In 1886, French gas fitter Jean-Albert Dadas was admitted to a Bordeaux hospital suffering from exhaustion. Normally he led a quiet life, he told a medical student, but occasionally he would be overcome by anxiety and headaches and then find himself in a distant city, apparently having traveled there on foot. If the local police didn’t arrest him for vagrancy he would report to the French consul, who would arrange for his travel back home.
Dadas was 26 when he arrived at the hospital, but the attacks had begun when he was 12. He’d been working as a manufacturer’s apprentice when he simply disappeared, and his brother found him in a neighboring town helping an umbrella salesman. Since then, the medical student wrote, Dadas had regularly deserted “family, work and daily life to walk as fast as he could, straight ahead, sometimes doing 70 kilometers a day.” Some journeys had taken him as far as Algeria and Moscow.
Dadas’ condition was diagnosed as dromomania or “pathological tourism.” Though they’re rarely seen today, such fugue states saw a curious vogue in France in the 1890s — and produced one memorable case in Pennsylvania.
En route to a training camp in Quebec during World War I, Canadian army lieutenant Harry Colebourn bought a bear cub for $20 from a hunter in White River, Ontario.
He named her Winnipeg, after his hometown, and smuggled her to England, where “Winnie” became the mascot of his militia regiment.
Eventually he donated her to the London Zoo, where she became a great favorite of Christopher Robin Milne, the son of a local playwright.
You know the rest.
On a Canadian speaking tour, Winston Churchill found himself sitting next to a Methodist bishop.
A young waitress offered each of them a glass of sherry.
Churchill accepted his, but the bishop said, “Young lady, I’d rather commit adultery than take an intoxicating beverage.”
Churchill said, “Come back, lassie, I didn’t know we had a choice!”
While you’re here, why not check out some more!
- Here’s my 2018: In Review — full of ‘best of’ pics from the year as well as travel and writing
- Here’s my essay on the fantastic Elif Shafak piece ‘Why The Novel Matters In The Age Of Anger’
Lastly, check out my book — The 9 to 5 Nomad: A Modern Guide For The Location-Independent Employee (full website)