Weird Stuff

10 Weirdest Medical Hoaxes in History

For centuries, strange physical conditions, bizarre health-related occurrences, and questionable treatments have gained widespread attention, only to be exposed as frauds. Often the people behind these medical hoaxes are ordinary people who manage to fool doctors or scientists. Sometimes a doctor is involved in the scam. From a woman giving birth to rabbits to glasses that can curb your appetite, here are 10 of the weirdest medical hoaxes ever.

Related: 10 interesting pseudosciences and hoaxes

10 Human-Dog

While modern science has done much to dispel the myths and superstitions associated with interspecies reproduction, major advances in reproduction, such as the ability to clone mammals, have ushered in a new crop of breeding hoaxes based on in laboratory.

A recent example of this is the story of a human-dog hybrid that was widely circulated on the Internet. The article explained that Israeli scientists were studying a cross between a human and a Labrador retriever. Acknowledging that a trans species such as this was thought to be impossible, he reported that aid workers had discovered the remains of another trans species believed to be the parent of this animal, buried in a shallow grave. The human father appeared to be the son of a high-profile political family.

The story was accompanied by a photo of what appeared to be a “strange half-woman, half-dog (or pig) hybrid mother nursing her young.”

Turns out there was no human-dog hybrid. The image in the photo, which has been sent to so many inboxes around the world, is apparently not even a living creature, just a sculpture by Patricia Piccinini from a 2003 exhibit titled “We Are Family.”[1]

9 Mass blackouts on daytime TV

The Phil Donahue Show, which aired on television in syndication from 1970 to 1996, was a pioneering daytime talk show for its emphasis on socially relevant topics. But along with the lofty subject matter, there were also its fair share of sensational episodes, including a show that was shocking in a completely unexpected way. During the live taping of an episode about gay seniors on January 21, 1985, people in the audience began to faint.

Starting with an audience member who passed out while speaking into a microphone, seven people passed out over the course of taping that show. It was speculated that the heat in the studio, which contrasted with the very cold temperature outside, could be the explanation for this strange occurrence. It turned out that the mass blackout was just a stunt organized by the Fight Against Idiotic Neurotic Television (FAINT) group, led by media prankster Alan Abel, to protest what Abel thought was the poor quality of television at the time. . Wouldn’t you love what’s on TV today?[2]

8 cello scrotum

The term cello scrotum sounds like a joke, which is exactly what it turned out to be. However, it took 35 years before the two people who mischievously coined the phrase admitted that they were only kidding. The joke was in response to a letter from Dr. P. Curtis that appeared in the british medical journal, reporting three cases of a disease the doctor described as “guitar nipple”. Assuming this letter was a hoax, John Murphy and Dr. Elaine Murphy were inspired to write a response. The letter, published in a 1974 issue of the magazine, was signed by John but written by Elaine. It read in part: “Although I have not come across ‘guitar nipple’ as reported by Dr. P. Curtis…I once came across a case of ‘cello scrotum’ caused by irritation of the cello body “.

When the Murphys finally announced that the cello scrotum was only a parody, they argued that it would be obvious to anyone who had seen the cello played that such a condition was impossible.[3]

7 The boy who grew a gold tooth

In medieval times, astrology was often used to guide doctors and researchers. At the end of the 16th century, a professor of medicine at the Julius University in Helmstedt named Jakob Horst decided to investigate reports of Christoph Müller, a Silesian boy, who is said to have knocked out a gold tooth. When tests confirmed that Müller had a real gold tooth, Horst wrote a treatise in which he expounded a theory based on astrology. He speculated that Müller’s jawbone had turned gold because he was born when the planets were in an unusual alignment, which Horst believed had caused the heat from the sun’s rays to intensify.

When the impact of chewing food and multiple tests caused the deterioration of what turned out to be only a thin layer of gold placed on the outside of the tooth, Müller refused to allow further examination. A drunken and curious nobleman who wouldn’t take no for an answer stabbed the boy in the cheek. After a doctor treating the wound discovered the truth about the tooth, the person responsible for the gold veneer seems to have escaped punishment by running away or remaining anonymous, but Müller was taken to prison. However, one positive came of the hoax: this was the first documented creation of a cast gold crown in the history of dentistry.[4]

6 vilcabamba

There have been many hoaxes that have focused on the possibility of extending human life. One of these was a widespread story in the 1970s involving the Ecuadorian village of Vilcabamba, where it was said it was common for residents to live past 100, with at least one person reaching 134. American journalists took the story seriously and an article in National Geographic attracted a large number of tourists to Vilcabamba. But the reason behind the longevity was unclear.

