Dr. Ivan Brodsky, Surgeon of Souls by Victor Rousseau
Lost and broken souls come to Dr. Ivan Brodsky and he does what he must to repair them.
Lost and broken souls come to Dr. Ivan Brodsky and he does what he must to repair them. Many souls haunt the living, attempting to return to the land of the living. Some souls are confused, some are angry, some refuse to go back to the eternal plain. Dr. Ivan Brodsky helps such souls to their destinies.
Dr. Ivan Brodsky, Surgeon of Souls
The Case of the Jailer’s Daughter
The Woman With the Crooked Nose
The Tenth Commandment
The Legacy of Hate
The Major’s Menagerie
The Fetish Of The Waxworks
The Seventh Symphony
The Chairs of Stuyvesant Baron
The Man Who Lost His Luck
The Dream That Came True
The Ultimate Problem
Of the eleven stories in Dr. Ivan Brodsky, Surgeon of Souls, ten were originally published in the Stevens Point Daily Journal in 1910 and 1911 and then republished in Weird Tales in 1926 and 1927. The eleventh, The Case of the Jailer’s Daughter, was originally published in Weird Tales in 1926 to be an introduction to the good Doctor.
Victor Rousseau Emanuel (1879-1960), was originally born as Avigdor Rousseau Emanuel in England. He died in 1960 in Tarryton, New York. He wrote predominantly under the pen names Victor Rousseau, H. M. Egbert, and V. R. Emanuel, but, in the 1930s, he abandoned these pseudonyms to establish Victor Rousseau as a recognizable name in pulp fiction magazines. He wrote “spicy” stories under the pen name Lew Merrill.
Dr. Ivan Brodsky, the Surgeon of Souls has 11 illustrations.
Excerpt: The Case of the Jailer’s Daughter
ALTHOUGH our intimacy did not arise until some time afterward, my first meeting with Dr. Brodsky profoundly impressed me. He was at that time professor of nervous diseases at the hospital to which I had been newly attached—a dark, sinewy, undersized man, with a great head absurdly disproportionate to his body, and flashing eyes that seemed to pierce through you and read your thoughts as he looked at you, though without his glasses he could scarcely have seen his hand in front of his face. Ivan Brodsky, he called himself, and it was said that he was a cross between two races whose blend of shrewdness and mysticism was probably accountable for the production of so remarkable a personality as his own.
Brodsky was at once the most unassuming and the most audacious of men. Unassuming in that he took no part in the little social festivities and celebrations of the country town. Outside the confines of the hospital, where he was all-dominating, he might have been a small storekeeper for all the pose he adopted. It was said that he spent his entire spare time reading and studying—and making his remarkable investigations.
Yet he was the most audacious of men by reason of the experiments which he performed in the ward set apart for the treatment of obscure brain lesions. Uncanny experiments he would perform there, some of which curdled the blood in the veins of us younger men. He was an expert hypnotist and received delicate cases from all parts of the country: lost and multiple personality, amnesia, agraphia, aboulia, all the odds and ends of neuroses that had been given up in despair by the “regulars.” There for weeks—for months, sometimes—he would devote himself incessantly to the unfolding of some labyrinthine twist in the brain, piecing together lost fragments of the soul by constant hypnosis, until he had straightened out the complications and restored a clean human being to the world. And when he had at last brought back health and sanity, perhaps after half a year of wallowing in the slough of madness, he would turn to us with his whimsical smile.
“Is there any among you gentlemen who still denies the existence of a personal, immortal soul?” he would ask, expecting the instantaneous negative that would spring from our lips.
Perhaps some student, younger or bolder than the rest, would acknowledge the impeachment.
“You are half right,” Brodsky would rejoin, with that curious touch of the unexpected which was always characteristic of him. “Not in that you deny the soul. There is soul everywhere; it contains the body as the amber holds the fly. But you are half right when you deny that the soul is personal, for we have one common fund to draw upon, and there is not much more difference between one individual and another than between two flowers on the same shrubs. The body is the merest external; it is the soul which occupies it, moving from house to house.”
Few of us could follow the doctor when he became metaphysical. Some of us inferred that he was alluding to those peculiar cases of multiple personality that we sometimes investigated, in which two or more separate and distinct individuals seemed to be struggling for control of a single body. Others believed that he referred to the doctrine of reincarnation, in which he was said to be a believer.
THE beginning of my real intimacy with Brodsky was that day in which he selected me to assist him in the examination of the brain of Radovitch, the murderer. Radovitch was a huge Slav miner, a man of enormous strength and stature, and the intelligence of a child. He was brutalized as few even among his kind are. During the entire period of his thirty-odd years of life no single redeeming influence had ever come to him. To work for twelve hours each day, stripped to the waist, begrimed with coal dust, in the mines, to go home to sleep like an animal or to consume potations of brandy until he lay stretched out upon some pot-house floor insensible—such was the routine of his life, varied only by occasionally beating his wife and smashing the wretched furniture in their squalid home upon the outskirts of the town. During the course of one prolonged debauch he murdered the woman amid circumstances of atrocious cruelty; he then set fire to the house, which was insured for a small sum, by means of a clumsy contrivance of oil-soaked cotton waste and gunpowder, and calmly presented himself at the offices of the insurance company the next day in order to draw the money. His trial and conviction were the merest formality—the jury did not even leave the box—and he was duly sentenced to die in the electric chair.
