Pathology of Lying, Etc. by William and Mary Healy

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“Bonus et sapiens et peritus utilitatis dignitatisque civilis.”


This volume is one of a series of Monograph Supplements to the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. The publication of the Monographs is authorized by the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology. Such a series has become necessary in America by reason of the rapid development of criminological research in this country since the organization of the Institute. Criminology draws upon many independent branches of science, such as Psychology, Anthropology, Neurology, Medicine, Education, Sociology, and Law. These sciences contribute to our understanding of the nature of the delinquent and to our knowledge of those conditions in home, occupation, school, prison, etc., which are best adapted to elicit the behavior that the race has learned to approve and cherish.

This series of Monographs, therefore, will include researches in each of these departments of knowledge insofar as they meet our special interest.

It is confidently anticipated that the series will stimulate the study of the problems of delinquency, the State control of which commands as great expenditure of human toil and treasure as does the control of constructive public education.

Editor of the Journal of Criminal COMMITTEE ON PUBLICATION Law and Criminology, OF THE
University of Illinois.


Careful studies of offenders make group-types stand out with distinctness. Very little advancement in the treatment of delinquents or criminals can be expected if typical characteristics and their bearings are not understood. The group that our present work concerns itself with is comparatively little known, although cases belonging to it, when met, attract much attention. It is to all who should be acquainted with these striking mental and moral vagaries, particularly in their forensic and psychological significances, that our essay is addressed. In some cases vital for the administration of justice, an understanding of the types of personality and of behavior here under discussion is a prime necessity.

The whole study of characterology or the motivation of conduct is extremely new, and there are many indications of immense values in uncovered fields. Some appreciation of this fact may be gained from the following pages which show the possibility of tracing one form of behavior to its source.

We have laid under contribution practically the entire literature on the subject, almost none of which is in English, and also the thorough-going longitudinal case studies made by the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute of Chicago. In the latter material there was found much of value bearing upon the subject of lying, false accusation, and swindling of pathological character.

Our institute, later taken over officially by the Juvenile Court of Cook County, was for five years maintained upon a foundation provided by Mrs. W. F. Dummer.


June, 1915.






Through comparison of the literature on pathological lying with our own extensive material we are led to perceive the insistent necessity for closer definition of the subject than has been heretofore offered. Reasons for excluding types earlier described as pathological liars will be found throughout our work. Better definition goes hand in hand with better understanding, and it is only natural that formal, detailed contemplation of the subject should lead to seeing new lines of demarcation.

Definition: Pathological lying is falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view, engaged in by a person who, at the time of observation, cannot definitely be declared insane, feebleminded, or epileptic. Such lying rarely, if ever, centers about a single event; although exhibited in very occasional cases for a short time, it manifests itself most frequently by far over a period of years, or even a life time. It represents a trait rather than an episode. Extensive, very complicated fabrications may be evolved. This has led to the synonyms:–mythomania; pseudologia phantastica.

It is true that in the previous literature, under the head of pathological liars, cases of epilepsy, insanity, and mental defect have been cited, but that is misleading. A clear terminology should be adopted. The pathological liar forms a species by himself and as such does not necessarily belong to any of these larger classes. It is, of course, scientifically permissible, as well as practically valuable, to speak of the epileptic or the otherwise abnormal person through his disease engaging in pathological lying, but the main classification of an individual should be decided by the main abnormal condition.

A good definition of pathological accusation follows the above lines. It is false accusation indulged in apart from any obvious purpose. Like the swindling of pathological liars, it appears objectively more pernicious than the lying, but it is an expression of the same tendency. The most striking form of this type of conduct is, of course, self-accusation. Mendacious self- impeachment seems especially convincing of abnormality. Such falsification not infrequently is episodic.

The inclusion of swindling in our discussion is due to the natural evolution of this type of conduct from pathological lying. Swindling itself could hardly be called a pathological phenomenon, since it is readily explicable by the fact that it is entered into for reasons of tangible gain, but when it is the product of the traits shown by a pathological liar it, just as the lying itself, is a part of the pathological picture. It is the most concrete expression of the individual’s tendencies. This has been agreed to by several writers, for all have found it easy to trace the development of one form of behavior into the other. As Wulffen says, “Die Gabe zu Schwindeln ist eine `Lust am Fabulieren.’ ” Over and over again we have observed the phenomenon as the pathological liar gradually developed the tendency to swindle.

Notwithstanding the grave and sensational social issues which arise out of pathological lying, accusation, and swindling, there is very little acquaintance with the characteristics of cases showing this type of behavior, even by the people most likely to meet the problems presented. Lawyers, or other professional specialists have slight knowledge of the subject. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the pathological lying does not follow the usual lines of abnormal human behavior, unless it be among the insane where other symptoms proclaim the true nature of the case. Another reason for the slight acquaintance with the subject is the fact that almost nothing has been written on it in English.

The important part which behavior of this type sometimes plays in court work is witnessed to by the records of our own cases as well as those cited in the previous literature. The legal issues presented by pathological lying may be exceedingly costly. These facts make it important that the well-equipped lawyer, as well as the student of abnormal psychology, be familiar with the specific, related facts. For such students the cardinal point of recognition of this class of conduct may at once be stated to be its apparent baselessness.

The only method by which good understanding may be obtained of the types of personality and mentality involved in pathological lying, accusation, and swindling, as well as of the genetics of these tendencies, is by the detailed reading of typical case histories. In this fact is found the reason for the presentation of this monograph. Appreciation of the nature of the phenomena can only be obtained through acquaintance with an entire career. Any of us may be confronted by fabrications so consistent as to leave at one or several interviews the impression of truth.

Our selection of literature to summarize needs no explanation. We have simply taken all that we could find which specifically bears on the problem. Lying, in general, especially as a form of delinquency, has received attention at the hands of some authors, notably Ferriani[1] and Duprat.[2] The falsifications and phantasies of children and adolescents have been dealt with by Stanley Hall.[3] None of these goes into the important, narrower field with which we are here concerned. The foreign literature is vitally important in its opening up of the subject, but from the standpoint of modern psychopathology it does not adequately cover the ground.

[1] Ferriani, Lino, “L’Enfance criminelle.” Milan, 1894. (Trans. Minderjahrige Verbrecher. Berlin, 1896.)

[2] Duprat, G.-L., “Le mensonge.” Alcan, Paris, 1903.

[3] Hall, G. Stanley, “Children’s Lies.” Amer. Journal of Psychology, Jan. 1890; pp. 59-70.

The fabrications, often quite clever, of the clearly insane, which in earlier literature are confounded with pathological lying, we have discriminated against as not being profitable for us to discuss here, while not denying, however, the possibility in some instances of lies coexisting with actual delusions. We well remember a patient, a brilliant conversationalist and letter writer, but an absolutely frank case of paranoia, whom we had not seen for a period during which she had concocted a new set of notions involving even her own claim to royal blood, confronting us with a merry, significant smile and the remark, “You don’t believe my new stories, do you?”

A short statement on the relation of lying to delinquency may be of interest here. Ferriani’s discussion[4] of the lying of 500 condemned juvenile offenders, with classification of their lies, ranging from self-defense, weakness, and fancy, to nobility of purpose, does not include our field. Nor does he leave much room for appreciation of the fact we very definitely have observed, namely, that plenty of young offenders are robust speakers of the truth. Our analysis[5] of the delinquencies of 1000 young repeated offenders carefully studied by us does not tell the proportion of truth tellers as distinguished from liars, but it does give the number in which lying was a notable and excessive trait. The total number of males studied was 694, of females 306. Ages ranged from 6 to 22; average about 16 years.

[4] loc. cit.

[5] Vide p. 140, in chapter on Statistics, William Healy, “The Individual Delinquent.” Little, Brown, and Co. Boston, 1915.


Lying–counted only when excessive and a 104 80 notorious characteristic of the individual, (15%) (26%)
False accusations–only recorded when of an 5 16 excessive and dangerous sort, (.7%) (5%)

The exact number of pathological liars is not determinable in our series because of the shading of this lying into other types. It would be safe to say that 8 or 10 of the 1000 were genuine cases of pathological lying according to our definition, that 5 more engaged in pathological false accusations without a notorious career in other kinds of lying. Examples of borderline mental cases showing fantastic lying and accusations are given in our special chapter. Some of the cases of pathological lying given in this work do not belong to the series of 1000 cases analyzed for statistical purposes. The extraordinary number of times several of these individuals appeared in court (resembling in this respect the European case histories) shows that the total amount of trouble caused by this class is not in the least represented by their numerical proportion among offenders.

We have purposely limited our own material for presentation. Here, as elsewhere, we insist on the value of genetics and consequently have busied ourselves at length with those cases where we could gain something like an adequate conception of the antecedents in family and developmental histories and where some measure of the psychogenetic features could be taken. Cases of older individuals with their prolonged and often picturesque careers, equivalent to those recounted in European literature, we have left strictly alone. One ever finds that the older the individual the less one can learn satisfactorily of beginnings of tendencies, just on account of the unreliability of the principal actor in the drama. The cases of older swindlers at first sight seem to offer much for the student of criminalistics, if only for purely descriptive purposes, but in the literature we have failed to find any satisfactory studies of the formative years of such careers. By taking instances of younger pathological liars, such as we have studied, the natural progress into swindling can be readily seen.

