Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

February 22, 2004|By Michael Pakenham

The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore, by Nancy Butcher. Avery. 200 pages. $13.95.

Butcher, an experienced medical writer, has plodded and poked through hundreds of medical texts, arcane encyclopedias, journal articles, Web sites, government publications and historic curiosities to pull together this enchanting -- if often disturbing -- cornucopia of weird physiological phenomena. Yes, there is a recorded syndrome called "walking corpse" -- also designated as Cotard Syndrome, delusional nihilism and other quaint manners of describing the affliction that leaves sufferers convinced that they are, in fact, dead. It is far from the most bizarre disease Butcher has catalogued. Most emphatically, this is not a home-remedy text, but, rather, an entertainment. But for the troubled or more curious, the chapter notes and bibliography are unusually inclusive. A delight for the mildly hypochondriac.

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