It was here that I suffered the complete breakdown of the nerves to which I have referred. What I experienced during the period of the illness surpasses all belief. My sight and hearing were always extraordinary. I could clearly discern objects in the distance when others saw no trace of them. Several times in my boyhood I saved the houses of our neighbors from fire by hearing the faint crackling sounds which did not disturb their sleep, and calling for help. In 1899, when I was past forty and carrying on my experiments in Colorado, I could hear very distinctly thunderclaps at a distance of 550 miles. My ear was thus over thirteen times more sensitive, yet at that time I was, so to speak, stone deaf in comparison with the acuteness of my hearing while under the nervous strain.
In Budapest I could hear the ticking of a watch with three rooms between me and the time-piece. A fly alighting on a table in the room would cause a dull thud in my ear. A carriage passing at a distance of a few miles fairly shook my whole body. The whistle of a locomotive twenty or thirty miles away made the bench or chair on which I sat, vibrate so strongly that the pain was unbearable. The ground under my feet trembled continuously. I had to support my bed on rubber cushions to get any rest at all. The roaring noises from near and far often produced the effect of spoken words which would have frightened me had I not been able to resolve them into their accumulated components. The sun rays, when periodically intercepted, would cause blows of such force on my brain that they would stun me. I had to summon all my will power to pass under a bridge or other structure, as I experienced the crushing pressure on the skull. In the dark I had the sense of a bat, and could detect the presence of an object at a distance of twelve feet by a peculiar creepy sensation on the forehead. My pulse varied from a few to two hundred and sixty beats and all the tissues of my body with twitchings and tremors, which was perhaps hardest to bear. A renowned physician who have me daily large doses of bromide of potassium, pronounced my malady unique and incurable.
It is my eternal regret that I was not under the
observation of experts in physiology and psychology at that time. I
clung desperately to life, but never expected to recover. Can anyone
believe that so hopeless a physical wreck could ever be transformed
into a man of astonishing strength and tenacity; able to work
thirty-eight years almost without a day's interruption, and find
himself still strong and fresh in body and mind? Such is my case. A
powerful desire to live and to continue the work and the assistance of
a devoted friend, an athlete, accomplished the wonder. My health
returned and with it the vigor of mind.