In court work we have been brought face to face with many cases of false accusation and, of course, with plenty of the usual kind of lying. Where either of these has been entered into by way of revenge or in belief that it would aid in getting out of trouble, no further attention has been paid to it from the standpoint of pathological lying. Our acquaintance with some professional criminals, particularly of the sneak-thief or pick-pocket class, has taught us that living conditions for the individual may be founded on whole careers of misrepresentation and lies–for very understandable reasons. Self-accusations may sometimes be evolved with the idea of gaining directly practical results, as when a lover or a comrade is shielded, or when there is danger of a larger crime being fastened on the self-incriminator.

In selection and treatment of our material we have confined ourselves as closely as possible to the definition first given in this chapter–a definition that after some years of observation we found could be made and held to. While we would not deny that some of our cases may eventually find their way into an insane hospital, still none of them, except some we have enumerated under the name of border-line types, has so far shown any indication of this. That some of our cases have more or less recovered from a strongly-marked and prolonged inclination to falsify is a fact of great importance for treatment and prognosis.

We see neither reason for including insane cases nor for overlapping the already used classifications which are based on more vital facts than the symptom of lying. Our use of abnormal cases in our chapter, “Illustrations of Border-Line Types,” will be perfectly clear to those who read these cases. They represent the material not easily diagnosed, sometimes after long observation by professional people, or else they are clearly abnormal individuals who, by the possession of certain capacities, manage to keep their heads well above the level of social incompetency as judged by the world at large.

We have introduced only the cases where we have had ample proof that the individual had been given to excessive lying of our peculiar type. In the court room and working with delinquents outside the court, it is in rare instances totally impossible to know where the truth finally rests; such have been left out. Then, too, we omit cases in which false accusations have about them the shadow of even a suspicion of vindictiveness. False accusations of young children against parents would hardly seem to have such a basis, and yet in some instances this fact has come out clearly. Grudge-formation on the part of young individuals has all through our work been one of the extraordinary findings; capacity for it varies tremendously in different individuals.

Several forms of excessive lying, particularly those practised by children and adolescents, are not discussed by us because they are largely age phenomena and only verge upon the pathological as they are carried over into wider fields of conduct. The fantasies of children, and the almost obsessional lying in some young adolescents, too, we avoid. There is much shading of typical pathological lying into, on the one hand, the really insane types, and, on the other hand, into the lying which is to be explained by quite normal reactions or where the tendency to mendacity is only partially developed.

It has been a matter of no small interest to us that in planning this monograph we conceived it necessary to consider part of our material under the head of episodic pathological lying and that later we had to omit this chapter. Surely there had been cases–so it seemed to us at first–where purposeless lying had been indulged in for a comparatively short time, particularly during the adolescent period, without expression of a prevaricating tendency before or after this time. When we came to review our material with this chapter in mind we found no sufficient verification of the fact that there was any such thing as episodic pathological lying, apart from peculiar manifestations in cases of epilepsy, hysteria, and other mental abnormalities. A short career of extensive lying, not unfrequently met with in work for juvenile courts and other social agencies, seems, judging from our material, to be always so mixed up with other delinquencies or unfortunate sex experiences that the lying, after all, cannot be regarded as purposeless. It is indulged in most often in an attempt to disguise undesirable truths. That false accusations and even self-accusations are engaged in for the same purpose goes without saying. The girl who donned man’s clothes, left home and lived for months a life of lies was seeking an adventure which would offset intolerable home conditions. The young woman who after seeing something of the pleasures of the world was placed in a strict religious home where she told exaggerated stories about her own bad behavior, was endeavoring to get more freedom elsewhere. A young fellow whom we found to be a most persistent and consistent liar was discovered to have been already well schooled in the art of professional criminalistic self-protection. So it has gone. Investigation of each of these episodic cases has shown the fabrications to emanate either from a distinctly abnormal personality or to partake of a character which rules them out of the realm of pathological lying. In our cases of temporary adolescent psychoses lying was rarely found a puzzling feature; the basic nature of the case was too easily discoverable.

A fair question to ask at this point is whether pathological lying is ever found to be the only delinquency of the given individual. We should hesitate to deny the possibility of its being the sole offense, but in our study of a long list of cases, and after review of those reported by other authors, it seems practically impossible to find a case of this. The tendencies soon carry the person over to the production of other delinquencies, and if these do not come in the category of punishable offenses, at least, through the trouble and suffering caused others, they are to be regarded essentially as misconduct.

The reverse of the above question deserves a word or two of attention; are there marked cases of delinquency which do not show lying? Surveying the figures of Ferriani[6] who enumerated thousands of lies, belonging to his nine classes of prevarications, which a group of 500 young offenders indulged in, one would think that all delinquents are liars many times over. But as a matter of fact we have been profoundly astonished to discover that a considerable percentage of the cases we have studied, even of repeated offenders, have proved notably truthful. Occasionally the very person who will engage in a major form of delinquency will hesitate to lie. Our experience shows this to be less true, however, of sex delinquency than perhaps of any other. This statement is based on general observations; the accurate correlations have not been worked up. Occasionally the professional criminal of many misdeeds is proud of his uprightness in other spheres of behavior, including veracity. But even here one would have to classify carefully, for it is obvious that the typical swindler would find lying his best cloak of disguise. On the other hand, a bold safe-blower may look down with scorn upon a form of criminality which demands constant mendacity.

[6] loc. cit.

Realizing that pathological lying is a type of delinquency, and following the rule that for explanation of conduct tendencies one must go to youthful beginnings, we have attempted to gain the fullest possible information about the fundamentals of developmental and family history, early environment, and early mental experiences. Fortunately we have often been able to obtain specific and probably accurate data on heredity. The many cases which have been only partially studied are not included. Successive cross-section studies have been made in a number of cases, and it has been possible to get a varying amount of after-history. Observational, historical, and analytical data thus accumulated have given us a particularly favorable opportunity for discerning the bases of this special delinquent tendency. The results of the various kinds of social treatment which have been undertaken are not the least interesting of our facts.

To enumerate the results obtained on the many mental tests given in most cases seems quite unnecessary for the purpose of this monograph. We have referred to a few points of special interest and rarely have designated the results on tests in our series. In general, the reader probably will be better off with merely the statement of the principal findings and of the mental diagnosis.

Of much interest for the present subject is the development of psychological studies of testimony or report. Because of the natural expectation that the pathological liar might prove to be an unreliable witness our studies on this point will be offered in detail. For years we have been giving a picture memory test on the order of one used extensively abroad. This “Aussage” Test is the one described as Test VI in our monograph on Practical Mental Classification.[7] More recently our studies on the psychology of testimony have led us into wider fields of observation, and here the group of cases now under discussion may have to stand by themselves. The picture, the record of testimony on which is given in some detail in our case histories, is that of a butcher’s shop with objects and actions that are universally comprehended. After careful and fair explanation of what is about to be undertaken, the picture is exposed for ten seconds, and then the examinee is asked to give a free recital of all he saw. When he states that no more is remembered he is questioned on omitted details. (All told, there are about 50 details of varying importance in the picture.) During the progress of this part of the examination he is asked if he saw 7 objects which might well be in a butcher shop, but which are not in the picture. This is the test for susceptibility to suggestion. All points are carefully scored. Norms on this test, as on many others, it seems hardly fair to give by averages–there is much variation according to mentality and even personality groups. Practically all of our cases of pathological lying range above the age of young childhood, so it is not necessary here to discuss the characteristics of young children’s testimony. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that the ordinary individual recalls voluntarily or upon questioning upwards of 20 items, and does not give incorrect items to any extent. On questioning he may perhaps accept one or two of the seven suggestions, but when details in general are asked for he does not add fictional items more than are accounted for by some little slip of memory. One can find definite types of intellectual honesty, even among children of 10 or 12 years of age, when there is no tampering with the truth; if an item has not been observed, there is no effort to make it seem otherwise. For discussion of the results on this test among our pathological liars we refer to our chapter on conclusions.

[7] “Tests for Practical Mental Classification,” by William Healy and Grace M. Fernald, Monograph No. 54. Psychological Review Pub. Co., 1911, Princeton University, Princeton, N. J.

The short summary of causative factors given at the end of the case study deals only with the factors of delinquency. To avoid misinterpretation of the coordinated facts, what they are focused upon should ever be remembered. The statement of these ascertained factors brings out many incidental points which should be of interest to lawyers and other students of criminalistics.

It should be needless to state to our professional readers that the personalities represented in our case histories are entirely fictitious, but that alterations have been made only in such facts as will not impair scientific values. We confess to no particular pleasure in writing up this rather sordid material; the task is undertaken because such studies offer the only way to gain that better understanding which is necessary for adequate treatment of special types of human beings.



The subject of pathological lying was first definitely brought to the attention of the medical and legal professions by the studies of Delbruck.[8] The aim of this work was to follow the development of a symptom but little commented upon up to this time, a symptom, as he says, found in every healthy person in slight degree, but in some cases rising to pathological significance and perhaps dominating the entire picture of abnormal traits–thus becoming pathognomonic. This symptom he at the outset calls lying.

[8] “Die pathologische Luge und die psychisch abnormen Schwindler. Eine Untersuchung Uber den allmahlichen Uebergang eines normalen psychologischen Vorgangs in ein pathologisches Symptom, fur Aerzte und Juristen.” Pp. 131, Stuttgart, 1891.

Through an elaborate and exhaustive investigation of the lies told by five patients over a period of years, he came to the conclusion that the form of falsifying in these cases deserves a new and separate name. It was not ordinary lying, or delusion, or false memory, these words express only part of the conception; hence he coined the new term, pseudologia phantastica, to cover the species of lying with which he was concerned. Later German writers have also adopted his terminology.

