06.27.16
The Editors | Observer Quarterly

Secret Messages



Agnes Richter, a seamstress by trade, was a patient at the Hubertusberg Psychiatric Institution near Dresden, Germany, where—over the course of her hospitalization—she obsessively embroidered her hospital-issued straightjacket.

Are the words a chronicle of her confinement? An account of her suffering? A transcription of voices she heard, perhaps? As psychologist Gail Hornstein, who has written about the possible meanings of the jacket’s musings, wrote: “What if the mad are trying to tell us something? What if their ‘ravings’ contain important information? Just because they’re difficult to decipher doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make them out.”





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