The Rat Children of Pakistan

mossy_sloth

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#1
I'm not sure if this topic is already in existence somewhere on the board...Please feel free to merge it if it is...

Here are a few links which deal with the phenomenon...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/122670.stm

http://www.europaworld.org/issue54/ther ... 261001.htm

http://www.insightnewstv.com/d05/

There is little about this topic that I can find, and there seems to be no consensus as to whether these children are intentionally made to be like this, though experts seem to believe this is the case.

If anyone can find more detailed links, or even better, if anyone has been to Pakistan and witnessed this first hand, I would be very interested to hear from them.
 
A

Anonymous

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#2
This was a lead story in FT a few years ago, i think... possibly around 1998? Might be worth looking in the archives...
 
A

Anonymous

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#3
I had read a book many years ago that had something about people called "the dacianos" in it, who did similar things to children and sold them as circus freaks, who were in demand in mideivel europe.
I found this little piece here
http://www.epinions.com/user-kurt_komoda
which refreshed my memory on the subject.

"The Dacianos were a nomadic society in 15th century Europe whose specialty lied in the creation of freaks. This is where the rumours of the gypsies being "child stealers" stems from. The Gungus were members of the Dacianos who had another specialty: death. The Gungus Assassins were noted for their precision and stealth. The secrecy of the Gungus, their numbers, their locations, and their methods remains, to this day, intact. Only the fear of the Gungus was widely known. The fear was their silent banner and now their legacy. The Dacianos and the Gungus sect, being pushed further and further west by those who would dispose of this unclean, treacherous, and Godless society, crossed the ocean to America and vanished. Oh, but the stirring. Here a scribbling on a napkin in the Dacianos code. A woman on the subway with a familiar tattoo on her neck, her finger tapping on her leg, sometimes a scratch, then more tapping. She keeps looking at our hands.... When a card cheat sits down at the table, he places one hand flat upon it- it's a signal. A secret indication that he is what he is- but one that only other cheaters will recognize. It does, indeed, take one to know one. A second cheater places his hand on the table, in identical fashion. They do not even look at each other."

It would appear that this practice was not limited to the Dacianos , but is praticed elsewhere.
There were speciffic devices used to make different types of "freaks" , some involved cutting and then healing parts of the body,others had their heads encased in a box of sorts so that the cranium would not have room to grow , resulting in the "rat people" type of look.
Others had a cone placed on their heads so as to become a "cone head" type of appearence. there was an extensive list IIRC , of devices and results.
Nothing has ever astounded me more than man's inhumanity to man.
Whatever your beliefs, I believe there is a special place in your theological place of eternal punishment for people who would do this sort of thing to another human being.
 
A

Anonymous

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#4
Yes i agree. People who do that should be punished severly. Can you remember what the book was called. It sounds quite interesting (but also very sick).
 
A

Anonymous

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#5
jimmyb said:
Yes i agree. People who do that should be punished severly. Can you remember what the book was called. It sounds quite interesting (but also very sick).

I wish I could remember the name of the book,but it was over 30 years ago.
I have read so many since then the titles begin to blur when they are that old.
It was a book about circus folk and some of the traditions and odd people who made up the first circuses and how they have changed over the ages.
Some things have not changed that much but most have changed quite a bit.
 
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Anonymous

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#6
Also, as an anecdote that may or may not have anything to do with the "rat children" phenomenon, when i used to help run a volunteer summer "playscheme" type thing for kids/teenagers with learning disabilities, there was one young girl of Pakistani origin (i think she was about 14/15, although she was a lot smaller than a "normal" person of that age) who had very much that "rat children" look (very small head, same sort of distortion of face proportions). She didn't/couldn't speak at all, but was fairly functional in other aspects (could be showed how to do simple art/craft type activities, for instance). So presumably it's an existing syndrome that can exist without manipulation...
 