To emphasize the method by which he arrived at this conclusion and to gain at the same time some knowledge of the problems he dealt with, we may review in bare outline his case-studies.

The first patient presented by Delbruck was an Austrian maid-servant who in her wanderings through Austria and Switzerland had played at various times the roles of Roumanian princess, Spaniard of royal lineage, a poor medical student, and the rich friend of a bishop. Her lying revealed a mixture of imagination, boastfulness, deception, delusion, and dissimulation. She romanced wonderfully about her royal birth and wrote letters purporting to be from a cardinal to herself. She fled disguised as a man from an educational institution to Switzerland where her sex was discovered. It appeared that she was subject to contrary sex feelings and thought of herself as a man. She was under the observation of Krafft-Ebing at one time. He considered it at least as a case of paranoia. Others had determined the girl to be a psychopath who indulged in simulations and lies. Delbruck denominated it a case of direct lying with a tendency to phantasies, delusions, and dissimulations. Delbruck from this case argues that a mixture of lies and delusions is possible, comparing such a state with dreaming and with the hypnotic condition in which one follows the suggestion of the hypnotizer and is still aware of the fact. It was evident at times that this girl half believed her own stories, then again that she had forgotten her former lies. In her, Delbruck considers perverted sex feeling and hysteria revealed a brain organization abnormal from birth. There was the instinctive tendency to lie.

The second patient, an epileptic girl, had been many times imprisoned and also sent to the Charite for examination into her sanity before Delbruck saw her. Her peculiar method was to approach strangers, claiming to be a relative coming from another city to visit. If cordially received she would stay as long as her welcome lasted, then depart taking with her any of their possessions her fancy chose. Many prominent physicians examined her and were unable to decide as to her responsibility; judges and others said she was a willful deceiver, a refined swindler. Delbruck, looking deeper, found that she was suffering from hysteria, having hystero-epileptic seizures with following delirium, or rather twilight states. Though her delinquencies seemed to show cunning and skill, a careful investigation revealed the fact that this was merely aberrant. Generally her thieving was undertaken in feebleminded fashion; many times she stole things worthless to herself. Evidences of her pathological mentality were that she would give orders for groceries, would buy children’s clothes, or send for a physician under an assumed name. She might not go back for the groceries, but after ordering them would say she would return with the carriage. The characteristic fact throughout her career was that she wished to appear to be some one wealthier, more influential than she was. Delbruck classifies her as high-grade feebleminded, suffering from convulsive attacks and peculiar states of consciousness, with a morbid tendency to lying. She possessed no power to realize the culpable nature of her acts when she was performing them.

His third patient as a boy appeared normal both mentally and physically. In his youth he went through the gymnasium and then studied theology. He spent money very freely on clothing and books, but at this period neither stole nor lied. After finishing his theological studies, he preached in his home town and was regarded as a young man of great promise. Then came a change; he began to write strange letters, telling of some positions offered him, he borrowed money freely from relatives and friends who were willing to give because they believed in his coming career. When studied, it was concluded by Delbruck that this was a case of constitutional psychosis, hysteria, moral insanity, and psychopathy–all of these forms being interrelated. Outside of masturbation, begun in early childhood and indulged in excessively at times, no causal factors were discovered. He considered that this case offered a good illustration of the peculiar coexistence of real lies and delusions in the same individual.

His fourth case was that of an artful, deceitful, arrogant, selfish boy, always clever in excuses, who had stolen from the age of twelve, often stolen things that he threw away. Though of Protestant family, he delighted to draw Catholic insignia and embroider religious characters. He finally entered the university, always lying and stealing. At the end of three months he was taken home in debt 2000 marks. He later became a Catholic. Outside of normal expense he had cost his father 28,000 marks. By the time he was studied he had already taken opium for four years, having started because of neuralgia. There had been a severe operation on account of some trouble with the teeth. It was discovered that there was contrary sexual feeling in this case also. The patient had a great inclination for doing woman’s handwork. Delbruck again considered the early appearance of character anomalies and perverted sex feeling to prove a deep-seated abnormality of nervous constitution. He diagnosed it as a case of constitutional psychosis; the extent of the abnormalities showing the individual to be irresponsible.

His last patient was an alcoholic adventurer, early life unknown, who had an idiotic sister. He had lived long in America and returned to Germany full of stories of his wonderful achievements over seas. This case does not concern us except to emphasize the influence of alcohol in the development of such cases.

This outline is sufficient to show the justification of his conclusion, namely, that just as in healthy people a mixing of lies and mistakes may occur, so the same combination may reach a pathological height, and one can diagnose a mixture of lies with delusions or false memories.

These studies focus our attention on the following points which are valuable to emphasize for the purpose of this monograph: the complexity of details to be examined in the life of any one patient in whose delinquencies pathological lying is a factor, the variety of cases in which this factor may occur, hence the difficulties in the way of determining the extent to which the patient is responsible for his deeds and whether he belongs in a reformatory or an insane hospital. From the standpoint of society Delbruck’s work has great use, since it reveals so plainly the menace that these liars are to their families and to the community as a whole, their unscrupulousness in financial dealings, their tendencies to bring false accusations involving families and friends alike in useless expense and litigation.

German studies on pseudologia phantastica since Delbruck’s time have followed the line of amplification of his views and clarification of the subject by the addition of new types.

Koppen[9] attempted to differentiate sharply and to analyze more accurately the conception of the pathological lie. He found it impossible to make an absolute separation between pathological lies and normal lies. The lies of the mentally diseased are seldom pathological. They lie, but their lies do not differ from those of the mentally sound. We cannot call the results delusional lies. Among imbeciles we find a peculiar disposition to lying, especially among those of criminal inclination. Their lies do not separate themselves either in content or in relation to the rest of their ideas from the lies of the mentally diseased. Here follows his positive contribution to the conception; the pathological lie is active in character, a whole sequence of experiences is fabricated and the products of fancy brought forward with a certainty that is astonishing. The possibility that the untruth may be at any minute demolished does not abash the liar in the least. Remonstrances against the lies make no impression. On closer inspection we find that the liar is no longer free, he has ceased to be master of his own lies, the lie has won power over him, it has the worth of a real experience. In the final stage of the evolution of the pathological lie, it cannot be differentiated from delusion. Pathological lies have long been credited to hystericals, they are now known to arise in alcoholics, imbeciles, degenerates. All pathological liars have a purpose, i.e., to decorate their own person, to tell something interesting, and an ego motive is always present. They all lie about something they wish to possess or be.

[9] “Ueber die pathologische Lugner,” Charite-Annalen, 8, 1898. Pp. 674-719.

Koppen offers three case studies: I. A man who had suffered from many epileptic seizures came from a family in which there was insanity. He gave himself many false titles, and from his childhood pathological lying had been a prominent symptom. As an example, when he married against his father’s will, he at the wedding read a false dispatch, pretending it to be congratulations from his family. Koppen suggests that this individual was incapable of meeting life as it really was and he therefore wove a mass of phantasies. II. A young man charged with grave falsifications. He had come from an epileptic family and himself had slight attacks in childhood. He bore various pathological stigmata. Koppen considered that the patient believed his own stories about his rather superior education and that in general his lies became delusions which influenced his actions. He diagnosed the case as psychotic; insane in a legal sense. III. A young man undoubtedly insane brought forward his pathological lies with such force that Koppen was persuaded that the patient believed in them.

Bernard Risch[10] has seen many cases of delinquents with more or less marked psychopathic signs in which pathological lying was the focal point. He reports five cases at great length, in all of whom the inclination to fabricate stories, “der Hang zum fabulieren,” is irresistible and apparently not to be repressed by efforts of the will. Risch’s main points, built up from study of his cases, are worthy of close consideration: 1. Mental processes similar to those forming the basis of the impulse to literary creation in normal people lie at the foundation of the morbid romances and fancies of those afflicted with pseudologia phantastica. The coercive impulse for self-expression, with an accompanying feeling of desire and dissatisfaction, plays a similar part in both. That the making up of tales is an end in itself for the abnormal swindler, just as it is for the normal author, seems clear to Risch. 2. The morbid impulse which forces “zum fabulieren” is bound up with the desire to play the role of the person depicted. Fiction and real life are not separated as in the mind of the normal author. 3. The bent of thought is egocentric, the morbid liar and swindler can think of nothing but himself. 4. There is a reduction of the powers of attention in these cases; only upon supposition that this faculty is disturbed can we account for the discrepancies in the statements of patients. One has the impression that their memory for their delinquencies is not clear. Careful investigation proves that they do not like to remember them and this dislike has to be overcome. 5. There is a special weakness in judgment, which for general purposes is sound. The train of thought is logical, but in ethical discernment the lack appears. The pathological liar does not face openly the question of whether his lies can be seen through.

[10] “ `Ueber die phantastische Form des degenerativen Irrseins, Pseudologia phantastica.” Allgemeine Zeitschrift fur Psychiatrie, 65, 1908, H. 4; pp. 576-639.

