In the fifth chapter of Mark, we read a strange story of the devil getting into the swine after he had been turned out of a man, and as the freaks of the devil in that story and the tumble-down description in this are very much alike, the two stories ought to go together.
The force of the imagination is capable of producing strange effects. When animal magnetism began in France, which was while Doctor (Benjamin) Franklin was Minister to that country, the wonderful accounts given of the wonderful effects it produced on the persons who were under operation, exceeded anything related in the foregoing letter from Washington County. They tumbled down, fell into trances, roared and rolled about like persons supposed to be bewitched.
The Government, in order to ascertain the fact, or detect the imposition, appointed a committee of physicians to inquire into the case, and Doctor Franklin was requested to accompany them, which he did. The committee went to the operator's house, and the persons on whom an operation was to be performed were assembled. They were placed in the position in which they had been when under former operations, and blindfolded.
In a little time they began to show signs of agitation, and in the space of about two hours they went through all the frantic airs they had shown before; but the case was, that no operation was performing upon them, neither was the operator in the room, for he had been ordered out of it by the physicians; but as the persons did not know this, they supposed him present and operating upon them. It was the effect of imagination only.
Doctor Franklin, in relating this account to the writer of this article, said, that he thought the government might as well have let it gone on, for that as imagination sometimes produced disorders it might also cure some. It is fortunate, however, that this falling down and crying out scene did not happen in New England a century ago, for if it had the preachers would have been hung for witchcraft, and in more ancient times the poor falling down folks would have been supposed to be possessed of a devil, like the man in Mark, among the tombs. The progress that reason and Deism make in the world lessen the force of superstition, and abate the spirit of persecution.