Twin_Star

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#7
light said:
There is little about this topic that I can find, and there seems to be no consensus as to whether these children are intentionally made to be like this, though experts seem to believe this is the case.

If anyone can find more detailed links, or even better, if anyone has been to Pakistan and witnessed this first hand, I would be very interested to hear from them.
Sorry, not been to Pakistan, but i have read about this phenomena before.

A bit of checking reveals that there are genetic diseases that give rise, in their external symptoms, to features in the face / skull becoming "rodent-like".

These diseases are part of the group called Thallasemia, the most severe varient having the term "Cooley's anemia" (although i'm not certain that the specifically rodent features are related to this partivular Thallasemia.

Here is just one of many sites that has more information about this disease.

Of course, that's not to say that the children mentioned haven't been physically manipulated by callous adults...[/url]
 

mossy_sloth

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#8
thanks for that link...very interesting.

I wonder, if indeed thalassemia is what causes this, why we hear of it specifially coming from Pakistan? Is it just because a myth/cult practise has grown up around these peolpe so that they are in the public eye?
 

Twin_Star

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#9
light said:
thanks for that link...very interesting.

I wonder, if indeed thalassemia is what causes this, why we hear of it specifially coming from Pakistan? Is it just because a myth/cult practise has grown up around these peolpe so that they are in the public eye?
Hmm, good question.

Here is an adobe document that specifically talks about Thalassemia being the biggest single gene disorder in Pakistan, a country of some 150 million people.

In the instance of the specific strain of Thalassemia that causes the rodentine features, let's use the following figures:

If this type of Thalassemia is extant in 1 in 100,000 of the popultation (which i would assume is quite conservative), that would imply there are 1,500 people in Pakistan with this disease at any one time.

On the understanding that medical and social care is different in Pakistan to how things are done in Western Europe and or N America, it is entirely possible that the sufferer's of this disease are ostracised by their native communities, very easily falling under the thrall of itinerant beggars and people on the fringes of established Pakistani culture. If 100 cities / slums / temples had only 10 of these "Rat children" in one gang that would acccount for 1000 of my "sample", with me postulating that the other 500 cases remain with their (more enlightened and quite possibly educated) families, hence do not have to find food and clothes whilst experiencing a particularly hard subsistence lifestyle.

Of course, these are just *made up* figures, and speculation as to distribution of cases of this disease, it's effects on society and so forth. I still don't even know what the ratio mild Thalassemia / Severe Thalassemia is.

Food for thought as much as anything, although I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that it might be easier to take advantage of existing medical conditions in youngsters, for begging purposes, than to mold a child's facial and cranial features into simulcra of a rat. This seems too much like the Marquesans of Easter ISland, and the other South American cultures that practiced manipulating the shape of children's skulls.

But then again, I may be very naive on that score...
 

mossy_sloth

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#10
TMS said:
Food for thought as much as anything, although I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that it might be easier to take advantage of existing medical conditions in youngsters, for begging purposes, than to mold a child's facial and cranial features into simulcra of a rat. This seems too much like the Marquesans of Easter ISland, and the other South American cultures that practiced manipulating the shape of children's skulls.
That seems likely to me also, however according to one of the article linked above...

"The point is that these children are not related to one another by any stretch of the imagination. Our investigation shows that they come from very different backgrounds, from very different families. So if there is no blood relationship between any two individuals and between even an incident where a father or son or uncle was involved, it cannot be a genetically inherited disease."

This seems to be saying that the diease is not inherited, and from the adobe file you posted, Thalassemia is a genetic disorder... However I'm not sure if I quite understand exactly what the above quote is saying, what I mean is, would the children HAVE to be related to each other for this to be a genetic disorder? If the condition is as prevalent in Pakistan as it seems, then couldn't the disease have a number of sources and so the fact that most of the children aren't related to each other wouldn't necessarily mean that it wasn't a genetic disorder?

Now obviously I am not in any way educated in genetics or anything like that, so please feel free to correct me if my reasoning is incorrect!
 

