The mystery of the poisonous cheese

poisoning with cheeseIn 1835 the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal published a series of articles about cheese.  For several months New England residents had been falling ill after consuming the delicious comestible, and nobody knew why.  A Dr Alcott contributed this account of one such outbreak:

At the raising of a building belonging to Seth Thomas, Esq. in Plymouth, Litchfield county, Conn. Read more

The dreadful mortification

Case of a mortification, which proceeded through a whole familyA case published in The Medical Museum of 1781 is a reminder of a world we have gratefully left behind; one in which infection could rapidly maim or kill entire families, while doctors looked on helplessly.  Life could be, in Thomas Hobbes’s phrase, ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’.  Hobbes was writing about war, but disease was as formidable an … Read more

The winged ones: insects in the stomach

Case of a young woman who discharged insects from her stomachIn 1824 the Transactions of the Association of Fellows and Licentiates of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland reported an extraordinary case which would continue to be quoted in the medical literature for many decades.  The case was reported in a paper whose lengthy title was abbreviated to the rather snappier ‘Dr Pickells’ case of insects in … Read more

The human pincushion

HIstory of a patient from whom four hundred needles were extracted

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 Professor Hecholdt, and this Read more

The woman who could smell with her feet

Case of catalepsy with transposition of the sensesNews 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 from pain in that region.Read more

Spiders in her eyes

Case of spiders discharged from the eyesA 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 friends in … Read more

Centipedes in your bacon

Millipedes discharged from the human stomachSome 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 in his stomach, which did Read more