Thursday, 6 October 2011

Ferdinand Cheval and the 'Palais Ideal'

Born in 1836 in the Drome department of France, Ferdinand Cheval seemed fated to have a banal and unremarkable life.
Initially apprenticed to a baker, Cheval went on to become a postman, serving the area of Hauterives in Drome and lived out a mundane existence until 1879 when he would, at the age of 43, have an experience that would affect the rest of his life...
While working on his postal route he tripped over a stone.
Fascinated by the shape of the stone Cheval wrapped it in his handkerchief, put it in his pocket and took it home.
Looking at the stone later Cheval was reminded of a dream he had once had of building a castle made of stone.
Inspired, Cheval returned to the same spot the next day and noticed many other strangely shaped stones scattered about.
He began to collect them each day, bringing them home and started to build a pond in his garden made from the stones he found.
Cheval also decorated the pond with various figures and ornamental designs, all built from the stones that he brought home from his route.
His confidence bolstered by the success of his initial creation, Cheval decided to move onto a project on a slightly larger scale.
He would build his castle...
Cheval continued to collect stones on his route, eventually adding an extra 8 kilometres to his daily trek to allow more chance to gather stones and armed himself with a basket as the sheer mass of stones had long ago moved beyond what his pockets could hold.
His wife also forbade him from using his pockets for storage as she grew tired of having to constantly repair his trousers from the wear and tear of the stone's transportation...
Cheval finally ended up using a wheelbarrow for collecting the stones and bringing them home and extended his search into the night, armed only with an oil lamp for light.
With only rudimentary education let alone any knowledge of architecture or engineering Cheval began to build his castle slowly and with care.
He used lime, mortar and cement to bind the stones and began initially by building the outer walls of the structure in 1879.
Cheval retired from the Post Office in 1896 and began to work on the castle full-time.
He drew upon many different sources of inspiration as the project developed with elements of a Hindu temple blending with a Swiss chalet, an Algerian maison or a Muslim mosque all tied together around the idea of a medieval castle.
There was also a grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a few Egyptian mummies dotted around for good measure...
Cheval declared the project to be inspired by the spirits of 'Julius Caesar, Archimedes and Vercingetorix.'
Eventually, in 1912, 33 years after beginning, Cheval declared his work to be finished.
It stood 35 feet high, 40 feet wide and was 85 feet long.
Cheval himself estimated that he spent 9,000 days or 65,000 hours working on the project and probably could have finished it sooner but for his reluctance to 'steal God's day' and work on Sundays...
Initially Cheval hoped that he and his wife, now in their 70's, would be entombed in the castle when they died but the local authorities forbade anyone to be buried outside of the regional cemetery.
Not discouraged by this in the least Cheval immediately began work on a mausoleum for himself and his wife in the grounds of the cemetery using the same methods and materials.
He finished that another 8 years later...
His neighbours and many other people in the local area dismissed Cheval as a lunatic or a crank but soon the castle began to attract visitors including Andre Breton, Niki de Saint Phalle, Lee Miller, Pablo Neruda and Pablo Picasso and the work was referenced by luminaries such as Peggy Guggenheim and Max Ernst.
Andre Lecroix, an archivist in the French Government, wanted to list the building as an official monument and asked Cheval to write the story of its construction and decide what its official name should be. Cheval dutifully delivered the story but insisted that Lecroix should name the building.
Lecroix duly christened it 'Le Palais Ideal de Facteur Cheval' or 'The Ideal Palace of the Postman Cheval.'
Ferdinand Cheval died in 1924 and was interred into the mausoleum he built in the cemetery.
The Palais Ideal lived on, although by 1968 it had began to fall into disrepair.
In 1969 Andre Malreux, the French Minister for Culture, officially declared it a historic monument ensuring its ongoing protection and it now also enjoys status as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
However, probably the most fitting tribute came for Cheval in 1986 when the image of the 'facteur' and his work was immortalised by the French Government.
Their medium of choice?
A postage stamp...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Dave Sim: Cerebus, Spirituality and Sexism.

