The annals of mad science are full of great men who selflessly put their bodies and minds on the alter of scientific research.
They cut corners.
They employed questionable logic in the pursuit of their grand dreams.
But hey, at least they had the certitude to experiment on themselves rather than the crop of buxom teens imprisoned in their basement.
Which leads us to our monster of the week: Dr. Jacob Freudstein.
You’ll remember the good doctor from Lucio Fulci’s 1981 film The House by the Cemetery, which documented the Victorian surgeon’s legacy a good 150 years after his supposed demise.
As the film reveals, Freudstein is actually
very much somewhat alive. He’s managed to cheat death, but sadly his self-extermination reduced him to a grotesque and inhuman state. His funding long canceled, Dr. F has no other choice but to squat in an old cellar, pilfer graves and murder townspeople for body parts.
So Freudstein’s body exists in a state of living necrosis. Stab him and a stream of maggots (and what appears to be KFC gravy) gushes out on the floor. His eyes and mouth have atrophied to mere slits and his once gifted mind too seems nothing but putrid jelly at this point. He just shambles through the motions of murder and twisted surgical procedures to continue his foul mockery of life.
Much like KFC gravy itself, Dr. F’s immortality is a secret recipe. He never published it when he was alive and simply isn’t capable of doing so today. Sure, he occasionally appearances on cable news programs, where he weighs in on health topics, but his contributions always amount to unintelligible groans and fatal stabbings. He never comes clean on how he lived past his 150th birthday.
But we can make some decent guesses.
For starters, Dr. F’s addiction to harvested blood and organs actually fits in nicely with modern medicine’s use of organ transplant and blood transfusions. Gerontologist Aubrey de Grey outlines seven ways to prolong human life—a kind of road map to immortality—and it should come as no surprise that he treads right into Freudstein territory. Check out what he identifies as the first hurdle to long life and how to overcome it (via MIT Technology Review):
Loss and atrophy or degeneration of cells: This element of aging is particularly important in tissues where cells cannot replace themselves as they die, such as the heart and brain. De Grey would treat it primarily by the introduction of growth factors to stimulate cell division or by periodic transfusion of stem cells specifically engineered to replace the types that have been lost.
So did Dr. Freudstein chance upon the power of stem cells a good century before the rest of humanity? It would certainly account for all his murder, blood-draining, and body chopping. After all, adult stem cells pop up in brain, bone marrow, peripheral blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, skin, teeth, heart, gut, liver, ovarian epithelium and testis—all likely ingredients in Dr. F’s grisly gerontological smoothy.
We can only assume he uses a straw.
Want to get to know the good doctor better? Check out the trailer below or view the public domain film in full online. And if you want to learn more about the quest for immortality, listen to the Stuff to Blow Your Mind episode 999 Birthday Candles.
Monster of the Week is a — you guessed it — weekly look at the denizens of our monster-haunted world. In some of these, we’ll look at the possible science behind a creature of myth, movie or legend. Other times, we”ll just wax philosophic about the monster’s underlying meaning. After all, the word “monstrosity” originates from the Latin monstrare, which meant to show or illustrate a point.
Originally published at HSW: Monster of the Week: Dr.Freudstein
Robert Lamb is a senior staff writer at HowStuffWorks.com and co-host of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast and blog. He is also a regular contributor to Discovery News. Follow him on Twitter @blowthemind.