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..."