Twin_Star

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#11
"The point is that these children are not related to one another by any stretch of the imagination. Our investigation shows that they come from very different backgrounds, from very different families. So if there is no blood relationship between any two individuals and between even an incident where a father or son or uncle was involved, it cannot be a genetically inherited disease."

This seems to be saying that the diease is not inherited, and from the adobe file you posted, Thalassemia is a genetic disorder... However I'm not sure if I quite understand exactly what the above quote is saying, what I mean is, would the children HAVE to be related to each other for this to be a genetic disorder? If the condition is as prevalent in Pakistan as it seems, then couldn't the disease have a number of sources and so the fact that most of the children aren't related to each other wouldn't necessarily mean that it wasn't a genetic disorder?
No, the children would not have to be related in the slightest, any more than two men in the Caribbean have to be related to both have sickle-cell anaemia, or two women in the UK with Down's syndrome having to be sisters.

If there is a higher instance of genetic pre-disposition to a particular disease in a particular subset of the population, then that's all you need
 

mossy_sloth

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#12
ok so basically, what the guy in the above quote is saying..is wrong? btw I don't know what his credentials were and I'm too tired to look it up right now....
 

Twin_Star

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#13
light said:
ok so basically, what the guy in the above quote is saying..is wrong? btw I don't know what his credentials were and I'm too tired to look it up right now....
Well shoot i design Sun computer environments, i'm no geneticist, but i personally think his reasoning is a bit misleading.

And please, someone with better credentialws correct me if i'm wrong:

His point "that the children are not related by any stretch of the imagination" strengthens the argument for it being a genetic disorder. I can't think of one disease that singles out people on a "family" level. They affect whole demographics of the population. An example being that Jewish people are more pre-disposed to certain medical conditions. This has come about from many, many generations of the Jewish gene pool marrying close relatives. It doesn't mean that the *insert Jewish family name here* are the only family to suffer these things.

Them "coming from very different backgrounds, from very different families" also suggests that this is a naturally occuring medical condition. I would argue that the fact these children have come from many different sources again reflects a small group of unassociated people all having the same condition. Although geographical origin is not mentioned, I would assume that this is as diverse as their social backgrounds seem to be. Consider then this: Let's say we have a gang of criminal beggars operating in the grounds of a temple in Baluchistan. If they were manipulating the heads of orphans etc, would they not take these poor unfortunates from a "catchment area" local to their base of operations? Why then would there be such a diversity of stories being told by the rat children?

I've got a few other, minor, thoughts on this, but i'll let you retire for the night...
 

TheQuixote

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#14
The links do say that some of the children who are born with this condition are *stolen* or taken away from their families by organised crime. If there seems to be a large concentration of such children in one town or district, it might be that they were not necessarily born in that area and may have been brought in from outlying villages etc.. I might be making a generalisation but I expect that literacy and the recording of births etc. in rural areas will not be on par with major towns/cities in Pakistan so pinpointing where the children are coming from would also be problematic.

So this type of scenario would no doubt distort gaining true figures or statistics or indeed reasons as to what may be the underlying cause of the conditions, i.e. if it was indeed environmental or a genetic condition.

It also isn't that unknown for mothers to unwittingly take certain chemicals/medications which will affect their child. For e.g. the birthrate of people with physical deformities from Thalidomide is rising again in the Third World as it is being prescribed for leprosy cases etc.. Microcephaly (which is what these children/adults all have in common) can be acquired as well as being a genetic condition.

This site (from one of many on a Google search) lists the causes of Microcephaly:

exposure to hazardous chemicals/substances
exposure to radiation
lack of proper vitamins and nutrients in the diet
infection
prescription or illegal drug and alcohol consumption
maternal diabetes
Also:

Microcephaly can occur alone or in association with other health problems, and may occur from inheritance of an autosomal recessive, or rarely, an autosomal dominant gene. Acquired microcephaly may occur after birth due to various brain injuries such as lack of oxygen or infection.