Looking at the first few issues from 1977 it's hard to believe what 'Cerebus the Aardvark' became...
Initially conceived as a parody of the popular 'Conan the Barbarian' comics that had recently been published, with a heavy influence from Steve Gerber's 'Howard the Duck' strip, the early stories are an energetic, if scrappy, affair.
However it didn't take long for Dave Sim, the creator of the series, to see the potential scope of this new world he had created and expand upon it.
With the second story arc, 'High Society', Sim took his cast of characters and moved them to the city state of Palnu where Cerebus, a hard-drinking, combative Aardvark finds himself dragged into the corridors of power. Sim realised he could address any theme he wished to in this book and went on to explore religion, finance, sexuality, war and creativity across the later volumes of the series.
'Cerebus the Aardvark' was a huge success and sales on the book were phenomenally high, particularly given the fact that Sim self-published as well as creating the book single-handed.
By 1984 Sim found himself struggling to keep up the book's monthly schedule and recruited Gerhard, a fellow Canadian artist, to produce the backgrounds of the script, allowing Sim to focus on the highly-detailed character work that had become synonymous with the strip.
Another reason for Sim's need for help was a vow he had made in 1979.
'Cerebus' was going to be 300 issues long...
To be fair on Sim he had made this declaration after being hospitalised following ten days of prolonged LSD usage and could have backed down later without any major outcry.
Sim's steely determination to see this through and stand by his rights and obligations as a creator would crop up again throughout his career...
When the first collection of Cerebus stories were collected into a single volume Sim first made them available directly from himself via mail order. This upset many of the comic stores who had supported 'Cerebus' as a title but Sim was unapologetic.
It was estimated that he made up to $150,000 by this decision so it's unlikely he lost a lot of sleep...
However, it was later in the life of the series that things really began to get interesting.
While researching the various religions of the world to create the beliefs of the 'Pigt' and 'Cirinist' sects that are in the story Sim began to develop his own system of spirituality that borrowed from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. His practices included fasting, celibacy, prayer and the giving of alms and considered the holy books of all these religions to be equally valid as the word of God.
As it went on 'Cerebus' shaped Sim as much as Sim shaped 'Cerebus'.
He wanted to discuss religion in the book so he did the research and made Cerebus the Pope.
He wanted to discuss politics so Cerebus became Prime Minister.
He wanted to discuss the life of a writer so he introduced Oscar Wilde as a character.
He wanted to write gags for Groucho Marx so he 'cast' him as Lord Julius, the ruler of Palnu.
And then he wanted to discuss feminism and gender roles...
So, he created a character called 'Viktor Davis' who outlined what Sim had come to believe were the position of men and women when it came to creativity.
'Davis' explained that men were 'lights' who tended to produce while women were 'voids' who tended to absorb.
Many were alarmed by this language but felt it was appropriate for an author to give his characters opinions that may upset people but may not represent the views of the author himself.
However, Sim went on to support the theories that 'Davis' had put forward in an editorial under his own name where he elaborated on the ideas and explained that his work didn't get sufficient coverage or respect because of a 'Marxist/feminist/homosexualist axis'.
This caused a major storm in the comics world and a lengthy debate followed.
Another creator, Jeff Smith, got caught up in the furore and had a heated exchange with Sim that ended up with Sim accusing Smith of being dominated by his wife and challenging him to a boxing match.
Smith declined...
The sales on 'Cerebus' dropped later in the series as Sim pursued his various agendas but he remained determined to stick to his 300 issue target.
He left orders that if he died Gerhard was to complete as many issues as he wanted with just backgrounds and then, if necessary, the remaining issues up to 300 to be published as blank pages...
In March 2004 Sim published 'Cerebus the Aardvark' #300.
It was the culmination of 27 years and 6,000 pages of work.
Sim has described it as 'the longest sustained narrative in human history', has made arrangements for it to enter the public domain upon his death and while he is alive there is an open invitation for other creators to use his characters in their own work.
Few people take him up on the offer...

Friday, 23 September 2011

James Barry: 'A gentleman every inch...'

