The excuse that he only exhibited a portion of Mr McCallum’s skull did not impress the Indigo Road Board, particularly as at one time Mr McCallum had been a colleague. Within days the matter was mentioned in parliament and on 4 March 1871, The Argus reported: “Dr Rohner’s removal from the commission of the peace and the office of deputy coroner is gazetted.” (Footnote: According to local folk lore, Dr Rohner kept a skull on one corner of his desk while he was in practice in Chiltern. Did Mr McCallum become a permanent exhibit?) 2. His advocacy of spiritualism. Dr Rohner would have been loved by journalists at The Argus for he always seemed to be good for a story. This item appeared in that paper on 28 October 1871 when the skull story was fresh in everyone’s mind (If it doesn’t make sense, please do not contact Peninsula Essence for an explanation): “The eccentric Dr Rohner of Chiltern is still lecturing on the subjects of spiritualism and magic. At a recent lecture he mentioned that... as a statistical curiosity, that to the best of his knowledge there was not at present a single scientific magician in Australia, only a few in America and England, but there was a great number in France and Germany, in which latter countries the science of ‘Haute Magic’ was always considered the keystone of the education of a thorough philosopher. “The doctor took the opportunity to state that he was authorized by the brotherhood to which he belonged to introduce new members to their society, the leading principles of which were light, intelligence, progress, love and wisdom, linked together with moral rectitude, genius, harmony and beauty". “The following caution to spiritists,” says the Ovens Advertiser, concluded one of the most remarkable lectures ever delivered in Chiltern, if not the colony: ‘Yes, spiritists, the spirits which speak to you in the tables are the spirits of your blood. You fatigue and exhaust yourselves only to put your own soul into the wood of your furniture, like those priests of Mexico who thought they were giving a soul to their idols by daubing them over the smoking blood of human victims. What you are doing now was done long before the birth of Christ; it was done and is still done in India; it is, moreover, done amongst the savages, where the jungles form a circle round the altar of their gods with ghastly heads, the hair of which is dripping with blood, and you only magnetise your furniture by impoverishing your brain as well as your heart. Why would you be in such a hurry to see the spirits of your departed friends; surely you will see them soon enough when your proper time to see them has come, without degrading your faculties to the lowest degree of madness. Believe me, it is a false religious sentiment to build your arguments for the immortality of the soul upon the spurious facts of spiritualism'." (The Argus, 18 October 1871) Although all of this may appear to be incomprehensible, Dr Rohner’s contribution to the concept was widely known for on 26 August 1884 The South Australian Register, under the heading ‘The Freethought Battle’, quotes Dr Rohner “...who has made a careful investigation of spiritual phenomena”. Whether or not it was linked with his views on spiritualism is not known, but Dr Rohner frequently warned of the dangers of “animal magnetism which can produce sleep, insensibility... even death”. (The Argus, 14 September 1871) How all of this was received by the ordinary man in the street in Chiltern can only be guessed at. No doubt a few heads were shaken vigorously. He seemed to be involved in a number of the socalled ‘friendly societies of the North East’ and as late as 30 March
Dr Rohner about the time of his disappearance
1883, the North East Ensign announced: “Dr C W Rohner has been appointed Medical Officer of the Benalla Lodge of Oddfellows.” A few years earlier The Argus carried a few lines that suggested Dr Rohner’s relationship with the societies was not always friendly: “MEDICAL- In reference to an advertisement that lately appeared in The Argus inviting ‘Applications from medical gentlemen to attend the united societies at Wandiligong’, the following has already appeared in the Ovens and Murray Advertiser: AOF Court Little John No. 4001. “The members of the above court at Bright, Wandiligong and the surrounding district generally are hereby notified that, notwithstanding the advertisement from the united societies at Wandiligong, Dr C W Rohner still continues to occupy the position of court surgeon. (The Argus, 8 August 1879). continued next page...
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Peninsula Essence March 2018