I'm not able to say what causes the condition, whether it is hereditary, deliberate etc.. I would hazard that in some rural areas, the lack of a nutritious diet for the mother could well be a likely factor in bringing about the condition of some of the children, having checked out the demographics and stats for Pakistan on the Unicef website.

I'm actually more curious as to why the children are surviving in a country where the infant mortality rate is high, rather than the actual cause of the condition. I find this to be interesting.

There could well be the organised crime element that is injuring children or parents deliberately taking chemicals etc. in order to have a disabled child. Such a child may increase the family finances as the cultural and religious beliefs of the region states that the child is blessed or closer to God/s. Pretty much the same with Indian Brahmins or Buddhist monks I believe, no one can turn them away empty handed as it will bring about bad luck. The children are successful at begging because of the belief that they are holy. Which seems to be the case at the temple cited in the OP's first link. I should also think this accounts for the high survival-after-birth rate that appears to be going on for people with this condition. Not because of *holy* intervention though.

What might account for the high stats for people with Microcephaly, compared to other regions in the area is that these children would be receiving slightly better care and attention due to the belief that they are holy and/or money earners. Also, there would be minimal genetic screening and/or option of abortion as is practiced in the West.

They will also no doubt be marked out as the family's future big-money breadwinners, improving their chances of survival in an area of the world where again, the infant mortality rate is still significantly high. So I would probably hazard again, one of the reasons as to why there is a perceived *high* population of rat-headed children in that area of Pakistan is mainly due to the apparent fact that they are *useful*, in that they can be exploited financially so are better cared for from birth than if they were seen to be *useless* in that they could never tend a field, learn to read or write etc..


edited: reason? my dumbass spelling and grammar
 
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#15
I'd agree - most of those people pictured look microcepahlic.

There is a whole Pinhead Family in Tod Browning's "Freaks":

Zip and Pip were actually sisters:
www.imdb.com/name/nm0811261/

This is them (I'd need to see the film again to be 100% on identifying people from the various screenshots but I think I have most of them right):
www.bergen-filmklubb.no/images/Freaks.jpg

For a wider shot of them see:
www.horror-wood.com/freaks.jpg

The other Pinhead is Schlitze "the Last of the Incas":
www.imdb.com/name/nm0772396/

This is him in the middle left (note the prominent teeth):
http://perso.wanadoo.fr/les.barbus/images/freaks.jpg

The other person in the picture is Koo Koo the Bird Girl:
http://www.olgabaclanova.com/pictures/f ... ance_6.jpg
http://www.enfocarte.com/3.18/freaks/fr ... d_girl.jpg

She was afflicted with Harper's syndrome or Virchow-Seckel syndrome ("bird-headed dwarfism" or nanocephaly). It is an intrauterine form of dwarfism characterized by multiple congenital anomalies.
www.imdb.com/name/nm0465488/bio

Barnhum also exhibited a pinhead called Zip:
http://naid.sppsr.ucla.edu/coneyisland/ ... freaks.htm

The problem is if they are so popular will it encourage people to use "devices"? I can't see if anything would really work - you could change the shape but not the overall volume. If you tried to constrict the volume during growth it'd just kill the kid - I'd imagine.
 
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#16
More on Schlitze:

Another performer named Schlitze was born with microcephaly. This disease caused severe retardation and in turn a Schlitzesmall cranium, which led to the nickname of "pinhead" in the circus scene. Schlitze performed in the circus for thirty years and was unusually intelligent in spite of his condition. He was able to dance, sing, count to ten, and was said to be friendly and affectionate. When his guardian and manager died he was forced into an institution where he nearly died of loneliness until a Canadian Circus Promoter found him and bargained for his care. Shlitze traveled the country until his death at the age of 80, which is an unusually long life for a microcephile.
Source also contains a good picture of him:
www.lasalle.edu/~mcelanm1/circusfreaks/happyending/
 
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