On Monday I posted Max Gergel's account of how a doctor mended his (romantically) broken heart in an unusually prosaic way. Here's another tale from his book "Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like to Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide?" - this one describing an abortive truth serum.
We had a visit from a Dr. Johns, who was an exponent of the "Modern Coué Method of Self-Hypnosis" ("every day in every way I am getting better and better"). Johns was, himself, a hypnotist, and I learned that his visit to Columbia was sponsored by a wealthy family whose head had a drinking problem. He was summoned when our local drying-out establishment, Keely's Sanitarium, failed to bring sobriety to the customer.
He visited Columbia Organics because he had read somewhere that the Germans had combined scopolamine with alpha-chloralose to make a truth serum, scopachloralose; this, on ingestion, rendered the victim unable to lie; confronted by questions as to his whereabouts and companions (or companion) the victim would give a true account and the questioner, e.g., a wife, would seek a lawyer. All sorts of interesting potentials were described by Johns who also displayed a billfold bulging with cash.
Spurred to true scientific endeavor (with the money as catalyst), I went to work and made scopachloralose, after consulting with Willard Davis at the university. It received its first test at the city jail where an amnesia victim was confronted with Johns, myself, Mr. Seideman and an assortment of detectives and unarraigned drunks. The amnesiac was smelly, furtive and loudly indignant at detention. Johns chose six of us including the amnesia victim and made several passes with his hands and spoke soothingly. Presto, all of us were hypnotized except the victim.
Not at all disturbed, Johns woke us up and inserted a hypodermic into a solution of my product, assuring the amnesiac that this would restore his memory. Foregoing injection the "patient" confessed to being a fraud, a rapist, a murderer, as well as a delinquent in filing income tax returns. Two policemen confessed an assortment of crimes after the captain suggested that he would give his staff injections. All took Johns at his word; we never got to test the product. Johns paid our invoice and promised to keep in touch but we never saw him again.
Truth without serum, but by autosuggestion? I daresay M. Coué would have approved!
There are many more stories in Mr. Gergel's book, which is a fun read. It's long out of print, but in my earlier article, I provided a link to a free download in Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) format. Mr. Gergel wrote a sequel, "The Ageless Gergel", which isn't as good (IMHO) as his first book, but also has its moments. There's a free .PDF download available of that volume, too, if you're interested.