Dr James Barry died on the 25 of July 1865 with a considerable reputation that he had built across his life and career.
An innovator in the field of medicine, his tireless efforts to improve the diet and hygiene of the patients he dealt with, sometimes among the poorest residents of some of the most distant corners of the world, caused him no end of conflict with his peers and superiors.
Barry developed a name as an excellent doctor and surgeon but one who refused to accept the limitations of the resources and accepted wisdom of his profession.
The year of his birth is uncertain, and the earliest years of his life shrouded in mystery, but James Barry began his medical studies at the University of Edinburgh in 1809.
Once qualified he was commissioned as a Hospital Assistant in the British Army beginning his career in Chelsea and later Plymouth before being posted overseas where he spent the majority of his life.
He served initially in India and then in Cape Town, South Africa where he made a name for himself by performing one of the first caesarean sections where both mother and baby survived the procedure. The grateful parents named their son James Barry Munnick and the tradition of the name was passed through the generations, counting among their number General James Barry Munnick Hertzog, Prime Minister of South Africa from 1924 to 1939.
The tradition has continued to this day and the current holder of the name is, fittingly, a doctor.
Barry's renown as a surgeon was only matched by his reputation as a firm advocate for improved hygiene and conditions in the hospitals he worked in.
His career took him from Mauritius to Canada with periods in Trinidad and Tobago, St Helena, Malta, Corfu, the Crimea and Jamaica.
All of these postings saw Barry argue with his superiors over the state of the hospitals and the standard of the staff working in them.
This eventually came to a head in St Helena where Barry, frustrated at the lack of response to his concerns by the Commissariat on the island, wrote a letter to the Secretary of War outlining his issues. He was immediately placed under house arrest and accused of 'behaviour unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman.'
Barry described it as:

'...probably the first instance of an officer being brought to trial for the performance of his duty...'

The charges were eventually dropped but the reputation as an agitator would follow Barry through his life.
It would be easy to imagine then that Barry would find a kindred spirit in Florence Nightingale, his contemporary and fellow advocate for improved conditions in medical institutions.
That would, however, ignore Barry's near-superhuman determination to clash with any prominent figure around him...
Rather than comparing notes and finding common ground Barry took the one encounter he had with Nightingale to berate her over a difference of medical opinion.
Nightingale remembered the incident vividly:

'I never had such a blackguard rating in my life- I who have had more than any woman- than from Barry sitting on his horse while I was crossing the hospital square with only my cap on in the sun. He kept me standing in the midst of a crowd of soldiers servants and camp followers, every one of whom behaved like a gentleman during the scolding I received, while he behaved like a brute.'

She later described Barry as:

'The most hardened creature I ever met throughout the army...'

Barry retired in 1864, against his wishes, and died in 1865.
Upon his death, with his body being prepared for burial, an incredible discovery was made.
Dr. James Barry was a woman.
Moreover, further examination determined that at some point she had given birth.
This revelation stunned most of the people who had known Barry but many spoke up now with their long-standing suspicions. Rumours of an affair with the Governor of Cape Town resurfaced and people saw a new set of motives in Barry's nomadic career with her needing to be constantly moving before rumours followed or she was too closely observed.
This makes Dr. James Barry the first Briton who was assigned female at birth to become a medical doctor.
But there is no formal recognition of this achievement.
Upon this revelation a series of newspaper editorials, rather than supporting the idea that a woman could become a doctor, and in this case an exceptional surgeon, played up the idea that the standards of medical training and examination had slipped to such a low standard that even a woman could slip through.
Although now believed to have been born Margaret Ann Bulkley at the time of her death the identity of this remarkable woman was unknown.
Her gravestone is made out in the name of 'James Barry' and, despite the petty gripes of many at the time of her death, contains a full listing of her qualifications and military rank...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Ali Dia (and other cousins of George Weah)

