Voices from the Grave. The ‘phantom pain’
By Kathi Kresol
An article written in the Daily Gazette in March 1886 told the strange story of Goodliff family. Mrs. Goodliff had suffered for some time with pain in her leg. The pain eventually grew so bad that couple had to make the difficult decision to have Mrs. Goodliff’s leg amputated.
The operation went well and Mrs. Goodliff was hopeful as she began the long journey to recovery. But it was not very long before she began to suffer from pain all over again. This pain seemed to be centered in the leg that now was buried in the cemetery. She endured the pain as her doctors and her family watched helplessly.
Doctor Townsend, the physician who had performed the amputation of Mrs. Goodliff’s leg, consulted with other doctors about the “phantom pain.” But they had no idea what could alleviate the poor woman’s suffering. There were times that the pains were so bad that she would scream in agony. She stated that it felt that her leg was still attached and that something was wrapped too tightly causing the leg to throb with pain.
Finally, William’s mother could not stand her daughter-in-laws cries any longer. She convinced Mr. Goodliff that something must be done. They decided that Mr. Goodliff needed to dig up the leg and bring it home to show his wife that the leg had been amputated.
So William, accompanied by a friend, went to the cemetery and unearthed his wife’s leg. When he found the leg, he unwrapped it and found that the leg actually did contain tight bindings. One wrapping was at the toe area which is exactly where his wife complained of feeling the worst pain. The other was wrapped tightly just below where the leg had been separated. William carefully unwrapped the bindings and removed the stockings to free the leg from anything that might cause any discomfort. He packed up the leg carefully and carried it back to show his wife.
William was pleased when he returned home to find his wife’s pains were relieved. The article went on to say that many of the family and friends of the couple were with Mrs. Goodliff at the home while Mr. Goodliff was at the cemetery. Later, everyone was shocked when they realized that Mrs. Goodliff’s pain receded at exactly the same time as William loosened the bindings on the amputated leg, though these incidents occurred many miles apart.
Even the doctors that were attending Mrs. Goodliff stated that they had never seen a case similar to the young woman’s. She recovered quickly after this incident and Mr. Goodliff eventually returned the amputated limb to the cemetery where it remained until his wife’s death. R.
Kathi Kresol is a local author and historian who has researched Rockford’s past for over a decade. She offers historical and paranormal tours throughout the year. You can find read more articles and find out about upcoming events at hauntedrockford.com.