Saturday, February 22, 2014

Time to Take the Cure

Years ago I saw a movie called The Road to Wellville starring Matthew Broderick as Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.  Yes, one half of the Kellogg team that brought us corn flakes.  I remember cringing at several scenes as Dr. Kellogg treated patients at his sanatorium with all sorts of terrifying cures.  A bit of follow-up reading revealed that the movie wasn't far from the truth.  In the 1870's, Dr. Kellogg did indeed open a sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan where he inflicted all manner of tortures on his "guests".  Treatments ran the gamut from extreme enemas (you can picture that any way you'd like) to amputation as a cure for 'self abuse."  Ironically, his facility was a favorite spot for the very rich  seeking an end to their ills.

In 2004, Milwaukee novelist and playwright, Ludmilla Bollow, published Dr. Zastro's Sanitarium For the Ailments of Women, providing me with an equal dose of skin crawlies jeebees.  Poor little Yana, being treated by Phillipe Zastrow with hypnosis sessions and electromagnetic shocks, quickly finds herself longing for the very emotional tingling she had hoped to eliminate from her life.  Who know these places and these methods really existed?

Now, thanks to Erica Janik, producer and editor of WPR's Wisconsin Life series, the facts have been gathered in the informative, enlightening, and yes, frequently creepy, book pictured above.  Janik looks at the myriad of experimental treatments that rose as alternatives to bleeding, blistering, and induced vomiting and sweating.  She talks about the variations of "water cures" including tightly wrapping patients in wet sheets to squeeze sickness out.  Then there are the magnetic cures and  the "Thought" cure.  This is interesting - similar to  the "Think "method of learning to play an instrument developed  by flim-flam man Harold Hill in The Music Man.  In this leap of faith cure, "diseased" thoughts are magically replaced with "healthy" thoughts resulting in a healthy body.   

Silly as these may seem, Janik assets that many of these innovations are precursors to practical, medical wisdom still used today.  Frequent baths.  Regular exercise.  Eight glasses of water a day.  All that, and more, Janik says grew out of early holistic therapies.  If it all sounds goofy, just remember, Louisa May Alcott believed in homeopathy.  We all know that she hovered on the fringes of transcendentalism - one of the richest movements in American literature - but I guess Alcott died eventually anyway, so skeptics, there's your antithesis.  

Whether you choose to read this book for it's historic significance, or just for a afternoon spent trolling the bizarre - check it out.

Thanks for stopping by.

Yes, this is Saturday and this is Monday's Fine Print on a Monday post.  My Monday schedule has changed so you might be finding Fine Print on the Saturday before the anticipated Monday, or on the Tuesday after, or on the Monday itself depending on how things go on Saturday and Sunday.  Confused? Don't be, It's only a blog post and so basically, Fine Print on a Monday will appear with some degree of irregularity between Saturday and Tuesday of any given week.