Strange medical conditions, anomalous health events, and dubious treatments have garnered widespread attention and have been later exposed as hoaxes for centuries. People from the general public often do these medical hoaxes in an attempt to deceive professionals in the medical or scientific communities. The medical professional is sometimes complicit in the scheme. Here are ten of history’s most outlandish medical hoaxes, from a woman who gave birth to rabbits to glasses that made you feel full faster.
Number 10: Human-Dog
Major advances in reproduction, such as the capacity to clone mammals, have given rise to a new crop of lab-based breeding hoaxes, despite modern science’s considerable efforts to debunk misconceptions and superstitions linked with trans-species breeding. As an example, consider the recent viral story about a human-dog chimera. According to the article, Israeli researchers were looking into a hybrid of a human and a Labrador retriever. It admitted that such a trans-species was thought to be impossible, but then reported that humane workers had found the skeletal remains of another trans-species, thought to be this animal’s parent, in a shallow grave. As far as we could tell, the human parent was the son of a prominent political family.
Number 9: Daytime TV Causes a Nationwide Epidemic of Passing Out
The Phil Donahue Show, which ran in syndication from 1970 to 1996, was groundbreaking in that it brought attention to important social issues during the daytime talk show format. However, there were also several sensationalist episodes, including one that shocked viewers in an entirely unexpected way, alongside the more serious topics. On January 21, 1985, several members of the audience fainted while watching a live taping of an episode centered on gay senior citizens. Seven people fainted during the taping of that show, beginning with an audience member who passed out while speaking into a microphone. Some hypothesized that the unusual occurrence was caused by the temperature difference between the studio and the outside.
Number 8: Scrotum of Cello
The joke connotations of the term “cello scrotum” are spot on. Nonetheless, it took the two pranksters who came up with the phrase 35 years to finally admit they were joking. This practical joke was played in response to a letter written by Dr. P. Curtis and published in the British Medical Journal. In it, he described three cases of a condition he called “guitar nipple.” John and Elaine Murphy, a married couple, suspected the letter was a hoax and decided to write back. The letter published in the journal in 1974 bore John’s name but was penned by Elaine. This is an excerpt: “Though I have not come across ‘guitar nipple’ as reported by Dr. P. Curtis… In the past, I’ve seen someone with “cello scrotum,” an irritation of the scrotum caused by the cello’s body. The Murphys claimed that anyone who had seen a cello being played would have seen that such a condition was impossible when they revealed that the cello scrotum was just a spoof.
Number 7: Golden Tooth: The Incredible True Story of a Young Boy Who Gained One
During the Middle Ages, astrology played a significant role in assisting the medical community and academic researchers. Late in the 16th century, a medical professor named Jakob Horst from Julius University in Helmstedt decided to look into the story of a young boy named Christoph Müller from Silesia who was rumored to have developed a golden tooth. Horst wrote a treatise outlining a theory based on astrology after tests proved that Müller’s gold tooth was real. Horst theorized that Müller’s jaw bone had turned to gold because he was born at a time when the planets were in an unusual alignment, which had amplified the sun’s heat. In the end, it turned out to be just a thin layer of gold fitted on the outside of the tooth, and Müller refused to let it be examined any further after the wear and tear caused by chewing food and repeated tests. The boy was stabbed in the cheek by an inebriated nobleman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. The perpetrator of the gold veneer appears to have escaped punishment by fleeing or remaining anonymous, but Müller was taken to prison after the treating doctor discovered the truth about the tooth. Despite the hoax’s negative effects, it did lead to a positive outcome: the first-ever recorded case of a molded gold crown being created.
Number 6: Vilcabamba
Numerous urban legends have circulated the idea of a way to significantly increase a person’s lifespan. During the 1970s, a rumor spread that people in the Ecuadorian village of Vilcabamba regularly lived to be over 100 years old, with at least one resident having reached the ripe old age of 134. The story was taken seriously by American journalists, and a subsequent article in National Geographic brought a large number of visitors to Vilcabamba. However, the explanation for long life was not known. Richard Mazess from the University of Wisconsin and Sylvia Forman from the University of California, Berkeley published their findings disproving the existence of this fountain of youth in 1978. The investigation revealed that there was not a single villager older than 100.
Number 5: Putting Your Hope in a Bottled Exhale
In his 18th-century expositional work Hermippus redivivus, Doctor Johann Heinrich Cohausen fabricated a description of an extraordinary formula as a joke. He claimed that the use of an elixir made from the exhaled breath of young women would increase the lifespan of its consumers.
Number 4: Glasses for Dieter’s Vision
Over the years, there have been a plethora of weight loss scams, including pills, elixirs, topical treatments, fad diets, and more. The Vision-Dieter glasses, which were popular in the 1970s, made egregiously false claims about their ability to curb hunger and cravings by employing some “secret European color technology.” Originally, the designer’s goal was to produce glasses that would distort the color of food packaging, with the expectation that consumers would be less influenced to buy products solely due to their attractive appearance. But seeing the potential for profit in the weight loss industry, he decided to sell the glasses to people who were making that effort.
Number 3: The “Metallic Tractors,” a set of metal rods used to alleviate pain.
Medical quackery, particularly in the form of outlandish devices and treatments, abounded in the eighteenth century. Metal tractors, a pair of small pointed metal rods that are flat on one side and rounded on the other, are one of the more peculiar pain relief products on the market. Elisha Perkins, a doctor from Connecticut, is responsible for their creation. If you have gout, rheumatism, or anything else that causes pain in your joints, these tools can help drain the “noxious electrical fluids” that Perkins believes are to blame for your suffering. The patient was told to rub the area softly with the rods.
Number 2: Paradise Bed in the Stars
James Graham, a famous quack from Britain in the 18th century, amassed a temple’s worth of hoaxes. Graham, who had posed as a doctor despite never having finished medical school, was widely recognized for his “electrical medicine.” Graham was moved by Benjamin Franklin’s experiments, whom he met in America when he was exploring the frontiers of the new science of electricity generation. Many famous people, including royalty, visited Graham’s Temple of Health. Among his many fascinating inventions was the Celestial Bed, which he claimed could restore sexual vitality in its users and even reverse sterility. Couples could spend the night in this cozy cottage.
Number 1: Mary Toft and Her Litters of Rabbits
The potential for human offspring to breed with other animal species has long piqued public interest. Many women throughout history have claimed that they gave birth to creatures of another species. Most notably, Mary Toft, an English servant woman in the 18th century, fooled doctors and others into believing that she had given birth to rabbits. There may have been several litters, with a total of 15 newborn bunnies that tragically did not survive. Toft explained the conception of the rabbits by claiming she was startled by one in a field, an explanation consistent with the old myth of maternal impression.
Among the list, what is the weirdest?
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