There's no real hiding place in sport.
You can handle the press conference like Ali in his prime but if you step out to perform with nothing to back it up you'll be lucky if it's just your ego that gets bruised.
That didn't deter Ali Dia though...
Graeme Souness has never had a great reputation as a manager for picking out and developing obscure but talented players.
His time at Glasgow Rangers is best defined by him bringing talent up to Scotland that allowed him to be successful in a relatively weak league but was never going to be a world class team,
at Liverpool he managed to dismantle a decent side and replace nearly all of the members of the team with inferior replacements while his success at Galatasary returned him to the comfort zone of helming a historically strong team in a generally poor league.
His judgement generally could be called into question after selling the story of his recovery from a heart attack to The Sun, a newspaper reviled in Liverpool after it's scandalous reporting of the Hillsborough disaster and his decision to plant a flag in the centre circle of the home pitch of their arch rivals Fenerbahce after a Turkish Cup win in 1996.
However all of this is overshadowed by the Ali Dia affair.
After receiving a phone call from Liberian international and former World Footballer of the Year recommending his cousin, who was at the time plying his trade at Blyth Spartans in the Northern Premier League, Souness agreed to give Ali Dia a one month contract.
He was impressed by Weah's enthusiasm and tales of Dia's 13 international appearances and time playing at Paris Saint-Germain.
Dia duly arrived and began training where he looked, frankly, quite ordinary.
He was due to make his Southampton debut against Arsenal in a reserve game but this was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
In the meantime Southampton were dogged by a series of injuries to members of the first team squad which saw a number of reserve players drafted in for a Premier League match against Leeds United.
Souness hoped not to have to call on his unproven bench but after 32 minutes Matthew Le Tissier pulled up injured and Ali Dia was sent into the fray.
It's possible that on another day, in another game Dia could have come on, kept his head down and cruised through the game unnoticed.
Instead he was replacing one of the most naturally gifted midfielders to ever grace the English game.
The contrast couldn't have been more obvious...

Le Tissier said afterwards:

'He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice. It was very embarrassing to watch...'

After 53 minutes Souness had seen enough. Ken Monkou was sent on to replace Dia and the young Liberian never played for Southampton again.
Further enquiries revealed that he was not George Weah's cousin and that the phone call had come from his agent rather than the Liberian legend.
The stories of Dia's shining career were just that.
His career in France had been based at teams such as Beauvais and La Rochelle rather than PSG and he had never come close to international football.
Souness resigned at the end of the season and, incredibly, went on to find further employment.
Dia later signed for Gateshead, played 8 times for the club and scored on his debut.
He never played for Liberia.
The next season Arsenal signed Christopher Wreh from Monaco.
He was a Liberian international and a cousin of George Weah.
While never good enough to displace Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright at Arsenal Wreh played for the Gunners 28 times, scoring 3 goals.
You'd imagine that Arsene Wenger made a couple of phone calls before drawing up the contract...

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Obscene Dog: Hubbard and Scientology

