The Anomalist


Archive > High Strangeness Reports

Fritz Healing

by Dennis Stacy

The spirit of Dr. Fritz (aka Adolf Frederick Yeperssoven) has allegedly possessed yet another medically illiterate Brazilian, according to a January 12, 1996, article in The New York Times. Dr. Fritz, a German doctor who reportedly died in a WW I field hospital in 1918, first gained notoriety as the spirit who supposedly benignly (as opposed to demonically) possessed the Brazilian peasant know as Zé Arigo, the subject of John G. Fuller's Arigo: Surgeon of the Rusty Knife (Thomas Y. Crowell, NY, 1974, Afterword by Henry K. Puharich, M.D.). Arigo died violently in a 1971 automobile accident, as he had reportedly predicted.

Arigo conducted literally thousands of "operations" while wielding an old pocketknife, a heavy German accent, and a pronounced disregard of medical hygiene. After Arigo's death, the improbably named Oscar Wilde claimed to be the next recipient of Dr. Fritz's spirit. Like Arigo, Wilde, too, died a violent death, although the Times doesn't say how. He was succeeded by a gynecologist from Recife, Dr. Edson Queiroz (apparently the only one of Fritz's beneficiaries with any existing pharmaceutical or medicinal knowledge), who was subsequently stabbed to death in 1991.

The latest recipient, according to the article filed from Rio de Janeiro by Times reporter Diana Jean Schemo, is 41-year-old engineer Rubens Farias, Jr, who operates out of the poor suburb of Bom Sucesso (Good Success). Hundreds of patients line up outside his office on weekends, often waiting from early morning until almost midnight for treatment, which may take as little as 30 seconds. Prior to these marathon treatment sessions, Farias is said to enter into a trance from which he emerges as the German-speaking Dr. Fritz. All patients are told to remain silent and trust in God. Many are injected with a miracle brew reportedly consisting of part alcohol, iodine, and turpentine. Knives, scissors and dull hypodermic needles are also routinely employed. Anaesthesia and sterilization are not. "Yes, if you or I did it, it would kill people, but he does it and it cures them," says someone. It is not clear from the article who this someone is, but it appears to be Farias' wife, Rita Costa. According to the reporter, Costa doesn't necessarily accept the possession theory, "but she does believe in the power of the imagination and personal will to overcome illness."

Farias, who claims to have been possessed by Dr. Fritz as early as 1986 (while Dr. Queiroz was still alive and making similar use of the good German's spirit), has also predicted his own violent death within a few years.

The Times, whose front page motto is "All the News That's Fit to Print," is actually surprisingly good at covering this sort of thing, if by surprising we refer to the fact that they bother to cover it all. For instance, the Tuesday, December 19, 1995, issue carries a similar article about the faithful who flock to Nancy Fowler's Conyers, Georgia, farm in hopes of glimpsing Mary and Jesus, who are said to visit the 13th of every month. (Both articles are accompanied by excellent photographs.)

Even so, innuendo is usually at work. The Times just happens to be more subtle at it than the professional debunkers. In the Dr. Fritz article, for example, Farias slices open a patient's back and inserts three pairs of scissors into the space between two vertebrae. "[Then] the doctor told a relucant stranger to feel the space by wiggling the scissors," writes reporter Schemo. The "reluctant stranger" here, of course, is Schemo herself, who must have been impressed, but is restrained from saying so by so-called journalistic protocol, which holds that "thou shall not insert thyself into the story," another way of saying report, don't editorialize.

But sometimes you just can't help it. Later in the same story we find this clear example of editorial comment: "[Farias] seems to be concentrating, then rises as if groggy with a hangover and [speaks] in a German accent that makes you wonder whether "Hogan's Heroes" ever made it to Brazilian television..."