brings his "Violent Torpedo of Truth" show to Chicago on Sunday, we won't perform any diagnosis but simply state that many people wonder whether his recent hijinks suggest he has become unhinged. In his honor, let's take 10 looks at people who have displayed sudden bouts of bizarre behavior.
1 In medieval times, cases of mass hysteria were reported in Europe after cool, wet weather. Among the symptoms were hallucinations, writhing in agony and barking like a dog. Many experts believe that the affliction, known as "St. Anthony's Fire," was ergot poisoning, caused by a fungus growing on rye and other grains.
attacked another motorist's car in 1994 with a golf club because he was furious over being cut off in traffic. In a 2007 Golf Digest interview, he said he was "out of his mind," but he admitted he was clear-headed enough to grab his 2-iron, which he never used on the course.
3 Daniel Sickles, a
congressman, may have been the first American to claim "temporary insanity" as a defense. In 1859, he fatally shot his wife's lover, Philip Barton Key, son of "Star-Spangled Banner" composer
. Then Sickles hired eight lawyers to argue that his wife's infidelity had caused his "mental unsoundness." The jury bought it. Sickles went on to serve as a general in the Civil War, losing his right leg at Gettysburg and donating it to a museum, where he would visit it on the anniversary of the battle.
4 The word "berserk" comes from the Old Norse "berserkr," which means "bear shirt" and refers to a frenzied warrior wearing a bearskin shirt. The phrase "running amok" comes from the Malay word "amok," which means a furious attack.
5 Remember astronaut Lisa Nowak, who drove 1,000 miles in 2007 to confront a romantic rival while equipped with diapers and pepper spray? She was charged with attempted kidnapping and burglary — both felonies — as well as misdemeanor battery. But she was convicted of third-degree felony burglary and misdemeanor battery, and she got off with two days in jail (time served) and a year's probation, later reduced to nine months. Last month, she asked a judge to seal her criminal record because "it could impair her ability to obtain employment and support for her family." (By the way, Nowak's ex-boyfriend and her rival are now married.)
had a steel trap for a mind, coming up with complicated plots for her murder mysteries. But for 11 days in 1926, she may have come unhinged. Christie learned that her husband was having an affair, and she disappeared for 11 days. After her car was found abandoned, authorities dredged a nearby lake, and the British newspapers reported on every clue. She eventually was found in a Yorkshire hotel, claiming amnesia. But others speculated that she was simply trying to embarrass her husband.
7 It can be difficult to separate
from mental shakiness, because each can lead to the other. In 1974, a drunken and disturbed
stuck a Kotex on his forehead and wore it in Los Angeles' Troubadour nightclub. The joke didn't go over well. When Lennon asked a waitress, "Don't you know who I am?" she replied: "Yeah, you're some (expletive) with a Kotex on his forehead."
8 Tennis legend
was infamous for losing it over bad calls, but his antics in 1984 at the Stockholm Open were particularly embarrassing. After his usual rude remark to the umpire, he cleared a table of soda and water with a swipe of his racket, and in the process showered the king of Sweden, who was watching the match.
9 In 1994, Roseanne Barr accused husband
in a divorce filing of abusing her. Days later, she recanted and apologized, saying, "I just lost it completely and found myself camping in the sSequoias."
10 During a baseball game in 1996,
was called out, and he freaked out. The Baltimore Orioles star spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck, and said after the game that the ump had been bitter ever since his son died of a degenerative nerve disease. When Hirschbeck heard about that remark, he had to be restrained from attacking Alomar. The makings of a lifelong feud, right? Wrong. Alomar apologized, and the two are now friends. When Alomar was picked for the Hall of Fame this year, Hirschbeck said: "I'm very, very happy for him."
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor for the Tribune;
is the weekend editor.
Sources: "Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics, and History," by Mary Kilbourne Matossian; "Cuisine and Culture," by Linda Civitello; "Lethal Imagination: Violence and Brutality in American History," by Michael A. Bellesiles; "Sickles at Gettysburg," by James A. Hessler; "The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories"; "Lennon Revealed," by Larry Kane; "From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell," by Susan Rowland; London Daily Telegraph;