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Observations placeholder

Professor Lombroso witnesses the little blind girl who could smell with her feet and see with her nose



Type of Spiritual Experience


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A description of the experience

One morning in 1882 I was sent for to the bedside of the Signorina C.S., aged fourteen, the daughter of one of the most active and capable of our Italian public men. The mother was sane, intelligent and healthy, but her two sons at the age of about twelve or fourteen had shot up in height in an extraordinary way and seemed to show physical symptoms.

The girl herself. , . had just previously grown seven inches within a very short space of time and had developed serious gastric troubles of hysterical origin (vomiting, dyspepsia, etc.),.so much so that for one month she had been able to take nothing but solid food, and then for another month nothing but liquids, while during a third month she had developed attacks of hysterical convulsive spasms with hyperaesthesias so pronounced that if a thread were laid upon her hand she declared it felt as heavy as a bar of iron.

After the occurrence of another monthly period she became blind, while hysterogenic pressure points were noted in the little finger and in the forefinger. When these were touched they produced convulsions.

There were also motor pareses [attacks of imperfect paralysis] in the legs, with exaggerated reflexes and spasms, while her muscular energy was enormously increased, so much that, measured by a dynamometer, the force of her handclasp augmented from 32 to 47 kilograms.

And at this point extraordinary phenomena began to present themselves. First there was a somnambulistic condition in which she showed an amazing activity in work about the house, a very affectionate disposition towards the whole family and a conspicuous musical talent; at a later stage there was a change of character.; she developed a masculine boldness and a lack of moral principle.

But the most remarkable fact was this, that while she lost the power of seeing with her eyes, she saw as clearly as before, with the tip of her nose and the lobe of her left ear. By these improvised organs, though I had bandaged her eyes, she read a letter which had just then come to me by post and she was able to distinguish the figures on the dial of a dynamometer.

Very curious was her realization in gesture of the function of these new substitutes which took the place of eyes. If, for example, I put my finger close to her nose or to her ear making pretence to touch them, or still better if I only directed a beam of light upon either, even if it were but for a moment or two, she manifested instant sensibility and irritation. "You want to blind me," she cried out. Then with an instinctive movement as unforeseen as the phenomenon itself, she put her arm in the way to protect the lobe of the ear or the tip of her nose and remained in that position for some minutes.

There was also a transference of the seat of the sense of smell.

While ammonia and asafoetida if they were thrust under her nose provoked not the least reaction, even a slightly odorous substance placed beneath her chin produced a lively impression which manifested itself in expressive gesture. If the scent was an agreeable one, she smiled, her eyelids fluttered and she inhaled rapid breaths.

If the odour was nauseous she put up her hands to that part of the chin which had become sensitive and shook her head violently.

Later on her sense of smell was transferred to the insteps of her feet, and then when any odour was unpleasant to her, she kicked out with her feet to left and right with contortions of her whole body, but when she enjoyed the scent she stood quite still, smiling and drawing her breath quickly.

The source of the experience

Lombroso, Professor Cesare

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps