If you've never seen Jimmy Stewart's classic, Harvey, you owe it to yourself to watch. Stewart plays Elwood Dowd, an eccentric convinced he has a friendship with an invisible six foot tall rabbit. Dowd's family, worried about his sanity, has him locked up in a mental hospital where men in white coats plan to cure Dowd's delusions with drugs. But at the end, Dowd's loved ones realize that they love him as he is, so he's freed to go on his rabbit-loving way. A happy ending.
Of course, Harvey is a fantasy. In the real world, people who talk to imaginary animals are locked up and treated against their will. Even when it turns out the animals are real.
Chris Muth, aka “the Cat Man,” made headlines in July, 2008, when he got thrown into the psych ward of Long Island College Hospital for six days after his attempt to rescue Rumi, a friendly feline who had fallen behind a wall in Muth’s Court Street apartment.
The cat fell thirty feet through a hole in Muth's apartment wall. And just as in Harvey, authorities who found Muth attempting to rescue Rumi were skeptical. So Muth spent the week a mental hospital:
A medical report compounded what Muth claims was a misdiagnosis, saying that Muth was suffering a “bizarre delusion [that he] was trying to ‘save’ a cat.”
Muth quickly grew tired of awaiting release from the nuthouse, and made a foolhardy attempt to rise up against his captors.
“I said, ‘Give me a pencil and paper; I’m going to write a press release and you are going to be the laughingstock of New York,” Muth said.
Unfortunately, Muth made the demand to the resident nurse on duty — a woman who would become his nemesis. The nurse called over orderlies, who held down Muth while she administered a shot of Haldol, a powerful anti-psychotic drug …
Chris Muth does seem to be quite an eccentric character, which is probably not the best state for one hoping to convince authorities that one doesn't belong in a mental hospital. And while eccentric doesn't mean insane, it makes perfect sense that Muth was tranquilized. The crazy man believed in imaginary animals. And he was trying to escape, for some reason.
Really, it was all for Muth's own good.
Fortunately the cat was able to rescue Muth, who was set free when neighbors, hearing the cat's cries through the walls, alerted the SPCA. I suppose that's a happy enough ending, at least for the real world.