Cibophobia (Fear of Food)

Angela Marsden was ten years old in the year of our Lord, 1896. She came from a very wealthy family from Richmond, Virginia. She was an only child whose parents were very liberal with her as far as discipline was concerned. Angela was raised by a nanny, Bridget, who had emigrated to the United States from Ireland twenty years ago, when she had been a young girl of fourteen. Bridget had been charged with their daughter’s education as far as manners were concerned and, therefore, Angela grew up to be well-mannered and caring, despite her parent’s doting on her. 1896 would also prove to be a pivotal year in Angela’s life, one which would change her forever.

The month of May turned out to be warmer than normal that year, so in an effort to escape the heat, the Marsden family went to visit relatives living on the coast of Massachusetts. The weather in Cape Cod proved to be conducive to the family’s comfort and Angela especially loved to walk along the beaches with Bridget. Bridget and Angela would roam around little inlets among the rocks and along the shore collecting shells. One day, they were joined by Angela’s fifteen-year old cousin, Johnathon. While Bridget was setting out a blanket on the beach for a picnic, Johnathon and Angela went walking among the dunes. Johnathon had promised Bridget that he would keep Angela near him so that nothing would happen to her.

“Angela, come with me. I want to show you something.”

“What is it, Johnathon?”

“You’ll see. It’s a surprise.”

So the children walked along the dunes, until they came upon a small wooden shack. Johnathon walked up the stairs and pushed open the door. Angela followed him and, at first, was afraid but when she looked closer, she just began to wonder what was Johnathon so eager to show her. Inside, she saw a wooden table, a couple cabinets, and a mattress. Through a hole in the roof, a ray of sunshine reminded Angela of one of the new glass lamps in her bedroom.

“So, what do you think? Isn’t it great?” Johnathon asked.

“I suppose so. What is it? Who lives here?”

“An old man used to live here. He was a bit of a local hermit but he died a year ago and the town never bothered to tear it down.”

“Aren’t you afraid that his ghost might still be around?”

Johnathon laughed at his cousin’s naivete and assured her that there were no such things as ghosts. He then walked over to the mattress, lifted it up by a corner and took something off of the floor.

“Come over here and let me show you what I found when I first discovered this place.”

Angela was a bit curious and walked over to sit by Johnathon on the mattress. At first, Angela thought that Johnathon was holding an old magazine, but as she looked closer, she saw that it was a folder with what looked like postcards.

“Why would someone want those? They’re just pictures of ladies.”

“Ah, but not just ladies. These are what they call French postcards. Can you guess why?”

“Because…oh. They are only wearing underclothes.”

“Yes, they are.” And without saying another word, Johnathon took his cousin’s hand and placed it in his lap. Angela jumped up with fear and confusion in her eyes.

“Johnathon, what are you doing!?!”

“Dear cousin, I just want to…oh, never mind.” Having said this, Johnathon jumped up, put one hand over Angela’s mouth and pushed her down on the mattress. With his free hand, he lifted up Angela’s dress, struggled with her underskirt and finally exposing his cousin, he quickly undid his pant’s buttons and laid on top of Angela. All the while that he was doing this, he keep trying to calm Angela down. Angela was struggling to get out from under her cousin and, failing that, bit the hand that he held over her mouth. Johnathon yelled, but quickly recovered from the shock and slapped Angela. He finally held her down by holding on to her arms and with his legs, pushed her apart. Angela felt a sharp pain between her legs and started to cry. Five minutes later, Johnathon got up from Angela and pulled up his pants.

“Now, dry your eyes, get dressed, and let’s go. Bridget is probably calling for us. And remember, don’t say a word about this to anyone. If you do, your parents will disown you and throw you in the streets.”

Angela heard him, but didn’t say a word. She rearranged her clothes, straightened her hair, and dried her eyes. She looked at Johnathon and wanted to ask him why he had done this to her, but didn’t. She was too ashamed and afraid that he might be right about her parents disowning her.