Then follows a closer analysis of the qualities possessed by pathological liars: (a) Their range of ideas is wide. (b) Their range of interests is wider than would be expected from their grade of education. (c) Their perceptions are better than the average. (d) They are nimble witted. Their oral and written style is above normal in fluency. (e) They exhibit faultiness in the development of conceptions and judgments. Their judgment is sharp and clear only as far as their own person does not come into consideration. It is the lack of any self criticism combined with an abnormal egocentric trend of thought that biases their judgments concerning themselves. (f) Psychic traumata arise perhaps through a striking reaction in the emotional realm towards external occurrences. (g) Nearly all of Risch’s cases were burdened with bad inheritance. He maintains that, above all, these cases show instability and psychic excitability. The entire symptom complex arises upon a basis of degeneracy.

Essential similarities run through all of Risch’s cases; it is perhaps valuable here to cite a couple of them. His Case I is that of a soldier, who after being released from prison at 23 years had begun his military duty and in a short time attempted suicide. He was then studied for insanity. It was found that he gave long accounts of his experiences as a chauffeur, rendering his story with fluent details about hairbreadth escapes and other adventures. He also told at length of his love affair with a young girl. These stories were discovered to be false from “A to Z”; he did not clearly remember them later. The evolving of such fabrications was all along one of his chief characteristics. Examination showed no gross intellectual defect, but there were certain psychopathic signs which had been displayed from early childhood: he had little endurance and was unable to stand criticism. Emotions befitting his stories were correctly expressed by him; there were no facial evidences of conflict or discomfort. It was impossible to tell from his physiognomy that he was engaged in untruths. Mentally he was well oriented and his thoughts flowed in orderly sequence. Despite rather limited education he demonstrated very good style in his conversation and his letters. The train of thought was expressed coherently and logically, so well that one could speak of him as having literary ability. Physically he was quite normal. Investigation of antecedents showed that he was born of an exceedingly nervous mother (more exact diagnosis not given) and that he had a feebleminded brother. During his school career he was considered to have quite fair ability. He learned no trade, and after stopping school would leave a position upon the slightest provocation. Before he was 23 he had been legally punished many times for stealing and had spent, all told, over three years in prison. Once before he had attempted suicide. After the thorough study of him at 23 he was placed in an asylum. There he was occupied at basket weaving and was chiefly notable for keeping up the characteristics that were peculiar to him before. He continually lied and, indeed, seemed to get his main pleasure out of telling fabulous stories to the other patients.

Case IV was a man of 31 years, a decorative painter by trade, who presented himself at the states attorney’s office and stated that in a fit of jealousy he had shot and killed a man. Taking up the case it was soon found that this was quite untrue and that the man was a chronic liar. He seemed much astonished when he was told that the man he claimed to have killed was still alive. Further study of this self-accuser showed that he had been punished by the law every year since he was 16. His offenses consisted of embezzling, theft, forgery, and swindling. In all he had served about 6 1/2 years. His lying was so much a part of his mental life that he seemed to be unable to discriminate between his real and his fancied crimes. He not only invented stories, but was much inclined to play some role created by his fancy. There seemed to be a method in his cheating and swindling which added to his undoubted pleasure in lying. His peculiar career was much furthered by the possession of a fluent style and a good memory through which his creations were built up in most plausible fashion. He proved to be willingly introspective and stated that his inclination to lie was a puzzle to him, and that while he was engaged in prevarications he believed in them. He always was the hero of his own stories. He further declared that inner unrest and love of wandering drove him forth even when he was living under orderly conditions. He considered that his feeling of restlessness was a weighty motive in the deeds for which he had been punished. At one time this man had simulated attacks of epilepsy and attempted in connection with these to swindle physicians and others. His schooling had been continued to the gymnasium, “untertertia,” then he had taken up his trade. His intelligence and memory were considered excellent. He had an insane brother.

Vogt[11] has made a thorough analysis of six cases of pathological liars, ranging from the very stupid to the intelligent. I. A girl, who had done poorly in school was unable to hold a place and became a thief. Her mother was epileptic. Examination showed intelligence not equal to that of eight years with moral inferiority on account of this weakness. II. A feebleminded girl of vacillating, weak judgment. Father insane. Her lies were marked by their fantastic nature. III. Lively, fanciful, unstable, hysterical girl. Poor record at school. IV. Hysterical liar with peculiarities united with splendid mental ability. V. Unusually intelligent, 15 years old, illegitimate child; normal mother who later had five sound children; father drunkard. Her lies were neither of suggested nor dreamy type, they were skillfully dramatized means to an end in her fight for social position. In the psychiatric examination she was found mentally normal. VI. Girl thoroughly intelligent, good at figures and puzzles, with no signs of degeneracy.

[11] “Jugendliche Lugnerinnen.” Zeitschrift fur Erforschung d. jugend. Schwachsinns., Bd. 3. H. 5. 1910; p. 465.

Vogt characterized the pathological lie as active, more elaborately constructed, more inclusive, and leaving the ground of reality more readily than ordinary lies. Such lies he does not always find egocentric. To the pathological liar his own creation is reality, so he walks securely, is open and amiable. All these cases are gifted with lively imaginations and inclined to autosuggestion. Vogt calls the pathological lie a wish psychosis. This statement opens the way to an interesting and valuable interpretation of the psychological significance of this phenomenon of the mental life. He finds many more girls than boys among his cases; boys lie from need of defense and protection, girls more from autosuggestion. This type of lie is of greater interest to social than to clinical psychology. He emphasizes the point that very refined and complicated lies appear in healthy young people in the stress of difficult situations. Obstinate and stubborn lying of itself is no disease among children; examination must reveal that the lie has a morbid cause.

The resemblance of pathological lying to poetic creation was first suggested by Delbruck[12] in a reference to Keller’s “Der grune Heinrich,” a German novel in which the lies of a boy of seven years, lies of a creative type of the nature of retroactive hallucinations, are described. Hinrichsen[13] discusses at length the resemblance of pseudologia phantastica to poetic creation in Goethe, Grillparzer, Hoffman, and others.

[12] loc. cit.

[13] “Zur Kasuistik und Psychologie der Pseudologia phantastica.” Arch. fur Kriminal Anthrop. umd Kriminalistik, 1906.

In an inaugural dissertation Anna Stemmermann[14] presents exhaustively a series of cases. These cases were studied over a long period catamnestically. Commenting upon one case she says: It is worthy of note in this history that the patient in a hypnoidal condition, with headache and flushed face, crochets in a senseless way and thinks she is weaving a wreath for her mother’s grave, her mother being still alive. We often meet with actions like this. Characteristic is the report of spontaneous, fearful headache, without the patient’s putting this in relation to her peculiar behavior. We lay more stress upon this condition than has been done previously in the literature. We believe that this symptom is wanting in no classic case of pseudologia phantastica. Often in this condition of narrowed consciousness, the daydreams are spun and have such a power of convincing that they later make the basis for pathological lies and swindling. In this hypnoidal state a strongly heightened suggestibility exists and trivial external causes give daydreams their direction. The general trend of fancy reveals naturally the inclinations and ideals of the affected individual. Stemmermann also maintained that the pathological lie is a wish psychosis. Even outside of the hypnoidal state, these cases are more suggestible than the general run of people.

[14] “Beitrage und Kasuistik der Pseudologia phantastica.” Geo. Reimer, Berlin, 1906, pp. 102.

Of Stemmermann’s own cases, ten in number, only four at most were normally endowed, the remainder were either stupid or slightly imbecile. This agrees with the experience of previous writers. Study of her cases showed that there was report of previous mendacity, four had been liars from childhood. She found in them the combination of the general habit of lying underneath the more accentuated form of pseudologia phantastica. One case had perverted sex feeling, one was a prostitute at sixteen years.

In her dissertation some points for the differentiation of the pathological lie have been added to those offered by Delbruck, Risch, Koppen, and Vogt. The pathological liar lies, not according to a plan, but the impulse seizes him suddenly. This propensity grows stronger. Under strict supervision it comes to only an abortive attack, similar to what happens in cases of dipsomania, or of tendency to rove in which the repressed outbreak expresses itself in tormenting psychical and physical unrest. While the normal liar and swindler is forced to be on his guard lest he divulge something of the actual state of affairs, and is therefore either taciturn or presents an evil and watchful appearance, or, if a novice at his trade, is hesitating in his replies, the pathological liar has a cheerful, open, free, enthusiastic, charming appearance, because he believes in his stories and wishes their reality. The inconsequential way in which such persons go to work is to be explained by the fact that consciousness of the real situation is partly clouded in their minds. In any special act it is impossible to say whether the consciousness of the lie, fancy, or delusion preponderates. Inability to remember delinquencies Stemmermann regards also as added proof of pathological lying.

She speaks of another class of prattlers, chattering people that might be confounded with pathological liars from the stories they tell in full detail. But they have no system which they develop, often change their subject and do not paint in a lifelike way because they do not believe their own stories or live in them in a self-centered manner.

Of the 17 cases Stemmermann studied from the literature (Delbruck, Hinrichsen, Jorger, Redlich, Koelle, Henneberg , Wellenbergh) 10 were periodic. Of her own 10 cases, 6 were periodic. Sex abnormalities were present in 5 out of the 17 in the literature. Among possible causes of pathological lying she places any factor which narrows consciousness and increases suggestion and weakness, such as pregnancy, overexertion, chronic alcoholism, monotonous living, long, close work, head injuries.

Concerning prognosis she finds little detailed in the literature. The general opinion is that such cases arising from a background of degeneracy are incurable. One of her cases was free from attacks for two periods of three years each, and had been blameless in an honorable position as editor for seven years at the time of the publication of her monograph. She suggests that the profession he has chosen may be particularly suited to the talents of the pathological liar. She also ventures to state that where pathological lying is merely an accompaniment of puberty it may disappear.

