Oddity has always been an eternal part of our world, and if we wind our clocks centuries back to 1700s in Surrey, England, you will get to meet one of the biggest oddities of all time- Mary Toft.
Mary Toft was an English woman who attracted immense controversy by tricking doctors into believing that she gave birth to rabbit babies. She fooled them, and quite seriously.
It was the September of 1726 when Mary Toft brought her strange plan to action
She started giving birth to rabbit babies, and consequently, her family summoned the local surgeon, John Howard. He hurried to Toft’s house, and to his amazement, saw it happen for real. He saw Mary Toft deliver a litter of 9 rabbits! Well, they were neither alive nor intact, but what actually came out of her were parts of dead rabbits.
A stunned and utterly excited John Howard brought the bizarreness to the attention of other physicians.
Soon enough, King George I of Great Britain himself sent two prominent surgeons to investigate the matter- Nathanael St. Andre, surgeon-anatomist to the King, and Samuel Molyneux, secretary to the Prince of Wales. Toft explained the surgeons about how she had developed an intense craving for rabbit meat during her pregnancy. Furthermore, she told them that following unsuccessful attempts of chasing the rabbits down, she dreamt of rabbits in her lap. And what happened next was the father of all that is weird- dead rabbits coming out of a human.
However, Mary Toft’s case wasn’t the first of this kind. In The Female Physician (1724), surgeon John Maubray had proposed that women possessed the ability to give birth to a fabled character Sooterkin. He advocated the theory of maternal impression, which was a common notion that, as specified in Wikipedia, means:
“Conception and pregnancy could be influenced by what the mother dreamt, or saw, and warned pregnant women that over-familiarity with household pets could cause their children to resemble those pets.”
Mary Toft continued to give birth to more rabbits, this time in the presence of notable doctors.
In order to find substantial clues and verify the authenticity of this strange phenomenon, the men performed tests. For example- They added a lung piece of one of the dead rabbits to the water and noticed that the piece stayed afloat- Giving rise to the logic that the rabbit must have breathed air before, something that isn’t a possibility inside a womb.
But the doctors probably didn’t want the trending news to die out soon, and so they ignored this major evidence and found believing that Mary Toft was actually giving birth to animals, quite thrilling.
Mary Toft shot to fame, after all, she had become a human mother to dead rabbits…But the truth eventually surfaced.
On November 29, she was brought to London where she was kept under constant supervision. A national sensation, she had become. And the house where she was kept remained surrounded by heavy crowds. And it was during this time, Toft’s supernatural ability died out, and the truth began to emerge and came out fully on December 4.
Thomas Onslow, 2nd Baron Onslow, found in his investigation, that from past one month, Toft’s husband had been buying young rabbits. The same day, a porter called Thomas Howard, confessed that he had been bribed by the woman’s sister-in-law to sneak a rabbit into her chamber. Mary Toft denied the accusation at first, but when a famous London physician, Sir Richard Manningham, threatened her that he might have to perform a very painful surgical operation to examine her uterus, she let the cat out of the bag.
Mary Toft’s shocking confession: She had animals inserted into her vagina!
An accomplice had inserted the claws of a cat and a rabbit’s head into her womb! So basically, for all the times she made it seem as though it were animals that she was giving birth to instead of a regular human baby, it was all a result of animals having been previously inserted into her vagina.
But up until then, Mary Toft had gone to large extents to prove the existence of something, that in real terms, have always been impossible, by fooling the devotees of medical science. It was a big shame on the part of the doctors that defended her case, and it goes unsaid, their careers were effectively ruined.
And Mary Toft was sent to prison.