I had visited the adjoining death cell to treat an Italian murderer for defective hearing (the proneness of a man under sentence of death to worry about some minor ailment is an interesting and frequent psychological phenomenon, akin, I suppose, to that which induces him, upon the very morning of his execution, to partake of a hearty breakfast) when the head jailer pointed out Radovitch to me. The giant Slav’s appearance was one of incredible bestiality. The narrow head was no larger than a child’s, his little piglike eyes were narrowed with fear and cunning and he presented that extreme symmetry of feature which, as Nordau was the first to point out, is constantly associated with the criminal type. I was gazing at him in horror, yet unable to tear myself away, when I heard Brodsky’s voice speaking behind me.
“It is a striking commentary upon our so-called civilization that we put such a creature as that to death,” he said. “One might more justly slaughter a gorilla.”
“It is cruel,” I answered. “But, Dr. Brodsky, is not such a creature, after all, better off out of the world than in it? A moment’s suffering— and he has ceased to exist.”
That was the first time that I ever saw Brodsky lose his self-control.
“Is it possible,” he cried, “that you consider that death will really wipe out that individuality?”
“Well, doctor,” I said, with some hesitation, “I don’t pretend to know what’s going to happen to the immortal part of him, assuming that there is any immortal part to survive. But at least he will be removed from our human world, as we know it.”
The doctor gave a short laugh and tapped me on the shoulder.
“My boy,” he said impressively, “he will not be removed at all, because, since he has presumably never experienced any spiritual yearnings, he will continue to haunt this only world that he knows, but in a discarnate form. The death of Radovitch will set free a certain conglomerate mass of soul-stuff, uncertain of its destiny, humbly anxious to learn, but at any rate not desirous of remaining in contact with a world which it has thoroughly experienced and come to be weary of. But the death of Radovitch will set at liberty a vast, chaotic lump of animal soul, actuated by the same vicious and untrained desires that controlled it during the life of the body, yet freed from the dynamic laws of its mortal prison and”— I had never seen him appear more earnest —”seeking to incarnate itself in some other body which will grant it the gratification of its earthly desires. The death of Radovitch will be the release of just so much additional force of evil.”
He turned away and then the jailer came to usher us out of the prison. It was then that Dr. Brodsky asked me to assist him at the autopsy, to which I eagerly agreed.
During those last days of the murderer’s life he somehow became acquainted with the jailer’s little daughter, a child of eight or nine years. It should never have been allowed, but jail discipline is notoriously lax in country towns; the child had been in the habit of helping her father carry the prisoners their food, and had somehow wandered into that part of the jail which was set apart for the condemned, of course not knowing what these men’s fate was to be. The acquaintance proved mutually attractive. The savage Slav took a curious fancy to the child. The jailer, a devout Catholic, was at first horrified, but finally assented to the prolongation of this curious friendship, moved partly by the child’s entreaties, and hoping, also, that the softening influence of the little girl might bring Radovitch to a realization of his impending fate and induce him to accept the consolations of religion, which he had rejected, Radovitch had seemed to possess no more idea of the meaning of death than any animal; during those last days, however, some inkling of the doom approaching seemed to awaken him to a sense of his spiritual needs. He was persuaded to accept the ministrations of a priest, and ultimately died in the full peace of the church, his little friend believing he had passed out of prison to the free world beyond.
I pass over the horror of the electrocution, which I witnessed. Radovitch did not seem wholly to understand why they strapped his arms, nor why they seated him in the chair. One instant he looked round him in stupid amazement—the next an indelible aspect of terror and amazement convulsed his features, as though he realized that life was to be snatched from him by stealth. The death mask was adjusted, the warden dropped his handkerchief, the body strained against the straps, and in an instant the life had gone.
The examination was performed, the body was laid to rest. I dismissed all thought of Radovitch from my mind as well as I was able. At that time Brodsky, who seemed to have taken a liking to me, had asked me to assist him in some delicate laboratory work, which threw us continually together.
About five days after the electrocution, when we had been working late and were about to leave his private laboratory in the hospital, the emergency bell was jerked rapidly and violently and a man came hurrying in. I recognized him at once as the jailer. He stumbled up to Brodsky, mumbling some unintelligible words. The doctor took him by the shoulders.
“Gently,” he said, leading him to a chair. “Take your time.”
“You—told—me to come to you— if I was in trouble,” the man panted. “Then I did not know—what you meant. Now I know. My little girl—she—”
Excerpt From: Victor Rousseau. “Dr. Ivan Brodsky, Surgeon of Souls”
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