July 29, 2012

"Mrs. Helen Althouse, the well-known mysterious Attica sleeper..."

"... had a narrow escaped from death from poisoning this week."
Two men visited Mrs. Althouse Thursday evening, and it is said one of them, while in the sick room, was seen to handle a cup of coffee and milk from which the patient drank occasionally.... The men were unknown to the family, but Mrs. Althouse seemed to know who they were, although she declined to talk about them. Vague talk about money and Mrs. Althouse's husband adds to the mystery. The men are said to be from Syracuse...."
An article published in the NYT on June 24, 1888. If it was mysterious at the time, it's even more mysterious now. How does one become "well-known" for being a "mysterious... sleeper"? Presumably — given that the men were said to be from Syracuse — Attica is Attica, New York... which you probably associate with the prison, the one with the riot and the Al Pacino... but the prison was not built until 1930.

ADDED: Several commenters are piecing together the story. Apparently, the woman's first name was not Helen but Emma. Edutcher found this old newspaper article, which includes some efforts at understanding the woman's condition (falling asleep for 25 days or more). One doctor said: "It is simply a condition of hysteria. The subjects are almost invariably women and of a particular temperament. There must be this temperament. I don to wish to be  understood as ascribing it to outside hypnotic influences." (The doctor was interested in hypnosis as a treatment for hysteria.)

Quaestor suggests Kleine-Levin syndrome — AKA "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome" — which has a Wikipedia page here. There doesn't seem to be much understanding of the cause or the treatment even today. But it's not true that the subjects are mostly women. They are 3 males to 1 female.

It's such an odd thing that we fall asleep and then wake up. We assume that will just happen. We've all had trouble sleeping, I assume, and when that happens we may observe the mystery of sleep. We seem to know how to do it but not how to do it. We don't so much worry that we won't know how to wake up. Outside of the unique problem of dying in one's sleep, we take it for granted that we will wake up. We have the knack. Who knows why?

28 comments:

edutcher said...

Was there anybody in the vicinity with a name like stable (no garages, then) mahal?

deborah said...

Maybe she suffered from narcolepsy or African sleeping sickness.

Lezer said...

The correct name seems to be Emma Althouse (not Helen). A Google search on her name ("Emma Althouse" + sleeper) will produce some more information.

Quaestor said...

Kleine-Levin syndrome?

traditionalguy said...

Another Althouse connection.

This Althouse story is from Lockport, New York, which is an interesting town. Lockport was built around the last large set of locks bringing the Erie Canal boats down to the Buffalo River level (or back up from it) about 15 miles from where the River empties into
Lake Erie at Buffalo.

That Lake connected to Ohio towns such as Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and and finally to Wisconsin towns, although the St. Lawrence Seaway and RRs have replaced Erie Canal and Buffalo of much importance except for Niagra Falls.

It's also close to where Joseph Smith out walking in the woods found his golden plates planted by Angel Moroni which Smith's psychic devination skills enabled him to translate into the Book of Mormon.

It is also where my 3rd great grandfather Sterrett and his brother built and re-built their paper mills after arriving in the USA from Ireland during the 1848-9 time of troubles. The Mill primarily made cardboard out of the trees being clear cut from Michigan.

rcocean said...

Mrs. Emma Althouse, of Bennington Hill, near Attica, N. Y., formerly known as the Sleeping Beauty, because she passed her life in a series of trances lasting from three to thirty-seven days, has reformed her habits; but, with the enthusiasm of a new convert, now shows too much zeal in staying awake. She sleeps only four hours out of fortyeight.

ndspinelli said...

Arthur "Turkey" Gehrke of Watertown, Wi. comes to mind.

edutcher said...

Here's a link to Emma and her problem. Apparently, there was quite a lot written about her - see the third column, about 2/3 of the way down under Attica. Her trances seem to have ended in July 1889*.

The fultonhistory site is quite good for those whose forbears came from upper New York state. I found out quite a lot about my father's family, particularly his older sister, from it.

* The reference to Cattle Kate signifies one of the early range wars pitting the big cattle syndicates against the small ranchers. Kate was a hooker who tried to go straight and was framed for rustling.

Rob said...

After Hillary Clinton's recent reception in Egypt, the remake of "Dog Day Afternoon" may have Al Pacino firing up the crowd by shouting, "Monica! Monica!"