On the surface Scientology seems to be a fairly straightforward method of self-improvement.
Even using their own terminology it's not hard to see the appeal of a system that encourages the individual to 'Audit' themselves to find their weaknesses and shortcomings and undertake a series of exercises or 'Study Tech' to travel across the 'Bridge to Total Freedom' and emerge on the other side as a 'Clear', happier and more complete person or an 'Operating Thetan'.
For many the ridiculous language employed by the Church of Scientology is enough to leave them open to mockery and their teachings to be rejected but there are enough people looking for answers about themselves and the world around them to see Scientology grow into the international belief system that operates today and count large numbers of people, including massive celebrity names, among its followers.
Founded by the author L. Ron Hubbard in 1952 the very origins of Scientology are clouded in controversy.
Hubbard had previously published a book called 'Dianetics' in 1950.
In 'Dianetics' he had proposed a pretty straightforward system of popular psychology where the mind stored negative memories in a 'reactive' area as 'engrams' which affected the 'analytical' area in an indirect manner. By simply substituting 'reactive' for 'subconscious', 'engrams' for 'trauma' and 'analytical' for 'conscious' you were left with a fairly obvious and simplified version of basic Freudian analysis that required the user to simply engage with and accept subconscious trauma as something that could affect their everyday life.
Most people saw through 'Dianetics' as a poor version of Freudian analysis with unqualified therapists leading people through a series of inadequate attempts to deal with traumatic memories.
Hubbard didn't see the failure of 'Dianetics' as an indictment on the system itself but rather that he had not gone far enough in moving his methods of treatment from those of conventional psychology.
He decided that he would leave the business of the mind alone to therapists.
His business would now be that of the soul...
This decision also tied in with another theory that Hubbard had developed during this period.
Friends at the time reported Hubbard often claiming that there was no money to be made in the Science Fiction novels and short stories he was producing and that the real money was in starting a religion.
Rumour has it that a wager in a bar with Robert Heinlein, another prominent Science Fiction writer, about who could found the more popular religion was also a prompt for Hubbard.
The actual existence of this wager is disputed but Heinlein went on to produce the novel 'Stranger in a Strange Land' (1961) which inspired the creation of 'The Church of All Worlds' by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart in 1968.
If there was a wager then Hubbard won...
While The Church of All Worlds enjoys worldwide membership it is still tied very firmly to neopagan subculture and its insistence on polyamory and instruction in the Martian language will probably see it remain a very small, but fervent, community.
By reframing Scientology as a religion rather than the self-help system that Dianetics was Hubbard immediately expanded the appeal of the movement.
The tax breaks that religions enjoy as institutions probably didn't hurt either...
Now established as a religion Hubbard used a very similar methodology to Dianetics for the mechanics of Scientology.
New followers are described as 'Preclear'. They are 'Audited' to determine the 'Incidents' that their 'Thetan' has endured and undertake 'Tech' to clear themselves of the memories of these traumas crossing the 'Bridge to Total Freedom' and emerging on the other side as an 'Operating Thetan.'
The incidents that Hubbard described are bizarre. They are believed to have taken place at a time before our souls have taken any physical form and were endured by our spiritual selves but the trauma remains and affects our conscious mind.
Among them are the 'Body Builder' incident, where the Thetan was placed in a "special field and forced to fight his own 'attention units'and build a physical body from them", the 'Ice Cube' incident where Thetans were trapped in ice and thrown in the ocean and the 'Jack-in-the-Box' incident where the Thetan was tricked into gathering a series of identical images which then explode.
People who have suffered from this incident will apparently be obsessed by the pictures on cereal boxes...
These are the incidents studied at a very basic level in Scientology.
Those further along the 'Bridge' will be confronted by traumas featuring Bears, Gorillas and an Obscene Dog...
Before long the methods of Scientology came under scrutiny.
The policy of 'disconnection', where followers were encouraged to refuse to acknowledge non-Scientologists and leave friends and family behind lead to accusations that it was little more than a cult. Investigation from the media and law enforcement agencies followed which in turn lead to Hubbard developing some hardline policies with how the Church of Scientology should deal with its enemies.
He advocated policies such as 'Attack The Attacker', 'Fair Game' and 'Dead Agenting' which all involved refusing to assist with any enquiries from outsiders about the activities of the Church of Scientology and discrediting anyone who spoke ill of the organisation.
Surprisingly, given the origins of his methodology, Hubbard was particularly opposed to the practice of Psychiatry and encouraged his followers to attack and discredit it whenever they could.
Despite the murky origins and unconventional beliefs at its heart, the Church of Scientology has gone from strength to strength over the years.
The recruitment of celebrity followers such as John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Tom Cruise has given Scientology a media profile that other organisations can only envy.
The revelations promised to followers who cross the 'Bridge to Total Freedom' and become 'Operating Thetans' was a secret for a long time.
Sustained investigation and the rise of the Internet has meant that in recent years this has become public knowledge and even featured on an episode of 'South Park'.
According to Hubbard the 'Thetans' that form our souls are from another planet and were dumped into volcanoes on Earth millions of years ago by a despotic intergalactic overlord.
The 'incidents' that traumatised these Thetans, including the volcanic immolation, have lead to us believing ourselves to be 'merely' human and unaware of our cosmic origins and destiny.
Through Scientology Hubbard promised to allow us to 'clear' ourselves of the traumas and lies that prevent us from embracing our intergalactic future and return to the stars as true Thetans.
It seems a shame that when it came down to the core of his religion Hubbard couldn't resist going back to the hackneyed Science Fiction stories he claimed to be moving beyond.
It's not even a good one...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance

