I-so-lay-chon

Posted: 22nd January 2016 by Christian in Blog

Let’s get weird.
The isolated brain is a concept many, many scientists and sorcerers have tried on since the beginning. Can you take a brain out of the body and keep it alive?
Not really, no. But people give it a go. If you’re feeling ghoulish, here’s Sergei Brukhonenko and Boris Levinskovsky and their dog head experiments.

Obviously, the below video has some dog grotesqueness.

They were hardly the first.

In the 1880s, a French doctor by the name of Jean Baptiste Vincent Laborde got a bit clever with it. Thirty years earlier, an Englishman claimed he revived a dog head after ten minutes. Laborde was a bit more ambitious.

Also, there was a debate going on in France about which was more humane. Traditionally, the guillotine was considered more merciful, but people claimed to have seen severed heads gnashing teeth, crying, all sort of horrible things. State-sponsored murder is supposed to be swift, merciless but not cruel (hi, Clayton Lockett) so this had to be investigated.

Provided with several executed criminal’s heads, he took one and attached it to a dog’s carotid. Another was injected with oxygenated cow’s blood. In each case, things happened. Eyes opened, jaws twitched, faces moved. But none of the experiments yielded much valuable data and so it was a while until science types would get stuck in to severed heads for a while.

Murder

In 1883, a man “powerfully muscled, movements of extraordinary agility, the ascetic and hard features, to acute small eyes, tormented fierce…” entered the home of Monsieur Ducros-Sixt and killed him and his sister with a stonemason’s hammer.

Arrested, the murderer refused to give a name, or even a profession. He did not deny the crime. So they called him Campi, just a name for the books, and found him guilty.

“Gentlemen judges want to take my head. They will take it without a label!”
His last words. They cut off his head and gave it to Laborde.

The crime writer Leon noted “tried to revive with the blood of a dog for a few minutes, to talk about the bloody head. The experiment did not succeed…”

Now, that should be the end of Campi.

But here’s where things get weird.

Black Magic!

People have always been attracted to death. Found a power in the corpse. Even today in Africa, the limbs of an albino are worth real money because of their spiritual properties. But this isn’t new. Gladiator heads, teeth, hair, blood, were healing to the ancient Romans. Hands of Glory were a well-known folk magic, the severed hands of hanged criminals had magical powers. Nooses that had claimed lives were popular talismans. The infamous witches flying ointment, the fat of an unbaptised child you’d drink. Sandy Childs, teenage child-murderer, stabbed and 8 year old to death and tried to get his fat. In 1995.

Someone removed Campi’s skin. With the purpose of using it as binding the medical reports that would be made on him. This was 1883.

Now, as an aside, in 1883, the world was three years away from having a car. Bacteriology was getting up and running. You could iron your clothes. This was not a primitive age.

Nevertheless, someone took Campi’s skin and transformed it into an amulet.

Most amulets are prophylactic. They protect. They prevent. But being near a death, an execution, was sometimes considered healing.

Who knows what the amulet was for, coins and the human skin of a murder, who’s brain was fed dog’s blood.

I think we make a mistake hiding our dead and our death. I think we error when we suggest the price of public hygiene is worth cutting away our morbid fascinations with our own ends.

Can you honestly say you’ve no use for something like this?