Monday, 21 November 2011

LAZARUS-JOANNES – Early Parasitic Twins

Lazarus 700950 LAZARUS JOANNES   Early Parasitic TwinsAmbrose Paré wrote in 1530 of a forty year old man with a headless parasitic body hanging ‘like a pendulum’ from his belly. He also wrote of a German man, ‘born the same year that peace was made with the Swiss and King Francis’ who had a parasitic head protruding from his abdomen. These accounts and the illustrations that accompanied them serve as the earliest confirmed documentation of an epigastric parasite. One can hypothesize that many mythologies – like the gods Vishnu (many arms) and Janus (two headed / many faced) resulted from the observation of human marvels born attached to a parasitic twin.
One of the most well documented cases of early parasitic twining is the case of Lazarus-Joannes Baptista Colloredo (pictured). The 17th century anatomist Bartholinus detailed the history of Lazarus-Joannes Baptista Colloredo quite diligently and personally observed the man for the purpose of documentation. Born in Genoa in 1617, Colloredo exhibited himself all over Europe because from his belly hung a parasitic twin that had one thigh, hands, body, arms, and even a well-formed head covered with hair. Lazarus was the name the complete twin was known by and his underdeveloped sibling was Joannes. It is highly unlikely that these were their giving names as Joannes Baptista translates to ‘John the Baptist’ in English. However, interestingly enough, it was the practice of the day to baptize both twins in a parasite or conjoined twin situation.

There were allegedly some faint signs that Joannes had some independent existence as movements of respiration were evident as were occasional rapid eye fluttering movements. The mouth of Joannes was said to be in a state of near constant salivation and Bartholinus himself wrote that he had seen the arms of Joannes move in response to stimuli. The genitals of Joannes were said to be ‘imperfect’ and it is unclear if any regular eliminations occurred.
Bartholinus first examined Colloredo when the twins were aged at twenty-two however he later amending his report when he was able to examine the twins in Scotland in 1642 just before they were to visit Charles I. Most accounts of the time described Lazarus as courteous and handsome man even with Joannes in tow and that must have been true because Bartholinus reported that Lazarus was married and the father of several children who were fully and admirably developed.
It is believed that Lazarus-Joannes Baptista Colloredo died in the mid 1640’s, however the exact date is unknown.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

BLANCHE DUMAS – 3 Legged Courtesan

dumas 798267 BLANCHE DUMAS   3 Legged Courtesan
The strange story of Blanche Dumas is truly stranger than fiction.

It is believed that Blanche Dumas was born on the island of Martinique in 1860 to a French father and a mother was a quadroon (one quarter black). At the age of 25 Blanche was visited and documented by Bechlinger of Para, Brazil and consequently added to the pages of Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine. According to Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine Blanche had a ‘modified duplication of the lower body’.

She purportedly had a very broad pelvis, two imperfectly developed legs and a third leg attached to her coccygeus and, in addition to normal well developed breasts, she also had two smaller rudimentary breasts – complete with nipples – close together above her pubic area. Furthermore Blanche also had two vaginas and two well-developed vulvas and, allegedly, both had equally developed sensitivity. Her sexual appetite was said to be very pronounced. She was know to have many male admirers and was know to ‘entertain’ men with both her vaginas.

So pronounced was Blanche’s libido that she eventually moved to Paris and became a courtesan. Also, upon hearing stories that a three legged man with dual genitalia named Juan Baptista dos Santos was in Paris on a European tour, she expressed a sincere desire to have sex with him. While there is no evidence that the two had illicit meetings, there is great rumor of a brief affair.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


baptista dos santos 702405 JUAN BAPTISTA DOS SANTOS   The Man With Two SwordsWhile there is scarce material on Blanche Dumas, her alleged lover Juan Baptista dos Santos was the subject of some fairly intense study.
Juan Baptista dos Santos was born in Portugal around 1843 in the town of Faro and was examined for the first time when he was only six months old. His parents and two siblings were well formed and it was said that his gestation and birth were uneventful. As a child, Juan was considered quite handsome, fit and well proportioned – except for the two distinct genitalia and extra fused limbs he possessed.
It was observed that urination proceeded simultaneously from both penises. What appeared to be a third leg dangling from the pubis was in fact two limbs fused together as one with a small and supernumerary anus. The compound limb had a patella but, while the limb joint was freely movable, it had no motor control or power of motion. A journal, published in London states that Juan Baptista dos Santos had been exhibited in Paris, and that the surgeons advised operation.
That operation never occurred as a further report from Havana, dated July, 1865, details a further detailed examination of Santos at twenty-two years of age. This report also brought forward the claim that Santos possessed an ‘animal passion’ and had a ravenous sexual appetite and permissive reputation. This same report claims that Juan Baptista dos Santos used both penises during intercourse and, after finishing with one he would continue with the other.

