Folie à deux

Lasègue-Falret Syndrome (psychose partagée)

There are cases every day, writes Dalrymple,

that defeat the neurochemists and would have baffled Shakespeare himself.

He recalls a spinster in her fifties who lived in a council flat with her brother. They

appeared to be suffering from standard (if I may put it so) paranoid delusions.

The spinster believed that her neighbours, a simple and inoffensive West Indian couple,

  • were pumping poison gas into the flat
  • had invented an electronic thought scanner that read all her thoughts. She heard them talking about her, plotting to kill her, and referring to her in the most abusive terms

Her brother, who,

though only an unskilled worker, insisted on going everywhere by taxi and smoked cigarettes through an ivory and silver holder, like a proletarian Noël Coward,

also heard the voices and strenuously denied that his sister was mad. To prove it, he handed over to Dalrymple 10 tapes — 15 hours in all — of recordings of what he said were the whirring sound of the thought scanner and the voices of the neighbours taunting and insulting his sister.

Dalrymple promised to listen to the tapes when he had a spare 15 hours.

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