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

From the Clinton NY Courier item on Emma Althouse, Jan. 30, 1889":

"She is growing thinner day by day..." Bet all the other women in town were jealous!

Also in the next column:

"WILL OPPOSE THE 'BOOMERS'" - See, no one liked them; even in 1889!

edutcher said...

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

From the Clinton NY Courier item on Emma Althouse, Jan. 30, 1889":

"She is growing thinner day by day..." Bet all the other women in town were jealous!


Hardly.

Then, as now, buxom was beautiful.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for the help! Wonder why the NYT got it wrong.

I'd never noticed this person before, and I'm pretty attentive to other Althouses. There aren't that many!

I've never met anyone named Althouse outside of my own family, but I've often checked phone books (while traveling) and found one.

edutcher said...

As I noted in an earlier post, it was fashionable in some circles to call people by their middle, rather than first, name.

She may have been Helen Emma (or Emma Helen).

I've seen references to my grandmother by both her first and middle names, as well as her nickname.

ricpic said...

Syracuse went to sleep and is still asleep and may never wake up. Sleep, Syracuse, sleep. Better that than to wake to the horror of permanent depressed status by way of compassionate Albany that won't let you thrive because the first Albany commandment is: There Shall Be No Fracking.

Crimso said...

"For this is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago"
Robert Hunter

Dante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dante said...

I've never met anyone named Althouse outside of my own family, but I've often checked phone books (while traveling) and found one.


Try althaus. German for "Old House." Looks like lotsa them. Don't know if your surname is german or not, but it certainly looks like it (or one of the derivatives).

Quaestor said...

Attica! Attica!

Carnifex said...

My uncle was named David, but everyone in the family calls him Ronnie, I have no idea why. All his friends call him David.

I was always interested in the story of Edgar Cayce. He would fall into a trance/sleep, and would diagnose, and prescribe cures for people.

I'm still waiting for the explanation on how the remote viewing experiments by the Army had a 30% correct average. Must just be mummery, right Crack? :-)

bgates said...

How does one become "well-known" for being a "mysterious... sleeper"?

Don't ask us. You voted for the guy.

Quaestor said...

I'm still waiting for the explanation on how the remote viewing experiments by the Army had a 30% correct average. Must just be mummery, right Crack? :-)

Please link to your source. Thank you.

Craig said...

Lots of 'haus' spellings were Americanized to 'house' during WWI. My great great grandmother became a Backhaus as the result of her second marriage. Backhaus central is in Kewaskum, though quite a few now spell it Backhouse or Backus. In German it means bake house or bakery.

Carnifex said...

@Questor I would but this was at least a decade ago I saw the figure... I'll go look but can't promise anything.

Craig said...

This Althouse story is from Lockport, New York, which is an interesting town. Lockport was built around the last large set of locks bringing the Erie Canal boats down to the Buffalo River level (or back up from it) about 15 miles from where the River empties into
Lake Erie at Buffalo.


Sheboygan was a popular destination for German emigrants to Wisconsin before the Civil War. They would arrive in New York, take the Erie Canal to Lake Erie and then up Lake Huron and down Lake Michigan to Wisconsin. After the Civil War it was easier to take the train and settle in Chicago or Milwaukee.

Carnifex said...

Nope... found some you too can be a remote view for a small fee sites and sites by sceptics claiming to debunk remote viewing.

I did find this interesting quite though--"Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire and a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) has said that he agrees remote viewing has been proven using the normal standards of science, but that the bar of evidence needs to be much higher for outlandish claims that will revolutionize the world, and thus he remains unconvinced".

So my question is, is it normal for scientist to say "Yeah, you proved it. But you didn't really Super-Duper prove it, so it doesn't count.

I would think it would warrent more examination not supression,or derision.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

In an unrelated story, blogger Ann Althouse apparently, herself, "fell asleep", or perhaps simply became "en-tranced", sometime around early November 2008.

Fortunately, she has been showing increasing signs of recovery, though still with a stubborn occasional and puzzling relapse.

Concerned friends are hopeful the last lingering effects will finally have run their course, before the 4 year anniversary of her unfortunate affliction.

mariner said...

Althouse,

We seem to know how to do it but not how to do it.

Say what?

Did you perhaps mean that we know how NOT to do it, but not how to do it?

Lonetown said...

I thought the Attica sleeper was a wrestling move!

It should be.