A further report details the physiology of Santos in full adulthood and is accompanied by a detailed illustration. This report also detailed Santos was in the habit of wearing this limb in a special sling or bound firmly to his right thigh. This not only prevented the limb from dangling, it also allowed him greater freedom of activity – he was said to be an avid horseback rider.
During his lifetime, Santos was perused by several sideshows and circuses. In 1865 – he turned down a contract worth 200,000 francs to perform in a French circus. However, Santos opted to exhibit himself to medical authorities and rare ‘special’ exhibitions. Despite his extensive medical examinations and relative fame in medial circles only one photo of Juan Baptista dos Santos and that to focuses mainly on his dual genitalia.

Friday, 18 November 2011


In 1790 the astute surgeon Everard Home wrote of ‘a species of lusus naturae so unaccountable, that, I believe, no similar instance is to be found upon record’. He was writing of the Boy of Bengal after observing drawings and collecting and reviewing the accounts of several of his peers. While the boy was remarkable for both his medical condition and perseverance, Home was actually incorrect in his initial assumptions.

The Two-Headed Boy of Bengal was born in the village of Mundul Gait in Bengal in May of 1783 into a poor farming family. His remarkable life was very nearly extinguished immediately after his delivery as a terrified midwife tried to destroy the infant by throwing him into a fire. Miraculously, while he was rather badly burned about the eye, ear and upper head, he managed to survive. His parents began to exhibit him in Calcutta, where he attracted a great deal of attention and earned the family a fair amount of money. While the large crowds gathered to see the Two-Headed Boy his parents took to covering the lad with a sheet and often kept him hidden – sometimes for hours at a time and often in darkness. As his fame spread across India, so did the caliber of his observers. Several noblemen, civil servants and city officials arranged to showcase the boy in their own homes for both private gatherings and grand galas – treating their guests to up close examinations. One of these observers was a Colonel Pierce who described the encounter to the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks and it was Sir Banks who later forwarded the account to the surgeon Everard Home.

2headedhires5zp THE TWO HEADED BOY OF BENGALThe term ‘Two-Headed’ may be a bit misleading as rather that two heads side by side, the Boy actually had head atop the other. When compared to the average child, both heads were of an appropriate size and development. The second head sat atop the main head inverted and simply ended in a neck-like stump. The second head seemed to, at times, function independently from the main head. When the boy cried or smiled the features of the second head did not always match. Yet, when the main head was fed, the second head would produce saliva. Furthermore, if the second head was presented with a breast to suckle – it would attemp to do so. While the main head was well formed the secondary head did posses some irregularities. The eyes and ears were underdeveloped. The tongue was small and the jaw malformed but both were capable of motion. When the Boy slept, the secondary head would often be observed alert and awake – eyes darting about.

Despite the attention the Boy of Bengal received, none of it was medical in nature. There were no intensive first hand medical examinations of the Boy on record and the vast majority of the press attention given to the Boy focused no on his condition, but rather his ‘freakish’ appearance. The Boy, who seemed to suffer no serious ill effects in relation to his condition, died at the age of four from a cobra bite. It was only then, after much unseemly business, that medicine was able to examine the case.The Boy was buried near the Boopnorain River, outside the city of Tumloch but the grave was soon robbed by Mr. Dent, a salt agent for the East India Company. He dissected the putrefied body himself and gave the skull to a Captain Buchanan of the East Indian Company. Buchanan brought the skull to England, where it ended up in the hands of his close friend- Everard Home.

When Mr. Dent had dissected the heads he discovered that the brains were separate and distinct. Each brain was also enveloped in its proper coverings and it appeared as though both brains received the nutrition required to sustain life and thought. The skull of the Boy of Bengal can still be seen at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of London.

