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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 5 Dec 1994 10:16:09 -0800
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The following message is cross-posted from VICTORIA and an
unidentified bulletin board.  No reader of BLEAK HOUSE--not to
mention pensive sorts and check balancers--will fail to shudder
at Dickens's dreadful accuracy in matters medical.  One question.
Was the chess player a sodden inebriate?

Patrick McC

---------- Forwarded message ----------

>From the WEEKLY WORLD NEWS, May 24, 1994


Doctors are blaming a rare electrical imbalance in the brain for the
bizarre death of a chess player whose head literally exploded in the middle
of a championship game!

No one else was hurt in the fatal explosion but four players and three
officials at the Moscow Candidate Masters' Chess Championships were sprayed
with blood and brain matter when Nikolai Titov's head suddenly blew apart.
Experts say he suffered from a condition called Hyper-Cerebral Electrosis
or HCE.

"He was deep in concentration with his eyes focused on the board," says
Titov's opponent, Vladimir Dobrynin.  "All of a sudden his hands flew to
his temples and he screamed in pain.  Everyone looked up from their games,
startled by the noise.  Then, as if someone had put a bomb in his cranium,
his head popped like a firecracker."

Incredibly, Titiov's is not the first case in which a person's head has
spontaneously exploded.  Five people are known to have died of HCE in the
last 25 years.  The most recent death occurred just three years ago in
1991, when European psychic Barbara Nicole's skull burst. Miss Nicole's
story was reported by newspapers worldwide, including WWN. HCE is an
extremely rare physical imbalance," said Dr. Anatoly Martinenko, famed
neurologist and expert on the human brain who did the autopsy on the
brilliant chess expert.  "It is a condition in which the circuits of the
brain become overloaded by the body's own electricity.  The explosions
happen during periods of intense mental activity when lots of current is
surging through the brain. Victims are highly intelligent people with great
powers of concentration. Both Miss Nicole and Mr. Titov were intense people
who tended to keep those cerebrl circuits overloaded.  In a way it could be
said they were literally too smart for their own good."

Although Dr. Martinenko says there are probably many undiagnosed cases, he
hastens to add that very few people will die from HCE.  "Most people
who have it will never know.  At this point, medical science still doesn't
know much about HCE.  And since fatalities are so rare it will probably be
years before research money becomes available."

In the meantime, the doctor urges people to take it easy and not think too
hard for long periods of time. "Take frequent relaxation breaks when you're
doing things that take lots of mental focus," he recommends.

(As a public service, WWN added a sidebar titled HOW TO TELL IF YOUR

Although HCE is very rare, it can kill.  Dr. Martinenko says knowing you
have the condition can greatly improve your odds of surviving it.  A "yes"
answer to any three of the following seven questions could mean that you
have HCE:

1.  Does your head sometimes ache when you think too hard?  (Head pain can
indicate overloaded brain circuits.)

2.  Do you ever hear a faint ringing or humming sound in your ears? (It
could be the sound of electricity in the skull cavity.)

3.  Do you sometimes find yourself unable to get a thought out of your
head? (This is a possible sign of too much electrical activity in the
cerebral cortex.)

4.  Do you spend more than five hours a day reading, balancing your
checkbook, or other thoughtful activity? (A common symptom of HCE is a
tendency to over-use the brain.)

5.  When you get angry or frustrated do you feel pressure in your temples?
(Friends of people who died of HCE say the victims often complained of head
pressure in times of strong emotion.)

6.  Do you ever overeat on ice cream, doughnuts and other sweets?  (A
craving for sugar is typical of people with too much electrical pressure in

7.  Do you tend to analyze yourself too much? (HCE sufferers are often
introspective, "over-thinking" their lives.)

Dale Kramer, Professor
Department of English
109-A English Building
608 S Wright, Urbana, IL 61801
(217) 333-7085; fax: (217) 333-4321