The fact that so many of the cases cited by Stemmermann were clearly abnormal and found places in insane asylums makes much citation of them by us, in turn, hardly worth while. However, a short summary of a couple of her more normal cases will show the problems and conditions as she found them. I. Annie J., 19 years old, father a tailor, had been employed in several places as a servant. Aside from the fact that it was stated she always had an inclination to lie, nothing more was known about her early life. She complained of headaches and fainting attacks, and mourned over the death of her fiance. She said he had gone to Berlin to learn tailoring and had died there of inflammation of the lungs. He left her 650 marks which her mother got hold of. On investigation it was found that this man was still alive and never had been engaged to her. She then accused her mother of taking 50 marks from her and said that a man, purporting to be her real father, came from another town and told her she had been brought up by foster parents. Through the quarreling which arose from these various stories Annie was taken before the police physician and pronounced mentally unsound. Then she told of another engagement with the brother of her departed fiance, who had discovered her real mother. The latter was going to leave her 30,000 marks. He had formed a plot with the foster mother to put Annie out of the way and to divide the money. He followed her on the street and threw a drugged cloth over her head. She fainted and was carried home. She said she brought action for attempt to murder. (Whether this fiance and the rich mother were real persons is not known.) Later in the same year, Annie being again at large, a new father, der Graf von Woldau, appeared and bought her beautiful clothes costing 100 marks. He wanted to take her away, but quickly disappeared and was not seen again. When Annie told this story she was employed by a woman who attempted to get traces of the count, but failed. Later this employer missed a sum of money equivalent to that spent for the clothes. Annie’s responsibility by this time was still more questioned and she was sent to an insane asylum. There she was found normally oriented, orderly, industrious, but suffered from periodical headaches. When questioned in the asylum concerning her tales she hesitated and would say, “Now I believe them and now I don’t.” It is remarkable in this case that her different employers believed all her fabrications and took the girl’s part against the supposed offenders. For a year she engaged in a sort of orgy of pathological lying and then this phase of her career stopped. After a few months in the asylum she returned home and later married. The last report from her mother was that she was nervous and easily excited, but showed no further signs of insanity.

II. This was a boy, Johann P., who was studied mentally first when he was 16 years old. A thoroughly good history was forthcoming. He was brought for examination on account of his extreme changeableness, his failure in several occupations, his tendencies to swindling and his extreme lying. As a young child his mother had to correct him much for prevarications. Soon after he was 9, when both his parents were already dead, he forged a school certificate and was felt to be a bad influence in the home of his guardian. About that time he also stole money from pockets on a number of occasions. In school he was regarded as an undesirable pupil on account of his underhanded behavior, and one teacher who had observed him for long wrote that he showed marked inclination towards lying. At the time he was 15, he was somewhat retarded in school life, but was told he had to decide upon an occupation. After a stormy period he announced he would become a gardener. After doing well for a month or so at his first place he began to tell compromising stories about the wife of his employer. He gave himself out to be the son of a general who was going to inherit a large sum of money. On the strength of this he managed to get hold of expensive articles he desired. A short time afterward he wrote to his guardian he was fitted for higher pursuits than that of gardening. Soon afterward he ran away to a large town. He now wrote that the word freedom sounded like the sweetest music in his ears. He acknowledged that he had started on a career of criminality, but decided to do better. At this time he attempted to make his way by offering his compositions at a newspaper office where they were declined either because his productions were immature or his authorship was doubted. One editor loaned him some money, but he got much more by representing himself to be a collaborator of this editor. He soon failed to make his way and attempted other things, including entrance into the merchant marine. He finally turned up again at his guardian’s house, and when his box was opened it was found to contain a very curious lot of material such as money accounts, business cards, letter heads, catalogues. It was at this time that he was placed for observation in an asylum and it was soon found that his alleged compositions were plagiarized. He claimed to suffer from headaches. Outside of that he was in fine physical condition. He frequently wrote sketches in proof of his ability. A general statement was finally made that he showed slight traces of hysteria, was a sufferer from headaches, and showed periodic tendencies to wandering and lying. No special defect in the ethical discriminations was present. He had good insight into his own tendencies. He was finally released to his guardian, and Stemmermann offered the prognosis that Johann might well develop into a typical pathological swindler. He came of a family of five brothers and sisters, one of whom was incarcerated for a year on account of stealing. One sister was noted for her tendency to prevarication. Several of them were remarkably unstable, at least early in life. All of them are said to have learned very unwillingly in school. One brother of the father was exceedingly nervous.

Jorger[15] presents a case of a boy of poor parents who was from childhood possessed of the idea of becoming a teacher. He was always a solitary child, endowed with great religious fervor. In spite of poverty he obtained an education, studied the classics, and did excellent work. He developed early religious eccentricities, became unsound on money matters, boasted of his father’s millions, spent freely as a benefactor, bought expensive books. Then developed an outspoken tendency to swindling. Finally he was adjudged insane and committed to an asylum. Commenting on this case, Jorger points out the marks of abnormality from childhood, such as solitariness and religious intensity. He was above normal in intellectual ability, but lacking in moral development. He did not love parents, brothers, sisters, or teachers; he was very egotistical. Jorger defines this as a case of constitutional psychosis. When older, pseudologia phantastica controlled him; it was like hypnotic influence, his dreams of wealth were like paranoia. His hypnotic condition grew to such an extent that there was an interruption of consciousness with following amnesia.

[15]“Beitrage zur Kenntnisse der Pseudologin phantastica.” Viertel-jahrschrift fur gerichtliche Medicin und offentliches Sanitatswesen, 1904 Bd. XXVII; pp. 189-242.

Henneberg[16] cites another case of a highly educated young man who told wonderful stories in childhood and later obtained money under false pretenses with elaborate deception. From an eccentric grandmother, and a mother who was very excitable and suffered from hysteria, he inherited a nervous system which was not calculated to bear the strain which his own overzealous efforts in pursuing his studies and his spiritual exaltation put upon it, hence the mental and moral breakdown. This is a very interesting case because it does not fit into the usual group of pathological liars.

[16] “Zur kasuistischen und klin. Beurteilung der Pseudologia phantastica.” Charite-Annalen, XXV, XXVI.

Wendt[17] enlarges the field in which we may look for such cases. He finds pseudologia phantastica a symptom, not only of hysteria, alcoholism, paranoia, but also of sex repression, and neurasthenia. He takes a more philosophical view of the subject than previous authors. He understands by pseudologia phantastica not merely the bare habit of telling fantastic lies, and what they bring forth, but rather the yielding up of consciousness of reality in the presence of the morbidly fantastic wish in its widest consequences. Since the wish in order to exist is not permitted to lose entirely the conscious presentation of what it hopes for, so memory and recognition of reality emerge disconnected in consciousness, and a condition described as double consciousness arises. In this state of mind two forms of life run side by side, the actual and the desired, finally the latter becomes preponderant and decisive. Such a psychic make-up must lead unconditionally and necessarily to swindling and law breaking. A degenerative alteration furnishes the basis from which a wish or wish-complex arises, increasing in force until it becomes autosuggestion, hence it is pathological. Then follow the practical consequences, and we have developed, on the one side, pathological lying, and, on the other, swindling, i.e., criminality. Purely symptomatically pseudologia phantastica is characterized by the groundlessness of the fabrications, the heightened suggestibility of the patient, and in its wake arises double consciousness and inadequate powers of reproduction of reality.

[17] “Ein Beitrag zur Kasuistik der Pseudologia phantastica.” Allgemeine Zeitschrift fur Psychiatrie, LXVIII, Heft 4; pp. 482-500.

Wendt gives at length the history of a precocious boy, the son of an official of medical rank, who had lived always with older people. He lied from early childhood. He was a chronic sufferer from severe headaches. Between the ages of 15 and 17 this boy showed evidences of literary talent, but was poor in mathematics. From a tender age he had an overmastering desire to become great; he said he wished to become a jurist because only jurists get the high offices. He entered a South German university, rented a fine apartment, stated he was accustomed to a Schloss, his father was a high state official. He later called himself Graf Friedrich Gersdorf auf Blankenhain. The young man’s deceits grew rapidly, he obtained much money falsely, traveled first class with a body servant. He passed to other universities, was always quiet and industrious. After many adventures he fell into the hands of the law and was adjudged insane. Most interesting was the fact that he discussed intelligently his career. “My capacity for considering my thoughts as something really carried out in life is unfortunately too great to permit my having full conception of the boundary between appearance and reality.”

The family history of the above case included swindling, hysteria, and epilepsy. His fabricating tendency first reached its height at 14 years, thus showing the influence of puberty. Wendt regarded the etiological factors as family degeneracy, a wish-complex which in activity amounted to autosuggestion, double consciousness, and a periodical preponderance of the wished for personality.

Bresler[18] in proposing two reforms in the German “Strafgesetzbuch” undertook a discussion of pathological accusations, as material using cases reported by several authors. He attempted a classification as follows: 1. Deliberately false accusations based upon the pathological disposition or impulse to lie; the content of the accusation being fabricated. 2. False accusation upon a basis of pathologically disturbed perceptions or reasoning. Content of the accusation is here illusion, hallucination, or delusion. 3. Accusations correct in content, but pathologically motivated.

[18] “Die pathologische Anschuldigung.” Juristisch-psychiatrische Grenzfragen, Band V, Heft 8, pp. 42.

