Source: Medical Summary
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Mattoid, or Crank”
Date of publication: September 1915
Volume number: 37
Issue number: 7
|“The Mattoid, or Crank.” Medical Summary Sept. 1915 v37n7: pp. 194-95.|
|assassins (mental health); assassinations (comparison); Leon Czolgosz (mental health).|
|John Wilkes Booth; Leon Czolgosz [misspelled below]; James A. Garfield; William Jay Gaynor; Jay Gould; Charles J. Guiteau; Carter H. Harrison, Sr. [identified as Carter below]; Abraham Lincoln; Arthur MacDonald; William McKinley; Erich Muenter [identified as Holt below]; Edgar Allan Poe [middle name misspelled below]; Theodore Roosevelt; Walt Whitman.|
The Mattoid, or Crank
The more frequency of attacks on public men by
irresponsible persons in recent years calls for wider research into the matter
of incipient or half-concealed insanity. Dr. Arthur MacDonald of Washington,
whose works on criminology are regarded as authoritative, has given exhaustive
study to the “mattoid” because of his belief that this country is in peculiar
danger from this type of mental defectives who frequently menace the lives of
public men. The political criminal is nearly always a mattoid who attempts murder
because of some benefit he believes will result to the nation from the removal
[of] his victim.
The mattoid, or crank, is usually quiet [of] demeanor and therefore may conceal his aberration, thus increasing his danger. He may even be a genius of certain type and free from criminal instincts. It is said that Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman both exhibited many mattoid tendencies. [All?] extraordinary talent or genius might be termed a sort of ego-mania, and when this is not held within judicious bounds the possessors begin to assume the notion that they are vested with a divine mission. These vagaries may be prompted by selfish motives and the individual may attempt a heinous crime simply [to] further his own financial or political ends. Again, his motives may be altruistic as evidenced by the acts of over-zealous reformers and religious enthusiasts.
A brief consideration of the criminal mattoids who have startled our country during the past two or three decades is somewhat illuminating and emphasizes the need of better efforts directed toward the weeding out of this type of mental defective. The man who attempted to assassinate Colonel Roosevelt had an obsession on the third-term business from which he could not pry himself loose, and he was also influenced by a dream in which President McKinley appeared to him and said, “This is my murderer. Avenge my death.” Guiteau, the murderer of Garfield, was an educated mattoid laboring under the delusion that the country would be benefitted [sic] by his atrocious act. Booth, Lincoln’s slayer, was of the same type. Conditions growing out of the war had excited him to the point of fixing the blame upon one person. The assassin of Mayor Carter, of Chicago, and also  the man who attempted to take the life of Mayor Gaynor, of New York, were both of the criminal crank type and claimed their acts were justified. Another mattoid attempted to take the life of Jay Gould and adroitly became a servant in the household, which position he held with efficiency for three months. When, however, the time came for his murderous attack upon Mr. Gould, his plans were frustrated by his falling on the floor and dropping the sharpened fruit knife with which he intended cutting his victim’s throat. The man was overpowered and afterward placed in a private sanitarium in order that no publicity be given to the affair. Csolgosz, McKinley’s assassinator, was a young man possessing a low degree of intelligence and his vacillating brain was thrown entirely out of commission by the eading [sic] of anarchist literature. Holt, who came into the limelight more recently, seemed to have the delusion that he was acting in the interest of patriotism and humanity. His moral sense and natural affections seemed normal in other directions.
It is a great problem that confronts alienists, psychologists and anthropologists today—the detection and management of this dangerous class of individuals. The crank or paranoic [sic], who, by convert [sic] actions or by veiled or threatened speech shows signs that he may be a possible menace to society should be placed in strict isolation until his case has had painstaking investigation. The wholly insane are not nearly so dangerous as the half insane.