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Gut Feelings of the Creepy Kind

If you have ever had a stomach ache that got you down big time, spare a thought for a couple of people whose stomach issues turned out to be almost nightmarish. On May 27, 1886, the Stateseville, North Carolina, USA newspaper, The Landmark, published the following testimony of a man named James O. Lackney, of Alexander County, NC: “I for several years have been suffering with a pain in my stomach, and the longer the worse. I have been treated by some as good physicians as we have and conversed with a dozen or more, and it seemed as if none would agree. It seemed that there was no relief for me…when at length one day I took about three-quarters of a box of Dr. Bachmann’s Vermifuge confections. The next day I took a full box, then I was afterwards taking Dr. Dunlap’s Liver Regulator and Blood Cleanser for some days after.”

Then something weird happened. Something extremely weird. Lackney continued: “I passed something of the spring lizard tribe, it being somewhat decayed, so its size around I could not get, but its length was exactly ten and three-quarter inches. Its color was near perfect white, and I am happy to say to you today that since then I have not had any more spells and have not even felt the symptoms but am not stout by any means and never will be again.”

Moving on a few years…

On July 24, 1897, the Charlotte, North Carolina Daily Observer ran an article that started as follows: “Authentic stories of live lizards from the human stomach aren’t of infrequent occurrence, but by his performance in that line on Friday last Morris Collins, of Angora, has certainly become a record-breaker. After an illness of several weeks duration Collins suddenly became sick at the stomach on Friday and vomited no less than 36 lizards, varying in size from 3 [and a] 1/2 inches to 1/2 inch. After vomiting the lizards Collins rapidly improved in health, and is now able to be about.”

Although this all sounds quite unlikely (19th century newspapers were known for sometimes crafting faked stories for their entertainment value and nothing else), the Daily Observer continued: “That the case is genuine there can be little doubt, as the lizards are vouched for by several persons who were in the house with Collins at the time, and as additional proof the man exhibits the reptiles, which he has preserved in alcohol in a bottle.”

The story was still not over: “Besides the 36 whole reptiles, there are the heads and tails of several others, all of which, however are quite small. The attending physician, when informed of the number of lizards, and when shown the specimens in the bottle, pronounced the case to be the most remarkable that had ever come under his observation. How the reptiles got into his stomach is a mystery to Collins, who can only account for their presence upon the theory that he must have swallowed some of their spawn when quenching his thirst at a spring. His health has been on the mend since Friday and he is recovering lost weight rapidly.”

While such things sound farfetched, accounts of a similar nature proliferate.

golden-lizard-king

Several words of advice to everyone: don’t go around swallowing lizards!

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  • Neil Ashley

    In folklore these are known as “bosom serpent” tales.

  • Hammond Ecks

    I’m more than a bit skeptical. The pH of gastric acid in the human stomach is usually in the range 1.5 to 3.5, which is somewhere between battery acid and vinegar. What are the chances of a reptile not being injured or digested, let alone reproducing en masse?

  • BoyintheMachine

    This stems from witchcraft. In the Southern U.S. there is a tradition of folk magic called “Hoodoo”. Part of hoodoo lore involved “live things in you”, wherein a victim has been cursed to have live animals, mostly lizards, snakes, frogs/toads, and spiders/insects, inside them. It is believed to be accomplished by practitioners who sneak magical potions or powders containing dried and powdered vermin into the food or drink of the victim. The victim experiences pain and discomfort and actually has the perception of living things moving inside them. It sounds insane but when a belief is widely accepted as normal then the human mind will accept it as reality or as a potential reality. Even doctors of the time believed it was true and gave their testimony of cases. Just as there are ways to curse a victim with such there are ways to remedy it. The various remedies usually involved the administering of various purgatives and emetics designed to force the victim to vomit up or expel the critters. Cases of “live things in you” have been documented well into the 1900s and likely continues to exist today as a belief in portions of the Southern U.S. If you are looking for scientific explanations, perhaps certain species of parasitic worms may have been confused for serpents and conditions such as IBS may have been confused for the movement of animals inside the digestive tract, with the pain being associated with the wounds and damage these creatures were inflicting internally.

  • Ashley

    As a huge animal lover, my pets are my children, I feel sorry for the poor lizards in these stories! 🙂