VISITS

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Torture in Boston.

In 1725, Patrick Blair, a Scottish doctor who settled in Boston, perfected a system of torture that he believed cured the insane and the engine house of the tower which supplied Boston with its water was the scene of some strange experiments carried out by him. Blair would blind fold people before the procedure as a way of further inducing terror. His final device included a large pump that elevated 18,000 gallons of water 35 feet in the air above the person strapped to a chair below. Additionally, he even sprayed water up into the face for a more complete effect. He used this final version to cure a woman who was, "mad, neglected every thing, ... kept her room, would converse with nobody but kept spitting continually" and refused to have sex with her husband. For 7 weeks before water treatment, she had "frequent bleedings, violent Emeticks, strong purgatives and potent Sudorificks and Narcoticks were not wanting". This brought about a partial cure: "gave all signs of recovery except that of the dislike to her husband". He strapped her naked into the chair which, "put her in an unexpressable terrour especially when the water was let down. I kept her under the fall 30 minutes, stopping the pipe now and then and enquiring whether she would take to her husband but she still obstinately deny'd till at last being much fatigu'd with the pressure of the water she promised she would do what I desired". But the next day she refused. So he water tortured her in this way two more times. But when she recovered, again she refused. So Blair, "I threatned her with the fourth Tryal, took her out of bed, had her stript, blindfolded and ready to be put in the chair, when being terrify'd with what she was to undergo she kneeld submissively that I would spare her and she would become a Loving obedient and dutifull Wife for ever thereafter. I granted her request provided she would go to bed with her husband that night, which she did with great chearfullness ... About 1 month afterwards I went to pay her a visit, saw every thing in good order". Blair proclaimed her cured! Blair claimed his water treatment by the "fall of water" was, "the safest method of curing mad people ... and sink the patients spirits even to a deliquium [melted] without the least hazard of their Lives." (Cure of Mad Persons by the Fall of Water, Patrick Blair, 1725 AD)

Where was this tower?

Blair said, .........since coming to Boston my endeavours have not been in vain. I was sometime in this place before I understood there was an Engine so fit for my purpose as it has since prov'd to be. It is built at about one and a half miles from hence in order to raise and convey water to serve the town. At some distance is built a Square tower 35 foot high. The water being forc'd to it by the engine ascends perpendicularly in a large pipe at one corner and is discharg'd into a cistern on the top of the tower which will contain about 80 Tun of water [17,920 gallons]. At the opposite corner the water descends directly by another pipe from whence its convey'd to the town. There are 3 habitable rooms in the bottome of the tower, the middle of which has a chimney. I have got a lateral pipe fixed to the descending one by which I make the water to fall in any part of the middle room I think proper. I have a bathing Tub 6 foot long, I place a Chair in it in which the patient sits. The chair is so fix'd in the Tub and the patient so ty'd to the chair that none of them can move. The lateral pipe has a cock by which I can stop or let down as much or as little water as I think proper. When the patients have got sufficiently of the fall I have a bed in readiness in the next room where they are laid and suitable care is taken of them.......

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