The first group nearly always is the action of hystericals, and many are centered on sex affairs. Bresler’s cited cases of this class seem merely to impress the idea of revenge, or of protection from deserved punishment. A very complicated case was that of a girl who had been rejected in marriage after the discovery by her lover that she had attacks of major hysteria. She entered into a conspiracy with her mother to destroy him. She first maliciously cut grape vines and accused him and his brother of doing it. Then she slandered his whole family. A year later, suddenly appearing wounded, she accused his uncle of trying to kill her and obtained a verdict against him. Then she attempted the same with another uncle who, however, maintained an alibi. After this her role changed, for her mother summoned people to see her daughter lying with a wreath around her head, brought by an angel, with a scroll on which was inscribed “Corona Martyri.” The church now took her part and she toured the country as a sort of saint. Later she returned to her former tactics, she set fire to a house, cut off a cow’s udder, and accused her former lover of these deeds. Now for the first time it went badly with her. She was finally imprisoned for life on account of attempts to poison people.

In Bresler’s second group he places the false accusations of alcoholics, paranoiacs, querulants (whom he calls a sub-class of paranoiacs) and sufferers from head injuries. Besides these, he here classes the false accusations of children.

The third class is so rare that it receives almost no discussion.

Longard[19] reports an interesting case of a chronic liar and swindler, a man who on account of the peculiarities of his swindling was placed under custody for study. Upon detention he went into convulsions and later seemed entirely distracted. He was then 24 years old. Investigation of his case showed that his abnormalities dated from early life and were probably due to the fact that in childhood he had a bad fall from a height. When he was 23 he had served six months on account of swindling. At that time he had been going about in the Rhine country dressed as a monk, begging things of little worth, such as crucifixes, candles, medals, etc. His pious behavior and orderliness gave him a good reception. He sometimes took money or begged it in order to read masses for poor souls. In one village he said he had come to reconnoiter for a site to build a hospital. Some cloister brothers in one place took him for a swindler and decided he was overwrought religiously, and that he really thought he was what he wished to become. He was studied at length in prison where he had one attack of maniacal behavior and tried to hang himself. The physician there thought him a simulator. He was excused from his military service because of stomach trouble. At that time mental abnormalities were not noticed. After this he again acted the part of a monk, wandering through France and Germany, living in monasteries, and being helped along by different organizations, Protestant as well as Catholic. He was arrested in Cologne when discovered to be a fraud. He lay four days in jail apparently unconscious and then appeared stupefied and staggered about. When questioned he responded, “I am born again.” He spoke mostly in Biblical terms and was fluent with pious speeches. He was found quite sound physically. He ate a great deal and was known to take bread away from other prisoners at night. He was sentenced for 15 months for swindling. He himself related that in youth he had seen many monks and had become possessed of the idea of being one. He was a sex pervert.

[19] “Ein forensisch interessanter Fall. Pseudologia phantastica.” Allg. Zeitschrift f. Psych. LV, p. 88.

The author considered this not a pure case of simulation; the patient was an abnormal being, none of his keepers thought him normal. His entire appearance, his excited way of speaking, his gestures and play of features were all striking to a high degree. His method of going about begging was unreasonable; he gained so little by it. His tendency to untruthfulness stood out everywhere. He imitated the pious as he chattered without aim. The man had lived himself into the role of a cloister brother so completely that he was not clearly conscious of the deceit. The author thinks the case presents some paranoiac features with a pathological tendency towards lying. Thus this pathological liar presents the phenomenon of a mixture of lies and delusions.

From the Zurich clinic of Forel several cases of pathological swindling have been reported at length.[20] It must be confessed that the success of much of the misrepresentation cited in these case histories seems to be as largely due to the naivete of the country folk as to the efforts of the swindlers themselves. Two of the cases were clearly insane and were detained for long periods in asylums after their study in the clinic. But even so, it is to be noted that one of these when absenting himself from institutional care succeeded in going on with his swindling operations. The third case was regarded as that of an aberrational individual with special tendency towards lying and swindling, but the opinion rendered did not end in the man being held as insane. He was simply regarded as a delinquent, and after serving his sentence he went his old way. These cases are interesting to one who would learn the extent to which swindling among a simple minded population can be carried on.

[20] “Gerichtlich-psychiatrische Gutachten aus d. Klinik von Prof. Forel in Zurich; f. Aerzte u. Juristen, herausgegeb. von Dr. Th. Koelle.” Stuttgart, Encke, 1902.

From French sources we have not been able to collect such a wealth of material as we found in German literature. One study by Belletrud and Mercier[21] compares favorably in elaborate working out of details with the work of German authors. A Corsican boy, from childhood moody, fond of adventure, inclined to deception, had attempted suicide several times before he was twenty years old. He was married at that time and went to France, where he was employed in several towns. His life following this included an immense amount of lying and swindling. He had a mania for buying costly antique furniture and jewelry which he obtained on credit. He frequently disappeared from localities where he was wanted on criminal charges, and changed his name. He wandered through Italy, Tunis, and South America. Returning to France he was taken into custody and mental troubles were noted. He showed delirium of persecution and was removed to a hospital for the insane. Experts studied him for a year before they could decide whether he was insane or merely simulating insanity. Finally they thought he was not simulating. A few months later he escaped, went to Belgium, Italy, Corsica. Turning up at a town in France under an assumed name, he was arrested again and elaborately examined. At this time he had frequent attacks of unconsciousness and frothing at the mouth. At times he was melancholy. Summarizing the case, the authors say that the psychic peculiarities of the patient were congenital, and included habitual instability of character with defective development of the ethical sentiments, and tendency to deceit and swindling. Epilepsy here is, of course, the central cause of mental and moral deterioration.

[21] “Un cas de mythomanie; escroquerie et simulation chez un epileptique.” L’Encephale, June 1910, p. 677.

From a pedagogical point of view Rouma[22] tells of the marvelous stories of a five-year-old boy in the Froebel school at Charleroi. His stories were generally suggested by something told by the teacher or other pupils. He referred their anecdotes to himself or other members of his family and greatly enlarged upon them. He also made elaborate childish drawings and gave long accounts of what they meant. Going into the question of heredity Rouma found this boy’s mother very nervous; the father was a good man. She had worked steadily at the machine before his birth. Two of their children died with convulsions; of the two living, one was well behaved, but weakly. Rouma’s case had stigmata of degeneracy in ears, palate, and jaw. Tested by the Binet system, he did three out of five of the tests for five years satisfactorily. He was easily fatigued, refused at times to respond, said he had been forbidden to reply, said he would be whipped if he did. In school he was always poor at manual work, wanted to be moving about, to go out of classes on errands, was always calling notice to himself in a good or bad way. He paid very little attention to his lessons, played alone or with younger children, leading them often into mischief. It was found that he got much of his material for stories from his older brother who told him of robbers and accidents. From his good father he got the form of his tales, because the father was wont to tell him stories with a moral.

[22] “Un cas de mythomanie.” Arch. de Psych. 1908, pp. 259-282.

In summary, Rouma stated that this child possessed senses acute beyond the average, and was of very unstable temperament, refusing regular work, not submitting to rules, rebelling at abstractions. There were evidences of degeneracy on the mother’s side.

Remedies in education for such children are: Suppress food for imagination, such as came from the stories of father and brother. Direct perceptions to accurate work. Systematize education of attention, exercise the senses, use manual work, such as modeling and gardening. Give lessons in observation in the class room and on promenades.

Meunier[23] tells of three girls in a well known Parisian school who indulged in wonderful tales. The first, in the intermediate grade, told stories of the illness of her father to account for her not having her lessons. The second, 11 years old, said that her mother was dying; she came bringing this news to the teachers at two different periods of her school life. She was a calm, thoughtful, analytical child with no reason for lying. Family history negative. The third, 13 years old, told of an imaginary uncle who was going to collect funds for needy children; she kept up the deceit for two months. She was an anemic, nervous, hysterical child with a nervous mother. Meunier calls these cases of systematized deliriums. The development of such delirium annihilates, so to speak, the entire personality of the subject, and his entire mental life is invaded by abnormal extra and introspection–the delirium commands and systematizes all acquired impressions. There is a veritable splitting of the personality in which the new “ego” is developed at the expense of the normal “ego” that now only appears at intervals.

[23] “Remarks on Three Cases of Morbid Lying.” Journal of Mental Pathology, 1904, pp. 140-142.



In the group of twelve cases making up this chapter we have limited ourselves to a simple type in order to demonstrate most clearly the classical characteristics of pathological liars. How pathological lying verges into swindling may be readily seen in several of the following cases, e.g., Cases 3, 8, 10, 12, although only two, Cases 3 and 12, have had time as yet to show marked development of the swindling tendency. For the purpose of aiding in the demonstration of the evolution of lying into swindling, and also to bring out the fact that facility in language may be the determining influence towards pathological lying and swindling, we have included Case 12, which otherwise possibly might be considered under our head of border-line mental types.

In any attempt to distinguish between pathological accusers and liars, cases overlapping into both groups are found–so some of the material in this chapter may be fairly considered as belonging partially to the next chapter.

In discussing the possibility of betterment, a fact which we as well as others have observed, consideration of Cases 1, 4, and 7 is suggested.


Summary: A girl of 16 applied for help, telling an elaborate tale of family tragedy which proved to be totally untrue. It was so well done that it deceived the most experienced. Shrewd detective work cleared the mystery. It was found that the girl was a chronic falsifier and had immediately preceding this episode become delinquent in other ways. Given firm treatment in an institution and later by her family, who knew well her peculiarities, this girl in the course of four years apparently has lost her previous extreme tendency to falsification.

