The Draugma

16 Sep

Dr. George Wahn arrived in New York City in 1951, hoping that he would be able to pick up with and carry forward the original research he had begun in Vienna before the coming of Hitler and the Nazis in 1938.

It took the immigrant psychiatrist less than a year to establish his medical credentials and obtain a license to practice. The biggest help to him came from the man who had sponsored his coming and supported him financially, Dr. Steve Saum. The latter brought him into his practice as a partner early in 1952.

Both therapists shared an interest in oneirology, the science of dreaming. George Wahn had carried out investigations in that area in Europe before World War II. He now wished to return to that unexplored wilderness of the mind. There was now opportunity for fresh study of dream phenomena here in America. He was determined to renew his probing on that subject.

One of his earliest New York patients, Miss Marie Findling, provided him a case where dreams were a central factor.

She was a tiny young woman with short auburn hair and coffee-colored eyes. Her plain woolen suit indicated to Dr. Wahn a certain caution and fearfulness of character.

Once she was seated across his desk from him, the analyst began to question her.

“Your records say that you suffer from horrible nightmares that persist a long time, Miss Findling,” the Austrian in a dark blue serge suit said softly.

“Yes,” she murmured. “Do my records describe what happens in them?”

The dark-skinned, dark-eyed psychiatrist grinned. “There appear to be strange, dangerous beasts that threaten you in these visions. Is that so?”

She gave a nod. “I do everything I can, but the dreams fail to end. What is wrong with me, Doctor? Am I actually mad or crazy? Is that the root of my troubles?”

“Dreams have always held deep interest for me,” said Wahn soothingly. “I wish you to describe in detail, as accurately as possible, what these animals that come in your sleep are like. Will you do that for me?”

Marie spent the rest of their session doing exactly that.

Lions resembled elephants for her. Tigers had the features of wolves. Bears looked similar to gorillas. On and on she proceeded, remembering her nightmares.

She gave fine details of the shape and color of each beast, one after the other. Wahn took many notes in shorthand on a small pad.

When the patient at last stopped, he looked at her with a strange, unexpected power in his eyes.

“I find what you have told me of great interest. We shall meet again in two weeks, Miss Findling. My plan is to search through the notebooks that I succeeded in bringing with me from Europe. The aim is to look for parallels to similar cases in my professional experience. That can be quite helpful. I believe that certain persistent dreams can contain patterns of great significance and importance for the patient.

“Till then, I will provide you certain sedatives that can help alieve the pain you feel sleeping with these visions.”

The two rose and shook hands, then the young woman departed for home. She continued to appear nervous and uneasy to her analyst.

I see aspects of her dreaming that strike me as familiar, Dr. Wahn told himself as he sat in thought for awhile.

Is something similar to certain events back in Vienna occurring here in New York City? he speculated.

Wahn spent the evening going through his oneirological records that survived the war.

The following morning he went to the office of his partner, Steve Saum, with an unusual request. The Austrian wished to go over the other’s patient records that involved any variety of dreaming.

The tall, thin American gave him a look of surprise.

“What are you after, George? Remember, this material is supposed to be kept private.”

The new partner smiled disarmingly. “I want to do some research on correspondences in dream content. I am not at all interested in the individual persons and their psychological complexes.”

Saum hesitated for several seconds. “I guess it will be alright,” he decided. “There is no possible harm that can come to anyone from what you plan to do, my friend.”

George Wahn was certain he knew how to find and identify a dream-casting draugma. Folklore of Austria, Germany, and most of Central Europe taught that special individuals with an arcane ability to broadcast night visions from one brain to another had always existed. These dreams that originated in the sleeping mind of a draugma were most often terrifying nightmares with horrid creatures in them.

Several times he had come across the tracks of such human transmitters back in Vienna. Now the psychiatrist thought he might find signs of a New York draugma in the patient records of Dr. Saum. He attacked the job of searching with energy and determination. It was on the fourth night, hours past midnight, that he came upon what he was after.

The name of the patient in question was Roy Rasgo. An artist in the advanced school of abstract expressionism, he suffered paranoid dreams of wild animals with fantastic ferocity. There had been no success by Dr. Saum in halting these nightmares through psychotherapy.

I must find this person and talk with him myself, decided Wahn. There was no other way of determining the truth of what he suspected.

He wrote down the address of the man’s apartment and made plans to visit him at home as soon as he could.

The short, pudgy young fellow who opened the door had shining gray eyes in a circular, freckled face.

“How can I help you ,sir?” he asked the tall, skinny Austrian.

“I have a great need to talk with you about a personal subject, Mr. Rasgo. Could I step in and explain to you what my business with you consists of?”

Without a word, the painter moved out of the way and let the stranger enter the flat. He closed the door and led Wahn to the center of the front room. The pair sat down on comfortable sofa chairs.

The visitor identified himself and revealed that he was the new partner of Dr. Saum.

“I have come to you seeking your assistance on a question of deep interest to me,” said the psychiatrist. “It has to do with your problem when you are asleep. I have learned that you see wild animals in your dreams.”

Wahn had to wait awhile to see what the reaction of the patient to this was to be. There did not appear to be any, at first.

“Would you be willing to describe those beasts for me?” the therapist asked in order to spur the other to say something. “It is very important for me to find out how these animals look to you.”

