Morbid Fact Du Jour for November 27, 2014

Today’s Low Pressure Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Sigmund Rascher (12 February 1909 – 26 April 1945) was a German SS doctor. His deadly experiments on humans, which were carried out in the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, were judged inhumane and criminal during the Nuremberg Trials.In 1942, Sigmund Rascher and others conducted high-altitude experiments on prisoners at Dachau. Eager to find out how best to save German pilots forced to eject at high altitude, they placed inmates into low-pressure chambers that simulated altitudes as high as 68,000 feet and monitored their physiological response as they succumbed and died. Rascher was said to dissect victims’ brains while they were still alive to show that high-altitude sickness resulted from the formation of tiny air bubbles in the blood vessels of a certain part of the brain. Of 200 people subjected to these experiments, 80 died outright and the remainder were executed.In a typical experiment, detailed in a report by Rascher and his colleagues, a deli clerk was forced to endure an excruciating drop from 47,000 ft. without the aid of oxygen. Diligently, Rascher noted the subject’s behavior:2

  • “spasmodic convultions”
  • “gives the general impression of someone who is completely out of his mind”
  • “does not respond to speech”
  • “grimaces, bites his tongue”
  • “convulses arms and legs”
  • “yells aloud”
  • “clonic conclusions, groaning”
  • “agonal convulsive breathing”

The lurid Nuremberg testimony of Rascher’s prisoner assistant Antòn Pacholegg tells a similar story:3

“I personally saw, through the observation window of the chamber, how a prisoner inside was subjected to a vacuum until his lungs burst. Certain experiments produced such a pressure in the men’s heads that they went mad, tearing their hair out in an effort to relieve it. They lacerated their heads and faces with their nails, mutilating themselves in their frenzy.”

Culled from: Nova and Mad Scientist Blog

Here’s a photograph of Rascher.  Ain’t he sweet?  He wouldn’t even hurt a lil’ baby. Except, it turns out, that baby isn’t even his.  It was kidnapped.  What an evil scientist.

And here are some poor souls subjected to the altitude tests…

And here’s a post-mortem on one of the many victims.  After the war, the United States used Rascher’s data for the benefit of the Air Force. Isn’t it nice to know that it all went to something “useful”?

Morbid Sightseeing!

I’ve been told by someone who lives in Hays, Kansas that my Garden of Eden travelogue is a “hoot”. Perhaps you might concur?  It’s a weird place, that’s for sure…

The Garden of Eden

“My Brush With Morbidity” by Sleeper

“When I was very young I went to a school event where all the people who showed up for the activities crammed into the school’s cafeteria for some shitty pizza.  We were sitting at the cafeteria table, the typical humming of a hundred or so people talking and eating filling the air.”Sitting behind me was an older gentleman, his adult daughter, and I would assume her kids.  I didn’t notice them very well before the “event” partially because I was a very focused child.  Probably the opposite of ADHD, I was very focused on what I was doing or things I had in my hands, so to tear my attention away from something was a great feat indeed.

“The older gentleman moved my chair when he fell to the ground.  I remember looking at him as though he was rude but for the life of me I don’t remember any details of his face.  I was pulled from my chair but managed to grasp onto my bag of popcorn (how ironic) while my parents pulled my sister and I toward the wall of the cafeteria.  Hysteria reigned while his daughter, of about 40 years old, started screaming like a banshee, ‘SOMEBODY SAVE MY DAAAAADDDDYYYYYY!!!’

“Meanwhile I watched volunteer firemen perform CPR on this gentleman while calmly munching some popcorn.  Mommy and Daddy were ever so graceful enough to provide and explanation of what the firemen were doing, and while they were in shock from the experience and had to drive around for a while afterward to forget the events of ‘Fun Day’ I was excessively interested in what had happened and mulled over it.  I’m still mulling over it, years later.”

Do you have a morbid experience to share? Then send it to the Comtesse!

Past Brushes can be viewed at The Asylum Eclectica:
My Brush With Morbidity


  1. I do not know, what you intend with your article about Rascher but is full of mistakes. Obviously you just took over the contents and mistakes of other articles in the net. What sense does this make? What profit for the reader? Why do you not read a decent biography of the SS-Doctor?
    The Marquis DeSpair

    1. Well, considering I do 365 of these e-mails a year, it’s really asking a lot to expect me to do full scholarly research on each and every one of them. Yes, I use online resources much of the time, and usually do cross-checks on different sites, often including news articles. For the Rascher facts, I used several different sources on the web, and verified the main points on the Nova website (which I feel confident is accurate).

      So, let me ask: What is incorrect about the posts? I’ll gladly perform additional research and send out a follow-up indicating my error. It’s happened before and I’m sure it will happen again since online resources can always be fallible.

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