“Doomed” Woman Died On Schedule
(Herald Tribune, 11/18/1966)
BALTIMORE, Md. (AP) — A Baltimore woman, who believed her life was doomed by a hex, told her doctors at City Hospital here she would die within three days.
Two days later, she was dead. The woman told her doctors that she was born in the Okefenokee swamp area of Florida, one of three children delivered by a midwife on Friday the 13th.
According to the woman’s story, the midwife told the babies’ mothers that the three were hexed and the first would die before her 16th birthday, the second before her 21st birthday, and the third before her 23rd birthday.
Doctors said the patient told them the first girl was killed in an automobile accident the day before her 16th birthday.
The second girl, the woman told her doctors, was afraid of the prophecy. On her 21st birth-day, she went out with a friend to celebrate the end of the hex and was killed by a stray bullet as she entered a tavern.
Doctors said the patient, who was the third girl, “firmly believed she was doomed.” They said she was convinced she would die before her 23rd birthday.
She died the day before the birthday, after an episode of “severe apprehension and profuse sweating,” doctors reported.
Doctors said an autopsy showed several serious physiological disorders, but they agreed that her terror may have hastened her death.
The immediate cause of death was cited as primary pulmonary hypertension, which is described by one doctor as a “fairly rare vascular disorder in the lungs.” The doctor said that not much is understood about the disease.
Dr. John C. Harvey, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School here, presented the case to some 200 medical students at a clinical pathology conference Wednesday.
He pointed nut that physicians have demonstrated that a patient’s state of mind can be translated by the body into physiological disorders.
Dr. Harvey studied native voodoo practices while on a teaching assignment in Nigeria. He said the woman’s case had all the elements of voodoo deaths in Africa.
Dr. Harvey said there Is no doubt that people in Africa die as a result of voodoo curses. Some of them, he said, sim-ply stop eating when they believe death is near.
Dr. John K. Boitnott, who joined Dr. Harvey in presenting the case, said it was chosen because of the interesting aspect of her belief in the hex.
“We had hoped to start the students thinking about the psychological aspect of a patient. This was an extreme dramatic case to point it out,” Dr. Boitnott said.
Both doctors said they have been unable to check the women’s story to see if it was correct.