-osis” meaning “disorder” or “abnormal state”.
The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar
By Edgar Allan Poe; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 22 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: August 12, 2009
In an attempt to halt rumors surrounding a widely publicized incident, the author gives the facts about a grisly experiment in mesmerism that he recently conducted. First published in the December 20, 1845, issue of the Broadway Journal.
Here’s a |PDF| version of the story as taken from the April 1926 issue of Amazing Stories (the very first issue).
Posted by Jesse Willis
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