Sherlock Holmes and the Foil Covered Brain of Lake Michigan

On Tuesday morning, Jimmy Senda, a 47-year-old construction worker and part-time artist from Racine, U.S.A., was strolling along the shore of Lake Michigan at Samuel Myers Park in search of sea glass, which he builds into his creative sculptures, when a curious looking package lying on its own close to the water’s edge caught his eye.

Senda told FOX6 that “curiosity” got the better of him, so he approached the package and unwrapped its case of aluminum foil, that was fastened with a pink rubber band, and this is when the artist first looked upon “a brain” among pink flowers, with what appeared to be Chinese currency .

The mysterious brain was discovered on a Lake Michigan beach. (James Senda)

The mysterious brain was discovered on a Lake Michigan beach. ( James Senda )

Senda told the media that he was so dumbfounded by his discovery of a brain wrapped in aluminum foil near Lake Michigan , that his own brain “struggled to comprehend precisely what was unfolding.” The construction worker then shared his bizarre find with some city workers, who confirmed it was indeed a brain, and when the police arrived at the scene they came to the same conclusion – but said the body part was much too small to be a human brain .

According to Daily Mail , a spokesperson from the Medical Examiner’s Office has since confirmed that the brain definitely belongs to an animal. But what you have read here is all that is currently known about the bizarre package, and its significance, if any, remains a tightly-locked mystery.

A spokesperson from the Medical Examiner's Office has since confirmed that the brain definitely belongs to an animal. (James Senda)

A spokesperson from the Medical Examiner’s Office has since confirmed that the brain definitely belongs to an animal. ( James Senda )

We Love a Good Mystery at Ancient Origins

If Sherlock Holmes were to survey the evidence found at the scene of the wrapped-up animal brain, the flowers, and Chinese coins, he would doubtlessly enquire into what connections exist between these three components. And if he followed this line of thinking he would soon learn that “Monkey brains,” according to Holly Gayley in her 2017 book The Compassionate Treatment of Animals, was an ancient dish consisting of the brains of monkeys and apes, a tradition that began in the 17th-century Manchu Han Imperial banquet of the Qing Empire, where the warm brains were eaten directly from the animal’s skull.

If our fictional detective were to dig a little deeper he might soon discover another Chinese belief relating to the brain: “ Qigong,” describing the energy manipulated when balancing the forces of Yin and Yang. In traditional Chinese medicine the left side of the brain is Yang, or masculine in nature, while the right side of the brain is Yin, or feminine, and contrasting with this, the left side of the body is considered feminine while and the right side is masculine, and the arts of Qigong and Tai chi,  aimed to balance the brain and body’s Yin and Yang qualities.

The arts of Qigong and Tai chi aim to balance the brain and body’s Yin and Yang qualities. (SONGMY/CC BY 2.5)

The arts of Qigong and Tai chi aim to balance the brain and body’s Yin and Yang qualities. (SONGMY/ CC BY 2.5 )

According to an article on Five Season’s Medicine “Qigong Brain Balancing” was developed by the ancient Chinese masters to improve health and cultivate martial art skills in defensive training and war, and the practice involved “balancing the body and brain diagonally,” so that the left brain connected with to the right body, and the right brain connected with the left body.

At this stage of the investigation Sherlock would have pondered on all these possible connections between the Chinese coins and the Chinese interest in the brain, and his next logical step would be to bring in the “pink flowers.” Being not only a master of all stops and train times on the Victorian London underground, Holmes was a learned botanist and he would have known of “ L. Dianthus chinensis ,” better known as “The Flower of the Gods, ”or “China pink,” as a species of  Dianthus, which is native to northern China, and that according to Freak Of Natural it was “a key herb used in Chinese herbal medicine to treat urinary difficulties.”

Dianthus chinensis. Common name: China Pink. (Mokkie/CC BY SA 3.0) These type of flowers were with the brain found by Lake Michigan.

Dianthus chinensis. Common name: China Pink. (Mokkie/ CC BY SA 3.0 ) These type of flowers were with the brain found by Lake Michigan.

China Watson, China. This mysterious package has China written all over it my dear friend. But what does it mean?

All Aboard the Mystery Brain Train

Considering Chinese coins and two pink flowers were found alongside the brain discovered on Lake Michigan, even a rookie detective would suspect that what we are dealing with here was some sort of ritual. Since 7,000 years ago, and throughout human history, people in ancient Greece, North and South America, Africa, Polynesia, and the Far East practiced “ trepanation,” the brutal surgical procedure that involved drilling holes in the skulls of living people and sometimes cutting or scraping away layers of bone with sharpened implements.

However, scientists still argue as to why our ancestors trepanned skulls, with traditionalists proposing that it was a treatment for skull trauma or neurological disease, while many other researchers believe it was for a much more sacred reason: ritual, which according to a 2016 BBC article, “allowed the passage of spirits into or out of the body.”

The Extraction of the Stone of Madness by Hieronymus Bosch. ( Public Domain )

The Extraction of the Stone of Madness by Hieronymus Bosch. ( Public Domain )

In 2016, brain scientist and author Todd Murphy wrote Sacred Pathways : The Brain’s Role in Religious and Mystic Experiences,  with the foreword written by H.H. The Dalai Lama, and in this wonderful synthesis of science and spirituality Todd analyzes spiritual, religious, and mystic events and explains these with neuroscience. The scientist demonstrates how the areas in the brain supporting perceptions of Near-Death Experiences are also the basis for the mystic experience, and he maintains our sense of “Self,” is a mere hallucination and that “God is a manifestation of a part of ourselves,” with feelings of enlightenment coming from “blasts of neural activity in specific parts of the brain.”

Conclusions on the Brain Found Near Lake Michigan

While it can only be speculation at this stage, Sherlock might have concluded that someone living in a Lake Michigan city, with a deep-seated interest in traditional Chinese medicine, or in Chinese cosmology and religion, also worked in a late-night Chinese restaurant. After a pig was butchered, the sympathetic member of staff perhaps took the time to dispose of the animal’s brain respectfully and set it into Lake Michigan after wrapping it in aluminum foil, with two pink flowers and Chinese coins, three components found in Chinese restaurants.

“But as much as these musings add up, your theory fails to account for the pink rubber band Sherlock,” said Watson. But the great detective’s assistant was silenced when Holmes said, “be patient Watson, the police have yet to test that pink rubber band, which I am almost certain will prove to be one of the heat proof bands used in ovens.”

Top Image: The brain was found wrapped in aluminum foil on the shore of Lake Michigan in the USA. Source: James Senda

By Ashley Cowie

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