Hazel M. at 16 years of age created a mild sensation by a story of woe which brought immediate offers of aid for the alleged distress. One morning she appeared at a social center and stated she had come from a hospital where her brother, a young army man, had just died. She gave a remarkably correct, detailed, medical account of his suffering and death. In response to inquiry she told of a year’s training as a nurse; that was how she knew about such subjects. In company with a social worker she went directly back to the hospital to make arrangements for what she requested, namely, a proper burial. At the hospital office it was said that no such person had died there, and after she had for a time insisted on it she finally said she must have been dreaming. Although she had wept on the shoulder of a listener as she first told her story, she now gave it up without any show of emotion. We were asked to study the case.

Hazel sketched to us a well-balanced story of her family life; one which it was impossible to break down. It involved experiences at army posts–she stated her only relatives were brothers in the army–and her recent work as a “practical nurse.” She finally led on to the death of her brother, as in the tale previously told. When asked how she accounted for the fact that no such person was found in the hospital, she answered, “Well, I either must have been crazy or something is the matter, and I don’t think my mind is that bad.” The girl evidently was suffering from loss of sleep; her case was not further investigated until after a long rest.

The next day Hazel started in by saying, “It’s enough to convince anybody that I was not in the hospital when Mrs. B. and I went there and found out that they said I had not been there. Truthfully I don’t know where I was. If I was not there I must have been some place or I must have been in a trance.” The long stories told in the next few days need not be gone into. They contained descriptions of life with her family in several towns when she was a child, of her graduation from the high school in Des Moines, and of her experience as a nurse in Cincinnati and Chicago. Our cross-examination disclosed that she knew a good many facts about obstetrics, in which she said she had had training, and about the cities where she said she had lived. For instance, she gave a description of the Cliff House at San Francisco, the seals on the rocks there, the high school in Des Moines, and so on. She also knew about life at army posts. The point that made us skeptical was when in mentioning the names of railroads she placed the wrong towns upon them. For instance, she told us her brother worked on the L. S. & M. S. at Kenosha.

Hazel’s stories were successfully maintained for several days until a shrewd detective, who got her to tell some street numbers in Chicago, ferreted out her family. She had persistently denied the existence of any of them in Chicago, and, indeed, stated that her father and mother had died years previously. One of the most convincing things about her was her poise; she displayed an attitude of sincerity combined with a show of deep surprise when her word was questioned. For example, the moment before her mother was brought in to see her, she was asked what she would say if anyone asserted that her mother was in the next room. Her instantaneous, emphatic response was, “She would have to rise out of her grave to be there.”

We soon learned that not a single detail the girl had given about her family was true. She was born and brought up in Chicago and had never been outside of the city. She had never studied nursing nor had she ever nursed anybody. In public school she had reached eighth grade.

Hazel came of an intelligent family and we were able to get a good account of the family and developmental history. Heredity seems completely negative as far as any nervous or mental abnormalities are concerned. She is one of seven children, four of whom are living, three having died in infancy. The father had just recently died of tuberculosis. There has been no trouble with the other children of any significance for us. Pregnancy with Hazel was healthy, but the mother suffered a considerable shock when she stood on a passenger boat by the side of a man who jumped overboard and committed suicide. The birth was difficult. The child weighed 12 lbs. Instruments were used; it was a breech presentation. At 2 years of age Hazel was very ill with gastritis and what was said to be spinal meningitis. She had some convulsions then. Had both walked and talked when she was about 16 months of age. During childhood she had a severe strabismus and at 8 years of age was operated upon for it. Vision has always been practically nil in one eye. Several diseases of childhood she had in mild form. After she was 2 years of age she had no more convulsions, or spasms, or attacks of any kind. From the standpoint of general nervousness Hazel was said to be one of the calmest in the family, although she was accustomed to drink five or six cups of coffee a day. Menstruation at 13 years, no irregularity.

On examination we found a very well nourished and well developed young woman of slouchy attitude and normal expression. Vision very defective in one eye and 10/20, even with glasses, in the other. Slight strabismus. General strength good. Examination otherwise negative except for the fact that she had been infected with the diplococcus of Neisser.

Mental tests proved her to have quite normal ability. Neither special ability nor disabilities of significance were discovered. For present discussion it is of interest to note that in the “Aussage” Test she gave a functional account, enumerating 16 items, 2 of which were incorrect, and accepted none of the suggestions which were offered.

The mother and sister brought out the facts that Hazel had been giving an assumed name recently and lying about her age. She had alleged that she was married. In the last year she had run away from home on several occasions. At one time had written to her mother about her happy married life. One letter reads, “Dearest Mother:–I can picture your dear face when you receive my letter. I know you have your doubts about the matter, the same as I had the first few days. But mama, you know I love him and I have the satisfaction of being a married woman before Annie is.” In the letter she describes the appearance of her imaginary husband, tells about her new dress and gloves and “the prettiest little wedding ring that was ever made.” In another letter she says, “It is just one o’clock A.M. and Jack has just gone to sleep and so I stole a little time to write,” etc. (It was later shown by the stationery used, and by the girl’s final confession, that these letters were written in the rest room of a department store.)

Hazel’s lying began, it seems, when she was a little girl. She would come home from school and out of whole cloth relate incidents which occurred on the way home. One of her earliest efforts was about being chased by a white horse. The mother states that for years she has had to check Hazel because she recognized her remarkable tendencies in this direction. The father’s death was somewhat of a shock and it seems that after this the girl’s other delinquencies began. Prior to the time she first went away from home she had some sort of hysterical spells when she said she could see her father lying in his coffin before her in the room. Her behavior became quite outrageous with some young man in her own household at just about this time. Not that she was immoral, although she once suddenly blurted out in the parlor a grave self-accusation: “Now, John, mother thinks you must be careful. You know I am a prostitute.” When we first saw her she had been away from home four times, on this last occasion for three weeks. Before she went she had said she wanted to kill herself. Mother had notified the police but no trace of her was found.

From Hazel’s own story told at this time and even after she became more stable it seems very likely that her bad tendencies began with her acquaintance with a certain rather notorious woman. Her mother came to believe that this was undoubtedly the fact. Our inquiry into beginnings brought to light the fact that Hazel while a school girl for long associated with this woman who taught her about sex immoralities. “I don’t believe my mother knows what this Mrs. R. did to me or she would have her arrested. She started me on all this. When I was about 11 years old I first knew of those things. The first I ever heard was from that woman’s daughter. I never said anything to my mother. I was always ashamed of myself to say anything about it. After I got to working with factory girls I heard a lot about it.” The mother told us later that she thought it probable from what she now knew that this Mrs. R. may have been largely responsible for Hazel’s tendency to delinquency. Hazel kept this association of several years’ standing quite to herself. The mother remembers now how Hazel once stayed for hours after school and told a story in explanation that they felt sure was untrue. The teachers used to tell the mother that Hazel seemed as if she couldn’t pay attention to her school work. One teacher reported to us that she remembers Hazel as a girl who seemed peculiar and hysterical. The other girls called her queer and used to steer clear of her.

The mother reports Hazel as being for several years impulsive, erratic, talkative, untidy, and rather dishonest in other small ways besides lying–all this in spite of vigorous home discipline. The girl at one time under the influence of revival meetings left the religious faith of her parents. However, they thought if any form of religion would make her better it would be all right.

At our last interview with Hazel before she was sent away, an interview which she prefaced by saying, “I want to apologize for everything I did,” the girl showed herself unable to avoid prevarications. Coming back, for instance, to the subject of her schooling she tells us how she won a graduating medal. This her mother said was untrue.

About her own lying tendencies she confessed that sometimes she hardly knew whether things were really so or not. Asked about her knowledge of other cities; “I read a whole lot and learn things in that way. I used to have to write compositions and imagine we were going places. I was pretty good at that.” One felt very uncertain about Hazel’s mental condition when in almost the same breath she denied having said anything about the seals on the rocks at San Francisco, or about obstetrical cases, but, of course, the denial may have been itself another falsification. Her knowledge of army affairs was gained through her acquaintance with young soldiers. An unusual amount of what she heard or read was photographed with the greatest clearness in her mind and was recalled most vividly.

A peculiarity of Hazel’s case which was quite obvious was her lack of apperception concerning her own interests. Her lies all along, after her identity was discovered, were so easy to trace, and they so quickly rebounded upon her, that there seemed every reason for her to desist. Nothing so clearly proved the absence of self-realization as her feeling under detention that other girls with whom she was in forced association were much beneath her in quality, although many of them were not nearly so untidy and had not been nearly so immoral. During all this period of several months, beginning with her running away and her writing the housewifely letters about her imaginary married life, and ending with her appeal for aid at the social center, Hazel was indulging in veritable orgies of lying. When away from home she several times picked up men on the street and stayed at hotels with them.

At the time of our first studies of this case we hardly dared to offer either a mental or moral prognosis.

In the institution for delinquent young women to which she was sent Hazel’s traits were long maintained. She proved very troublesome on account of lies to her family, to the officers, and to the other girls. The latter soon discovered, however, the peculiar lack of foundation for her stories. In the institution was also noted the tendency to untidiness of which her mother spoke. The authorities steadily persevered with Hazel. They secured another operation on her eye, which successfully straightened it, and she became fully “cured” of her pelvic disease. She received instruction in a form of handicraft in which she quickly showed special dexterity and skill. Her tendencies to falsify gradually became less. About two years later the mother again assumed control with great success.

