Lore Report: “Head Case” (Episode 175)

We humans are really good at judging things by appearance alone. But clearly there is so much more to our world than what we can see on the surface. That hasn’t stopped us from leaning into that flaw, so much so that it’s become entirely automatic, like a compulsion or a mindless habit. A habit that has led us to do dark and terrible things.

Heads up: Episode 175 of the Lore podcast delves into the pseudoscience of phrenology (the attempt to read skull bumps as indicators of mental traits). Host Aaron Mahnke does a fine job of sketching the history of such mindful endeavor, noting its positive (its application to crime fighting) and negative (its racist dichotomies) components. The central theme of Mahnke’s narrative is that people often take matters too far, which leads to a recounting here of some ghoulish cases. Listeners learn of the skullduggery surrounding the corpse of the renowned composer Joseph Haydn, whose grave was robbed and his head stolen (by an associate with phrenological leanings). Mahnke closes the episode with the tale of a woman with a literal hole in her head (a wound traced to the craziest of causes), whose treatment by an unscrupulous, zap-happy doctor sounds like something right out of Frankenstein. The lore shared in “Head Case” is more of the strange-criminal than the supernatural variety, but the podcast’s fans will still go crazy for this episode.


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