Eventually, summer ended and Angela and her family returned to Richmond. Angela’s fear caused her to not say a word to anyone about what had happened to her. Bridget was concerned enough when she noticed that Angela had trouble sleeping. The girl was not as lively as she used to be and Bridget also noticed that she sometimes refused to eat her meals. Bridget came into Angela’s room one day and found the girl in her bed crying.

“Why are you crying, girl?”

Angela didn’t say anything and just turned her back on Bridget. Bridget ran over to the girl, turned her over so she could see her face and asked her again, why was she crying. Angela just looked at Bridget and started to cry again. Bridget became frustrated and told Angela that she was going to report this strange behavior to her parents. Hearing this, Angela stopped crying, jumped out of her bed, and begged Bridget not to tell her parents.

“And why should I not tell your parents? I am in charge of you and it is my duty to report any unusual behavior.”

“Please, Bridget, don’t. If you tell them, they will disown me!”

“What nonsense are you talking, girl? Why would your parents disown you? You haven’t done anything wrong, as far as I know, for them to do such a thing.”

Angela looked at Bridget with such misery in her eyes that it scared the woman. She knelt down to the girl and took her into her arms and tried to comfort the girl. Angela held on to the woman as if she was a lifeline. She eventually pulled away from Bridget and said,

“If I tell you what I am crying about, you must promise on your sacred honor not to tell my parents. I will not say a word until you give me your promise.”

Bridget looked at the girl’s face and saw the determination in her eyes. Finally, Bridget raised her right hand and said, “May God strike me dead, if I say a word about what you are about to tell me.”

With these words spoken, Angela got up from the floor, walked back to her bed and sat down. She patted her hand beside her on the bed, indicating that Bridget was to sit down beside her. Bridget did as the girl bid and sat beside her, folding her hands in her lap. Before saying a word, Angela took a deep breathe, slowly let it out, and proceeded to tell Bridget what Johnathon had done and told her about the consequences of telling anyone. Bridget was shocked at what the girl had told her and, at the same time, found herself in a quandary due to the promise that she had made to Angela. When the girl finished her story, Bridget had decided that she would first have to reassure the girl that her parents would not disown her. Eventually, the girl was convinced that Bridget was correct and let Bridget out of her promise. Bridget managed to convince the girl to have some breakfast while she spoke to her father.

Bridget walked down to Mr. Marsden’s study and gently knocked on the semi-closed door. Mr. Marsden was sitting at his desk going over some papers, heard Bridget’s knock, and motioned her in.

“Yes, what is it, Bridget?”

“Sir, I’m afraid a certain matter has come to my attention and I felt it my duty to report it to you.”

“Very well, what is so important?”

Bridget fidgeted with her hands, looked around the room as if expecting to see if anyone else was in the room, and, clearing her throat, said in a modest voice,

“Your daughter has imparted to me some very personal information, but I’m afraid that you will not believe me.”

“Come, woman, spit it out! I can’t imagine what my daughter confided in you and not in me and my wife. Surely, she doesn’t think that we are monsters?”

“No, sir, she doesn’t, but, in a way, it does concern monsters.” When Bridget said this, a big smile came to Mr. Marsden’s face. The smile quickly disappeared when Bridget explained what she had meant by these words. Bridget had just finished telling Mr. Marsden what his nephew had done to his daughter, when he held up a hand and told her to say no more. Mr. Marsden made Bridget take an oath that this information would not leave the house or she would be relieved of her duties. He then dismissed her, telling her to ask Angela to come to his study. While he was waiting for his daughter, he thought about his options. He was certain of one thing: his wife must never find out about this. Ten minutes later, Angela quietly and fearfully entered her father’s study. He waved the girl over to himself, hugged her to his chest, and kissed her on her cheeks. With a tear in one eye, he set her back down to the floor, and said,

“What ever made you think that we would turn you out of the house? Your mother and I love you very much and only want the best for you. Don’t you understand that?”

“Y-y-yes papa. But Johnathon…”

“We will NEVER say that name in this house, alright?”

“Alright. I was so afraid and he hurt me. I didn’t know what to do.”

“I will take care of this. In the meantime, we will not speak of this to you mother, understood?”

“Yes, papa.”

