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The Journal of Professor Abraham Van Helsingby Allen C. Kupher
THE JOURNAL OF PROFESSOR ABRAHAM VAN HELSING (Entry One)
JULY 19, 1885
On this day I return to my home from a series of lectures on diseases and folklore that was delivered in the Ukraine at St. Peter's Hospital. I have always felt that there was more to what is commonly called "the folk cure"--the uses of herbs, animal products, even fetishistic objects--than my more distinguished and overly cautious colleagues in the medical profession. And while there was much of interest presented by eminent doctors who spent their time ridiculing the "people's" remedies--through rational, logical, and very clinical scientific means--I found myself much more interested in those homespun curatives that they could not with any certainty disprove. While I have never been prone to fanciful theories of medicine, I am not so set in my ways and methods that I would automatically discount new ideas, no matter how strange some of them might initially seem.
For example, what do we physicians truly understand of the human mind? This being one of my areas of expertise, I can honestly say that while our research and literature into the troubles of the brain constantly grow, this field of study remains in its infancy, although I hear there is much work now being done in this area, particularly in Austria, the birth-country of my good friend Dr. Daniel Kupfer.
So while I consider myself rather conservative regarding surgery and the prescribing of medicines, I am very interested in alternative approaches and methodology. It is through ideas inside and outside the canon that new and better medicine can be developed and practiced.
[Dr. Van Helsing was the least conservative physician I have known since my days as a medical student. He not only listened to wild ideas regarding medicine; he sought them out. Today, some of those he sought out do not seem as wild. I have seen them put into play.--DK]
Among the most intriguing presentations at St. Peter's was a lecture by one Dr. Radu Borescu, of Genesa, Hungary. He spoke of the people of his homeland's fears of the contagion of vampirism.
I must admit that when he commenced his speech, I chuckled along with most of the physicians and other learned men in attendance, but the longer he spoke, the less skeptical I grew. It seems--according to the good doctor--that a type of plague has been spreading throughout his homeland, a disease of the blood that left its victims pale, at times comatose; but on other occasions it seemed to affect their minds to the point that they would become violent, even homicidal, and the infected would attempt to willfully spread the disease to others.
Dr. Borescu explained that recorded cases of this malady had been growing in frequency for the last few decades, though there were rumored cases in existence for hundreds of years, the earliest of which was during the war against the Turks. He theorized that the contagion might have been brought into the neighboring Rumanian districts of Wallachia and Transylvania either by the Turks themselves or by returning Crusaders who might have been knowingly or even unknowingly infected.
The good doctor's audience was attentive until he described what he referred to as nosferatu--I guess at the spelling of this term here--which he described as "the dead who walked." A particularly rude French colleague of mine, Dr. François DeMande, who specialized in dispositional disorders affecting the liver, sarcastically asked him if these "walking dead" were treated in public hospitals at public expense or if they could retain employment, and if they maintained all the rights and privileges of other citizens as least as they applied to Hungary.
Dr. Borescu, not surprisingly, responded by calling the Frenchman "a closed-minded, effete snob." And he did so in what seemed to me to be flawless French. He then ignored the question and proceeded with his lecture, adding a strong comment that it was a great mistake to mock those things in our existence with which we are unfamiliar or that we do not understand due to our own ignorance. These last five words were clearly directed to the Frenchman, at whom he stared as he said them. But Dr. DeMande* had done the damage and changed the mood. Dr. Borescu lost his audience one by one until only I and Dr. Powers, a noted British physician whose studies on physical stress I was well acquainted with, remained.
Dr. Powers nodded gratitude to his Hungarian colleague, but finally left quietly. I, on the other hand, approached Dr. DeMande, now, except for myself, alone in the great auditorium. I shook his hand, apologized as well as I could for my colleagues, and invited the man out to dinner. To my surprise, he evidently felt no humiliation whatsoever; rather, he explained that he was quite used to the reception he had received. Then, mentioning that there was thankfully usually at least one person at these colloquia who would not treat him as a charlatan, he accepted my invitation to sup.
THE JOURNAL OF PROFESSOR ABRAHAM VAN HELSING Copyright © 2004 by Bill Fawcett and Associates
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