The human pincushion

This extraordinary tale appeared in The Medico-Chirurgical Review in 1825: Rachel Hertz had lived in the enjoyment of good health up to her fourteenth year; she was then of a fair complexion, and rather of the sanguineous temperament. In August 1807, she was seized with a violent attack of cholic, which induced her to apply to … Continue reading The human pincushion

The woman who could smell with her feet

News of a curious case reaches London from France: Mademoiselle Melanie had enjoyed good health up to the age of twenty-one, when she began to suffer from dry cough, with pain in the chest and headache; in January, 1841, she was attacked by pleurisy of the right side, and since then has continued to suffer … Continue reading The woman who could smell with her feet

Spiders in her eyes

A previous post about the boy who vomited millipedes proved surprisingly popular – so when I came across this tale of a girl who cried spiders it seemed too good to waste. On February 5th 1840, Dr Lopez, a physician from Mobile, Alabama, visited a young woman in Charleston.  The previous week she had been staying with … Continue reading Spiders in her eyes

Centipedes in your bacon

Some truly bizarre goings-on were reported at the Exeter meeting of the Provincial Surgical and Medical Association in 1842.  A Dr Davis, of Presteign, made this report: A boy, fifteen years of age, the son of a labourer named Griffiths, living in the village of Bucknill, near Knighton, had for some months complained of pain … Continue reading Centipedes in your bacon

The woman who could read with her stomach

Catalepsy is a strange condition in which the patient keeps a fixed, rigid posture, even one which looks abnormal and uncomfortable.  The limbs often display waxy rigidity, meaning that it is possible to move them into any position without resistance.  It is a typical feature of a catatonic state – in which patients are apparently … Continue reading The woman who could read with her stomach

The worm: a horror story

Sometimes in early medical journals a case history begins conventionally enough, before turning into something startlingly unexpected.  This is from Medical Essays and Observations, 1782: In February last a young Man was wounded in a Duel with a small Sword, which entred about four Inches below the right Nipple, and a little towards the Back; … Continue reading The worm: a horror story

Injured by the imagination

Forget drinking in pregnancy; here’s something far more dangerous.  From the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1695: A lady was delivered of a girl, with a wound in her breast, above 4 fingers long, extended obliquely downwards, over the whole breast.  I found not only the wound outwardly in the skin, but after a nearer … Continue reading Injured by the imagination

A case of hiccups

Towards the end of May 1797 Miss A.B., a young woman from the Isle of Man, was afflicted by a particularly tenacious bout of hiccups.  It sounded like the panting which occurs after violent exercise, or like an aspirate pronunciation of the interjection Ha!  The pulse, respiration and speech were not in the least disturbed….It … Continue reading A case of hiccups

The case of the poisonous pheasants

In the month of February, 1791, several persons in Philadelphia were seized, in about three hours after dining upon pheasants, with giddiness, violent flushing of heat and cold in the face and head, sickness at stomach, and repeated vomiting. Some of the afflicted Philadelphians became delirious, or lost the power of speech.  Some recovered after … Continue reading The case of the poisonous pheasants