“Very good. I also want you to understand that I will do everything in my power to help you heal. Now, you may go back to your room, if you wish.”

“Thank you, papa. I love you.”

“And I you.”

Angela left the study in a happier mood than when she had entered, because her father had told her that everything would be alright. She went back up the stairs to her room and told Bridget what he had said.

Mr. Marsden was uncertain how to handle this situation. He wondered if he should keep this secret to himself or tell his brother what his son had done. He didn’t want to be accused of blaming the boy for something that would bring dishonor to the family, but then, if what he had been told was the truth, then he must fulfill his promise to his daughter. Mr. Marsden was not the sort of person who rushed off on an impulse; he thoroughly thought things through. As much as Marsden knew he needed to take care of this horrible situation, he decided to have a coffee and read the newspaper instead. He was half-way through his reading when he noticed an advertisement. It read:

Dr. Hiram J. Gottschalk, Esq.

Alienist for 20 years!

Has aided hundreds of people with mental ailments

Studied at the University of Vienna

100% success rate!

Please make inquiries at: Dr. Hiram J. Gottschalk

4523 E. 45th Street Suite 124

New York City, New York

Marsden wondered if this man would be able to help his daughter. He was a bit distrustful because he knew that there were many people willing to say that they could cure others, but who were eventually found to be frauds. He got up from the table and went to his study and wrote the information on an envelope, then sat down and began to write a letter to this man.

A week after having her discussion with her father, Angela was walking down to the fields to see her favorite horse. She had a cube of sugar in her pocket, which she always carried with her when she went to visit Chastity. Angela got to the fence where the horses were allowed to forage and was just beginning to call Chastity’s name, when she heard a loud and unusual neighing. Angela looked towards the sound and was shocked. There by an old oak tree was Chastity being mounted by the stallion, Monty. Angela froze, then screamed, turned around and ran back home. When she got back home, she ran up to her room, locked the door and slipped down to the floor sobbing. A couple hours later, when Bridget came to call her down for lunch, she found the door still locked. She put her ear to the door and heard Angela’s crying. After much pleading, Angela finally unlocked the door for Bridget. Angela told Bridget what she had seen and, after calming the girl down, she managed to get her to come downstairs for lunch. Bridget’s success in getting the girl down to the table was short-lived, however. Angela slowly stirred her fork in the rice and didn’t even touch the piece of roast beef on her plate. With patience, Bridget finally got Angela to eat a few bites and then excused her from the table. When Angela got upstairs, she went to the bathroom and threw up. She got up from the bathroom floor and went to her room. As Bridget and, eventually Angela’s parents, were to learn, this would become a pattern in Angela’s behavior. Angela’s mother couldn’t understand what was happening to her daughter and became very worried when she noticed that the girl was losing weight. Her husband did little to reassure her and told her only that he had taken measures to alleviate the problem. He still refused to tell her what had happened to their daughter, knowing that his wife was too sensitive a woman to have her faced with some of the horrors of life. Mrs. Marsden reluctantly submitted to her husband’s wishes and left the situation in his hands.

A week after this incident, Mr. Marsden received a reply from Dr. Gottschalk. He told Mr. Marsden that he would be happy to see his daughter by the following Tuesday at 10 AM. Mr. Marsden replied that he and his daughter would be in the city for the appointment. He also informed the doctor of the latest incident and its consequences.

The hansom cab dropped Mr. Marsden and Angela at the doctor’s address with ten minutes to spare. Mr. Marsden took some of this spare time to reassure Angela that the doctor would be able to help her and that she shouldn’t be afraid. Angela, in turn, reassured her father that she was not afraid. At the breakfast table in the hotel that they were staying at, Angela ate very little, as was her want lately, and immediately went to the bathroom and threw up. Her father was afraid that at this rate, he and his wife would lose their only child. They entered the brick building and soon found Doctor Gottschalk’s office and went in. They were met by a man who appeared to be in his sixties, had a slight paunch, rosy cheeks and a sympathetic disposition. He invited Mr. Marsden to have a seat and ushered Angela into his inner office. After an hour, the office door opened and Doctor Gottschalk invited Mr. Marsden into his office and had Angela sit and wait for her father. The Doctor told Mr. Marsden that Angela’s condition was an interesting case.

