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This Rare Hallucination Makes You See Tiny People

Raoul Leroy, a French psychiatrist, described a strange mental condition marked by hallucinations of miniature people or Lilliputians (called after characters from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels) in a paper published in 1909. Leroy’s hallucinations, which he had once in 1909, were described as small, bright, highly lively, and pleasurable.

Jan Dirk Blom recently evaluated 226 reported cases of Lilliputian hallucinations from 145 case reports, gaining significant insight into this uncommon psychological condition.

Raoul Leroy (1869-1941), Image from Paper

The hallucinated beings were usually numerous, numbering in the thousands or even millions in the majority of cases (two cases). They were usually very energetic, jumping on chairs, dancing on tables, climbing up furniture, marching in files or squads, or doing acrobatics. They come into the category of “reality-based projective hallucinations,” according to Dirk Blom, because they are grounded in the real world and appear to follow the laws of physics and three-dimensional space.

The beings ranged in height from 1mm to 1m (average height = 23cm) and were often joined by huge hallucinated beings (Brobdingnagian Hallucinations). The hallucinations lasted anywhere from a few seconds to decades. The fact that 46% of patients assigned negative qualifications to these hallucinations (e.g., ‘frightening,’ ‘annoying,’ exhausting,’ menacing’), 36% assigned positive qualifications (e.g., ‘entertaining,”soothing,’ amusing,’ hilarious’), and 8% assigned neutral or mixed qualifications refutes Leroy’s earlier hypothesis that they are always pleasurable.

Number of case descriptions of lilliputian hallucinations per decennium. Image from Paper

In clinical groups of psychiatric patients, Dirk Blom estimates the prevalence of Lilliputian hallucinations to be 30–80 per 10,000, making it extremely unusual. In addition to the review’s findings, the study analyses the disorder’s history and causation factors.

Not every experience was pleasant. In one research, Leroy cited a 50-year-old woman who claimed to have seen two guys “as tall as a finger,” dressed in blue and smoking a pipe, sitting high up on a telegraph wire. The patient claimed to have heard a voice threatening to murder her while viewing, at which time the vision vanished and she left.

“In my previous communication to the Medico-Psychic Society, I said that these hallucinations had a rather pleasant character, the patient looking at them with as much surprise as with pleasure,” Leroy said.