This is the remarkable interest of Hazel’s case, to wit, that with proper discipline and the development of new interests her fabricating tendencies have been reduced to a minimum. She has made a wonderful improvement and has long been a self-supporting and self-respecting young woman with her own relation to the world realized in a way that before seemed entirely lacking.

————————————————————- Mental conflict: About early secret Case 1. experiences. Girl, age 16 yrs. Mental conditions: Either mild psychosis or extreme adolescent
Bad companions: Early.
Delinquencies: Mentality: Extreme lying. Normal ability. Running away. Psychosis (?). Sex.


Summary: A girl of 19, under partial observation for three years, was during all this time a great mystery. Brought at first to us by her family as being insane because she was such a great liar and unreliable in other ways, we never could find the slightest evidence of aberration. No satisfactory explanation was forthcoming until the remarkable denouement when we learned that the mother, whom we had come to know herself as an extreme falsifier, was not the mother at all. It seems clear that the girl’s behavior was largely the result of mental conflict about certain suspected facts, and psychic contagion arising from the world of lies in which she had lived.

Beula D. has been known in several cities and in more than one court as the “mystery girl.” She has appeared on the scene in various places, giving a fictitious name and telling elaborate stories of herself which always proved to be without foundation. She ran away from home on several occasions, but except in one instance which we know about, has never been seriously delinquent. We saw her on many occasions and tried to get at the truth of her stories of ill treatment and the like. Investigators found there was unquestionably some truth in her statements, but never from first to last in the many interviews which we had with her was there ever any possibility of separating truth from falsehood. The girl simply did not seem to know the difference between the two. What was more, we found that the mother presented the same characteristics. She also, by her most curious and complicated fabrications, led even her most rational sympathizers into a bewildering maze. A woman of magnificent presence, tremendous will, and good intelligence, she nevertheless was soon found to be absolutely unreliable in her statements. This woman’s numerous inventions, so far as we have been able to ascertain, have been quite beside the mark of any possible advantage to be gained by her or her family. Naturally we here thought heredity played an important role, until our final discovery that the two were not related. The details which we know about this case would cover scores of pages. In summary it stands as follows:

On the physical side Beula at 17 was a striking looking young woman, but of very poor development. She was only 4 ft. 7 in. in height and weighed 102 lbs. Expression was quiet, pleasant, and responsive. Unusually clear and pleasant voice. Typical Hutchinsonian teeth. All other examination negative. Menstruation first at 13 1/2, normal and regular.

Notwithstanding the mother’s report of her being subnormal mentally, we found that she had fair ability. Her range of information was good. She was always desirous of writing compositions, she wanted to be a story writer, she said, but her diction was very immature and her spelling was poor, making altogether a very mild production. Never did we see any essential incoherency in her mental processes, or any other signs of aberration. A series of association tests given in an endeavor to discover some of the facts which her mother maintained she herself was desirous of knowing (but really could not have been), failed to elicit anything but the most normal reactions, even to ideas about which we considered there must be some feeling-tone.

On the “Aussage” Test only ten items were given from the picture upon free recital. On questioning twelve more details were reported correctly, but no less than seven of these alleged facts were incorrect. Only one out of the five suggestions offered was accepted.

No purpose would be served in recounting the details of falsehood which were told by this girl about family affairs, about the places she had worked, about the facts of home treatment, etc. Her lying was not done cleverly, but it served to create much confusion and gave considerable trouble to a number of social agencies that came in contact with the family. Even when she was applying directly for help her lies stood greatly in the way of achieving anything for her. The confusion was vastly added to by the many vagaries of her alleged parent, but, even so, one of the chief accusations of the prevaricating mother was that the girl herself was a terrible liar. The whole situation was rendered completely absurd and needless by the behavior of both the woman and the girl.

After we had known this case for about three years and the truth about Beula’s antecedents had come to light as the result of a new person stepping in on the scene, the girl’s tendency to falsification seemed quite inexplicable. No one who came to know the circumstances, even as we previously had been acquainted with them, felt they could blame Beula much for her attitude of dissatisfaction and her tendencies to run away. We felt, too, that the mystery which had always hovered about this girl was sufficient to have led her to be fanciful and imaginative and that the fabrications of the self-styled “mother” did not form an atmosphere in which the girl could well achieve respect for truth. But Beula’s almost confusional state concerning the facts of her family life seemed quite explicable in the light of what we at last ascertained. Soon after we first saw the girl the woman had told us a most remarkable tale of how it was she happened to be the mother of the child, and the attempt was then made by several to straighten out the apparent doubt in the girl’s mind. But it seems that the clever and tragic tale of the mother, although well calculated to do so, did not entirely cover the points remembered by this girl of her earliest childhood. Evidently for a time Beula tried to correlate the two, but doubt grew apace. It seemed almost as if her doubt as to who she was led her to say first one thing and then another. It was particularly at a period of stress of this kind that she was figuring in other cities as the “mystery girl.”

The earlier facts of the case probably never will be known. Of the many details known by us it is sufficient to say that the woman adopted Beula as a young child and proceeded by devious methods to weave a network of lies about the situation of their relationship. Who Beula’s parents really were neither she nor any one else of whom we have heard, ever knew.

Beula showed such delinquent tendencies after a time that she had to be sent to a corrective institution. After coming out she made off in the world for herself before we could give her the information soon afterwards obtained by us. At her last visit we felt that her report in a terribly tragic mood on the family conditions was totally unreliable. She went forth to weave, no doubt, new fabrications.
————————————————————— Early experiences: Peculiar treatment Case 2. and excessive misrepresentations Girl, age 19 years. in home circle.
Mental influences: Contagion from long continued untruthfulness at home. Mystery of antecedents.
Mental conflict about the above. Heredity and developmental conditions (?) Hutchinsonian teeth only clew.
Delinquencies: Mentality: Lying. Fair ability with Running away. poor educational Sex. advantages.


Summary: In its wonderfully clear presentation of characteristics this case classically represents the type. A woman of 27 years (usually claiming to be 17), during a career of 7 or 8 years has engaged in an excessive amount of misrepresentation, often to the extent of swindling. Alleging herself to be merely a girl and without a family, she has repeatedly gained protection, sometimes for a year or more, in homes where her prevaricating tendencies, appearing with ever new details, have sooner or later thwarted her own interests. By extraordinary methods she has often simulated illnesses which have demanded hospital treatment. For long she was lost to her family, traveling about under different names, making her way by her remarkable abilities and unusual presence.

This case illustrates, again, two points we have often made, namely, that the difficulty of getting safe data concerning genetics increases rapidly with age, and that the chance of altering tendencies after years of character formation vastly diminishes. These features appear strongly here, yet our long knowledge of the person and of the many details of her career gives the history great interest.

A young woman, whom we will call Inez B., a name she once assumed for a time, arrived at a girls’ boarding home in Chicago with merely a small traveling bag and money sufficient only for a few days. In appearance and conversation she gave distinct evidences of refinement. She showed indecision and confessed she knew no one in the city.

Just at this time a wealthy eastern girl, Agnes W., was missing from her home, and the police everywhere were on the lookout for her. A detective who was ordered to visit the boarding club showed a picture of Agnes W. to the matron, who instantly discerned a likeness to Inez and informed him of her recent arrival. Inez was questioned, but could or would give no satisfactory response concerning her own home. She maintained she was just 17 and had come to Chicago to make her own way in the world. After some account of herself, the details of which were somewhat contradictory, it was inferred that she might be Agnes W. She vehemently denied it, but being the same age and some likeness being discerned, the questioning was continued. Various matters of Agnes W.’s antecedents were gone into and after a time Inez burst out with, “Well, if you must have it so, I am Agnes W.” The girl was thereupon taken in charge by the police authorities, and she herself registered several times as Agnes W. After the family of the latter had been communicated with, however, it was ascertained that Inez was not the lost heiress.

She now said that anyhow she really was a runaway girl. She had left her adopted parents because they were cruel and immoral. It was her unhappy brooding over her own affairs that led her to lie about being the other girl. She insisted she was sorry for the many lies she had told various officers, but felt, after all, they were to blame because their obvious desire to have her tell that she was Agnes W. led her on. They deceived her first because they misrepresented themselves and did not say they were police officials. Nevertheless, she makes much of how she hates her false position, being registered under a false name and figuring as a deceiver.

The significant points in the long story of Inez, as told to us in the days of our first acquaintance with her, are worth giving. (At this period she was with us thoroughly consistent; at all times she has appeared self-possessed and coherent.) Inez states she is 17 and has just come from a town in Tennessee where she has been living for a couple of years with some people by the name of B. who adopted her. At first they were very good to her and she loved them dearly. She was quite unsophisticated when she went to them and did not realize then that they were not good people. She met them at an employment agency in St. Louis where she had gone after leaving the Smiths, the people who had brought her up. At that time the B.’s appeared fairly well-to-do, but Mr. B. had been running up debts that later carried him into bankruptcy. Inez was sick and exhausted now from having worked so hard for them. She finally ran away from that town because the B.’s wanted to go elsewhere, leaving her in a compromising position with a young man who rented their house. She first tried boarding in two places, however, before she ventured to go.

The Smiths were the people she lived with until she was 14. She remembers first living with them, but faintly recalls bearing the name of Mary Johnson before that. Who the Johnsons were she does not know, but she feels sure of the fact that she was born in New Orleans. However, Inez does not worry about her parentage even