Rosgo now broke out in a torrent of words. He described bearlike gorillas, elephantine lions, wolfish tigers, and other odd creatures of a fantastic type. To his listener, they sounded familiar, because they matched up with what had terrified his own patient, Marie Findling. The resemblances between the two dream series appeared uncanny.

George Wahn, feeling his pulse and blood pressure rising, decided to risk explaining what he thought that he knew now to the abstract artist.

“You have told me things of immeasurable value, my good man. Let me explain to you what I believe is occurring within your mind. Unconsciously, you possess telesthenic powers by which you send out psychic emissions when you are asleep. These become the strongest when you are in a state of dreaming. Do you understand what that means? Without knowing or intending it, your own animal nightmares are projected outward onto the minds of other individuals who are asleep at the very same time. In other words, you are the kind of dream-caster called a draugma in my country.”

The painter gaped. “That is incredible!” he muttered. “How can it be? Surely, you have invented what you are now telling me.”

“No, the unconscious mind of man has unknown, untapped capabilities. Psychic transmission is the area that I myself have specifically studied, and I have concentrated on what is called dream-casting. It is a subject buried in superstition and arcane arts, but there is a core of reality there, when we look at it objectively. Centuries ago, persons who could send forth their own dreams were termed draugmas. Have you ever heard that word before?”

“No,” said Roy Rasgo with uncertainty. He was obviously confused by what he was hearing. “What can be done to stop or prevent such broadcasting if the dreams are terrifying nightmares?” asked the troubled artists. “What could you yourself do about that, if it is actually happening that way?”

Wahn leaned his head forward and stared hard at the artist. “There are a number of European herbs that I tested when I lived and worked in Austria. I tried to find out whether they could limit or even put an end to the bad dreams being sent from one mind to another. Would you be willing to cooperate with an attempt by me to continue these discontinued experiments in the area of herbal remedies? I cannot promise any rapid cure, of course.”

The face of Rasgo suddenly glowed with optimism and hope. “Yes, of course,” he answered. “When can I begin on that?”

“As soon as the medicinal herbs are prepared. I pray that they will have a beneficial effect upon what you are suffering from your dreams. If we succeed, the nightmares with the strange, frightening animals should decline, then finally disappear. That is what I plan to aim for.”

Dr. Saum’s face displayed the inner skepticism he felt as he listened to his partner explain what he was up to with his own patient, Roy Rasgo.

“You are placing a bet on these herbal substances, George,” he told his colleague. “What makes you believe there is any chance of success with them?”

Wahn smiled with certainty and confidence. “My ancestors in the Alps believed in an obscure god named Draugma, the ruler over the mind in sleep and dreams. This minor deity was an inhabitant of the underworld and only came forth at night, when humans were fast asleep. The idea was passed along into the Christian culture as a secret, invisible ghost or spirit of the darkness who only came forth in our dreams. It remained for ages in our German folklore. Only modern people laugh at the draugma and scorn any belief in its power to transmit visions of horror.”

“You think that you can establish a scientific basis for accepting dream-casting powers, then?” inquired his partner.

“I wish to mount a defense of the sleeping victim of attack. The target is, of course, unconscious at the time of the broadcasting. But I suspect that the psychic draugma is also unaware of what is occurring. Two unconscious minds are in an unwanted communication that has to be stopped.”

“Go ahead, then,” decided Steve Saum. “We will learn whether what you are theorizing is true or not.”

In a few days, Roy Rasgo was on an herbal regimen of half a dozen rare herbs supervised by Dr. George Wahn. At the same time, the latter made frequent visits to observe the condition of Marie Findling, the person he took to be the draugma shaping the dreams of the painter through dream projection while also asleep.

Frustration occurred from the beginning of the therapy of Rasgo. The nightmares continued, without decline or relief of any kind. There was no change whatever in the sleep of the target. And the drauma continued to suffer as severely as ever, as well.

Dr. Wahn felt himself fallen into a quandary. What was going on? Why had his initiative with the artist failed to work, when it had seemed so promising to him at the start?

He remained perplexed for several days, until he woke up one morning with a fresh new idea in mind.

Perhaps he was looking at the situation from the wrong side or direction.

He went directly to the home of his first, original patient early that day. She invited him into her kitchen, where she had begun to eat in the brightly lit breakfast nook.

“What is it, Dr. Wahn,” she asked after offering him French toast. “What is so urgent that it led to your visit here this morning?”

He gazed into her face with all the sincerity he could muster. “Marie,” he whispered. “Would you be willing to take a number of herbs every day? There is a chance they might affect your dreaming, at least in lessening the pain that they are causing you.”

She thought deeply several moments, gazing into the face of the Austrian.

“Why not?” was her reply. “Nothing else has been able to help, so far. What do I have to lose? Is there any risk involved?”

“Not that I can see,” said the therapist, smiling warmly at her.

He was correcting an unconscious mistake he had been making from the start. It was a confusion of the transmitter for the victim. Roy Rasgo had not been the receiver of disturbing dreams, but the draugma transmitting them from his unconscious brain. And Marie had not been the broadcaster who projected to the painter, but the innocent victim of his sendings.

One has to make radical corrections when one is proven wrong in the field of oneirology, the psychiatrist told himself. I shall not jump to unwarranted conclusions in the future, he vowed.


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