From: Curtis Johnson
To: All
Date: Feb 25 1998 8:03:13 pm
Subject: Stigmata
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The local _City Paper_ recently (Feb 18th issue) ran a
column from the nationally syndicated _The Straight Dope_.  The
following extracts will be of interest to those following the
discussion of Putnam's latest case:

"The first definite case (there might have been a couple
earlier ones) was St. Francis of Assisi in 1224.  As of 1894, 321
cases had been recorded, and there have been many more since."

"The question isn't whether the stigmata are self-inflicted.
Of course they're self-inflicted.  Even if I were disposed to believe
in divine intervention, the variety in the appearance and location
of the wounds on different stigmatics argues strongly that this is
a matter of--how shall I say?--human handiwork.  In some cases the
wounds duplicated those of Jesus as depicted at the stigmatic's
local church."

"Plenty of cases have been shown to be hoaxes, but with
others you can't be sure.  Tantalizing evidence comes to us from
medical journals, which report numerous cases of `psychogenic
purpuras.'  These are nonreligious stigmata--unexplained painful
bruising and swelling, and ocasionally even bleeding, through
apparently intact skin of patients with emotional disorders.
One theory blames `autoerythrocyte sensitization':  pathological
reaction to one's own blood.
"Stigmatics are often tormented souls.  Many of the
religious ones deny themselves to the point of masochism.  The
nonreligious ones are frequently on the operating table or the
shrink's couch for a laundry list of ailments.  Reading some of
the accounts makes you think that if anyone is likely to get
psychosomatic wounds, these would be the guys.
"On the other hand, the emotional unbalance of many
stigmatics means you can't rule out the possibility that they're
simply hurting themselves when no one's looking.  It's virtually
impossible to keep an eye on someone every second of the day, and
observers are often naive about what they do see.  One scientist
thought he'd proved something when Lateau's hands bled even though
he'd covered them with bandages and gloves.  But he ignored the
fact that the bandages were perforated with pinpricks."

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