'Long Lance', the autobiography of Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, was published in 1928.
It was the story of a man who had been born the son of a Chief in the Native American Cherokee Nation in Montana in 1890.
Long Lance told of his time on the reservation as a child and his decision to join a travelling 'Wild West' show that passed by his home, seeing in it a chance to travel the world and explore in a way that a traditional tribal life never would.
Having spent some time on the road with the show Long Lance applied for a place at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania.
This was the most prestigious school for Native Americans in the country but Long Lance excelled and qualified at the top of his class.
By 1915 he had also qualified from St. John's Military Academy in New York and appealed directly to the office of President Woodrow Wilson to be allowed to join West Point, the most prominent of the Military Academies and the institution from which the United States Army drew its Officer Class.
The President's Office duly endorsed him as a candidate but before he could enter Long Lance enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force to allow himself to join the conflict in Europe without waiting for the United States to join the fray.
He returned home having been wounded eight times and promoted to the rank of Captain.
With his return Long Lance found himself drawn more to the cause of the rights of Native Americans and spent the next decade living among the Plains Indians and working as a journalist for the Calgary Herald highlighting the difficulties that Native Americans were facing with the new restrictions of reservation life.
By 1922 Long Lance was formally adopted as a Blackfoot Indian by the Kainai Nation and given the name 'Buffalo Child'.
National prominence came with his new status as a leading voice in the rights of Native Americans. A lucrative career as a speaker supplemented his income as a journalist as did an endorsement deal with a sportswear company and a prominent part in a feature film about Indian life.
However, the feature film, 'The Silent Enemy: An Epic of the American Indian', had employed a Native American advisor, Chauncey Yellow Robe, who was suspicious of Long Lance's credentials. He alerted William Chanler, a legal advisor on the film, who organised a more detailed investigation into the background of Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance.
What was uncovered was incredible.
It turned out that rather than being born on the plains of Montana, Long Lance was born Sylvester Clark Long in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and was not the son of an Indian Chief but was instead the son of a school janitor called Joseph S. Long.
On top of all this, not only was Joseph Long not an Indian Chief he wasn't even a Native American. He was Black.
Long had been honest in his autobiography when he described joining a Wild West show that passed by where he lived but having joined the show the owner mistook him for a Native American and employed him as such. Long did nothing to correct this assumption and instead immersed himself in the culture of the other Indians in the show and became a fluent Cherokee speaker. Realising that life as a Native American offered him far greater opportunities than life as an African American Long embraced his new identity and began to build his new life as Long Lance.
He had also embellished his military career and may have opted to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force rather than entering West Point fearing that the Academy may have uncovered the truth of his background when he applied to join.
Having made these revelations the creators of 'The Silent Enemy' realised that discrediting their star before the film was released would be ridiculous and so they tried to keep the true origin of Long Lance a secret but, almost inevitably, the truth began to leak out.
Abandoned by many of his former acquaintances Long Lance began to drink heavily and saw many of his formally lucrative contracts for endorsements and appearances dry up.
Irvin S. Cobb, a writer in New York who had counted Long Lance among his friends summed up the attitude of many who discovered the truth about his origins:

'To think we had him here in the house! We're so ashamed. We entertained a nigger...'

Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance was found dead in Los Angeles, California in March 1932.
He had died from a self-inflicted gunshot.

In his will he left all his remaining assets to St. Paul's Indian Residential School in Alberta, Canada.
In death, as in life, Long Lance remained dedicated to improving the lot of the Native American people...
Further investigation into his background found that his parents were both of ethnically mixed heritage with his Mother having some ancestry in the Croatan Nation and his Father partly descended from the Cherokee people.
Although his ethnicity was more African American than Native American Sylvester Long knew that the racial divisions of the United States of the time meant that he stood a better chance to make something of himself as an Indian than a Black man and the response of many of his 'friends' on the revelation of his 'true' racial identity says more for the flaws and hypocrisy of American society of the time than anything about the character of Long Lance himself...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

John Romulus Brinkley: The Goat Gland Doctor

Born in Jackson County, North Carolina in 1885 J.R. Brinkley would become famous for his innovative approaches in promoting his medical practice and infamous for some of the practices themselves...
Wishing to become a doctor Brinkley began his career hawking quack remedies in a travelling medicine show with his wife under the guise of Quaker doctors.
Brinkley soon tired of life on the road and enrolled himself into Bennett Medical College, an unaccredited institution in Chicago that specialised in 'eclectic medicine', a branch of herbalism based around traditional Native American methods.
Unable to keep up with his tuition bills Brinkley left the college without graduating and moved around various towns in Florida and North Carolina operating as a 'Doctor' without any formal medical training.
Eventually Brinkley bought a diploma from the Kansas City Eclectic Medical University and opened up a clinic in Greenville, South Carolina.
He specialised in the dispensation of 'Salvarsan' an 'electric medicine from Germany' that it was claimed could reinvigorate the human body.
In reality it was coloured water that Brinkley would inject into his patients at $25 per shot.
By 1918 Brinkley was operating a 16 room clinic in Milford, Kansas and developed a reputation as a capable doctor and gifted physician after his care and treatment of a huge number of patients during that years influenza pandemic. He also became known as a fair and generous employer and the presence of his clinic proved to be very positive influence on the prosperity and wellbeing of the town.
However it wasn't too long before Brinkley began to push at the margins again.
Visited by a patient who was suffering from erectile dysfunction and complained that he used to be 'frisky as a goat' Brinkley replied with a smile that the problem was that he didn't have the glands of a goat to keep his vigour up.
The patients response would define Brinkley's life and career from this point on:

'Well why don't you put some in then Doc?'

