Fire in the Brain: Clinical Tales of Hallucinations, by Ronald K. Siegel, Ph.D., Dutton Books, New York, 1992, $21.00

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

Dr. Siegel's book comprises 17 fascinating and masterfully told stories of . . . well, of hallucinations. He occasionally becomes, to an unbelievable degree, a part of the story, as he sometimes attempts to find the answer to the mystery du jour. The stories are sometimes macabre and terrifying, and at other times hilarious. They include yarns about UFOs, channelings, near death experiences, LSD and other psychedelic drugs, isolation effects, sleep deprivation, hallucinatory effects of extreme pain, imaginary companions, and other exotic and extreme conditions during which hallucinations can occur to even the least emotionally disturbed of us. Two of the most interesting, yet at the same time more disturbing tales, involve a case of Latin American political torture by surgery without anesthesia, and a story of repeated sadistic rapes of a partially anaesthetized woman.

The author solves the cases in the best tradition of his idol, Sherlock Holmes. Occasionally, Dr. Siegel spent an inordinate amount of time searching for the origins of his patients' symptoms. Hopefully, he didn't charge his patients by the hour as he placed himself into sometimes very long, uncomfortable and even dangerous environments in an attempt to solve or understand the presented case.

My dictionary defines a hallucination as "an apparent perception of an external object when no such object is present." During deep primal relivings, many of us have had visual "hallucinations." Would a visual primal qualify as a hallucination? I don't want to nit-pick, but I don't believe it does, as the stored image is already in the brain.

I think that this book would be of interest to anyone curious about the origins and characteristics of hallucinations. Fire In the Brain is an exciting and entertaining book.