Strange Times 137: Autopsy Performed On A Living Man?

Before we launch into today’s business: I have some moderately exciting news! After several years away from the game, I’m returning to the wild world of freelance novel editing, and I’m looking for four clients to occupy me for fall. If you have a manuscript that needs a little love, or an idea that you’re looking to develop into an outline, I would love to help! Get in touch, whydontcha, and we can go from there.

In newslettier news, today brings a living autopsy, thirteen lucky thirteeens, and an Edison-mad teen. Wait for the body to cool on…

May 17, 1921

  • Admitted Communist Michael Altschuler is arrested on charges of typewriter theft.

  • Continuing his recovery from the surgery to remove a bullet from his brain, now-sane Sing Sing convict Roman Leondowski discussed the independence of Poland and joked about Thomas Edison’s questionnaire.

  • The Weather: Fair today; Wednesday fair with rising temperature; gentle variable winds.


I have no idea if this gruesome tale is true, but I do know that if your best defense is, “All of my students hate me!”, you’re in trouble.

GENEVA, May 16.—A leading surgeon in Geneva and a professor at the Geneva University has been temporarily obliged to suspend his practice and lectures because he is accused of having performed an autopsy on a man who was still alive. The case is being investigated and therefore, at present, it cannot be said whether the charge is true or untrue.

It is charged that the professor had put his patient, who was a man, under ether and that he thought the man already dead when he began the autopsy. The assistants and medical students present are said to have protested, saying that he might at least wait till the body was cold, but it is alleged that the professor wanted to examine the heart at once, and therefore proceeded to make incision in the man’s body. Presently, so the story goes, the man recovered consciousness only to die almost immediately. It is also stated that the professor did not even put on gloves before making the incision. The professor’s friends declare that the charges are the result of a cabal against him, for he is not a Genevese, but a German-Swiss and highly unpopular with his students. The result of the inquiry is awaited with keen interest.


An amusing story well-told, absolutely fitting for the front page of the New York Times. It would be a perfect set-up to a Nero Wolfe or Sherlock Holmes story. If any of you choose to write such a yarn, I’d like to read it!

PARIS, May 16.—Here is a true story of the adventures of the Marseilles Thirteen Club in testing the thirteen superstition. The club is composed of thirteen members whose birthdays are all on the 13th of the month. On the thirteenth day of each month they meet and sit down to dine, thirteen at table.

So far no misfortune has befallen any of them, but to try fortune still further on Friday, May 13, of this year, the numerals of which added together give the figure thirteen, they tried a new experiment. They hired an automobile which bore the number thirteen and drove to Monte Carlo. They arrived there at noon and paid a visit to the Casino. At thirteen minutes past thirteen o’clock, (1:13 P.M., according to American reckoning) they all staked 1,300 francs on No. 13 on the roulette board.

This is where the reader must hold his breath. Some of the players say that the ball made thirteen turns of the wheel before it fell—into No. 13. Each of the thirteen players won 46,800 francs, a total of 608,400 francs.

With so much money in their pockets it was to be expected that they would invite some friends to join the party. But no, those faithful disciples of thirteen took luncheon by themselves and carried their program to the end. They paid 1,300 francs for the luncheon and returned safely home in their No. 13 automobile.


When I started this newsletter—good god, five years ago? Could that possibly be correct? No. It’s wrong. It’s four years. Phew.

Anyway, when I started this newsletter, I would never have guessed, “Thomas Edison Has an Annoying Quiz” would be the biggest story of 1921. But hey, the past is full of surprises.

HOLYOKE, Mass. May 16.—Thomas Edison may have thought that his questionnaire written for college men was simple enough, but the local police are inclined to disagree with him.

Early this morning a young man, whose name is not told, appealed to the police for protection. He said he had a book, valued at $1,000,000, in which he had written the answers to Edison’s queries, and that several men were trying to steal it from him.

The young man declared that he had memorized answers to 100 questions and were working on the other 41. The police believe that he has become temporarily demented as a result of studying the Edison list.





Loading more posts…