David Antin: A List of the Delusions of the Insane

David Antin
A List of the Delusions of the Insane: What They Are Afraid Of

The list reproduced here from David Antin’s Code of Flag Behavior (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow, 1969) is an expansion of the catalog originally compiled by Thomas Smith Clouston of “actual examples of delusions of about 100 female melancholic patients” (“and they far from exhaust the list,” he adds) (“Lecture II,” Clinical Lectures on Mental Illness, 6th ed. [Philadelphia: Lea Brothers, 1904], 78–80). William James includes the list in a footnote to The Principles of Psychology (Cambridge, Mass.: Har- vard University Press, 1981), 758.

the police
being poisoned
being killed
being alone
being attacked at night
being poor
being followed at night
being lost in a crowd
being dead
having no stomach
having no insides
having a bone in the throat
losing money
being unfit to live
being ill with a mysterious disease
being unable to turn out the light
being unable to close the door
that an animal will come in from the street that they will not recover
that they will be murdered
that they will be murdered when they sleep
that they will be murdered when they wake
that murders are going on all around them
that they will see the murderer
that they will not
that they will be boiled alive
that they will be starved
that they will be fed disgusting things
that disgusting things are being put into their food and drink that their flesh is boiling
that their head will be cut off
that children are burning
that they are starving
that all of the nutriment has been removed from food
that evil chemicals have been placed in the earth
that evil chemicals have entered the air
that it is immoral to eat
that they are in hell
that they hear people screaming
that they smell burnt flesh
that they have committed an unpardonable sin
that there are unknown agencies working evil in the world that they have no identity
that they are on fire
that they have no brain
that they are covered with vermin
that their property is being stolen
that their children are being killed
that they have stolen something
that they have too much to eat
that they have been chloroformed
that they have been blinded
that they have gone deaf
that they have been hypnotized
that they are the tools of another power
that they have been forced to commit murder
that they will get the electric chair
that people have been calling them names
that they deserve these names
that they are changing their sex
that their blood has turned to water
that insects are coming out of their body that they give off a bad smell
that houses are burning around them
that people are burning around them
that children are burning around them
that houses are burning
that they have committed suicide of the soul

From Against Expression, eds Craig Dworkin & Kenneth Goldsmith