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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

A Most Difficult Case

Of the cases with which our mental health team has dealt over the years, Frederick Hollingsworth stands as the most perplexing.

It was some ten years ago when I received a referral from his doctor to say that Mr Hollingsworth of 7, Waterside Mews was manifesting a most unusual mental aberration. He was a new patient to the doctor, and on the doctor’s very first visit to his home, Mr Hollingsworth had claimed to be somebody completely different. I and another member of the mental health team had been called at once, and it soon transpired that Mr Hollingsworth believed himself to be a George Robinson. This confusion of personal identity was sufficient for us to immediately detain him in a psychiatric hospital. We then proceeded to piece together his story.

From medical records and other sources I initially established his real life history as a point of reference and to aid in reorienting him to reality. It appeared that he had worked in the local car factory for many years prior to retirement and had been married to Millie, who had died five years previously. Sadly he had no children or other surviving relatives. When confronted with these facts, he was able to accept that he had no surviving relatives, but claimed never to have been married and believed that he had worked for the Post Office.

The remarkable thing about his confabulated personality was its attention to detail. He was able to describe the Romsey sorting office almost as if he had worked there. I published a paper on this phenomenon, and some people went as far as to speculate on some paranormal ability that might lead to such an accurate insight into the real life aspects of his delusion.

Due to his inability to accept his real identity, he remained detained in hospital for a further eight years. Another remarkable aspect of his condition then emerged with the discovery of photographs taken during his middle age. They looked nothing at all like him and led to me writing another paper which postulated that the extreme nature of his delusion that he was George Robinson had led to an actual change in his physical appearance. I have since developed the theory of somatic muscular reconfiguration (SMR) and lectured upon it world-wide.

As his disorder appeared to be untreatable he has remained in hospital until the present. We had believed that his case was unique. This very week, however, my team has encountered an almost identical circumstance. Once again a new doctor visited a patient in our area who believed himself to have a totally incorrect identity. Initially I thought there had been an almost unbelievable coincidence as the new patient also lived in Waterside Mews. It soon occurred to me, however, that the new patient, Mr Robinson, could easily have read the research papers on Mr Hollingsworth and incorporated the information into his delusion that he was Mr Hollingsworth.

In any case, for his own protection and that of the public, we promptly visited 7A, Waterside Mews and took him away.