Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" in 1886. The central theme of the story is of two very different men who inhabit the same body. His characterization of the respectable Dr Jekyll, who turns into the ugly and deformed Mr Hyde has so griped the collective imagination that this story of duality is well known by virtually everyone.

The story is about the ego and it’s shadow, that dark feared part of our self that follows us wherever we go and “can look even the more sinister the more we try to stand in the light.”

"The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" has stood the test of time as a study of the origin and nature of human evil.

While it's assumed this is a fictional tale ~ the story below is not.

The Strange case of Phinas P. Gage

In September of 1848, Phinas P. Gage, 25 years old, was about to make medical history and become immortalized. Over a century and a half later, what happened to Phinas on that September day in Vermont has led to a new understanding of how the brain and body become one to form mind and personality.

Phinas Gage worked for the Rutland and Burlington Railroad and was part of a crew that was laying new tracks for the railroad’s expansion into Vermont. Gage was considered by his bosses “the most efficient and capable of men”, it was said that he was a virtuoso at setting explosive charges, having the ”physical prowess and keen concentration” that were essential for this task.

It was a freak accident, really. Gage was preparing a detonation when he was distracted and prematurely tapped the powder with an iron rod, sparking a fire that blew the charge upward into his face, propelling the iron rod into and through his brain.

The rod, made especially to Gage’s specifications was unusual; it was 3’7” in length and was tapered from 1 ¼ in. to ¼ in. in diameter. The force of the explosion thrust the point of the rod through Gage’s left cheek, pierced the base of his skull, traveled through the front of his brain and exited at high speed through the top of his head, landing more than a hundred feet away covered in blood and brains. Amazingly, Gage stunned but awake, was carried sitting upright in a wagon to a hotel where he waited over an hour for the doctor to arrive.

Surviving the explosion with so large of a wound to the head is surprising, remaining coherent immediately following is astonishing and even more unbelievable ~ Phinas Gage was pronounced cured in less than two months. And this is where the strange tale begins.

Though his physical recovery was complete, he could touch, hear, see, speak and was not paralyzed, it became clear as soon as the acute phase of the brain injury subsided that Phinas Gage was no longer Phinas Gage.

Before the accident Phinas was said to have “temperate habits” and a “well-balanced mind”. He was looked upon as “a shrewd, smart, business man, very energetic and persistent in executing his plans of action”. There is little doubt that in the context of his job and time he was successful and well thought of.

However, after the physical recover he was said to be “fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest of profanity ~ which was not previously his custom”. He manifested little concern for others and was impatient of restraint or advice that conflicted with his desires. He was "perniciously obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating". He devised many plans for the future but had no follow through. “A child in his intellectual capacity and manifestations, he had the animal passions of a strong man.” Gage was such a different man that friends and associates could not recognize him.

Once a dependable and respected employee Phinas Gage could no longer hold a job and it is said by some that he became a derelict, a circus side show exibit and wander who died in obscurity 13 years after his accident.

Though Stevenson said his inspiration for the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came from a startling dream in which he saw a character that appeared to be gentle and benign change into one that was malevolent. One has to wonder.

Stephen's Story

Fifteen year old Stephen had already been treated for alcoholism and had a string of juvenile arrests. A real problem child ~ a “bad seed” ~ according to his father. One night as his father walked through the door, Stephen put a gun to his right temple and fired ~ a practical joke gone horribly wrong.

Stephen was rushed to the hospital where surgeons removed the bullet, cleaned to wound and sutured it up. Stephen ultimately survived.

A year later Stephen had returned to school and was doing reasonably well in comparison to before the shot to his head. Plus, to his fathers delight, Stephens behavior had never been better. He no longer argued with his parents and showed little inclination to do anything away from home, good or bad.

When asked, ”Is he the son you knew before?” his father replied ~ ”No not at all. His personality is completely different; his sense of humor isn't what it was. No, he isn't like he was before, but I like him better this way.” Read “ A Bullet to the Mind” by Frank Vertosick Jr.

Could it be that the human capacity for good and evil is located in the white matter of the brains prefrontal cortex, that area of the brain adherents of phrenology refer to as The “Organ of Veneration" and/or the adjacent "Organ of Benevolence"?

Obviously the study of the mind and brain has come a long way since Phinas Gage, but it still has so far to go. However, these stories serve to remind us that good and evil reside side by side in each and everyone of us ~ and it only takes a moment of extreme physical or emotional trauma or a drug to disrupt the brain and completely change our character ~ for good or for bad.

Author's Bio: 

Patricia Lantz, is a practicing astrologer and hypnotherapist living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a former columnist,currently writes as the Atlanta Astrology Examiner and is the astrology editor at ~ an online community for spiritual and healing practices. Patricia invites you to follow her on as she examines life on this small planet through the mediums of astrology, hypnotherapy and other related topics You may e-mail Patricia at, or for information about the services she offers visit her home on the web at