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From Tragedy to Legend: The Remarkable Survival and Transformation of Phineas Gage in 1840s Vermont

The literally, mind-blowing story of Phineas Gage, with its unique blend of horror, resilience, and scientific curiosity, has long intrigued those who stumble upon it. Unfolding in the midst of Vermont's burgeoning railroad construction in 1848, this extraordinary tale stands as one of the state's most captivating historical episodes. It not only illuminates the indomitable adaptability of the human brain but also casts a peculiar light on the harsh realities of early industrial life in Vermont.

Phineas Gage, old photo, oddities, curiosities

Phineas Gage, then a 25-year-old railroad construction foreman in Vermont, suffered a horrific accident while supervising a crew for the state's first railroads. The task involved drilling into rocks, filling them with black powder, and igniting the charge to fracture the rocks. Tragically, Gage failed to add a layer of sand to the gunpowder before striking it with a 13-pound iron rod. The rod prematurely ignited and rocketed through Gage's skull, entering under his left cheekbone and exiting at the back.

phineas gage, anatomical, oddities, curiosities

Despite the severity of his injury, Gage remarkably remained conscious and managed to walk away from the accident scene with assistance. His survival was miraculous, but the accident resulted in a significant personality shift. The devout and respected foreman became cantankerous and prone to profanity, forcing him to abandon his work and relocate to California with family. Tragically, he passed away from seizures at the age of 36.

Phineas Gage, old photo, oddities, curiosities

Decades later, a serendipitous find in a Baltimore attic revived Gage's story. A daguerreotype, initially mistaken as a whaling instrument, was identified as a photograph of Gage, confirming his existence and the incredible tale of his survival and resilience.

This tale has captivated the interest of Bobby Farlice-Rubio, a passionate pursuer of knowledge and service. Although not the discoverer or primary investigator of Gage's case, Rubio's extensive research has made him an intimate narrator of this riveting story. “I've always been drawn to the enigmatic and unfathomable elements of our history," Bobby comments, "and Gage's story truly encapsulates this."

Bobby Farlice-Rubio

Indeed, his role as an assistant park manager finds him frequently recounting Gage's tale around the campfire, fascinating listeners eager to learn about Vermont's mysterious past. Rubio's diverse interests, spanning science, folklore, and mythology, were sparked during his tenure at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium. Today, in addition to his park duties, Rubio represents Vermont's House of Representatives for the Caledonia One district. “I love this state. I love the people that I've met here.”

Gage's skull, now a haunting artifact displayed in a medical history museum, symbolizes his incredible journey. There is also a memorial located in Cavendish, Vt. Gage's narrative, kept alive by Rubio's diligent research, underscores the resilience of the human brain, the history of Vermont's railroads, and the power of stories unearthed from the past.

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