A Fatal Obsession

October 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, the strange  story of Austin’s Mr. Brauner, winter of 1890, from the Daily Statesman:

Mr. Brauner, who was found dead in his home south of the city last Sunday, was a native of Silesia. He was a graduate of the Vienna College of Architects where he took a full course, working in the city at odd jobs at the same time to obtain money to pay his way.

He was also a student in physics and had a good general education. After leaving college, he determined to come to America and worked his passage to Galveston, and from there he came to Austin, reaching here, as he often told, with just $2.00 in his pockets.

Being a practical workman, and understanding architecture, he soon secured work and for some years had more than ordinary success and accumulated some property.

He was eccentric however, and very superstitious and while superintending the construction of Mr. Newning’s residence at times he would hoist little flags to keep off, he said, evil spirits who were prone two warp roam about molesting the work of mortals.

He often talked about suicides to his friends in a general way and evidently he had given the matter much attention. He was thoroughly familiar with the different modes used to commit suicide, and as a student of physics he gave the various modes close study.

In short, he planned to several ways to commit suicide by physical force, and in conversation often asserted that a man could kill himself in such a way as to baffle the doctors and scientists. He asserted that by physical force and the use of certain instruments, he could take his own life in such a manner as to cause physicians and experts to positively affirm that no man could commit the act with his own hands.

The whole trend of his argument, while discoursing upon the subject, showed that the plans and modes he had studied out for self destruction were arranged especially for puzzling the physicians.

In a conversation a short time before his death, he brought up the subject of suicides and he was very confident that his mode would cause experts to declare that they were impossible and that a person using either of them never suicided but had been murdered or met death by accident.

When asked to explain his modes, he would refuse, and what object he had in wishing to confuse the doctors and experts, he never told.

Suicide with him was reduced to a physical science, and either of his plans successfully carried out would create wonder and cause doctors to look wise and calmly aver that it was impossible, while able coroners and intelligent inquest juries would have horrible visions of murder and assassination and suchlike.

Perhaps Mr. Brauner, who was a spiritualist, pictured in his own mind that if he should kill himself his spirit would be around at the inquest and have grim satisfaction in watching the confusion and listening to the various theories advanced as to how the deed was committed.


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