“I have been reading some of the latest medical reports, and I must tell you that your daughter has a condition called Cibophobia. There has been some studies about this condition done in Vienna. In most cases, the patient has always been female. It seems to be brought about by a shock to the nervous system, which results in a state of depression. This depression not only affects the victim’s self-esteem, but their appetite. It, unfortunately, cannot be cured in one session, Mr. Marsden. I am going to suggest that you allow me to write to a friend of mine who manages a facility for persons with mental disturbances.”

“Mental disturbances? Are you suggesting that my daughter is insane? I will not have that poor child subjected to the barbarous conditions of an asylum, is that clear Doctor Gottschalk?”

“Mr. Marsden, you misunderstand me. This is a hospital for special mental issues; it is not an asylum.”

“How long would she have to be there? I am unsure how I would explain this to the child’s mother.”

“That, I’m afraid, is up to your daughter, sir, but I can tell you that if her condition is allowed to run much longer, you may not have a daughter. Her lack of appetite, and the fact that she vomits up anything that she does eat, will cause a dangerous and fatal lose of weight.”

“How long will it take you to arrange her stay?”

“My friend’s hospital is about an hour’s drive from here. If you want, I shall write you a letter of recommendation to my friend and give you his address. You should be able to have Angela settled in before nightfall.”

“How will I explain to Angela why she will not be able to return home with me? She will be afraid to be alone in strange surroundings.”

“I mentioned my friend’s hospital to Angela and what she could expect. I also emphasized to her that she must be brave if she wanted to be cured and return to you and your wife’s loving home. I think, sir, that you may have to give her more credit than that. I believe that she will be a credit to your family’s love for her.”

This being said, the two men left the inner office and Mr. Marsden sat by Angela and asked her if she would be willing to go to the hospital that Doctor Gottschalk had told her about. Angela, at first, looked shyly at her father, but, in a second, she sat up straight in her chair and told her father that she would go to the hospital.

“If its alright with the doctor, maybe we can have Bridget come up and stay with you. Would you like that?”

“Yes, daddy. Would you and mother come visit?”

“If the doctor says that it would benefit your health, then, of course we will come visit.”

Doctor Gottschalk got up from his desk and handed an envelope to Mr. Marsden which contained the letter and directions to the hospital. Mr. Marsden thanked the doctor and, taking Angela’s hand, walked to the street to hail a carriage. On the way to the hospital, Angela apathetically answered her father’s few questions and, seeing that his daughter was not in a mood to talk, kept quiet himself for the rest of the drive. Before they both realized it, the carriage stopped at their destination. They got out of the carriage and walked through the metal gate which was, as Mr. Marsden hoped, the road to Angela’s full health. They were met at the door of the three story home by Doctor Spenser himself who led the two to his office. Before saying anything to either one, he rang a small silver bell and a woman appeared at the door.

“Sister Celeste, would you be so kind as to show our new guest around while I talk to Mr. Marsden?”

“Of course, Doctor. And what is your name, child?”

“Angela, Angela Marsden.”

“Well, Miss Angela, Angela Marsden, if you will follow me.”

Angela giggled at the nurse’s little joke, got up from her chair and followed her out. Doctor Spenser then told Mr. Marsden what sort of regiment his daughter would be put through, the costs of care, and wrote down all pertinent information on a sheet of paper. He reassured the man that his daughter would be treated very well and that he would receive weekly reports on her progress. Mr. Marsden asked the doctor if it would be possible for the child’s governess to be allowed to stay with the child.

“I’m afraid that might be counter-productive. You may send some of her clothes, one favorite toy, and letters to her. Anything else, I’m afraid is not allowed.”

Once all of the necessary paperwork was finished, the doctor escorted Marsden to the door. Angela and Sister Celeste were just returning from their tour and so Angela hugged and kissed her father good-bye. Mr. Marsden left the hospital feeling better about his decision; now he would have to explain everything to his wife, when he got home.


