Sybil Bruncheon's "Hysterical Healthful Histories"... Wauseon, Ohio.


The Philbert Institute For Defused Alienation in Wauseon, Ohio.
With the close of the 19th century, social scientists, philosophical and political observers, anthropologists, and medical professionals discussed the new phenomenon of angst that seemed to be consuming people in all walks of life in industrializing America. As greater and greater numbers of citizens left farming in the rural countryside and built their lives and careers in overcrowded cities, there seemed to be a loss of basic family constructs and communal feelings between neighbors. Dr. Joshua Philbert was a scientist who, in addition to his extensive medical background, was immersed in research into nutritional and specialized exercise programs to improve mental and physical health. Philbert created his institute for patients (or "enrollees" as he preferred to address them) to find an all-consuming wellness and inner peace that would sustain them even after they had returned to their stressful lives. A two-week stay involved daily schedules of classes, exercises, spa treatments, lectures, crafting, movement seminars, gardening, physical exertion, and nudist culture. Sing-alongs, square dance, wicker-weaving, and watermelon war-games were all especially popular with the enrollees. Here we see a typical Watermelon War-Game in which the jolly participants are instructed to eat as much melon as possible and to spit the seeds at opposing "warriors" as quickly and violently as possible. All physical contact between aggressors must be done only through the seeds being spat and on no account should there be any touching or even cross-words.

The war-games were also a sensible way to settle any bickering, arguments, petty quarrels, or personal jealousies among the enrollees and even the institute staff as well. Two unfortunate issues did come up though during the war-games; 1) The more aggressive the "battles" became, the more watermelon the participants would consume resulting in extraordinary amounts of water weight being put on during their stays. Guests also complained of severe stomach cramps, excessive urination, and unpredictably explosive diarrhea often in front of visitors and at mealtimes. …and 2) Some seeds ended up putting people's eyes out or even choking enrollees…. to death.

These tragic setbacks were not lost on John Harvey Kellogg over at his Battle Creek Health Sanitarium. His version of aggression therapy involved patients being costumed in gigantic elasticized one-piece pajamas gathered at the wrists, ankles and neck and filled with bales of milkweed fluff. They were then given huge pillows of the same stuff and instructed to hit each other as violently as they pleased and to yell hideous epithets while confined in padded cells. This exercise would go on for hours until finally, exhausted, they would be found asleep by the staff and dragged back to their separate cells. Kellogg of course charged a fraction of the same fees as Philbert did and the Philbert Institute soon went out of business….…. Later, Professor Philbert changed the spelling of his name to Filbert, moved to Monte Carlo, and made a fortune importing nuts... actual nuts.

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