In 1978, Richard Mazess of the University of Wisconsin and Sylvia Forman of UC Berkeley published the results of research they had conducted, which revealed that this fountain of youth was a myth. The investigation showed that no one in the village was over 100 years old. The average age of those believed to be centenarians was only 86 years. A man who claimed to be 127 years old was actually 91.[5]

5 Longevity on bottled breath

As a joke, the 18th century physician Johann Heinrich Cohausen included a description of a very strange formula in Hermippus redivivus, an expository work he wrote on longevity. She wrote about an elixir that bottled up the breath of young women and said that consumption of the product could lengthen a person’s life. However, Cohausen reveals in the last pages of the treatise that it is actually a satire. So instead of fraud, it’s more of an academic practical joke.[6]

4 Vision Dieter Glasses

There have been countless weight loss hoaxes over the years, from pills and elixirs to topical treatments, fad diets, and more. One product sold in the 1970s with patently false claims was Vision-Dieter glasses, which were said to decrease cravings and hunger through the use of “secret European color technology.”

The creator’s initial goal was to make glasses that would distort the color of food packaging in the hope that shoppers would be less likely to buy products just because they were in colorful packaging. But realizing how much money could be made in the dieting arena, he decided to market the glasses as a tool for consumers trying to lose weight.

It should come as no surprise that the Food and Drug Administration took action. These color tinted weight loss glasses were seized due to a misbranding. The FDA ultimately destroyed most of the pairs when the claimant refused to come forward.[7]

3 Metal Bar Pain Reliever: The “Metal Tractors”

The 18th century was filled with all kinds of absurd medical jokes, especially far-fetched devices and treatments. One of the strangest pain relief products marketed was a set of two small, pointed metal rods, flat on one side and rounded on the other, called “metal tractors.” They were invented by Connecticut physician Elisha Perkins. These implements could, according to Perkins, alleviate the discomfort of gout, rheumatism and other conditions by draining the “noxious electrical fluids”, which he thought were to blame for these conditions. The patient was instructed to gently rub the affected area with these sticks.

It wasn’t just ignorant people who fell for this scam. Among those who ordered a game was George Washington. A series of clinical trials from 1799 to 1801 demonstrated that any pain relief was only a placebo effect.[8]

2 heavenly bed

The legendary 18th century British charlatan James Graham had a temple full of hoaxes. Graham, who had posed as a doctor although never completed his medical studies, was best known for what he called electrical medicine. Harnessing electricity was still a new science during this time, and Graham was inspired by the experiments of Benjamin Franklin, whom he met in the United States.

The Graham Temple of Health was frequented by aristocrats and other celebrities. One of the most interesting devices of his was a fertility contraption called the Heavenly Bed, which he claimed could cure sterility and impotence. This love nest was available for couples to rent on a nightly basis. It could tilt at different angles and contained a mattress filled with sweet wheat or oat straw, lavender flowers, rose leaves, balsam, and horsetail hairs. There were also expensive perfumes and oils under the bed.

According to the self-proclaimed doctor, static electricity moved through copper coils around the bed produced a magnetic fluid that surrounded the lovers, “helping to increase their strength and increase the fertility of women.” The couple were entertained with soft music and, above the bed, there was a mirror decorated with lush flowers and erotic illustrations. Graham claimed that anyone who spent a night there would conceive a child.[9]

1 Mary Toft and her litters of rabbits

People have often been fascinated by the idea of ​​interbreeding between different species, especially the possibility of humans breeding with other types of animals. There have been a number of women over the centuries who have claimed to have given birth to creatures belonging to a different species. The most famous story, however, is that of an 18th-century English servant, Mary Toft, who managed to convince doctors and others that she had given birth to rabbits. It was thought that there were several litters with a total of 15 rabbits, all dead at birth. To answer an obvious question, “how were rabbits conceived?”, Toft said that a rabbit had startled her in a field, an explanation that fits with the old myth of maternal imprinting. After the incident, Toft reportedly dreamed of rabbits and experienced an intense appetite for rabbits as food.

Obstetrician John Howard was certain that Toft had really given birth to rabbits. He spread the word to leading British doctors, as well as to King George I, who had his doctor look into the matter. Although this doctor was also deceived, an investigation by a surgeon sent from the royal house found evidence of a deception. While examining some of the rabbits, he discovered that “the dung inside one of them contained corn, showing that it could not have developed inside Mrs. Toft’s womb.”

Toft kept up the ruse, producing various animal parts such as a pig’s bladder and a kitten’s paws. So when a man was caught sneaking a rabbit into her bedroom, she finally confessed to placing the rabbits in her vagina, allowing them to be delivered, hoping the trick would result in a crown pension. . But instead, she received a few months in prison. [10]

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