Amphibians / Reptiles Living In One's Digestive Tract: UL? Possible?

fluffle9

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JerryB said:
Hmm - I think people from where these stories supposedly originate from would be very familiar with such worms, from when they come out of livestock (for example), etc..

yeah, but they might think they are snakes, or call them snakes. i mean, as far as they were concerned regularly finding worms might have been proof of the truth of stories about snakes living in the intestines.
 

Jerry_B

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I doubt it - people who are used to seeing such things call things as they are. It's people who don't know wht they're looking at that get things wrong ;)
 

EnolaGaia

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The subject of reptiles or amphibians infesting humans' digestive tracts (particularly the stomach) was discussed in a feature article in Fortean Times #119 (February 1999).

Here's the text and the one surviving illustration from the article ...
Chunder Wonder: Tales of Prodigious Vomiting
by Jan Bonderson

AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER WE'VE ALL BEEN ASKED "DO YOU HAVE A FROG IN YOUR THROAT?" BUT NONE OF US ACTUALLY THINK THAT ONE IS THERE. HOWEVER, MEDICAL HISTORY IS FULL OF STORIES OF PEOPLE WHO BELIEVED THAT THEY HAD FROGS – OR EVEN LIZARDS AND SNAKES – LIVING AND GROWING IN THEIR STOMACHS. INDEED, AS FAR BACK AS ANCIENT EGYPT, ASSYRIA AND BABYLONIA, THERE ARE MENTIONS OF A"COLIC-SNAKE" AS A CAUSE OF PAINFUL STOMACH CRAMPS. JAN BONDERSON INVESTIGATES.

In 6th century Germany, a young lad with a snake in his stomach (known as a "bosom serpent") was taken to a holy woman could feel it moving in his intestines. She fastened a small cross to a wine-leaf which was tied to the boy's stomach and this magic formula had the desired effect: in a volcanic opening of his bowel, the snake was expelled like a projectile.

Many of the collections of curious and abnormal medical cases from the 16th and 17th centuries contain stories of snakes, frogs, toads and newts living in the human stomach. Conradus Gesner reported a strange epidemic that killed more than 3,000 people in the city of Theis where many snakes and newts left the dead bodies and two snakes were found in the stomach of a recently dead young woman. Another sad instance of the post mortem diagnosis of a snake in the stomach was reported in the old Ephemerides. A shoemaker had committed suicide by stabbing himself to death, after having been tortured by intractable stomach pains for more than 10 years. After burial, his coffin was dug up for his wife to have a last look at him: she was horrified to see that a snake the length of a man's arm was lying beside the corpse; the serpent having exited the body through the stab wound.

According to his Des Monstres et Prodigies, Ambroise Paré also encountered the bosom serpent. In 1561 he met a Paris woman of doubtful reputation who had caused a great uproar in Paris by claiming that she had a snake in her stomach, which had crawled into her while she slept in a hempfield. Many Parisians came to see her and feel the snake's motions in her stomach for themselves. Paré threatened that she would be given an extremely powerful laxative, whereupon she admitted that the story was pure invention. Six days later, she was to be seen standing near the Montmartre Gate, inviting men to come and feel her snake in the stomach.

froggy.gif

The most famous of all the cases was that of Catharina Geisslerin, who was widely known as "the toad-vomiting woman of Altenburg". In 1642, she took the first step towards notoriety by vomiting several toads and lizards. After two years, the appearance on the scene of Dr Thomas Rheinesius, the physician-in-ordinance to the Elector of Saxonia, brought an abrupt cessation of the spectacular toad-vomiting, but, although he experimented with various emetics and purgatives for several months, he was unable to chivvy the animals out from their lair. In May 1648, when the medical men left her, Catharina Geisslerin again started vomiting amphibians, 13 toads and a lot of spawn being produced in a couple of weeks.

The Toad-vomiting Woman suffered from her unruly lodgers in the stomach for 14 more years, surviving all her medical attendants except Rheinesius, who visited her as late as 1661, being greatly astonished that she was still alive. After her death at the Altenburg hospital in 1662, the medical men were naturally eager to perform an autopsy, expecting to find an interesting vivarium of toads, lizards and salamanders within her body. To their disappointment and astonishment, not a single animal was found.

In 1694, the 12-year-old son of pastor Zacharias Dödlerein, of the village Berolzheim in southern Germany, was taken severely ill. After several apoplectic fits and attacks of abdominal cramps, he vomited numerous insects followed by 21 newts, four frogs and some toads. The clerics diagnosed possession by the Devil; what particularly impressed them was that when the suffering boy was led to take some fresh air near a pond with croaking frogs, his stomach-frogs croaked loudly in reply.

