“I Question” by Anonymous

by Kelsey Koym
Archives Intern

This letter was found in the back of the book, “I Question.” The book is believed to have been written in 1947 by one of the patients of Dr.Luton, as evidence of this letter.

The Menninger collection contains hundreds of books spanning the various periods of psychological history and its specialties. Although the idealization of Freud and his near idol-like status saturate many of the pages of these books, unique items will stand out written by the patients of these medical professionals. One of these has greatly intrigued me, and it is worth the time to give it publicity.

The book is titled, “I Question,” and it is written by an anonymous author. At first this book seemed inconsequential. It consists of only eighty-two pages and has a foreword written by a Dr. Frank H. Luton, who grants a seemingly sincere recommendation to readers about the book’s value. There is no table of contents, and it lacks an index. What it does contain, however, is a piece of evidence of the book’s origination. In the back is a letter from Dr. Luton to Dr. William Menninger, brother to Dr. Karl Menninger whose name is formally attached to the collection. The letter is dated March, 20, 1947, and reveals that the anonymous author is one of Dr. Luton’s patients. Luton (1947) writes, “Writing the book has given him considerable satisfaction and I believe has enabled us to avoid institutionalization.” I needed to investigate more.

The book went to Phase Two of the appraisal process, which means the book needed to be checked against WorldCat to determine whether other facilities had the item. WorldCat listed six libraries that house this work, and now McGovern Historical Center makes seven. Mystery of authorship intrigues its audience, and it builds user’s curiosity enough to explore a book’s pages. We are closer to understanding this work’s origins because of a single letter pasted to a book that has been seemingly forgotten.

In the book, “Anonymous” consistently mentions the “other world.” His narrative skips, and its stop-and-go introspection reveals a mind that is reflecting upon its psychiatric history and the emotions accompanying it. The author speaks with authority regarding the voices he hears from this other world, and a reader cannot help but sense the whispers of a troubled mind.

The Menninger collection has books for the practicing doctor with a focus on the profession’s evolution and its historical context. However, there are works divulging the intimate stories of those patients who have undergone evaluation and treatment. Their journeys have been recorded and preserved to illuminate the experiences of the mentally ill and their healing.

Posted in Medical Archives, Rare Books
2 comments on ““I Question” by Anonymous
  1. I appreciate the patient perspective you brought forth here. I hope we can provide the same as we develop the Radiation Effects and Events collection at the McGovern Historical Research Center. In our case, I believe members of the general public in regions exposed to radiation have often had a voice but one that far too often have been marginalized by some in the scientific and public policy communities. Always good to maintain an open mind!

    • mcgovernhrc says:

      I have found some interesting resources, which are of particular interest to the Radiation Effects and events collection. One being an Autobiography of a Japanese penologist named Akira Masaki. His chapter regarding the day of the Hiroshima bombing is only two pages long, but it is an incredible primary account revealing some of his personal psychological effects of that day. He was living in Hiroshima at the time, and he discusses the events leading up to the bombing. He briefly details the effects the bomb had on members of his household recalling how his nephew and maid died of the disease neucaeria. Akira closes the chapter saying, “As one of the survivors from the hell of atomic bombing I hated the civilisation which could invent such a devilish weapon. I believe that atomic weapons should be absolutely prohibited.” This chapter is small, but powerful to readers gaining primary insight into what that day was like for someone who was there. I like your idea of the survivor’s “voice” because we need all voices to be heard for the historical record. There are other resources I have found about other dimensions within this domain, and I hope to find more.

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