An intestinal… mouse?

An extraordinary caseAs regular readers of this blog may be aware, early medical journals often carried tales of unlikely creatures found living inside the human body.  Examples include beetles found in the bladder, millipedes and winged insects in the stomach, and the curious case of the girl with spiders in her eyes.

This is, however, the only case I’ve found which – allegedly – involved a small mammal.  In 1842 a New York physician, Dr John Newman, wrote this unusual letter to The New York Lancet:

One of the most extraordinary cases I have ever heard of occurred on Monday, and believing the narration worth a corner of the Lancet, I send it you.

Go ahead, Dr Newman. This had better be good.

George Meade, age 5 years, son of Mr. John Meade, Manhattan Place, between Reade and Duane streets, about two years ago became suddenly very ill, and has continued so, with occasional remissions, since then till last Monday morning.

The little boy was emaciated and had a fever, and was suffering from severe stomach pain.

Convulsions of from twenty to thirty minutes duration frequently occurred. His parents tried physicians without number and without success, till despair induced them to give up all hope. The continual pain in the stomach gave them the idea that he had swallowed a pin, or something of the kind, which continued fixed, causing the trouble. So firmly were they persuaded of this, that, though full of the ordinary prejudices regarding postmortem examinations, they resolved to have him opened after death to satisfy themselves of the truth of their conjectures.

Am I alone in thinking that deciding to have a post-mortem performed on your small son while he is still alive and kicking is a trifle, um, premature?

Last Sunday evening the child was unusually well and eat heartily of boiled crabs, which causing a slight diarrhoea, gave him a sudden desire for stool next morning. While there he complained of something falling down his thighs, and on rising, an animal slightly resembling a mouse, long snout, short body, and long, thin, veal-colored legs, and large hairs round the lips, was found moving in the faeces.


It lived some time after this, but was killed finally. The child has been considerably better since. Any person may satisfy himself of the truth of this relation by calling at the above place, where the preparation and child may be seen, and his doubts removed. 

I hope plenty of readers took him up on this kind offer. But to be fair to Dr Newman, his letter did not disappoint.

3 thoughts on “An intestinal… mouse?”

  1. No way would a small mammal, which sounds like a mole, survive a trip through someone’s digestive system and live. The letter seems to imply the child was ill for two years. Again, there’s no way a rodent would have lived that long. It would not have any oxygen, nor would it have survived the pressures of the trip through the intestines.
    I guess even in 1842 hoaxes abounded.

  2. possibly a stool occupied by a tape worm which wriggled in such a way as to convince the observers that it was an animal?

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