The medical men were dismissed from the case and the treatment of young Theodorous was taken over by the exorcists. Their prayers, incantations and maledictions were initially of no avail; instead, the boy began vomiting even stranger objects – white and red eggshells, two knife blades, one link from a large chain, two long nails and a lot of small tacks.. Once, the clergymen thought they saw a large snake thrust its head out through the boy's mouth, but when the muscular Christians rushed forth, eager to "pull the Devil out and thrash the life out of him", it hastily withdrew.

In the meantime, one of the physicians had dissected one of the vomited "frogs from Hell". It had several half-digested insects in its stomach, indicating that the frog had been alive outside the boy's body shortly before it was 'vomited'; the boy's attendants countered that the frogs were supernatural and did not obey the ordinary laws of physiology. The clergymen experimented by pouring horses' urine, a time-honoured cure for animals in the stomach, on the remaining live frogs. They promptly died and it was unanimously decided to try this strong 'medicine' on poor Theodorus, who was forced to swallow several large bottles of urine. Under the influence of solemn prayers and incantations of exorcism, this worked miracles and Theodorus stopped vomiting frogs and other strange objects.

During his journey to Lapland in 1732, Carl Linnaeus was consulted in the case of a woman with three live frogs in her stomach, which could clearly be heard croaking, particularly in the springtime. Linnaeus advised her to use liquid tar as a medicine to expel the animals but she preferred taking large doses of strong aquavit, which at least kept the animals happy and quiet. In his medical conclusions to the Iter Lipponicum, Linnaeus stated as a fact that frog spawn adhered to the membranes of the stomach, which hereafter "formed the nest, or rather the pond, for these dreadful animals, which tear and torture the poor patient".

In the late 18th century, the majority of leading biologists, including Linnaeus, Buffon and Blumenbach, were in favour of the concept that snakes and frogs could live as parasites in the human gastrointestinal tract. In 1780, Sir Joseph Banks received a letter from the Reverend Samuel Glasse, describing how a certain Thomas Walker, after being given an emetic, had vomited a 2.5in (6.3cm) long live toad which crawled on the floor.

In 1834 Henriette Pfennig who claimed to have vomited two live frogs after being troubled by stomach cramps and quacking noises from the midriff for more than a year. During the following weeks, she vomited nine more frogs before an admiring crowd of spectators, several of whom had travelled for miles to see this celebrity. Her doctor dissected one of the frogs and was greatly astonished to find several half-digested insects and an almost intact beetle in its stomach. The woman was forced to admit the hoax: after her neighbours had doubted that she really had frogs in her stomach, she had hidden the animals in the inside pockets of her skirt. In order to gain sympathy and public attention, she pretended to cough them up, with enough skill to trick everybody present, including the medical men.

The defenders of the bosom serpent soon rallied round a new case report, which was considered the most authenticated ever. The Russian court physician Martin Wilhelm Mandt had been consulted by a peasant who was certain that a snake had slithered through his mouth when he was sleeping out in the open. He had awoken with a jerk, feeling that something cold moved round in his stomach and indeed movements could be felt in the epigastric area and a gargling sound was heard with the stethoscope. After four days, Dr Mandt administered a strong purgative whereupon the man felt better and the movement in his stomach ceased. He went home to recuperate but returned triumphantly two days later, carrying a chamberpot containing the body of a 12in (30.5cm) adder.

Dr Mandt's case was widely published across Europe in translation and even went the rounds of the newspapers. Since it was illustrated with a figure of the snake, his article did much to re-establish the old fallacy. Dr Mandt noted that the reptile's backbone was broken at several sites and he believed that this had been caused by the powerful contractions of the bowel. This is unlikely – the broken back would rather hint that the snake had been killed purposely. Furthermore, the snake's body would certainly have been more extensively digested if it had passed through the entire gastrintestinal system of a man.

In 1859 Professor Arnold Adolph Berthold, of Göttingen, published a monograph aimed at solving the burning question of the existence of living amphibians as parasites in the human stomach. He had noted that almost every German pathological museum of repute contained some snake, frog or newt which had allegedly been vomited by some patient after living for years within the human body. He obtained permission to dissect several of these specimens; they all had partially digested insects in their stomachs, which strongly suggested that they had been deliberately swallowed shortly before being vomited. These findings inspired a number of experiments whose results showed that none of these animals could survive in 29 degree Centigrade water and that frogspawn putrefied at this temperature. ...

This is an abbreviated and revised version of a longer chapter in the book Cabinet of Medical Curiosities, which also contains a list of references. It was published in the US by Cornell UP (ISBN 0–8014–3431–9) and in the UK by Tauris (ISBN 1–8606–4228–4).

SALVAGED FROM THE WAYBACK MACHINE:
https://web.archive.org/web/20060128101134/http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/119_vomit.shtml
 

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IbisNibs

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But . . . how would the snake breathe in there?

Sounds like fake news! :D
 
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