As part of Step Back in Time, famed phrenologist visits Silverton to consult with victims. Oops. We mean PATIENTS.
By Mark Esper
The famed phrenologist Professor Cranium was holding consultations with “patients” in Silverton on Saturday afternoon.
Never mind that phrenology was a popular pseudo science during Victorian times that has since been thoroughly debunked.
That won’t stop Professor Cranium, whose appearance in Silverton was in conjunction with the town’s Step Back in Time celebration, presented by the Durango Victorian Aid Society.
Step Back in Time included many fun events Friday and Saturday, such as courting and etiquette lessons, a Victorian high tea, ghost tours and a Grand Victorian Ball.
But clearly among the more unique events was an opportunity for people to get their heads examined.
Phrenology was a complex process that involved feeling the bumps in the skull to determine an individual's psychological attributes. It involves measuring the skull and making various assumptions about people’s conduct and tendencies based on those measurements.
Of course the alleged science was long ago dismissed as balderdash.
Just don’t try to tell that to Professor Cranium.
In real life he is John Steinle, administrator of the Hiwan Homestead Museum in Evergreen. But he’s studied phrenology for years.
“Many years ago back in Ohio I ran a museum complex there, and we had a phrenologist scheduled to appear,” Steinle said. “But he finked out on us. He didn’t show up. So somebody had to do it. I studied up on it a little and went ahead with it. That was about 25 years ago. I’ve been improving my skills ever since.”
Professor Cranium claims he has consulted hundreds of patients and has “read the heads” of Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain.
“Many famous people have consulted me to gain insight into themselves,” Professor Cranium says. He says his technique provides “an honest appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses” of an individual and advice on what paths in life to follow.
While acknowledging professor-patient privilege issues, Professor Cranium said that his measurements showed “the Kaiser has a little problem, if I may say so. You see, behind the ear is an area that governs temper. He has quite a bulge there.”
And Professor Cranium said Kaiser Wilhelm also has “a generous ridge” on his skull in the area noted for governing destructiveness.
“He might want to watch that,” the professor advised.
“He has a lot of good qualities too,” Professor Cranium said. “He has a fair amount of musical ability, a nicely developed time and tune area.”
Even though time has long since relegated phrenology to the dust bin of bad science, Professor Cranium stands by his theories.
“This is not a phony thing like fortune telling,” Professor Cranium said. And he said can’t predict a person’s destiny.
“Their destiny depends on themselves. I can only give readings on their flaws, and also strengths and talent.”
Professor Cranium said that “the aim of phrenology is to perfect yourself as a human being — in many cases that may take a while.
“There may have to be future consultations with a small fee attached to each,” Professor Cranium said. “With some people its obvious that it’s going to take a long time to reach perfection stages.”
He acknowledged the American Medical Association does not exactly endorse phrenology.
“But I am sure they would if they understood the full scientific underpinning,” Professor Cranium said. “I think I could convince them if I could give a demonstration on what phrenology is.”
And Professor Cranium also admitted that few if any health insurance providers cover his services at this time.
“That’s another thing that’s going to take some convincing,” he said.
“This is a scientifically proven methodology,” Professor Cranium insisted. “And I would encourage people to come and learn more about themselves.”
He said his services can be invaluable before making any big decision, such as getting married, changing jobs.
“You shouldn’t do anything in life without consulting a phrenologist,” Professor Cranium said