The transplantation of animal gland into humans wasn't unprecedented and Brinkley had actually studied the are somewhat in his time at Bennett College and was intrigued by the idea.
The procedure took place and the patient, having survived Brinkley's untrained surgical skills, went on to impregnate his wife within weeks.
The child was a boy.
They named him Billy...
Word of the success of the operation spread and soon Brinkley was inundated with requests for goat gland transplants. The medical validity of the procedure was unproven and the questionable skill of the surgeon, coupled with his habit of operating while drunk and less than sterile surroundings made the whole affair quite perilous. However most of the patients survived and the glands would be harmlessly absorbed into the body as foreign matter.
People were willing to take the risks for the promised rewards of the curing of impotence, insanity, hardened arteries, prostate problems, high blood pressure, skin disease, old age, and turning grey hair dark again.
Even women would apply for the procedure for the therapeutic relief offered.
Ever the showman Brinkley made a point of only using the glands from the highly prized Angora goat rather than the more common Toggenberg breed and would allow the patient to choose which goat their glands came from...
Hungry to build on his success Brinkley looked to expand the scope of his operations by promoting himself on the exciting new medium of radio.
He founded a station KFKB ('Kansas First, Kansas Best) and began to broadcast a mixture of military bands, French lessons, astrological forecasts and storytelling alongside huge promotional features on his medical procedures.
Armed with a 1,000 watt transmitter Brinkley managed to bring in a huge number of new patients and became incredibly wealthy.
He invested in Milford and built a new sewage system and sidewalks, installed electricity, built a bandstand and apartments for his patients and employees.
He also founded a baseball team, The Brinkley Goats and built a new post office to handle all of his mail, which was approaching up to 20,000 letters per day.
As a reward for his investment in the state Brinkley was made an Admiral in the Kansas Navy.
Kansas is landlocked and the state contains the exact geographical centre point of the United States of America...
Investigated constantly by the American Medical Association Brinkley moved the operations of his radio station to Mexico which was a little looser in its regulations.
He began to promote his medical practice with impunity and armed with a new 50,000 watt transmitter was heard across America and further around the world.
This new transmitter would power up lightbulbs, kill birds and drown out other signals.
People claimed that they could pick up the signal in tooth fillings or from bedsprings.
Another reason for the relocation to Mexico was Brinkley's support for Nazism in the 1930's.
As well as broadcasts in support of Hitler the Brinkley Mansion also boasted a swimming pool with swastikas tiled on the bottom...
Having made a success of his medical career and life as a broadcaster it was perhaps natural that Brinkley would attempt to move into politics.
He stood for the position of Governor of Kansas twice, using the might of his radio empire on both occasions. Standing as an Independent and having applied after the ballots were printed Brinkley began a huge campaign based around his name being written onto the ballot and voted for.
While never gaining enough votes to be elected in Kansas there were reports of confused voters, at the prey of Brinkley's powerful transmitter and garbled campaign, writing his name on ballot papers across the country...
Fittingly, Brinkley's own arrogance caused his downfall.
Morris Fishbein, an employee of the American Medical Association made it his life's work to bring down Brinkley's empire. His series of articles in various medical journals angered Brinkley so much that eventually he sued Fishbein for libel.
This was a huge mistake.
Under cross-examination Brinkley's lack of qualifications and medical expertise was exposed.
He was stripped of his various licences to practice medicine and left himself open to malpractice suits from nearly everyone he had operated upon.
On May 26th 1942 Brinkley died penniless in San Antonio, Texas.
His legacy lives on though.
Every time someone pays for an injection of bovine collagen into their body they are unknowingly paying tribute to a man who knew the lengths people would go to for their health and wellbeing....