Angela was sitting on a chair in the foyer waiting for her father to come pick her up and take her home. She was anxious to get back and be with her parents and Bridget. Although she had felt somewhat abandoned when her father left her in Doctor Spenser’s care, she had quickly gotten over it when she realized that this had been for her own good. The nursing staff had been very patient with her and managed to get her appetite back. The sessions with the doctor had been scary at first because she still was a bit leery of being alone with an unknown male, but Doctor Spenser had helped get rid of her fear. She had been unsure when he explained that some of her treatment would require hypnosis sessions and she, finally understanding what hypnosis was, only agreed to them if Sister Celeste sat in on them, which the doctor agreed to. Eventually, Angela felt comfortable enough that she underwent hypnosis without Sister Celeste. Doctor Spenser told her that that was a major breakthrough.

The little bell over the door finally tinkled and Angela jumped up from her chair and ran over to open the door. She was a bit surprised when she opened the door and saw not only her father but her mother as well. When Mr. Marsden eventually explained why Angela had not returned with him from New York City, Mrs. Marsden, who had been sitting on the sofa when her husband returned, did not say a word at first, but then, unexpectedly did not cry or become hysterical, simply asked her husband when she would be able to visit her daughter. Mr. Marsden told her what the doctor had said and she simply nodded her head, got up from the sofa and said,

“In that case, I shall go and pack some things for her and have them sent. Now where has Bridget gone to? She can help me select what needs to be send.”

When Mrs. Marsden saw her daughter, she tried to hold back her tears, but failed. She bent down and hugged her daughter tightly. While this reunion was occurring, Sister Celeste appeared in the foyer and shook Mr. Marsden’s hand. Mrs. Marsden, when she realized that there was another person witnessing her emotional display, loosened her hold on Angela, wiped her eyes, and stood up to greet the Sister.

“If you all will follow me, Doctor Spenser would like to speak with you.”

Angela and her parents followed Sister Celeste to the doctor’s office and, when they arrived, Sister Celeste told Angela that she would have to wait outside while the doctor talked to her parents. Angela didn’t protest and sat down in a chair placed by a table with some toys to play with while she waited. Ten minutes later, Doctor Spenser opened his office door and invited Angela in.

“As I told you both, Angela has made remarkable progress during her stay here. I will allow Angela to return home with you, if Angela is willing to promise that she will notify you if she feels any anxiety and promises to keep a regular diet. Will that be acceptable to you, Angela?”

“Yes, Doctor Spenser.”

“Very well. Mr. Marsden, if you will sign this release form, I will return your daughter to you. Angela, if you will follow Sister Celeste, you may pack your suitcase and wait for your parents by the front door.”

Angela did not say a word, but got out of her seat and left the office. After she left the office, Mr. Marsden signed the release form, rose, and thanked the doctor for his help. The doctor said,

“Remember, Angela is at a fragile age. She is close to the age of puberty and so, must be reassured that everything that happened to her was not her fault. I’m not suggesting that Angela will have a relapse, just try to be sensitive to her feelings.”

“We will. Once again, thank you sir for your help.”

“You’re welcome Mr. Marsden. Remember, if Angela has a recurrence to her sad behavior, bring her back here and we shall do our best for her.”

The Marsdens then left the office, walked out to the foyer, and, picking up Angela’s suitcase, walked out to the carriage waiting outside to take them to the train station. Mrs. Marsden sat closely to her daughter all the way back home, determined that her daughter would not be harmed by anything or anybody while she lived.

When the carriage arrived at the Marsden’s home, Bridget stood outside waiting. Her eyes lit up when she saw Angela, who had gained the weight that she had lost, and she had to hold herself in check to make sure that she did not make a spectacle of herself by running to greet her charge. Angela, however, had no compunctions and, once she descended from the carriage, ran over to her governess and friend.

“Oh, my darling girl! It is so good to see you in such fine shape. Come inside, I’ve made a cake for you.”

Angela smiled and walked into the house, while her parents smiled and walked up to the house. Angela never had to return to New York City after that. Her parents and Bridget made sure of that, and they became closer even when, ten years later, Angela got married to a man who was studying to be a doctor.

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