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Mario V. Farina
My name is William
Harrison. I'm a psychiatrist. I work in the Psychiatric Ward of
Alfred Hospital in Gainesville, Maryland. It was about three years
ago that I met a person who had been introduced to me as Pi Man. I
never knew his real name.
He had been brought to
the hospital by the police and I was to interview him and give a
report concerning his sanity. He was brought to my office. There is a
picture at the front of this story showing what he looked like at
that time. He was wearing a hood and carrying a crystal ball with red
and white splotches inside. His eyes flashed through the eyeholes of
the hood in a ghastly manner. He was unshaven.
"You are Pi Man?"
"That is what I'm
called." He responded in a hollow voice.
"Why are you
"They think I am
insane," he responded.
"Why is that?"
"I am obsessed
with the value of pi," he said.
gave the only value of pi that I recalled from grade school.
"It begins with
3.14159265," he responded. "The number of decimal places is
"I suppose that
means that the number of decimal places is infinite," I said.
"Does that bother you?"
what I have been told," he said, "even though the decimal
places exist, I cannot ever know all of them."
"That is what is
meant by infinite," I suggested.
"I will not
accept that," he responded. "That is why I purchased the
crystal ball that I have with me. I felt that if they existed I
should find them there."
"You had no
success?" I asked.
Pi Man was beginning
to get agitated. "They are there in the ball, I can see many of
them but not all."
"Why does that
"Because I must
know what they are!"
"Why must you
"Because they are
there! Because I will not accept that I cannot ever know all
"There is an
infinite number of them," I said. "It is impossible to know
all of them when there are an infinite in number of them. We
are dealing with infinity. The human mind cannot reach all
of what is infinite in nature."
"I will not
accept that!" he said.
The rest of the
interview yielded nothing. Finally, I had to release him back to the
police. The report I wrote was brief. It simply said that I had made
no headway with the interview. I reported that I found him weird,
obsessed with the digits of pi, but not insane.
I did not hear
anything more about him during the ensuing years. However, when my
family and I made a trip across the country one year, we were passing
through a small town named Benton. We saw signs indicating there was
a visitors' attraction the Benton museum. The sign said, "While
in Benton, be sure to view, Pi Man working at the oddest endeavor
ever attempted!" It was the first time I had heard about Pi Man
since I interviewed him. I, and my family went to observe him.
We found the museum
easily. We entered through the front door. Immediately in view, was a
weird-looking man. He was wearing a hood and holding a crystal ball.
His attention was focused on the ball. The room was barren except
for a plain wooden chair in which the man was sitting. I recognized
him at once as the man that had been introduced to me as Pi Man. He
was muttering to himself. At first what he was saying was
unintelligible. However, as I got closer, I could better understand
what he was saying. He was uttering digits. I listened for a while,
as he said the digits 8, 3, 7, 2, and more. I had no idea what he was
An individual dressed
in a business suit came and said, "Welcome to Benton. We charge
no admission; however, you can leave a donation at the door if you
"What is this man
doing," I asked.
"He is receiving
the values of pi from some unknown source. He has been sitting in
that chair for several years, never rising, never eating or drinking,
never sleeping, simply sitting, reciting digit after digit after
digit. He has been in that chair for years!"
"How can he
survive without eating, drinking, and sleeping?" I asked.
"We do not know,"
replied the man.
"How did it
happen that he is with you?" I asked.
"He was passing
through Benton, and he met with a psychic that we have in town, Ms.
Allen Williams. He talked to her, and they seemed to have come to
some agreement that was never fully made known to us. He was brought
here, seated in that chair, and left alone. As he stared at the
insides of the ball, he began reciting the digits of pi beginning
with 3, point, 1, 4, 1, 5, 9, and so on. Minutes passed, then hours,
then days. He has been there ever since, year after year, without
ever leaving that chair. The never speaks to anyone. His only
interest is to stare into the ball and recite digits. We believe he
is mentally storing digits in that ball!"
astonishing," I said. "Do you mean what you are saying
he responded. "He seems to be receiving values of pi on a
continuing basis. I have written down some of the digits that he has
mentioned, and looked them up on the Internet. One of the web sites
on the Internet has a listing with ten million digits, and we have
found that the digits he received are among those millions. He has
been written up in major newspapers, but this has never drawn much
attention to this town. However, from time to time, we do receive
small donations from visitors such as you and your family."
"How long do you
suppose, he will continue doing what he is doing," I asked.
"Until he has
received all the digits that there are!"
"The number of
digits is infinite," I said.
"We know that."
"How long will
you allow him to continue doing what he is doing?" I asked.
"As long as it
takes," he responded.
infinite amount of time?" I asked.
"If that's what
it takes!" he responded.
"We are convinced
the digits of pi need to be published after he has received them
all," he said. "We plan to do it at that time."
Note: The author
invites you to see him read this story on Youtube. Open Youtube and
search for "Mario Farina reads Pi Man".