A case of excessive and highly structured daydreaming

Mind Hacks reports on a Consciousness and Cognition article about a "36 year-old woman with a long history of excessive daydreaming where she'd spent long periods of time wrapped up in a fantasy world." The woman is not mentally ill, and can tell the difference between the real world and her daydream universe.

Her condition reminded me of the "Jet-Propelled Couch" chapter in The Fifty Minute Hour: A Collection of True Psychoanalytic Tales by Dr. Robert Lindner. The chapter was about a Los Alamos physicist who had been sent to Lindner because he was acting strangely at work, often going into a trance-like state. Because the physicist had a high level security clearance, his superiors were quite worried about his odd behavior.

It turns out that the physicist believed himself to be John Carter, the protagonist in Edgar Rice Burrough's series of science fiction adventure novels that take place on Mars. The physicist was coincidentally also named John Carter. The physicist told Lindner he was able to teleport himself to Mars and have the same kind of adventures the fictional John Carter had. The physicist kept detailed maps and records of his adventures, accumulating 10,000 pages of notes! I won't spoil the rest for you. It's an incredible story. (You can read the "Jet-Propelled Couch" chapter through Google Book Search)

I first read A Princess of Mars, Burrough's tale of adventure on the red planet, when I was in junior high school. (Dejah Thoris, the princess in the novel, may have been my first crush.)

A few years ago I re-read A Princess of Mars, prepared to be utterly disappointed. But I loved it just as much as I did when I was 12 years old. Burrough's description of the Martian animals and societies, particularly the hideous six-limbed green Martians', is a hoot, and the plot moves along at a fast clip. It unfolds much like a contemporary science fiction movie. It's fallen out of copyright, and you can download it for free from Project Gutenburg's site.