The classification of this condition is today known as Craniopagus parasiticus and technically falls under the category of parasitic twins however many of the early naturalists have attempted to classify the Bengal case as a case of conjoined twins due to the signs of independent life given by the secondary head.

Previous to 1783 teratology texts listed no fewer that eight suspected cases of Craniopagus parasiticus however the Boy of Bengal case is not only the earliest well documented account, but also the first account of such a case surviving past infancy. Recently on December 10, 2003, Rebeca Martínez was born in the Dominican Republic with this rare condition and she was also the first baby born with the condition to undergo a surgical removal of the second head. She died on February 7, 2004, after the 11-hour operation. On February 19, 2005, Manar Maged – also born with the same condition- underwent a successful 13-hour surgery in Egypt, but died on March 25, 2006 due to repeated infection.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

PETRUS GONZALES – Wolf Boy of the Canary Islands

gonsal1 788232 PETRUS GONZALES   Wolf Boy of the Canary IslandsThe sixteenth- and seventeenth-century must have been a simply enchanting time as fairy-tales seemed to spring into reality and the shelves of cabinets of curiosities overflowed with unusual items. The old stories of wee folk, giants and misshapen monsters seemed to be confirmed reality and in 1556 it seemed as though werewolves were also a factual entity when Petrus Gonzales stepped forward into the light of history.
Little is know of the parents of Petrus Gonzales as he was taken, as an infant, from his home in the Canary Islands to be presented to King Henri II in Pairs. Why was Petrus of such interest? Petrus Gonzales’s entire body – including his face, was covered in long, wavy hair and he was an immediate medical sensation.
In 1557, the first formal report appeared, written by Julius Caesar Scaliger. In his report about the famed boy of Paris, Scaliger referred to the lad as Barbet – the same name used to identify a breed of shaggy dog. A second report in the same year confirms the arrival of Petrus in Paris and states that King Henri ordered that the furry boy was to receive a formal education – not to be kind but rather out of curiosity – the King believed that Petrus was a savage and incapable of learning. His progress was monitored closely and he proved the King quite incorrect by not only learning the basics of education but also becoming fluent in the noble gestures, etiquette and tact. He became quite fluent in the language of the affluent, Latin, and took to wearing splendid robes that actually further accentuated his furry covered face. It was in this way that Petrus became a sought after court guest, a prodigy royal dignitaries and ambassadors flocked to see. He became a great asset to the court of King Henri and was rewarded for his service.
At the age of seventeen, in 1573, Petrus married a young French lady and by 1581 he was the father of two children. Both of his children, one son and one daughter shared his unique appearance and the entire family became the most sought after curiosity of the era. In 1581 the family began a tour of Europe. In 1582 their portraits were painted in Munich by the order of Duke Albrecht IV of Bavaria. In 1583 the Gonzales family went to Basel where they were studied by the famed anatomist Felix Plater and he published a detailed account of the visit in his Observationum and further less detailed accounts followed the travels of the family until the early 1590’s.

In the mid 1590’s in Bologna another detailed account updates much of the information on the family as the eight year old daughter of Petrus was the subject of an examination by Count Aldrovandi. The count also commissioned a drawing of the family which now included Petrus, his twenty year old son and two young girls. It is assumed that his wife and eldest daughter had died.
The family seemed to break apart at this point and various members joined up with various European royal courts. A girl by the name of Tognina Gonzales – assumed to be the youngest daughter of Petrus came to public attention and the naturalist Ulysses Aldrovandi claimed in his Historia monstrorum that Tognina was eventually married in the court of Parma and had several children of her own.
For the next 40 years members of the Gonzales family ebbed and flowed from the course of history making brief appearance in noble courts. Considering their unique condition, it is unusual that more accounts and records do not exist. It is unknown what exactly happened to Petrus or his descendants. The last historical mention of a Gonzales can be found in a in a memorial plaque attributed to a Horatio Gonzales – an likely descendant of Petrus – and given to a certain Mercurio Ferrari from 1635 which reads:
Here you see Gonzales, once famous in the court of Rome,
Whose human face was covered with hair like an animal’s.
He lived for you, Ferrari, joined to you in love,
And in the portrait he lives on, still breathing although he is dead.